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Welcome to the Baltic Sea,
and the sublime shoreline of Sweden.
For centuries, Britons have charted a course to this glorious coast
for its treasure trove of riches.
From bustling capital to sleepy village,
the sea is in the soul of the Swedes.
The Baltic weaves its way around the myriad of inviting isles.
Britain is an island nation,
but Sweden is a nation of islands.
The coast runs deep in their soul.
They come here to let their hair down, to unleash their inner Viking.
This is Coast and beyond.
We've crossed to the Baltic Sea for an adventure along Sweden's shore.
Our destination is Stockholm,
but we begin at Hogbonden in the wild north.
The Swedes call this their "High Coast".
I'm on Hogbonden,
a rocky outpost on the edge of a vast Nordic wilderness.
Europe doesn't get much more isolated than this.
And what splendid isolation it is.
In winter, few venture this far north, but in the long,
light days of summer, Swedes head to their High Coast.
This is absolutely wonderful, isn't it?
Now I've heard that Sweden can be quite cold in winter but now
it's warm, it's sunny, is this when you come out of hibernation?
Yes, it is. We love the summer.
It's the feeling of freedom,
it's lots to do by the sea. We go to the beaches,
we go out into nature, we take saunas.
Sauna?! I've only just arrived and we're about to strip off!
Still, the picturesque steam house is irresistible.
Not sure I like the look of the plunge pool, though.
Last year the sea between here and the mainland froze solid.
Fortunately, it's summer now. Looks deceptively blissful, doesn't it?
Time to get changed.
It's hot up here.
-Yes, it is.
-My specs are going to start melting soon.
It's a matter of humidity. You can put some beer on the stones
and get a nice smell,
and raise the temperature to about 70 degrees.
And then I guess there's a... Now you can smell the hoppy smell.
Well, yes, you can smell it first being on top.
Aah, it's a kind of beer massage. Wonderful.
After steaming in alcohol a sobering experience awaits.
We're 350 miles further north than Aberdeen.
This will be chilly.
I'm turning into a human iceberg.
I am getting out.
..I have had my ritual sauna and dip in the Baltic,
and I feel suitably Swedish, ready for an epic journey.
We're travelling along the edge of the Baltic Sea,
heading down Sweden's coast making for Stockholm.
But I can't resist stopping off to explore the "High Coast".
These spectacular highlands don't just resemble Scotland.
There's a mystery locked in this landscape, that links
the Swedes to the Scots.
Cliffs, headlands, islands, pretty villages,
the Hugge Kusten - the High Coast - is everything I could have hoped for.
It's wonderfully picturesque,
but there's more to it than meets the eye -
this shoreline is on the move, rising from the sea.
This coast is lifting upward at a rate of nearly one centimetre a year.
Within a few generations the coast has risen up,
cutting off villagers from the sea and turning bays into lakes.
At the peak of a mountain, there's the highest beach in the world -
286 metres above the water, and still rising.
To unravel this geological puzzle, I'm crossing one of the largest
boulder fields on Earth,
down to sea level to meet park ranger, Millie Lundstedt.
What a wonderful beach, it's got these typical wave-smoothed boulders
-on it, hasn't it, worn by the action of the water.
-Yes, so rounded.
-Here you have a really nice stone.
-That's a classic example, isn't it?
This is a huge beach, it goes back such a long way.
'I'm taking my smooth, sea-worn rock to compare it'
with the stones further inland,
pebbles of an ancient shoreline, left stranded as the ground rose up.
And you can feel that this is like an older beach, you can see the...
the likeness between those stones.
It's smooth, rounded.
So this one, too, came off a beach?
Yeah, they're both beach stones actually,
but several thousand years ago.
Heading away from the coast,
we're still striding over the old sea bed. Odd.
This beach is going on for ever.
We've been walking for at least
15 minutes since we left.
How far up this cliff did the water used to come?
Well, actually the water, the sea was covered whole of this cliff.
-You're kidding? This was completely underwater?
To reach the only land that wasn't once at the bottom of the sea,
we've got to climb a mountain,
a ride to the highest beach in the world, in style.
-This is the strangest trip to the seaside I've ever taken.
It's really nice to take a ride, no?
To see why this land's rising, we're taking
a trip back to 20,000 years ago.
Then Scotland and Sweden were covered in ice.
The frozen straightjacket over Sweden's High Coast
was two miles thick, pressing down on the Earth.
When the ice melted, that weight lifted,
and this landscape started to spring back upwards.
Because the ice was so thick here,
northern Sweden's now rising almost six times faster than Scotland.
These hills grow about a centimetre a year,
but once, the peaks were at sea level, surrounded by water.
So we're about to land on top of a former island.
Exactly, 9,600 years ago actually.
What an enormous view here.
forests, little village down there, it's beautiful, isn't it,
but what did this all look like 10,000 years ago?
If we were standing exactly here for 10,000 years ago,
we're actually standing on a beach.
-Yes, on the highest shore line in the world actually, and when
you look out, you see the sea and small islands, a few of them only.
Which have become the tops of mountains now.
Yeah, exactly, because of the land uplift.
And how much does it come up in total, where we are now?
Well, from the sea level today
and what we're standing today is 286 metres,
and we're still rising.
This landscape is still recovering from the Ice Age.
These hills really are alive,
springing upwards from the sea.
We're leaving Swedish mainland behind, travelling some 60 miles
offshore to a group of rocky outcrops,
the Aland Islands.
There's an extraordinary story
that links these small isles not only with Britain,
but Australia too.
An unlikely seafaring connection between the British Empire and Aland
has brought Dick here to explore.
The Aland Isles are home to a proud seafaring people.
Around 90 years ago, one of those merchants hatched
an ambitious plan to plug Aland into the wealth of the British Empire,
using some very big boats.
In Mariehamn, one of these mighty ships still rests at anchor.
What a gorgeous vessel.
This was one of the last commercial sailing ships.
She may look like a 19th century relic, but this 20th century beauty
held her own against the steamships.
This is the last word in wind-powered transport -
the final hurrah of sail.
As late as the 1940s,
these vessels still managed to give steamships a run for their money.
The world knew them as windjammers.
And in the days of Empire, they connected Britain to Australia.
-Australia is ready to cast its bread upon the waters,
mountains of wheat from the outback plains, stacked high in
Port Victoria, South Australia,
are destined to fill the granaries of the world.
Under their battened hatches are stacked the wheat cargo,
with which they will race round the stormy Cape Horn
in their annual dash to Europe.
South Australia was the start of the grain run,
the windjammers' epic voyage to Britain.
It took months to sail the 12,000 miles to Falmouth.
Yet steamships could do the trip to Australia three times faster,
so why bother with these sailing ships?
How did a business built on wind and sail,
rule the waves for so long?
Permission to come aboard, sir?
-Permission granted, sir.
-I'm meeting maritime historian Henrik Karlsson.
It's the economical principle called "just in time" that we
use today in logistics, because
these ships were transporting grain from Australia to the UK or
to Europe, and you could
have loaded a steamship very quickly,
like less than a month,
but in order to take the grain
to the mill and make flour of it,
it needs to ripen, so they used the ship as a storage during the voyage.
-So it was good to be slightly slower?
-Yeah, and the voyage
would take at least three months.
They may have been slow,
but these boats are more modern than they appear.
The Pommern was built in 1903.
Her hull is made of steel,
just like a steamship, but this windjammer's
hung onto the romance of sail.
It took age-old skills to handle them.
Those timeless traditions of the sea
attracted a crew of youthful admirers.
People like Jocelyn Palmer, in search of adventure,
paid for a passage on the last working tall ships.
Jocelyn lived in Australia,
but she took the slow boat back to Britain where she'd been born.
We left on 11th March, 1948...
..from Port Victoria
with a full cargo of wheat.
It felt very remote
being between South America and the Antarctic.
Huge waves and the ship just sailing
through them just like a little yacht in the sea,
and we got so cold and look out for icebergs, because a meeting
with an iceberg would be pretty fatal, of course.
The sailing ships were considered
something very romantic.
On a moonlight night you could see the sails were snowy white
and that creaking of the timbers.
You felt that the ship was alive,
and in those days there was no other shipping there, we were absolutely
on our own, except for the whales.
Romantic it may have been,
but it was no pleasure cruise for passengers or crew.
You went halfway around the world in these things, so we're talking about
the elements, the weather.
It must have been hard to steer.
Yeah. When a wave is hitting the rudder you can feel it
in the steering wheel, and that's why they lashed the people
-to the wheel.
-Yeah, well they put the lashing around
your shoulders so you weren't
swept overboard when a big sea came, you know.
There were also two men at the wheel in strong weather.
One night in the South Atlantic,
Jocelyn witnessed the power of the high seas at first hand.
Suddenly heard bang from up on deck and people running around.
Some of the sails had just blown out,
that was why we heard a crack.
The sails were torn, the wind was terrific, it was screaming wind
and cold and it was really very unpleasant.
I think we were more worried about the crew because we knew they had to
get up there and go aloft and take down
the damaged sails and put up
fresh sails to get the ship sailing properly again.
Even on a calm day, going aloft is not for the faint-hearted.
It's quite wobbly.
The boat is stationary now, at sea this would be all over the place,
and they didn't have harnesses.
So you're almost on the top of the world.
That is something else.
It's a very long way up. Now I know why I didn't join the Navy.
This feels relatively safe.
If you look at where they were attaching the sail, they've nothing below them at all.
How do we get down?
For the crew it was a tough and dangerous job,
but there was no shortage of volunteers.
I have known many old sailors who started their seafaring life
onboard ships like this, and they all said it was the best time
of their life.
Just a fortunate few are left who knew the Windjammers in their pomp.
That great era of sail is passing over the horizon.
As we head further south, we reach the Stockholm Archipelago.
We're about to arrive in the grand coastal capital, Stockholm itself.
A third of this city is water.
Boats and bridges unite settlements,
which originally grew up on separate islands.
Stockholm is a city of the sea.
The sea reaches from the heart of the inner city here,
all the way out to the wider world.
The power of the sea is written into the DNA of Stockholm
and into the psyche of its people.
The elegant buildings of the old town bear witness to
Sweden's rich history of trade.
Stockholm's heritage is almost entirely intact
because the city wasn't bombed during the Second World War.
But the Swedes did play a pivotal part in the conflict.
Back in the dark days of the Second World War,
the city was alive with intrigue.
Sweden was neutral and Stockholm was open for business with both sides.
The Swedes didn't fight, but they did trade - with the Allies and Nazis,
double-dealing that has Alice intrigued.
I'm on the trail of a rarely-told tale of industrial espionage,
a connection to this coast that was crucial
to victory in the Second World War.
The Swedish were the world experts in producing a vital component of
the machinery of war, without which a country's war efforts would have
literally ground to a halt.
Both Germany and Britain desperately needed
Swedish ball bearings.
These tiny balls of specially-hardened steel contained within bearings
were the key components allowing moving parts in planes and tanks
to rotate and not seize up.
Without ball bearings, weapons production would grind to a halt.
Churchill knew that Britain's future and the freedom
of Europe, revolved around these steel spheres.
The self-aligning ball bearing
was invented by Swedish engineer Sven Wingqvist in 1907.
By the start of the Second World War,
the British depended on the Swedes for their supply of ball bearings.
In the 1940's,
Sweden was a neutral country caught in a vice between two power blocs.
The Nazis had surrounded Sweden.
The country could still trade, but the German stranglehold meant
the Swedes were wary of doing business with the Allies.
Diplomats were sent to Stockholm
in a desperate bid to get ball bearings back to Britain.
I'm with war historian, Nick Hewitt.
-So, Nick, these are the precious objects.
-Absolutely, these are they.
This is the ball inside, this is the bearing,
and that would be used in perhaps a reasonable-sized piece of equipment.
What was the range of machinery these ball bearings might have been used in?
Absolutely everything, from radar sets
to maybe the joystick of a Spitfire,
and the undercarriage wheels of the same aircraft
go up and down inside the wings. You need bearings to do that.
And you think about a turret, and the way that turns around,
you need bearings to do that too, so you could argue that
you couldn't have won the Battle of Britain without them.
To keep Britain's weapons production moving,
the big guns weighed in to strong-arm
the Swedes into playing ball,
and make more of their ball bearings available to the Allies.
This is a telegram, and it's a telegram to
the President of the United States, President Roosevelt,
from the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
These are two of the most powerful men in the world,
exchanging communications about ball bearings.
Such a strange story.
And what they're saying is,
"Firstly we urgently need to get out of Sweden, ball bearings in particular."
What the British ask the Americans - Churchill asks Roosevelt for -
is to apply pressure using 30,000 tonnes of oil a quarter,
that the Swedes are getting from the Americans.
If the Swedes refuse to supply the ball bearings, cut off the oil taps.
It's a bargaining tool. Blackmail and bribery, basically.
Secret deals were struck to buy more ball bearings for Britain.
But to get them out of Sweden,
Allied air crews had to fly through Nazi airspace.
As the war progresses, they're being attacked by radar-equipped
German night fighters, which can find them at night, shoot them down.
The only defence they have is the speed and the altitude they fly.
This rare film shows a top-secret mission to Sweden,
an RAF Mosquito re-painted
with civilian markings.
These super-fast fighter bombers were converted to carry cargo,
including people strapped in their bomb bay.
PLANE ENGINES DRONE
But planes alone couldn't bring back enough ball bearings,
and Nazi control of the Baltic Sea lanes seemed absolute.
One man, an unsung hero,
There was a remarkable man
-called George Binney.
-Which one is him?
This is George with the pipe.
-He's a civilian.
He's out here before the war. He's involved in the steel industry,
so he knows Scandinavia, he has the right contacts.
He comes up with an alternative plan, which is to use
fast military patrol boats, known as motor gun boats.
These fast boats had a shallow draft,
so they might just
skirt over the German mines.
Success would demand courage.
George Binney hand-picked their crews.
Only the most able made the grade,
many came from the merchant fleets of Hull.
Young men, mostly single, who might never see home again.
It must have been incredibly dangerous sailing a boat like that through the naval blockades.
These are not built for rough weather for a start,
prone to mechanical failure, their engines break down,
and they're also vulnerable to the Germans, and two of them
are sunk out of five, which is a quite a high attrition rate.
So these sailors were running huge risks to get
-the ball bearings out of Sweden.
-Very big risks, yeah.
It's a dangerous covert operation.
Right under the nose of the Nazis,
hunted by sea and air,
these brave crews pulled off
some of the most vital missions of the war.
It's a sobering thought that Europe's fate
once revolved around these bearings,
which kept the machinery of war running on both sides,
but it was the bravery of the Allied airmen and sailors
that kept the Swedish supply of ball bearings
rolling into Britain.
There are many things we share with Sweden,
but after 3rd September, 1967,
there was one less.
That's when the Swedes switched from driving on our side of the road,
the left, and changed to the right
to conform with the rest of mainland Europe.
I'm used to biking through London, but switching to
the right hand side makes things a bit hairy.
Imagine what it was like back in 1967 when the whole country
changed lanes overnight.
Well, the radio said I had to stop.
I have to stop for a while here,
I shall then be shown onto the other side of the road.
I then have to stop there, and at five o'clock, we move off,
driving on the right hand side of the road.
Shall I go over that side?
It was known as H Day,
after the Swedish word for right - hogar.
They cleverly combined the capital H with an arrow changing lane
to create a logo for switchover day.
But there was more to H Day than a logo.
The government embarked on a massive programme
of advertising and education,
from highway code lessons for children, to some
rather alarming stunts.
Finally, on September 3rd, everything was in place -
the roads altered, the signs ready,
10,000 police and troops deployed onto the streets -
but still no-one knew how many people
might become victims of this right-hand revolution.
This is the scene at 5 AM on 3rd September 1967,
as everybody switched lanes.
Amazingly, H Day went without a hitch.
In fact, surprisingly, the number of accidents slightly decreased.
So, might we one day find ourselves switching lanes too?
On the highways worldwide, sticking to the left
puts us in the minority,
but on the seaways it's a different story.
The rules of navigation that apply around the globe
owe an awful lot to the pioneering efforts of the British,
to impose order on the sea lanes of the world.
Ironically, when proposing
navigation laws for steamships in the 19th century,
Britain decided ships should pass each other not on the left,
but on the right.
Over the years, this British "keep right" regulation became adopted
as the global standard for the seas.
Britannia's rule does, in fact,
rule the waves.
Even out here, on the edge of the Baltic Sea,
some thousand miles from our own islands,
you can sense the influence of Britain
reaching far beyond our own coast.
We're a seafaring people and we share our story with distant shores.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd