Unst Coast


Unst

Neil Oliver meets the man who designed the first hydrogen car in Unst. Neil also visits the old Baltasound Herring Station. Dr Alice Roberts unearths a mysterious skeleton.


Similar Content

Browse content similar to Unst. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!

Transcript


LineFromTo

What a fantastic place to start our journey -

0:00:260:00:28

on Unst, the most northerly inhabited island

0:00:280:00:31

in the British Isles.

0:00:310:00:33

I already know a few things about Shetland - it hasn't got any trees,

0:00:370:00:41

it's had an oil boom, and its history is more Scandinavian

0:00:410:00:45

than Scottish.

0:00:450:00:46

But when you get here, you find this.

0:00:480:00:50

An early warning station.

0:00:500:00:53

Saxa Vord used to track German U-boats and Soviet aircraft.

0:00:570:01:02

But it's not on red alert anymore. Now, the island's going green.

0:01:020:01:08

This tiny car runs on hydrogen gas.

0:01:180:01:22

It's the brainchild of Unst man Ross Gazey.

0:01:220:01:26

-Ross.

-Hi, Neil.

-How you doin'?

0:01:260:01:29

-Not too bad.

-What is a hydrogen-powered car doing on Unst?

0:01:290:01:34

Well, I had this idea for hydrogen power, and all the things

0:01:340:01:38

it could be used for, and this car has become part of that.

0:01:380:01:42

And where do you get hydrogen from? You don't see a lot of that in the cold counter at a supermarket.

0:01:420:01:47

We actually make our own hydrogen from wind power and tap water.

0:01:470:01:50

You're pulling my leg.

0:01:500:01:52

No, not at all. Not at all.

0:01:520:01:53

We take the electrical power from the wind turbines that we have,

0:01:530:01:57

and we use it to generate hydrogen from tap water.

0:01:570:02:01

You do that just by passing your electrical current through water,

0:02:010:02:04

and it breaks water down into hydrogen and oxygen.

0:02:040:02:07

-Couldn't give us a lift, could you?

-No problem. Jump in.

0:02:070:02:10

Excellent.

0:02:100:02:12

This car's got no harmful emissions. The only thing that comes out

0:02:130:02:17

of the exhaust is water.

0:02:170:02:19

What is the top speed of the vehicle?

0:02:220:02:24

45 mph.

0:02:240:02:26

Hi-tech hydrogen cars might be the island's future,

0:02:310:02:34

but right now, this one's taking me on a journey back in time.

0:02:340:02:37

I'm travelling down the east coast of Shetland, to Baltasound.

0:02:410:02:45

This is exactly the sort of scene I was expecting. Just a few houses

0:02:490:02:53

and buildings dotted about, there's not a soul to be seen,

0:02:530:02:57

it's very peaceful and quiet.

0:02:570:02:59

But I know for a fact that here at Baltasound,

0:03:000:03:03

it wasn't always this way.

0:03:030:03:05

This was once a boom town. In its heyday, the prize was silver.

0:03:090:03:15

The silver darlings of the sea - herring.

0:03:150:03:18

Ian Napier knows the story.

0:03:230:03:26

What would this bay have looked like at the height of the herring boom?

0:03:260:03:31

It would have been a real hive of industry,

0:03:310:03:34

there's a record of as many as 16,000 people being here for

0:03:340:03:37

-the herring season.

-So this place would just have been crowded?

-Yeah.

0:03:370:03:41

I mean, you hear stories about being able to cross the bay

0:03:410:03:45

without getting your feet wet. There were more than 2,000 fishing boats

0:03:450:03:48

based in Shetland for the season. All along the foreshore

0:03:480:03:52

there would have been a series of piers, each one would have had

0:03:520:03:55

a little huddle of buildings with it. When the fleet was in, it must have been very crowded.

0:03:550:04:00

At its peak in 1905, almost a quarter of a million barrels

0:04:030:04:08

of cured herring were packed here and dispatched to Eastern Europe.

0:04:080:04:12

It created opportunities.

0:04:130:04:15

The gutting and the packing of the herring, the emptying of the barrels

0:04:150:04:19

was all done by women. There would've been thousands of women working here.

0:04:190:04:23

It was perhaps the first time that they had the opportunity to earn cash.

0:04:230:04:30

The boom was inevitably followed by bust.

0:04:300:04:34

By the 1930s, bigger, faster ships started to bypass Baltasound,

0:04:340:04:38

and this small harbour fell silent.

0:04:380:04:42

Shetlanders have to live with the ebb and flow of opportunities.

0:04:520:04:56

The history of their struggle is written around the ribbon of this coast.

0:04:560:05:01

Remarkable secrets of an ancient civilization are beginning to emerge

0:05:030:05:06

at Sandwick Bay.

0:05:060:05:08

When coastal erosion revealed curious stones, the foundations of a 2,000-year-old settlement,

0:05:120:05:18

the islanders got together with a team of archaeologists

0:05:180:05:22

to unearth their Iron Age past.

0:05:220:05:24

It's the discovery of a virtually-intact skeleton

0:05:270:05:30

that makes this dig so exciting. Who is this?

0:05:300:05:34

And what can their burial tell us about this ancient society?

0:05:340:05:39

It's a mystery that bone expert Dr Alice Roberts hopes to solve.

0:05:430:05:48

Now, this dig is quite special to me,

0:05:500:05:52

because it's a chance to find out more about prehistoric Shetland,

0:05:520:05:56

and to find out specifically about the lives of people in the Iron Age here on Unst.

0:05:560:06:00

But also to meet one of those people.

0:06:000:06:02

'The islanders are working with Dr Olivia Lelong and her team

0:06:070:06:11

'to investigate this community and their unusual buildings.'

0:06:110:06:15

-It is literally right on the shore, isn't it?

-Yeah. You can see the wall,

0:06:150:06:20

standing up here. And it would've carried on up, probably curving around like that,

0:06:200:06:25

-with the slabs forming the walls and the roof.

-And all of this construction is going on in stone.

0:06:250:06:31

Which is very weird, isn't it, compared with the rest of Britain,

0:06:310:06:34

where you've got a lot of timber roundhouses and things being built in the Iron Age.

0:06:340:06:38

Here you've got buildings with stone floors, stone walls, stone roofs.

0:06:380:06:42

Yup. They're just using what they had and in very clever ways.

0:06:420:06:46

They didn't have trees, so they used the materials they had.

0:06:460:06:50

The discovery of hearths, fish and animal bones,

0:06:500:06:53

and pottery, suggests that these are homes. But who was living here?

0:06:530:06:58

I've been asked to put my skills as a bone expert to the test,

0:07:010:07:04

and examine the remains of this ancient islander.

0:07:040:07:08

The bones have been carbon dated at 1,800 years old,

0:07:120:07:16

but that's all that's known.

0:07:160:07:18

It is quite unusual to have bones this well preserved.

0:07:180:07:22

So this means the better preserved they are, of course, the more they can tell us.

0:07:220:07:26

We can tell whether this person's male or female, how tall they were, how healthy they were in childhood...

0:07:260:07:33

and that's somebody who lived... 1,800 years ago. On Unst.

0:07:330:07:40

If you just take one of these pelvic bones and just look at it,

0:07:430:07:46

and the narrowness of that would very much lead me to the conclusion

0:07:460:07:50

that this is likely to be male.

0:07:500:07:52

In terms of what you can look for on the skull, there is a ridge

0:07:520:07:56

above the ear hole just here. So that's masculine.

0:07:560:08:00

And quite a nose. I'm gonna say on balance I think it's a male.

0:08:010:08:05

And it's a male with quite a nose on him!

0:08:050:08:08

Now I know the sex, I can calculate his height from his bone measurements.

0:08:080:08:13

Five foot seven. So he's the same height as me.

0:08:130:08:17

There's no evidence of disease or malnutrition here.

0:08:170:08:21

This coastline provided a rich, varied diet for these Iron Age people.

0:08:220:08:26

The teeth are in pretty good condition, actually.

0:08:260:08:31

There's no tooth decay. So this is a young adult who,

0:08:310:08:33

if they were alive today, wouldn't need to have any fillings.

0:08:330:08:37

'We're gradually piecing together what life was like for this ancient community, but there's more.'

0:08:370:08:42

-Are these some of the artefacts that were buried with it?

-Yes.

0:08:420:08:46

That's amazing that it was actually found in the excavation - it's so tiny!

0:08:460:08:51

It's a little spiral of copper alloy bronze,

0:08:510:08:55

-with two little rings of what might be glass.

-That's amazing.

0:08:550:08:59

This was placed just beside the mouth.

0:08:590:09:02

There are various theories about what they were. The most popular is they were mirrors, or a picture

0:09:030:09:08

-of the moon.

-It almost looks like it's got little craters on it, doesn't it?

0:09:080:09:12

-It's one of those things we'll never know, isn't it?

-Yeah, probably not.

0:09:120:09:17

This coast once nurtured a people who didn't just survive here - they had an appreciation of beauty,

0:09:170:09:22

they made exquisite things, and they shared a culture where respect for the dead was important.

0:09:220:09:28

1,800 years ago, a young man was buried on this beach looking out to sea.

0:09:300:09:36

And this burial, and in fact the whole excavation,

0:09:360:09:38

has brought together the community to uncover its own heritage,

0:09:380:09:44

and to find out what it really means to be an islander on Unst.

0:09:440:09:49

E-mail [email protected]

0:09:490:09:52

Neil Oliver meets the man who designed the first hydrogen car in Unst. Neil also visits the old Baltasound Herring Station. Bone expert Dr Alice Roberts unearths a mysterious skeleton which reveals the surprising lifestyle of ancient Shetlanders.


Download Subtitles

SRT

ASS