The Workers' Coast Coast


The Workers' Coast

Miranda Krestovnikoff joins volunteers in an exercise on dealing with sea-faring mammals that become beached.


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Our East Coast is ideal to explore working endeavour past and present.

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I'm heading for the Humber, but beginning on the Tyne.

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Newcastle upon Tyne prospered thanks to its coastal connections.

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The early workers who built the wealth of Newcastle

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shifted countless tonnes of coal.

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But coal's no longer king.

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These days, the traffic is different.

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For most of us, parking up at the coast is the end of a journey.

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But for these brand-new cars, it's the beginning of a global adventure.

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Every two weeks on the Tyne, a massive car conveyor arrives.

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Then time is money.

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The port's workers go into overdrive.

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The challenge is to park a couple of thousand of these cars

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on that ship as fast as the drivers can get them on.

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To get a steer on the challenge, I'm cadging a lift with Derek Lay.

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It's like an aircraft hangar, isn't it?

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It's absolutely massive.

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Now, I've been on cross-Channel car ferries,

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but this is in a league of its own.

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Fast.

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With 14 decks, there's room for almost 8,000 cars,

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if packed very tightly.

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Parking must be swift and exact.

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I've got to ask, have you ever dinked a car, Derek?

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Erm, in the past.

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Mysterious hand signals appear to be more important than mirrors.

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And it's my turn next.

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With some 700,000 cars a year on the move,

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I can't stop the traffic.

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So before I'm let loose, they've got a lesson lined up for me.

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Even though I'm more of a walker than a driver,

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I reckon I'm pretty handy behind the wheel.

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But this is going to test my parallel parking to the limit.

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My instructor is Jonathan Small.

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-That's really accurate, isn't it?

-Yes, yes.

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So what are the main hand signals?

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The hand signals are straight ahead,

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full lock left-hand down,

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full lock right-hand down.

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And when it's only small movements, we just use a finger.

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You'll turn half a turn left or right.

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As long as you put your faith and trust in me, we'll have no problem.

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-I'll tell you what, Derek...

-Just take it nice and easy.

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..I feel more nervous now than I did when I took my driving test.

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Just follow his signals all the time. Don't look at anything else.

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Just watch his hand signals.

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Straight back.

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Straight back. Stop.

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That's it.

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Now I've got to turn.

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And just keep going straight back.

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-That car next door is like a hair's breadth away.

-It's OK, yeah.

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You've got plenty of space.

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That's it.

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Well, I think I've got the hang of precision parking in a car park.

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But now I've got to do it on deck seven

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of a gigantic car-carrying ship.

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Up the ramp.

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Now, where is my leadsman?

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-You just went a bit too far there.

-I did, didn't I?

-Whoa...

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He's pointing left now. Can you see his hand?

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Keep it going left.

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No, watch his hand. Don't watch what's on the left. He can see that.

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Oops, stalled! What about that?

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Now I've got a queue building up now because I've stalled.

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Straight back.

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Concentrate.

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That's it.

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Phew! The Eagle has landed.

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This is pretty stressful.

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Those flashing lights mean the taxi is waiting

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to take me back to pick up another car.

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When I'm not holding it up, a stream of steel flows from our shore.

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Four out of five cars we make we ship overseas.

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That's well over one million motors a year.

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These precision parkers

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have helped put the North East into pole position for vehicle exports.

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Coastal workers turn their hands to many trades.

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THEY SQUEAK

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Sometimes, it's a struggle to scratch a living on the margin.

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Even so, a generous spirit thrives.

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A noble tradition of life-saving volunteers.

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And rescue services don't only save people around our shore.

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As day breaks at Exmouth, a strange sight.

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An emergency is unfolding.

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These bags are pretend dolphins and whales.

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They aren't being laid out for fun,

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this is planning for the worst.

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A specialist marine SWAT team is summoned to the beach.

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Could you put a text out, please, to all Devon and Cornwall medics?

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Thanks a lot. Cheers, bye.

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Miranda is responding to the distress call.

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By day, I'm a trained zoologist,

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but I've also volunteered for another part-time job.

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For the last five or so years,

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I've been signed up to help save sea mammals in distress.

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As you can see, there's a small army of us marine mammal medics

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dotted around the coast.

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'In fact, there are around 2,500 of us constantly on call

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'for a stranding emergency. And we're a varied bunch.'

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I'm a chartered surveyor.

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I work in care and I've got a care home.

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Self-employed carpenter.

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Veterinary nurse.

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I work as a production assistant.

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'British Divers Marine Life Rescue trains some 400 volunteers a year.

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'This a mass stranding exercise -

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'keeping the creatures alive until the tide comes in

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'to get them back to sea.'

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These pretend dolphins are the exact weight and size as the real thing.

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Now, they may just look like a bag filled with water,

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but for the purpose of the exercise,

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we have to treat them like real animals.

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You can immediately see how heavy they are...

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and how difficult they are to handle.

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Getting to grips with dolphin and whale strandings is a big issue.

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Around 600 of these mammals a year need help.

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Some make headline news,

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like the whale discovered in the Thames in 2006.

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In 2011, a pod of around 60 pilot whales

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was floundering on the Scottish coast.

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Rescuers managed to save over 40 animals.

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One of the team leaders is organising our exercise,

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Stephen Marsh.

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Whales and dolphins have always stranded,

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but are we just more aware of it now, or are numbers on the increase?

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We think that some strandings may well be increasing,

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but animals will strand naturally as well.

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You could have one animal that is ill,

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and because they're all very, very gregarious,

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they may well bring the whole of the pod in.

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So we work from the bottom up, if you like, sort of saying,

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"What's wrong with this animal?

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"Is it in a fit state to actually go back?

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"Let's give it first aid

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"until a vet can come along and make that decision."

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'Time is of the essence.

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'The longer a dolphin is out of the water,

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'the less likely it'll survive.'

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It might seem a bit comical,

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but training for a marine mammal rescue is a serious business.

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'The animal's plight begs a simple question -

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'why are dolphins so utterly helpless on land

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'when being out of the water doesn't pose a problem

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'for other marine mammals, like seals?

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'To find out, we need to strip the animals to their bare bones.'

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This is a skeleton of a seal.

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We've got the skull, quite a long neck,

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and then these front limbs,

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which are very powerful, strong front flippers.

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These are what it uses to manoeuvre itself on land.

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When it's lumbering up and down the beach,

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the seal's internal organs are protected by quite a strong ribcage.

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The breast bone is quite strong and thick as well.

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This is the skeleton of a common dolphin.

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The ribs are much more fragile,

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and the breast bone here is much thinner than that of the seal's.

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If a dolphin or whale finds itself stranded on the beach,

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often it can't bear its own weight and it can suffocate.

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The front limbs have been modified to make these pectoral fins,

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which are great when the dolphin is moving through the water,

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but absolutely useless if it's stranded on a beach.

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The differences between dolphins and seals

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evolved millions of years ago.

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The fins and tails of whales and dolphins

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have become so perfectly adapted to the sea

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that they need a hand from volunteers like us when stranded.

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We've got two dolphins here that we're ready to refloat,

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but because of the sun and the wind,

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we've got tarpaulins over them to protect them from the sun.

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We've got a wind break to protect them from the wind.

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Just trying to keep them as cool and as calm as possible

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before we can get them down to the sea.

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'Now the tide's turned, we can try to master the delicate operation

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'of returning a distressed animal to its home.'

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Wow. There you go. It's that easy.

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Discard... One person hold on to that. Form a line. Form a line.

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Encourage them. Go on, off you go. Go on, don't want to see you again.

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Strandings are obviously really sad events,

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but thanks to the great work

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of teams of volunteers and professionals,

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we're constantly learning more

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about how to protect our valuable sea life.

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And off they go.

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Being beside the seaside wasn't a getaway

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for many hard-pressed coastal folk.

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It was a harsh life for manual workers in the docks.

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But there was dignity in labour with splendid surroundings.

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The port of Grimsby marked its workers' achievements

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with a mighty tower.

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Close up, it's quite a sight.

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It was completed in 1852

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and it's a copy of a beautiful tower in the Italian town of Siena.

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But like everything else in this port,

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their tower had to work for a living.

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The pretty brick facade conceals the building's true function.

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It's a giant water tower.

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Wow, this is even more monumental on the inside.

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This pipe here used to pump water way up the tower

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to a huge holding tank.

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The water was then released down this pipe here,

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which fed hydraulic pumps that worked the lock gates

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and the cranes in the harbour.

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One thing that's missing from the tower, though, is a lift.

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That means walking up the biggest spiral staircase I've ever seen.

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The Workers' Coast is hard work.

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A million bricks built the tower, and it takes 450 steps to climb it.

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I hope the view is worth it!

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The mammoth efforts of labourers to remodel our shore unfolds below.

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The Grimsby Tower doesn't disappoint.

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This monument in brick may have been paid for

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by the great and the good, but it was built by ordinary folk.

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The skills, the endeavours of such unsung heroes

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are written all around our shores.

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This is the Workers' Coast.

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It's our coast. Let's celebrate it.

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Coast is on a journey to celebrate the surprising stories of the workers from around our shores. How good is your parking? At the port on the Tyne, Nick joins a crack team of drivers on a race against time to precision park hundreds of new British-built cars aboard a huge purpose-built car transporter. Nick is pushed to the limit squeezing vehicles just millimetres apart for export around the world. Miranda Krestovnikoff joins other volunteers in an exercise on dealing with sea-faring mammals which are washed up on our shores.


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