The Mysteries of the Isles Coast


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The Mysteries of the Isles

Coast returns to the UK to explore the universal themes that bind everyone together. Nick Crane begins by signing on as a deck-hand with a tall ship.


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Coast is home.

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We're back to explore the most endlessly fascinating shoreline

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in the world.

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Our own.

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The quest to discover surprising secret stories

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from around the British Isles continues.

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This is Coast.

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We're about to embark on a voyage of discovery.

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Our destinations are the glorious islands of the British Isles.

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Jewels set in spectacular seas

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with a treasure trove of secrets in store.

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This is an epic adventure to explore the mysteries of the Isles.

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We'll journey far into the North

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where Neil is intrigued

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by the curious case of the death of Lord Kitchener.

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His face was instantly recognisable.

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He was the poster boy of Army recruitment

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during the First World War.

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He arrived here in Scapa Flow on 5th June 1916.

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A few hours later, he was dead.

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In the South, England's biggest island beckons.

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It's a mystery how these needles of chalk

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on the Isle of Wight have hung on so long.

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Coast newcomer Andy Torbet is scaling new heights

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to solve a geological puzzle.

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This rock face represents about one million years,

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so, for every metre I go up, that's about 30,000 years.

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As we head way out west in Scotland,

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our voyage of exploration takes Tessa on a mission

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to see a magical light in the sky.

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Will sunset reveal the mysterious green ray?

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My own magical mystery tour starts here on Orkney.

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Orkney is actually a collection of 70 islands.

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The harbour at Stromness has been a settlement

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since the time of the Vikings.

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The sea was the highway the islanders needed to survive.

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Stromness was once a jumping off point for global adventure.

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The town was connected to the wider world

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by mighty sailing ships stopping over in the port.

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If only we could've been here in the great days of sail.

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Well, how about that?

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I'm hoping to hitch a lift on an island-hopping ride.

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Every year, a fleet of tall ships

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races around the harbours of the globe

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recreating historic trade routes.

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This year, they're passing through the Northern Isles of Scotland.

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The community here was transformed by the tall ships.

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They brought wealth, but they also took men away.

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It's a classic dilemma for all small isles.

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When the wider world comes knocking,

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is the attraction of island life strong enough

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to keep communities together?

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-Permission to board, captain.

-Welcome aboard.

-Thank you.

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To explore the effect these vessels had on the islanders,

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I'm signing on as a crew hand

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aboard the Norwegian tall ship, Sorlandet.

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My destination is Shetland

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but I'm planning to stop off at tiny Fair Isle.

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It barely registers on the map, but the community there thrives,

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even though many other Scottish isles have been abandoned.

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It's a mystery how those on Fair Isle manage to hang on.

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I wanted to discover the secrets of their success.

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With a favourable wind, we'll get to Fair Isle within two days.

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We're under motor power now,

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but soon it'll be all hands on deck to unfurl the 27 sails.

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The islands of Orkney are disappearing below the horizon.

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I'm just putting myself in the shoes of the islanders

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who boarded ships just like this to sail to new lives in faraway lands.

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It must have been hugely exciting.

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But their excitement was tempered

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by the prospect of hard graft and so is mine.

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They've just taught me how to coil a rope,

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which is actually quite simple.

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It would be if you were standing on your kitchen floor at home.

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This floor is moving around all over the place.

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Then, before we've really got going, apparently, it's time for bed.

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The ship runs on shift work and I'm on an early.

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But sleep doesn't come easily when the boat is lurching

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and there's only a few hours of darkness.

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It's four o'clock in the morning and I've just got out of my bunk.

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I'm on the four to eight watch. I've got to get up on deck.

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Boat is going all over the place.

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I think they put all the sails up in the night.

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Like sailors of old, I'm keeping a log, a video diary of my voyage.

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We're far out to sea.

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We've been blown along under a rig full of sails. Look at this.

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What a sight.

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This is what square rigging looks like,

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under a lot of sail out in the North Atlantic.

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Pretty impressive.

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There's precious little time to take in the view.

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Bad weather is blowing in and we've got to crack on towards Fair Isle.

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Mind your footing, mind your footing, people sleeping below.

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While the ship swings into action, the captain calmly plots our route,

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heading for a small speck of land.

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Fair Isle looks like a tiny rock in the middle of the ocean

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completely on its own.

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Why do you want to take the ship to Fair Isle?

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There is barter with the inhabitants of Fair Isle.

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Barter?

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Yes, where you trade things that you have for things that they have.

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They used to do this with the ships in the old days.

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They trade their woollen mittens for fish hooks,

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oars and things like that.

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What have you brought from Norway

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to trade with the inhabitants of Fair Isle?

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We've bought some goat cheese, some brown, Norwegian goat cheese.

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OK. Do you think they'll like that? Do you know they like goats cheese?

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I think it remains to be found out.

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The only issue we have now, is if the seas pick up too much,

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we'll have an issue with anchoring at Fair Isle.

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This tall ship is too big to get into the tiny harbour on Fair Isle.

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Instead, we're planning to drop anchor offshore.

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the bad weather could scupper that plan.

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I've just come off watch

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and Fair Isle is just off the ship's rail.

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It's the most remote inhabited island in the British Archipelago

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and I've been wanting to set foot on it for most of my life.

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Just seeing it is exciting,

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but we don't know yet whether we're going to be able to go ashore

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because there's a strong wind and a big swell.

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We're just going to have to wait and see.

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Weather permitting,

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I'm hoping to meet the small community here on Fair Isle

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to discover how they've kept going when other isles were abandoned.

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It's just one of the marvellous mysteries to explore

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in the Scottish islands.

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Shrouded in cloaks of sea mist,

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the Western Isles can seem like a shadowy, secret world.

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Fertile territory for the making of myths.

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Spectacular sights and tall tales

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captivated a new breed of tourists around 150 years ago.

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They departed from new gateways to adventure, like here at Largs.

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Following in the footsteps of Victorian travellers,

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Tessa's searching out the truth of an island tale

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that seems much stranger than fiction.

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In the late 1800s,

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the sleepy town of Largs was a thriving tourist destination.

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The golden ticket for travel hungry adventurers of the Victorian age,

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was a grand tour of the Western Isles.

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The new craze for paddle-steamer voyages

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drew people here from far and wide,

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especially those obsessed with a scientific sense of discovery.

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One such traveller was French author Jules Verne,

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a founding father of science fiction.

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In 1879, Verne, in search of new wonders,

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travelled to the Western Isles.

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The man who wrote Around The World In 80 Days

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and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

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was inspired here to write a book about a natural phenomenon.

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Part fact, part fiction.

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The mysterious and elusive green ray.

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In the book, Jules Verne describes a fleeting green flash of light

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that reveals itself just as the sun sets.

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He called it Le Rayon Vert,

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meaning the green ray, more commonly known as the green flash.

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The novel tells the story of a young woman, Helena,

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who, having read of the green ray,

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sets off on a voyage to the Western Isles

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to try and see it herself.

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Legend tells that the green ray destroys illusions

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and will allow her to find true love.

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Joining me as I begin my voyage into the islands, is Ian Thompson,

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who has studied Verne's book.

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Does the green ray really exist? Will we be able to see it?

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Yes, the phenomenon certainly exists.

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We don't know that Verne himself witnessed it.

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There's nothing in the correspondence or diaries

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to prove that, but it certainly does exist and has been witnessed,

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photographed and I have here an example where we see,

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just for a few seconds, this green flash or green ray.

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That was what Verne's heroine was after.

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And it's what I'm after too.

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Like both Jules Verne and his heroine, Helena,

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I'm boarding a steamer to travel to the Western Isles.

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The green ray is very interesting in Verne's huge output,

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because it's the one novel that follows exactly

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his own travel and his travels in Scotland.

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He adored all the myths and legends and history of Scotland

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and he regarded it as more or less his ancestral home.

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Why, in particular, are the Western Isles a good place

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for seeing this green flash phenomenon?

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The western coast of the Western Isles

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offered a completely unblocked view of the horizon and sunset.

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So, in other words, here, where we are right now, is no good.

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You can't see over the horizon.

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It's clearly not an easy phenomenon to capture.

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It does require very specific atmospheric conditions.

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What do you think our chances are?

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Pretty slim.

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To have any hope, I need to push on to the open sea.

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Like Helena, I'm determined to witness the green flash.

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Has anybody else here seen it though?

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-I wonder, Sir, if you've ever heard of the green ray.

-I haven't, no.

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-I don't suppose you know anything about the green flash, do you?

-No.

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I haven't, I'm sorry, I don't.

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-Have you ever heard of the green flash?

-Oh, yes, I have.

-Have you?

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In fact, I've seen the green flash.

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Just as the sun goes down, just as it disappears over the horizon,

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there's a green flash.

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It's quite amazing to see it.

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Reassured, I continue heading west. It's a race against the sun.

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Back in Verne's day,

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the fashionable sets in London, Paris and Berlin

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saw the Western Isles as the last wilderness of Europe.

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It's clear that Verne too was captivated by this place.

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As he made his way to the lochs and out to the islands,

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natural wonders like the Corryvreckan Whirlpool fuelled his imagination,

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as did the imposing island of Staffa and the wondrous Fingal's Cave.

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With sunset approaching, the paddle steamer leaves me behind.

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I've arrived at the island where Verne's heroine got her chance

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to see the green flash.

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But she had better luck than me.

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I've got a view of the horizon, but the clouds have closed in.

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The sun's nowhere to be seen, the elements are against me.

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But I was brought up in Scotland, so I am not daft enough

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to have left the green flash to chance. I've got a Plan B.

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'I am meeting Johannes Courtial,

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'who is giving me my very own green flash demonstration.'

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How does a green flash actually work?

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There's the sun,

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and when it's setting, the light from the sun reaches the observer

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by entering the atmosphere, where it gets bent.

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when the sun sets on the horizon,

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the light goes through a bit of atmosphere a bit like a prism.

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-I happen to have one here.

-So if the atmosphere is like a prism,

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what effect does that have on the light?

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What this does is it splits the sun's light

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into, effectively, a rainbow.

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The red bit is at the bottom, the blue bit is at the top,

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and as the sun sets below the horizon,

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this rainbow disappears.

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The blue is at the end, so that would set last,

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but the green flashes green and not blue,

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and that's because blue light is scattered by the atmosphere.

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This is why the sky is blue,

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and that's why, in this rainbow,

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blue is missing and then the top colour is green.

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The last colour that is disappearing below the horizon is a bit of green.

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-When that sets, that's the green flash.

-Eureka!

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-Can you re-create the green flash here?

-Well, we'll do our best.

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We have all we need, I think. We have a fish tank with angled sides.

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This will act like a prism.

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'To make the tank mimic the bending power

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'of the Earth's atmosphere, we fill it with water.'

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'Add powder to scatter the light, and finally a torch, our sun.'

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I can see some form of rainbow here.

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I do see it actually, a kind of blue-y green rim.

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But I thought that that green flash was meant to be at the top,

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the last bit of the sun to disappear, not on the right-hand side.

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That's because our atmosphere is standing on its side.

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This way is up.

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'With a little magic touch,

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'it starts to look a lot more like the setting sun,

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'complete with mysterious green flash.'

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Given what we've been up against, I think you've worked wonders.

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This is amazing. I actually understand it.

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'And though I may have cheated a little,

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'with the help of a German scientist and a plastic fish tank,

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'I've joined the lucky few to have seen

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'the rare and mysterious green flash.'

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I'm sailing aboard the Norwegian tall ship Sorlandet

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on a voyage between the northern isles of Scotland.

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We've arrived at Fair Isle, a wonderfully remote community.

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I've wanted to come here for years,

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since I first heard about it as a boy.

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But tall ships are too big for Fair Isle's tiny harbour,

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so we need to find calmer water to launch a boat.

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We seem to be sailing to and fro among the shore of Fair Isle.

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-Is there a problem?

-In the north end there where the other ships are,

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there's a bit of swell, so now we're at the south end of the island,

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we're going to pass it, turn the ship around, come back,

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and see if we can anchor just about where we are now

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and a little bit closer to shore.

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And it ought to be safe.

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We are hoping to drop anchor off this remarkable island,

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still home to about 70 people.

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A tiny stepping stone between Orkney and Shetland,

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Fair Isle is surrounded by an ocean of sea.

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3,000 miles over there is Canada,

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and hundreds of miles that direction is Norway and mainland Europe.

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Fair Isle is sat in one of the biggest shipping lanes in the world.

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Arriving by trading ship helped solve the mystery

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of how small island communities used to support themselves out here.

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Whenever the people on the island saw a sailing ship coming past,

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they would try and sail out or row out to meet it.

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'Today, we'll try and meet them, and barter with the islanders.'

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Step in quickly.

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'But getting off a big ship isn't easy.

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'These are tense moments.'

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Give us a line.

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That was one of the most exciting embarkation moments

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I've ever had in my life.

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We are now going to head for the shore through a pretty impressive swell.

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Fair Isle looks pretty remote on a map,

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but it feels more remote once you've arrived at it.

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Finally, after years of anticipation,

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I get to set foot on Fair Isle.

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This is a big moment for me. I feel quite emotional about it.

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ISLANDERS CHEER

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Thank you! Thank you!

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Thank you very much. That's a very nice welcome indeed.

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'In the past, islanders would exchange fresh goods

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'and their famous knitwear for brandy, tea,

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'flour and other essentials from the trading ships.

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'They've been frantically knitting fishermen's hats,

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'which they hope to barter.'

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This is the famous Norwegian brown cheese.

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This is Linie Aquavit.

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< Over there, over there.

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I think we'll have to open that tonight for all the knitters first.

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'It's easy to see this as a bit of fun,

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'but exchanges like this happened for hundreds of years,

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'keeping island communities alive.'

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Fantastic! CROWD CHEERS

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'Barter complete.'

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I've just an hour or so left to explore this fascinating island.

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There's a mystery at the heart of this community that intrigues me.

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What made them stay when life became difficult?

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Not so long ago it was touch and go here on Fair Isle.

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I've got an article here from the Shetland Times of 1956.

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The really dramatic passage in this article says,

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"The report indicates that by this summer,

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"it is possible that the island will reach the point of no return

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"as far as manning essential services is concerned,

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"so that evacuation will become inevitable."

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In 1956 a film crew came to capture the dying days of Fair Isle.

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The tall ships had gone. The island was increasingly isolated.

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Young men were forced to leave to find wives.

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The population was just 47.

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But the proposed evacuation never materialised.

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So how did Fair Isle come back from the brink?

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I'm meeting Anne Sinclair to share memories of life back then.

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Look at that.

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-So that's the lighthouse just down there.

-Yeah.

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Here's some Fair Isle knitting patterns.

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-They haven't changed at all, have they?

-No. It's called traditional.

0:22:380:22:42

And that, I think, is my Auntie Molly's hands.

0:22:420:22:45

You can recognise your aunt's hands?

0:22:450:22:47

Yep. They're the same as mine.

0:22:470:22:49

Anne's parents were from Fair Isle, but like many others, they'd left.

0:22:490:22:54

When the call came to help save the island the family returned.

0:22:540:22:59

-Which year did you come back?

-'57.

0:22:590:23:02

-You came back at the most difficult time in the island's history?

-Yes.

0:23:020:23:06

Dad especially was really quite keen to come back here.

0:23:060:23:09

They did say if young farmers didn't come they'd evacuate Fair Isle,

0:23:090:23:12

so that was the final thing, and Dad said, "Right. Let's go."

0:23:120:23:17

Why did Fair Isle survive as a community

0:23:170:23:21

when so many islands off the north coast of Scotland

0:23:210:23:25

became depopulated and abandoned?

0:23:250:23:29

I think it sheer determination to a certain extent.

0:23:290:23:31

But I think a lot of people saw this was a good way to live,

0:23:310:23:35

and there were a lot of young families that came back

0:23:350:23:40

and it stayed fairly young, and I think that's important.

0:23:400:23:43

A lot of people have the idea,

0:23:430:23:45

"Oh, Fair Isle, get away from it all.

0:23:450:23:47

"It'll be like a magic place."

0:23:470:23:49

And in fact, we're all human beings same as everywhere else.

0:23:490:23:52

It's a magical place but it won't solve anybody's problems.

0:23:520:23:56

They won't get away from anything.

0:23:560:23:58

Right now, I've got to get back to the tall ship waiting for me

0:23:580:24:01

offshore to continue my magical mystery tour towards Shetland.

0:24:010:24:06

I'm leaving Anne with a DVD of memories

0:24:060:24:10

in exchange for a Fair Isle cap.

0:24:100:24:12

Right. Now you put it to the side.

0:24:120:24:15

Ah, that's warm!

0:24:150:24:17

A typical Fair Isle fisherman.

0:24:170:24:19

I'm not tough enough to be a Fair Isle fisherman.

0:24:190:24:22

Few are fortunate enough to live in the Northern Isles,

0:24:220:24:27

so they seem remote to many of us.

0:24:270:24:31

But if you're looking for uncharted territory, surprisingly,

0:24:310:24:34

you can find it a stone's throw from the busy south coast of England.

0:24:340:24:40

On the Isle of Wight.

0:24:400:24:41

A short hop from the mainland, this is a popular holiday destination.

0:24:430:24:49

It's England's biggest island,

0:24:490:24:52

but you'd think tourists would have explored every inch.

0:24:520:24:55

Well, not quite every inch.

0:24:560:24:58

Zoologist and ex-soldier Andy Torbet

0:25:010:25:05

is about to have an adventure on rocks

0:25:050:25:08

where most would fear to tread.

0:25:080:25:10

The Isle of Wight

0:25:140:25:16

is a great location to explore geology and action.

0:25:160:25:19

The strut of different rock types are exposed for all to see, untouched.

0:25:190:25:25

But, there's one part of this island where the geology remains a mystery.

0:25:250:25:31

Geologists have been pouring over the Isle of Wight for hundreds of years,

0:25:310:25:36

but there's one bit they've never been able to reach.

0:25:360:25:39

This is the geological map of the UK,

0:25:410:25:44

where the different colours represent different rocks.

0:25:440:25:47

If we zoom into the Isle of Wight, you'll see this thin, light green band represents the chalk,

0:25:470:25:52

but if we zoom in even closer,

0:25:520:25:56

you'll see The Needles aren't coloured in,

0:25:560:25:59

and that's because geologists haven't been able to get out there and take a sample.

0:25:590:26:03

So they've asked me to help.

0:26:030:26:04

There's no doubt it's chalk, but what sort of chalk?

0:26:120:26:16

And why has it resisted the sea

0:26:160:26:19

when the surrounding chalk crumbled away long ago?

0:26:190:26:21

To find out, the geologists need a sample from the point of The Needle,

0:26:240:26:29

chalk that's not contaminated with the sea gunge around the base.

0:26:290:26:32

There are very few records of this needle ever being climbed.

0:26:350:26:38

And up close, I can see why.

0:26:380:26:41

I'm an experienced climber but I've never tried to scale

0:26:420:26:46

a chalk stack in the middle of the sea.

0:26:460:26:49

I need to enlist a buddy with some local knowledge

0:26:490:26:52

for a bit of training.

0:26:520:26:53

It's getting that first six feet.

0:26:540:26:56

Dave Talbot has climbed on chalk before.

0:26:560:26:58

It poses a unique challenge.

0:26:580:27:02

Crumbly chalk is made up of the bodies of tiny sea creatures,

0:27:040:27:07

built up on the seabed over millions of years.

0:27:070:27:10

It's very old and not very stable. Bits break off all the time.

0:27:110:27:17

This is a typical section of chalk.

0:27:190:27:20

You can see things like this that look really loose.

0:27:200:27:24

I don't know quite how... Yeah, I mean, that's...

0:27:240:27:26

That's incredibly loose.

0:27:260:27:28

Even sections like this that appear more solid,

0:27:280:27:30

you can get kind of...

0:27:300:27:32

If you get your hand on as if you were climbing, you can kind of...

0:27:320:27:34

Just crumbles away. It's really unpredictable.

0:27:340:27:37

Some of the sections can be quite solid but other bits really loose.

0:27:370:27:41

We don't know what we are going to encounter when climbing it.

0:27:410:27:44

Even these spikes driven into the rock can't be relied on

0:27:440:27:46

in the event of a slip.

0:27:460:27:48

It's not solid. Chalk's not solid.

0:27:510:27:53

That's what were doing, just trying not to fall off.

0:27:530:27:55

And if this glorious weather holds out,

0:27:580:28:00

we'll be attempting the climb tomorrow.

0:28:000:28:03

We're going to have to keep our wits about us.

0:28:030:28:05

You've seen what that chalk's like.

0:28:050:28:06

It's going to be crumbly, flaky, unpredictable

0:28:060:28:09

and slippery at the bottom.

0:28:090:28:11

It's going to be like climbing cheese.

0:28:110:28:13

Hanging out on that stuff over sea is going to be quite interesting.

0:28:130:28:17

The next morning, we're all kitted up and ready to go.

0:28:250:28:28

-Nice bit of weather this morning.

-A little bit of breeze.

0:28:280:28:30

Morning, guys.

0:28:330:28:34

And we've been joined by Pete Hopson and Andy Farnt,

0:28:340:28:37

two scientists from the British Geological Survey.

0:28:370:28:41

Although the water looks calm, the swell is a worry.

0:28:440:28:47

The wind's picked up so the swell's picked up.

0:28:550:28:57

Getting on the rock is going to be much harder than we thought.

0:28:570:29:02

Safely off and kitted up, Dave nominated me to lead the climb.

0:29:140:29:19

We need a pure sample of chalk from the summit to work out

0:29:220:29:26

why this pinnacle has defied the sea for so long.

0:29:260:29:28

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

0:29:370:29:38

Where is my next handhold?

0:29:420:29:44

Hello?

0:29:440:29:46

You just can't trust anything you're doing.

0:29:480:29:50

That's what I'm talking about.

0:29:500:29:51

It's fragile, it's crumbly, it's unpredictable,

0:29:510:29:55

and every time you pull on a hold or step up your heart's in your mouth.

0:29:550:29:59

But it's an amazing place to be, especially on a day like today,

0:29:590:30:02

and it might not be the safest place,

0:30:020:30:04

but it's pretty spectacular.

0:30:040:30:07

The geologists tell me that from the sea line, the top,

0:30:170:30:21

this rock face represents about a million years,

0:30:210:30:24

so for every metre I go up, that's about 30,000 years.

0:30:240:30:29

Whoa. Hello?!

0:30:340:30:38

CHALK SPLASHES IN SEA

0:30:390:30:42

That's a bit easier.

0:30:560:30:57

Done it. Champion. Still in one piece.

0:31:010:31:03

As we're climbing for the British Geological Survey,

0:31:050:31:08

we're able to take a sample of chalk away.

0:31:080:31:12

It's not something we'd be doing otherwise.

0:31:120:31:14

-Nice one, well done.

-Beautiful, mate.

-Good effort. Cheers, buddy.

0:31:160:31:20

That was awesome. It's a bizarre way to climb. It's quite intimidating.

0:31:200:31:25

-We've got to figure out how to get down now.

-Yeah.

0:31:250:31:27

We'll get the rock samples the guys need,

0:31:270:31:30

get ourselves down and that will be mission accomplished.

0:31:300:31:33

Cool.

0:31:390:31:40

Our chalk sample will need detailed analysis at the lab.

0:31:490:31:55

Nice bit of chalk.

0:31:550:31:56

But sample in hand, hopefully we can clear up one mystery right now.

0:31:560:32:01

Why The Needles lasted so long.

0:32:010:32:05

Is the chalk harder than the surrounding coast?

0:32:050:32:08

-We've got a way to find out.

-This is a very simple field test.

0:32:080:32:14

It's called a Schmidt hammer.

0:32:140:32:15

This device will get a number to the hardness of our sample.

0:32:150:32:20

There's the bang. Now we have a reading. This one's 22.

0:32:200:32:25

That's quite hard for chalk.

0:32:250:32:28

Now we need to compare it with the chalk the geologists have brought along from the mainland.

0:32:280:32:34

It's barely reading ten on here,

0:32:360:32:38

which is significantly lower than the one from The Needle.

0:32:380:32:42

This is much, much harder.

0:32:420:32:45

Why is the needles chalk much harder than normal chalk?

0:32:450:32:48

This chalk was moved by Earth forces and it was bent over

0:32:480:32:55

until it was nearly vertical. The compression on that chalk

0:32:550:32:59

has created quite a lot of internal pressure.

0:32:590:33:02

The little pore spaces between the individual grains have been

0:33:020:33:08

filled with calcite minerals because of that pressure on the rock

0:33:080:33:13

and that is what's made it significantly harder than

0:33:130:33:17

other samples of chalk that we see around the South of England.

0:33:170:33:20

So all the information we brought back today

0:33:200:33:23

will finish the map?

0:33:230:33:24

Now we can move forward and finally print the new geological map.

0:33:240:33:29

With The Needles on the map, there's one mystery less on our isles.

0:33:330:33:39

But still plenty more to explore.

0:33:390:33:42

I'm on an island-hopping adventure

0:33:460:33:49

aboard a tall ship in the waters of northern Scotland.

0:33:490:33:53

Now it's all hands on deck.

0:33:550:33:57

when the weather's against you,

0:33:570:33:59

it takes every able body to wrestle with the wild Atlantic.

0:33:590:34:05

I'm en route for Shetland, following in the wake of islanders

0:34:100:34:15

who left a familiar life on land for the mysteries of the sea.

0:34:150:34:20

To find out what lay in store, like them,

0:34:200:34:24

I'm travelling 19th-century style.

0:34:240:34:27

Back then, ships like this carried island men to adventure

0:34:270:34:31

across the sea, but it wasn't a free ride.

0:34:310:34:34

They often had to work their passage.

0:34:340:34:37

I think I better do the same.

0:34:370:34:39

At sea, a boat becomes an island in itself.

0:34:390:34:43

Everyone needs to pull together and tow the line.

0:34:440:34:47

While some jobs are mundane, others are exhilarating.

0:34:490:34:53

I'm about to have the biggest adventure you can have

0:34:540:34:57

on a tall ship, which is going up in the rigging.

0:34:570:34:59

I've got a camera mounted on my nut,

0:34:590:35:01

and the man whose taking me up is David,

0:35:010:35:04

who has a lifetime's experience on sailing ships.

0:35:040:35:07

-David, take me up.

-If you go first.

0:35:070:35:10

Here we go.

0:35:160:35:18

This is...

0:35:180:35:20

Already the deck is receding below me.

0:35:200:35:23

Whoa, gosh, the wind is strong.

0:35:260:35:28

The wind is one third stronger up here.

0:35:280:35:31

The ship's moving all over the place. This is really difficult.

0:35:330:35:37

-Is this where I clip on?

-Yes, please. On the wire itself.

0:35:380:35:42

-That's it.

-Clip done. This is the moment. Up and over the edge.

0:35:420:35:48

Looming out over the deck.

0:35:480:35:51

Arms out straight. Push with your feet.

0:35:510:35:55

One foot on the platform, two feet on the platform. I'm up.

0:35:570:36:02

Expletive deleted. Oh, man. What a sight. What a sight.

0:36:020:36:09

To be up in the top of the rigging of a tall ship looking out across

0:36:180:36:21

the ocean, the sails billowing with wind, totally timeless moment.

0:36:220:36:28

This is exactly what seafarers for hundreds of years have seen.

0:36:290:36:34

The crew of these mighty vessels witnessed extraordinary sights,

0:36:390:36:43

and no doubt spun some tall tales too.

0:36:430:36:47

Plying their trade around the Scottish islands,

0:36:490:36:53

the seafarers didn't just transport goods, they carried stories,

0:36:530:36:57

passed from isle to isle, generation to generation.

0:36:570:37:03

One of the most enduring tells of a mysterious creature, the selkie.

0:37:030:37:10

The Song Of The Selkie captivates one of our most legendary folk artists, June Tabor.

0:37:100:37:19

I'm a singer of songs that tell good stories.

0:37:190:37:25

And one of the great,

0:37:250:37:27

truly great narrative ballads of these islands,

0:37:270:37:31

concerns a seal.

0:37:310:37:33

The great selkie of Sule Skerry.

0:37:340:37:39

# It happened on a certain day

0:37:390:37:44

# As this fair maid lay fast asleep

0:37:440:37:48

# In and came a grey selkie

0:37:500:37:55

# Sat him down at her bare feet. #

0:37:550:38:01

A selkie... Well, it's a seal in many parts of the Western Isles.

0:38:040:38:08

But it's also... a magical, mystical being,

0:38:080:38:13

that uses the form of the seal to travel between

0:38:130:38:17

a land below the waves, to the land of men.

0:38:170:38:20

The seal is a person. Look at those eyes.

0:38:220:38:26

Listen to the cries of the seals. They almost sing.

0:38:260:38:31

You can understand why people thought that there was more to them

0:38:310:38:35

than just an animal presence.

0:38:350:38:38

# And woe alas, this weary fate

0:38:400:38:45

# This weary fate that's laid on me

0:38:470:38:52

# That a man should come from the West of Hoy

0:38:520:38:56

# To father here a child on me. #

0:38:570:39:03

She's been seduced by an otherworldly creature,

0:39:030:39:09

who in the sea is a seal and on the land is man.

0:39:090:39:13

"I'm your child's father." She's horrified.

0:39:130:39:17

What's she going to do? He offers to marry her.

0:39:190:39:22

But she doesn't take him seriously.

0:39:220:39:25

"You can marry who you like. I won't marry you."

0:39:250:39:29

# And she has raised his little wee son

0:39:290:39:35

# For seven years all at her knee

0:39:360:39:42

# And when seven years were past and gone

0:39:420:39:48

# He's come with gold and white money. #

0:39:480:39:52

And then he comes back.

0:39:530:39:56

"Please marry me. I've brought gold, I've brought money."

0:39:560:40:00

She still won't have him. And he prophesies.

0:40:000:40:04

"I'm going to put a gold chain around this child's neck."

0:40:060:40:09

So if he comes back, he'll know it's him.

0:40:090:40:12

"But I'm going to take him away. You, well, you'll marry somebody else."

0:40:120:40:17

"You'll forget me. But he's going to be a gunner."

0:40:170:40:21

And in time as the selkie prophesied, she did marry a gunner.

0:40:240:40:28

And he went out on a May morning,

0:40:290:40:33

and shot two seals.

0:40:330:40:37

A big bull male.

0:40:370:40:40

And a young male, with a gold chain around his neck.

0:40:400:40:44

# Oh, woe alas

0:40:480:40:52

# This weary fate

0:40:520:40:55

# This weary fate

0:40:550:40:59

# That's laid on me

0:40:590:41:02

# And so she sighs and so she cries

0:41:020:41:10

# And her tender heart, it broke in three. #

0:41:100:41:16

And so it was finished.

0:41:190:41:22

This is the most amazing place to be on a tour ship,

0:41:410:41:44

taking the helm with a good wind on the open ocean. An incredible feeling.

0:41:440:41:51

This is a voyage of real highs

0:41:510:41:53

and lows.

0:41:530:41:56

I'm trying to steer a steady course to Shetland.

0:41:560:41:58

It's a responsible job when you're at your wits' end,

0:41:580:42:02

after three days aboard, snatching sleep when you can.

0:42:020:42:07

There's one very odd thing that happens, which is your body clock goes completely peculiar.

0:42:100:42:16

Eh...right now, I have no idea what time of day it is.

0:42:160:42:23

It must be evening, cos I slept for two hours.

0:42:230:42:27

I got out of this bunk. I was sleeping fully clothed, like now.

0:42:270:42:30

Then I ate the meal, which turned out to be supper.

0:42:300:42:34

Getting a bit tired. In fact, I'm now permanently tired.

0:42:340:42:37

But the ship doesn't sleep.

0:42:390:42:43

There's an important tack at midnight.

0:42:430:42:46

Everyone's needed to move the massive sails.

0:42:460:42:51

-Are you ready to do this?

-Yeah!

-Yeah! Very good.

0:42:510:42:56

It's all gone badly wrong. We've got some of the sails on one side of the ship,

0:42:590:43:03

some on the other. We got caught by the wind.

0:43:030:43:05

Now there's a rush on to try to get the ship straightened out.

0:43:050:43:08

Suddenly, everyone stops. The crew must rethink.

0:43:160:43:21

A palpable air of tension on the deck now.

0:43:210:43:25

Pull it towards me. Pull it towards me.

0:43:250:43:28

Here we go.

0:43:280:43:30

Despite our efforts, the ship did more of a three-point turn than an elegant tack.

0:43:390:43:45

But at least we're back on course for Shetland.

0:43:470:43:49

Tall ships connected the Northern Isles of Scotland to the globe.

0:43:490:43:55

But as well as trade, big boats have also brought tragedy.

0:43:550:44:00

Around a hundred years ago, Scottish waters became a battleground.

0:44:020:44:07

During the First World War, enemy ships stalked these shores.

0:44:080:44:15

To meet the German threat, the Royal Navy headed north to base on Orkney,

0:44:170:44:22

at the sheltered bay of Scapa Flow.

0:44:230:44:28

The Navy's mighty warships went long ago.

0:44:280:44:31

But intrigue lingers in their wake.

0:44:310:44:34

Neil's exploring how the most famous face of the First World War

0:44:360:44:40

came to lose his life here in the most mysterious fashion.

0:44:400:44:46

This is the curious case of the death of Lord Kitchener.

0:44:460:44:51

Our tale begins in the summer of 1916.

0:44:510:44:54

Scapa Flow is awash with ships of the British Grand Fleet,

0:44:540:44:59

the most fearsome instrument of war the world has ever seen.

0:44:590:45:03

On the 5th June, HMS Hampshire is about to slip out for a covert mission to Russia.

0:45:030:45:10

On board is one of Britain's most celebrated men.

0:45:100:45:13

His face was instantly recognisable and nearly 100 years later,

0:45:130:45:17

it still is.

0:45:170:45:19

Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener -

0:45:190:45:23

the poster boy of army recruitment during the First World War.

0:45:230:45:27

When he arrived here in Scapa Flow on 5th June 1916,

0:45:270:45:30

he was suffering from no more than a mild bout of seasickness.

0:45:300:45:35

A few hours later, he was dead, and exactly how he died

0:45:350:45:39

and why puzzles some people even to this day.

0:45:390:45:42

Conspiracy theories surrounding Kitchener's fate swirl around these murky waters.

0:45:430:45:49

Ripples of intrigue remain after the shock of terrible events

0:45:490:45:53

that made grim headlines.

0:45:530:45:55

Look at this.

0:45:550:45:56

Not many people's death would warrant a full front page picture

0:45:560:46:01

of a newspaper in 1916.

0:46:010:46:03

But the nation was amazed and bemused by the loss of Kitchener.

0:46:030:46:07

Somehow, the warship he'd been travelling on

0:46:070:46:10

had sunk in home waters,

0:46:100:46:12

killing over 600 men, including Kitchener.

0:46:120:46:15

To the people, he was a hero, a patriot and a friend.

0:46:150:46:21

They'd heeded his call to war.

0:46:210:46:23

# We don't want to lose you

0:46:230:46:28

# But we think you ought to go...#

0:46:280:46:31

"Your country needs you" was his rallying cry,

0:46:310:46:34

and his country did not disappoint him.

0:46:340:46:37

From 1914 onwards, 2.5 million men answered the call.

0:46:370:46:42

Whole communities, mates from the same factories and towns

0:46:420:46:45

formed the famous Pals battalions.

0:46:450:46:49

By summer 1916, this band of brothers had become Kitchener's new army.

0:46:490:46:54

We were two years in the making and ten minutes in the destroying,

0:46:560:47:00

said one of Kitchener's new army.

0:47:000:47:02

Pals battalions were brutally butchered on the first day

0:47:020:47:06

of the Battle of the Somme in July 1916,

0:47:060:47:09

but Kitchener didn't live to see his men mown down.

0:47:090:47:12

He was dead before the battle could get under way.

0:47:120:47:15

While his soldiers and his country still loved him.

0:47:150:47:18

The nation demanded to know why HMS Hampshire sank,

0:47:180:47:22

as it set out from Orkney with their national hero on board.

0:47:220:47:27

An investigation was conducted to formulate the official answer.

0:47:270:47:31

-How are you doing?

-Good to see you.

0:47:310:47:34

I'm meeting historian Nick Hewitt, who's going to give me

0:47:340:47:36

the authorised version of HMS Hampshire's loss

0:47:360:47:40

and Kitchener's death.

0:47:400:47:42

So on 5th June, Kitchener is right here in Scapa Flow.

0:47:420:47:45

He is.

0:47:450:47:46

Is this photographic proof?

0:47:460:47:48

This is the last picture we know of Kitchener leaving the Iron Duke,

0:47:480:47:51

walking along the decks to board the Hampshire.

0:47:510:47:54

Why is Kitchener en route to Russia anyway?

0:47:540:47:57

Russia is on the verge of collapse

0:47:570:47:59

and Kitchener is the face of British military might.

0:47:590:48:02

He's a logical man to send around and put some pep in the Russians.

0:48:020:48:06

So what happens?

0:48:060:48:07

What they're looking to do is very simple,

0:48:070:48:09

to take Kitchener from Scapa Flow to Russia, which is in that direction.

0:48:090:48:14

The problem is, there is what's described as the worst gale of the century.

0:48:140:48:19

The Hampshire sets off from alongside the Iron Duke.

0:48:190:48:21

Into the teeth of the gale.

0:48:210:48:22

The captain sensibly starts to move her closer to the shore

0:48:220:48:26

to try and get some degree of shelter.

0:48:260:48:28

It doesn't help, but it's the right thing to do.

0:48:280:48:32

What they don't know is that off Marwick Head

0:48:320:48:35

there is a small German minefield

0:48:350:48:37

that's been laid secretly by a U-boat the week before,

0:48:370:48:41

and the Hampshire runs straight into one of these mines.

0:48:410:48:44

That's the official account the Government hoped would lay the story to rest

0:48:440:48:49

but some on the islands of Orkney remained uneasy.

0:48:490:48:53

They had witnessed mysterious events on the night of the tragedy.

0:48:530:48:57

We've reached the spot where Kitchener died,

0:48:590:49:02

about a mile and a half offshore.

0:49:020:49:05

The Hampshire lies upside-down on the seabed,

0:49:050:49:08

about 70 metres below my feet.

0:49:080:49:11

The ship sank in minutes.

0:49:110:49:13

Over 600 men perished.

0:49:130:49:16

Despite the terrible storm,

0:49:160:49:18

islanders tried to help survivors struggling to get up cliffs.

0:49:180:49:22

The rescuers felt more men should have been saved, so why weren't they?

0:49:220:49:28

-Well, James.

-Hello.

-How are you?

0:49:280:49:31

James Sabiston heard strange tales,

0:49:310:49:33

passed down from his grandparents.

0:49:330:49:36

My grandparents and my mother lived here.

0:49:360:49:39

Two survivors managed to get to his grandparents' house

0:49:390:49:42

the night the ship went down.

0:49:420:49:45

I presume everyone was in their beds.

0:49:450:49:47

Yes. They were all in bed.

0:49:470:49:49

I think they came and knocked at the door at two o'clock in the morning.

0:49:490:49:53

And my grandmother went to the door,

0:49:530:49:55

and I think she was a bit worried, wasn't sure if it was a spy

0:49:550:50:00

or something may be coming, but she took 'em in anyway.

0:50:000:50:04

These are the photographs here, and that's one of Dick Simpson.

0:50:040:50:07

He's just a boy.

0:50:080:50:10

Yes, 20.

0:50:100:50:11

And that's Jack Bowman.

0:50:110:50:13

What did he say?

0:50:130:50:14

He said our ship's going down and we want some help.

0:50:140:50:18

There were some more maybe to be saved.

0:50:180:50:21

And so what did your grandparents do once they realised that there was a tragedy?

0:50:210:50:27

My grandfather went to the neighbour and got the men from there.

0:50:270:50:31

They got ropes and they took up three survivors that way.

0:50:310:50:35

Before they were stopped by the authorities.

0:50:350:50:38

Your grandfather and the rest were stopped from doing any more of the rescue?

0:50:380:50:43

Oh, yes.

0:50:430:50:44

What is the word on why anyone would stop a rescue?

0:50:440:50:49

That's what makes it so suspicious, I would say.

0:50:490:50:52

You'd think it was something going on somewhere.

0:50:530:50:57

Who do you think the authorities actually were?

0:50:570:51:00

I don't know.

0:51:000:51:02

Whether they were neighbouring authorities or police or who,

0:51:020:51:07

I don't know really who it was.

0:51:070:51:09

James's grandfather never did find out for sure

0:51:090:51:12

who'd stopped the rescue efforts, or why.

0:51:120:51:15

This is the bay where the sailors were struggling to get ashore.

0:51:190:51:23

I'm hoping Tom Muir from the local museum can shed more light

0:51:230:51:27

on the mysterious authorities who prevented the locals from helping.

0:51:270:51:31

There were troops down here, there was an order from the Admiralty

0:51:330:51:37

not to allow civilians down to the shore

0:51:370:51:41

because there might be sensitive papers washed up,

0:51:410:51:44

which they didn't want falling into enemy hands.

0:51:440:51:48

Right. So it's that paranoia stage.

0:51:480:51:50

Very.

0:51:500:51:51

Do you think it's possible that the conditions that night

0:51:510:51:54

were just so appalling that the authorities were right

0:51:540:51:57

in thinking that no-one could help in the water anyway?

0:51:570:52:01

They certainly could have helped.

0:52:010:52:03

The people around here were farmers but they were also fishermen,

0:52:030:52:06

so they knew the tides, they knew where the rafts would come in,

0:52:060:52:09

they knew that life rafts would come in here,

0:52:090:52:14

so when the life rafts did come in, there was nobody there to help.

0:52:140:52:19

There were just smashed against the rocks

0:52:190:52:21

and there was that feeling that if the authorities had allowed them

0:52:210:52:27

to go out and help, the human emotion, the desire

0:52:270:52:31

to go and help them was denied, and that cost lives.

0:52:310:52:36

Sailors Dick Simpson and Jack Bowman were 2 of only 12 survivors.

0:52:390:52:47

Lord Kitchener and the rest of the crew perished.

0:52:470:52:50

The islanders raised money for a memorial to the tragedy,

0:52:540:52:58

but the story would not die.

0:52:580:53:01

The secrecy that scuppered local rescue efforts

0:53:010:53:03

suggested sinister motives to some.

0:53:030:53:06

Was the Government hiding something?

0:53:060:53:09

The people may have loved Lord Kitchener in 1916,

0:53:110:53:14

but many of those in power did not.

0:53:140:53:17

As Secretary of State for War, he was accused of having overseen

0:53:170:53:21

the bungled and disastrous operation at Gallipoli,

0:53:210:53:24

with a cost of 100,000 Allied casualties.

0:53:240:53:28

And the army on the Western front had almost run out of shells at one point

0:53:280:53:32

while Kitchener was in charge of munitions,

0:53:320:53:34

so he had lost some influential friends,

0:53:340:53:37

but had he made some murderous enemies?

0:53:370:53:41

The fame he'd won in South Africa during the Boer War,

0:53:410:53:44

the violence of his death and the fact his body wasn't recovered

0:53:440:53:48

gave rise to conspiracy theories.

0:53:480:53:50

I'm going to run three of them past Nick.

0:53:520:53:56

Firstly, had Kitchener's misconduct in the war,

0:53:560:53:59

so infuriated ministers like Lloyd George

0:53:590:54:02

that his ship was deliberately sent into waters they knew were mined?

0:54:020:54:06

The key thing is they've already fired him.

0:54:060:54:08

In December 1915, he loses the operational control of the army.

0:54:080:54:12

He's got no control over the battlefield.

0:54:120:54:14

There's absolutely no need for the government to have him murdered.

0:54:140:54:17

OK. We can put that one in the bin.

0:54:170:54:19

Absolutely. In it goes.

0:54:190:54:21

This is a particular favourite of mine, without a doubt.

0:54:210:54:25

That Lord Kitchener goes to Russia

0:54:250:54:28

and there, turns himself into a chap called Joseph Stalin.

0:54:280:54:31

There's a moustache thing going on.

0:54:310:54:33

I don't think we should even dignify it with a response.

0:54:330:54:36

It's clearly ridiculous.

0:54:360:54:38

What a shame. What a movie it would make!

0:54:380:54:41

I suppose in some ways this would possibly be the most credible,

0:54:410:54:44

the legendary "spy", Fritz,

0:54:440:54:48

a South African, embittered towards Kitchener particularly,

0:54:480:54:51

and the British in general because his mother and sister died during the Boer War.

0:54:510:54:57

That this man had sworn vengeance and managed to get aboard the Hampshire,

0:54:570:55:01

caused the explosion and lived to tell the tale.

0:55:010:55:03

It's the hardest one to disprove, I'll give you that.

0:55:030:55:06

He wrote a memoir, obviously saying that he did it.

0:55:060:55:09

His claim that he gets on the ship and sabotages the ship

0:55:090:55:13

and swims away and joins a submarine and gets away with it,

0:55:130:55:16

when so many men were drowning in such appalling weather

0:55:160:55:19

is really, really hard to believe.

0:55:190:55:20

I think we have to put Fritz in.

0:55:200:55:22

Done.

0:55:220:55:24

The people of Orkney still live with the loss of HMS Hampshire.

0:55:280:55:33

They tend the cemetery of sailors claimed by the sea.

0:55:330:55:36

Men the locals couldn't save.

0:55:380:55:40

100 years on, what are we to make of the curious case

0:55:440:55:49

of the death of Lord Kitchener?

0:55:490:55:52

I can't help feeling that this sad episode has been hijacked

0:55:520:55:56

by the conspiracy theorists.

0:55:560:55:59

This isn't about the death of a national hero, mysterious or otherwise.

0:55:590:56:03

It's about a tragedy.

0:56:030:56:05

It's the loss of over 600 lives,

0:56:050:56:07

and the scars that remain on an island community that was unable to help.

0:56:070:56:12

Orkney was where I started my island adventure.

0:56:230:56:27

Four long days and short nights later,

0:56:270:56:31

the edge of Shetland sits on the horizon.

0:56:310:56:35

Journey's end.

0:56:350:56:38

We've arrived off the Shetland Islands,

0:56:430:56:45

we're waiting for the pilot, the big seas have abated,

0:56:450:56:48

it's as calm and almost as flat as the Mediterranean,

0:56:480:56:51

and the Shetlands look as welcoming to me

0:56:510:56:54

as they always have done to voyagers coming in from across the ocean.

0:56:540:56:59

A wonderful sight.

0:56:590:57:01

I've made it.

0:57:030:57:05

And I'm absolutely exhausted.

0:57:050:57:09

But what a way to arrive in Shetland!

0:57:120:57:15

For a rare gathering of square riggers from around the globe.

0:57:150:57:19

Permission to come ashore.

0:57:190:57:21

Lerwick is absolutely packed, it's as if the whole island

0:57:250:57:30

has poured down to the quaysides to see the ships come in.

0:57:300:57:34

The tall ships are on their annual race.

0:57:340:57:37

This is just a brief stop-over for them but for me,

0:57:380:57:43

the experience of life under sail will linger long in the memory.

0:57:430:57:49

Friendships forged at sea,

0:57:490:57:51

formed from the shared experience of pulling together.

0:57:510:57:56

Making landfall on new shores,

0:57:560:57:59

with a warm welcome for a stranger from down south.

0:57:590:58:03

CHEERING

0:58:030:58:05

I've travelled far, but always felt at home.

0:58:050:58:08

Our islands hold a mysterious attraction.

0:58:080:58:11

Their magic spoke to our ancestors, and it still calls us.

0:58:110:58:17

One thing that unites us across these isles

0:58:170:58:19

is that we're all islanders,

0:58:190:58:21

whether we live on rocks in the sea that are very large or very small.

0:58:210:58:26

Maybe the joy of coming to the coast is that here,

0:58:260:58:29

we can still experience the very essence of our island story.

0:58:290:58:34

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:520:58:55

Coast is back in the UK and, for the first time, each episode will feature stories from every part of the British Isles, taking viewers on a 'journey of the imagination' which explores the universal themes that bind everyone together.

Nick Crane signs on as a deck-hand with a tall ship, reliving the great days of sail on a gruelling yet exhilarating journey between the Northern Isles of Scotland. Nick hopes to fulfil a childhood ambition by setting foot on tiny 'Fair Isle'. This is the most remote populated outpost in the British Isles and home to just 70 hardy souls. Can Nick uncover the mystery of how this tiny community's struggle to survive was successful, when many other larger Scottish islands were abandoned? At Scapa Flow on Orkney, Neil Oliver explores the conspiracy theories surrounding the mysterious death of Lord Kitchener. Kitchener was one of over 600 soldiers and sailors who perished when their ship went down. Neil meets locals on Orkney who believe tales of suspicious events on the fateful night of the wreck. Historian Tessa Dunlop hopes to witness an extraordinary and uplifting sight that is special to the Western Isles of Scotland: the mysterious Green Ray. What causes the exceptionally rare Green Ray and how can Tessa be guaranteed to see it? On the Isle of Wight Coast newcomer Andy Torbet finds himself scaling slippery new heights on the Needles. There are no records of his climb being done before. He is attempting the perilous ascent to solve the mystery of why this needle of chalk has resisted erosion by the waves for millions of years.

There is a special appearance by legendary folk singer June Tabor who tells the tale of the mysterious Selkie, a mythical creature that can take the shape of man or a seal.