Sand Coast


Sand

A look around the coast of the British Isles. Alice Roberts boards a dredger to discover a precious resource: sand from the seabed for building sites and garden makeovers.


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Transcript


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Once upon a time, the Welsh mined coal.

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These days it's sand they're after.

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And lots of it.

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85% of the sand that we use is taken from the sea bed.

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I'm going to find out what effect that's having.

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I'm in the Bristol channel and we're heading out

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to Nash Bank, which is about five miles off the coast of south Wales

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and I'm gonna get on that, which is a dredger.

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I've watched these ships going up and down since I was kid,

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but I've never been on one so I'm excited.

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'The Arco Dart spends 360 days a year

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'dredging up sand and pebbles from the sea bed.'

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-Hello, Alice.

-Hello.

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Mick Forster, master of the Arco Dart. Welcome aboard.

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-Thank you.

-Would you like to come over?

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It's Mick Forster's job to position his ship precisely

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over a sand bank.

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Can you dredge anywhere in the Bristol Channel?

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No. We're restricted to what we call dredging areas.

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We're only allowed to load on a licensed area.

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-So does this blue streak here represent a bank of sand?

-Yes.

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This is where we're heading for, called the Nash dredging grounds.

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The sea bed is owned by the crown

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and every tonne of aggregate taken has to be paid for.

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The Nash Bank is eight miles long

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and a mile wide.

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That's a lot of sand.

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The dredge is, basically, an enormous vacuum cleaner.

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1,300 tonnes of aggregate are sucked up this tube every two hours.

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As it's pumped aboard it gets graded.

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Sand for cement, gravel for gardens.

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The dredging companies are required to do detailed surveys

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to try to measure the effects

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of their operations on the local environment.

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This is a chart of the sea bed. It shows the bank very clearly.

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Erm, the Nash Bank itself, is this area here.

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After you take sand out from this area, is it being replenished?

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You must remember, there are no renewable sources of sand.

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-Just like oil.

-No.

-There's no renewable sources of oil.

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Erm, you just must use those resources carefully.

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The sand in Nash Bank was made in the last ice age.

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If the visibility of the water was better,

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we'd be able to see that the sand lies on the sea bed

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in remarkable 20 meter high waves,

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gradually being eaten away by dredging.

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Since the 1920s, one fifth of the Nash Bank has already been consumed

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and it will never be replaced.

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We may not be taking precious sand directly from our beaches

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but some worry that dredging sand banks

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unleashes the power of the sea to erode beaches away.

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Can you be absolutely sure that if you remove the sand down here

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it's not going to have an effect on the coast line?

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These beaches have been changing for thousands of years.

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They've been coming, going. Yet we see a change in our...

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perhaps on a decade and we think it's important, but actually it isn't.

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That change has been occurring over many, many hundreds of years.

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Whatever the effect of dredging, one thing is for sure -

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sand is a finite resource.

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Once it's gone, it's gone for good.

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But if we want to use sand for our buildings

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and gravel for our gardens,

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we've got to get them from somewhere.

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A look around the coast of the British Isles.

Alice Roberts boards a dredger to discover how a precious resource is consumed: sand from the seabed for building sites and garden makeovers.


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