Episode 1 Operation Grand Canyon with Dan Snow


Episode 1

Dan Snow and team take on the rapids of the Grand Canyon in antique wooden boats to rediscover one of the wild west's great adventures of discovery.


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Transcript


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The Grand Canyon...

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..one of the world's greatest natural wonders.

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Carving through sheer rock and almost invisible from the rim,

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the mighty Colorado River.

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# Oh, sinners, let's go down

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# Let's go down, let's go down

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# Oh, sinners, let's go down

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# Down in the valley to pray. #

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Just 150 years ago, all this was utterly uncharted territory.

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Until a band of Wild West pioneers decided to take it on

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for the very first time.

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Now, Dan Snow is embarking on a massive historical mission

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to find out just how those early pioneers

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put the Grand Canyon on the map.

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I'm pretty excited I'm on this trip, but I'm pretty nervous to be honest.

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And it's 18 days.

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It's going to be a long time with not many creature comforts.

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Tucked in the far south west of America,

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the Grand Canyon was called simply, "The Great Unknown".

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Then, in 1869, a one-armed war veteran Major John Wesley Powell

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lead nine men in three tiny boats

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into a hostile and alien world.

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Not all of them would come out of the canyon alive.

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Dan's own team will enter a world that has barely changed

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since Powell first explored it.

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And they will brave the Colorado's treacherous rapids

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in specially commissioned boats,

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identical to Powell's 1869 originals.

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# I'm on the highway to hell

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# On the highway to hell... #

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They might be more fit for a museum

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than some of the wildest water on the planet.

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But for Dan, these boats are time machines.

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# Highway to hell... #

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And using diaries from the original expedition,

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our modern team will experience the canyon through the eyes

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of those first pioneer adventurers.

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Just like the 1869 team,

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Dan will enter the canyon with three boats and eight brave men.

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This is yours?

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There it is.

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Fantastic.

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Where's the boat builder? Well done, man.

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Feel great. Can't wait to get them in the water.

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-Are you worried?

-No, they're happier in the water.

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Ben Kahn is the team's carpenter.

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He's spent six months creating three traditional river boats

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thousands of miles away in Washington State.

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Carefully copied from original photographs,

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they've been perfectly crafted down to the last detail.

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In 1869, this was state of the art technology

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and perfect for most rivers.

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But boats like these were never designed to survive

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the rocks and torrents of white water hell.

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Huge hole here.

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Didn't sleep at all last night.

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I'm just trying to keep the boats going on the river.

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This is, you know, this is my job.

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Just like Powell's men, Ben's going to have his work cut out

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as the mighty Colorado does its very best

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to batter his boats to destruction.

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A lot of love went into these vessels,

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so I think the boats will be good.

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Here goes.

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As well as a challenge, this is a historical experiment.

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Because no-one has any idea of how these boats will stay afloat.

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Hoo!

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Or exactly what Powell and his men went through in 1869.

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I mean, we're paddling boats that are technology of 150 years ago.

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So it's, er, I mean it's going to be great in the flat water,

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but when we get in the white water

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it'll be challenging for sure.

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I'm worried that they're just going to fill up with water

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and be immobile, just at the mercy of the river.

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The river experts might be worrying about the boats

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but some of the others have rather different interests.

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There's all these people here and they're all concentrated

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on that wet thing that's running through.

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But for me all I can see is an amphitheatre all ready of rocks.

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I still can't take the grin off my face just by looking at the rocks

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around me already and we haven't even set foot.

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For me it's going to be what the river's taking me through

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that I'm going to be excited about.

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Careful so you're not sliding in.

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Like that.

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I don't feel too guilty doing a bit of bird-watching

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because everyone else is standing around just chatting about boats.

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I'd rather chat about birds and look at birds.

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Enter wildlife expert Mike Dilger.

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This is found nowhere else in the world other than the Grand Canyon.

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For Powell, a century and half ago, the canyon's wildlife meant dinner.

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For Mike, today, it's an ecological time capsule

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protecting creatures that Powell himself would have encountered.

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But while he's at home with rattlesnakes and scorpions...

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Both oars!

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-Both oars!

-Mike!

-Both oars!

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He's not quite so good with the wet stuff.

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Physically, I'm absolutely fine. Emotionally, I'm shot to bits.

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So far, though, he's happily still on terra firma.

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I love seeing rare things. I LOVE seeing rare things.

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I love seeing birds actually. If I find one of the really rare ones like

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an ash-throated flycatcher, I'm going to flip.

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-It's gone.

-It's gone, yeah.

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Just to get a little bit of bird watching under the belt then.

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Nice.

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OK, let's try and go as straight out if we can.

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Boats launched, it's time for a test drive.

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And Dan's team will have to learn quickly because tomorrow

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they head back in time on the adventure of their lives.

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Into the world of Major John Wesley Powell.

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Dan will be in the blue boat alongside geologist, Dougal.

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It's good. I'm getting...

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-Oh, now they are rocking the boat.

-It's not so good.

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And chilled out river guide Tom.

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Now on each boat there's two people that haven't been on this river

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and they may not have even been on any white-water,

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so part of my role is to calm those nerves, you know.

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In the green boat, giant river man Adam on the steering oar,

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with ecologist Mike, and adventure kayaker Bryan.

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I'm really used to being a one-man show in a kayak.

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Now we're a three-man show.

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And in the smaller scout boat, maritime historian Sam,

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boat-builder Ben,

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and born and bred canyon man Fred.

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I'm not that nervous.

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I've been here many times. I've been in lots of different crafts.

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I don't know these crafts yet.

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After the first couple of rapids I might get real nervous.

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Fred's confidence in the boats, though, is already taking a knocking.

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I'm very concerned how much water has transferred

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-back and forth from the hatches.

-Is it going in?

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Oh, yeah. The water sloshing, for one, it compounds the problem

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every time you rock or you tilt.

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But the hatches need to be fairly dry to keep our supplies.

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-It's not dry, it's definitely wet.

-Yeah.

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Just half an hour on calm water and they're already bailing.

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With boat trials on hold,

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Dan turns his attention to his predecessor John Wesley Powell

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and his ground-breaking expedition.

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Two things going on in the 1860s, I think are really important for this expedition.

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One is the Civil War that's been raging

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largely across here and out in the east between the southern states and northern states.

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That gets sorted out. So America is ready to turn its attention

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to the west and the unexplored bits of the country.

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Men like Powell had experienced awful things

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but they'd lived a life less ordinary.

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They'd lived the life of great adventure, enormous travel

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and he wanted to keep having those extreme experiences.

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Powell had lost an arm but he didn't let that stop him. If anything it seemed to drive him forward.

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Newly completed railroads allowed Powell to deliver his boats

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out west to Green River in Wyoming.

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And on May 24th, 1869 he began his epic journey.

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To conduct a massive survey of uncharted land,

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its geology and river courses.

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That is the great unknown and that is what Powell and his men

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were going to try and add. They were going to try and go through there

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and add to the sum of human knowledge, he was driven by that.

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He wanted to fill in that space.

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No-one's done this journey in these boats since 1869

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and there's probably a good reason for that.

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Tomorrow morning, Dan's team sets out for real.

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And like Powell, this is a one-way trip.

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Once in the canyon, there can be no going back

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and there are no easy ways out.

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I'm nervous about the people I'm going with.

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I don't know these people.

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I've known them for 24 hours and we're going to do 18 days

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in one of the deepest gorges in the world.

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Just the fact I have no idea how they will respond

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to something difficult.

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You can see it in the eyes of the river guides,

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they're not sure what's going to happen.

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And when you see them thinking that

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you think, "Well, this is different."

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Departure day.

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Drive now. There we go.

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For the Powell team, 18 days of hard rowing lie ahead.

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I'm going to miss him so much.

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It's the one thing I don't like about being a river guide

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is being away from them all the time.

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To comply with modern rules, Dan's team will be accompanied

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by safety experts, ready to react to any emergency.

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Where is Tom? I can't hear him.

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And film crews will be on hand to record every moment.

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Dan's mission - to survive the mighty Colorado River.

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From Lee's Ferry, at the head of the canyon,

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all the way to the Grand Wash at the other end.

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With 280 miles of canyon and around 100 rapids in between.

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Dougal, say hello to a piece of equipment you're going to use

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more than anything else.

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-Guess what they are.

-They're buckets.

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Yeah, bail buckets.

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Brilliant. I think that's Dan's job.

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Just like their predecessors, Dan's team plans to be

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completely self-sufficient, carrying all their own food and kit.

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My biggest concern right now is how the hell

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are we going to fit all of our supplies in these boats?

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It's going to be tight. We're going to get creative.

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We have to strap them in the hull, not just in the hatches.

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It's going to look like the Clampetts going down the river

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with stuff tied on and lashed on everywhere.

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This is our whisky so that's got to go somewhere safe.

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Whatever's not lashed down will probably become part of the river.

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Room also has to be found for period equipment.

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They've got quite a lot of moving parts and they really need to be cared for.

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To explore how Powell managed to survey the canyon

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nearly a century and a half ago.

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This is a good bit of kit.

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Sam Willis is a maritime historian

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and the team's navigator.

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Powell gave the responsibility to local mountain man John Sumner.

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Now, Sam has to take on the same tasks.

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With dividers, sextants and a bit of improvisation,

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Sam has to work out how Powell knew where he was.

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Ideally there'd be some kind of horizon.

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A task that, in one of the world's deepest gorges, is far from easy.

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I'm more used to bigger boats with sails, quite frankly.

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If you put me pretty much anywhere it won't take me long

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to tell you where I am.

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Apart from in the middle of a desert, down a canyon

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where you can't see the horizon,

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you can't measure the angle of the sun or moon.

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Boats packed to the gunnels, it's finally time to go.

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-Good luck.

-Yeah.

-Woo-hoo!

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See you guys down there.

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Boats like these were originally designed to keep a straight line

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when ferrying passengers from steam ships to shore.

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Our guides must rely on long sweep-oars on the stern

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and their novice rowers to steer a course down the river.

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And through its rapids.

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-Fantastic boys.

-Here it comes.

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Woo-hoo!

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That's cold!

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After two hours of rowing,

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the Powell team's first real test is coming up.

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Eight miles down from Lee's Ferry,

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the comparatively mild Badger Creek.

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Wish me luck.

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Just easy, just a nice walk.

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No-one knows how Ben's antique boats will cope.

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Powell himself always went first.

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Finding the best line through the white water in his smaller

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and more agile scout boat, the Emma Dean.

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Big one.

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Yee-ha! Wow!

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# I see the white of your eyes I'm a stuntman

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# See the white of your eyes I'm a stuntman

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# See the white of your eyes I'm a stunt man

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# See the white of your eyes... #

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In the scout boat, Fred's concern over yesterday's leak

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suddenly seems small beer in the white water foam of Badger Creek.

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Well, let's start bailing.

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Wave after wave came over and filled us up with water.

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It was really, really cold.

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The boat feels stable.

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It just takes on a lot of water.

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You see them surviving and you know we're going to be fine, basically.

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It's always quite good. They're like the canary in the mine.

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# See the white of your eyes I'm a stuntman

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# See the white of your eyes I'm a stuntman

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# See the white of your eyes... #

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Come on, guys, let's do this.

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# See the white of your eyes... #

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Go ahead and give a few good power strokes.

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Get ready for a hit, right here.

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Another here.

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Thank you.

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Just hours into day one and expert kayaker Bryan

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discovers one of the perils of his period craft.

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I thought I was locked in, then next thing I knew, boom,

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all the way back in here and I couldn't grab anything,

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and I'm just floating around like this.

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Adam had to let go of the tiller and pull me up.

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Bryan Smith is an adventurer and film-maker.

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An extreme kayaker, Bryan knows white water inside out.

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But he's more used to operating solo in hi tech fibre glass

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than one of a trio in a ton of oak.

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Three people in a boat, we're all right next to each other.

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It's where personalities either start to gel or start to clash.

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The boats are still all afloat, but like Powell, Dan's team

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will need to get used to being continually drenched

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with often very little time to dry out between rapids.

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Big waves, much bigger waves...

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Some of which pose a much greater threat than Badger Creek.

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It's important to get three quarters the way across the river

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otherwise we're going to draw some of these rocks and there's some

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things that will take the keel right off the boat if we hit that.

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You guys just watch us right where we enter.

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This one's a crucial one. You want to be on the same spot so...

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Unless I mess up and then do something different.

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Aoo!

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All righty, we're going in.

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Fred guides Sam and Ben over the top.

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Big one!

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Woo-hoo!

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# All I can do is step on the gas

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# And keep my foot on the floor... #

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We're doing great, guys!

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Already getting a feel for the smaller scout boat,

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Fred takes command of the surging river.

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All right, let's get those bail buckets ready.

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Following up behind, Dan and Dougal pull hard into the waves.

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Whoa!

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As Tom calmly shapes a course through the foam.

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# Cos, baby, I'll love you until the river runs dry

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# Until the booze in the bottle has gone

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# Oh, and I love you where the roses grow

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# But the roses have long since gone... #

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SHOUTS FROM BOAT

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# Out here in the canyon, yeah... #

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Keep rowing, nice and easy. Big hit right here.

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Drop your oars.

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We need some bail.

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-Mike, bail.

-Bail!

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But despite Adam's massive strength in the stern...

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..Bryan's boat once again struggles.

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Well, in our boat you've got two people, Adam and myself,

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we're both Americans, we're both used to white water.

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We speak the same language.

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And, erm...

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..then we have Mike.

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If we can catch this eddy, we're going to try and catch it.

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-Go hard, whatever you got.

-I got it.

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Mike's from a different country and he has a different interest here.

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I think that Mike's interests are probably off the river

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not on the river. And erm...

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We're just struggling to kind of get in the groove.

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-Yeah! Nice job, Adam. Nice job.

-You guys did it.

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I think in a boat where there's less experienced people, like Mike,

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in a boat with more experienced people,

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the temptation is going to be to blame the less experienced people for mistakes.

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As soon as something goes wrong, this river is going to seek out

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these tiny little weaknesses and cracks and tear them apart.

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And I'm expecting that over the next few days.

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# Well, I'm sitting on this row boat and I'm not in control

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# But I hope it knows the way back to your heart and to your soul

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# To your soul

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# Hey, hey, hey, hey, yeah. #

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Powell recruited some of his men over just a few days.

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Once going, they had to bond quickly as a team

0:21:580:22:03

and become attuned to the dangers posed by one of the world's

0:22:030:22:06

most powerful rivers.

0:22:060:22:07

I mean, you see all the turbulence after the rapids,

0:22:120:22:16

that's where it gets you.

0:22:160:22:17

It's not the rapid itself, I mean people freak out,

0:22:170:22:20

their head's under water, they get tired, they panic.

0:22:200:22:23

Even strong swimmers are going to go down and drown and suck a lot of water.

0:22:230:22:28

SHOUTS FROM OTHERS

0:22:280:22:30

That's sobering.

0:22:300:22:32

I am currently the only person awake from the Powell boats.

0:22:350:22:39

That was a long, hard day and everybody has taken the opportunity to go to sleep.

0:22:390:22:44

So I thought I'd just show you one or two people flat out.

0:22:440:22:47

The two boatmen here, Adam and Tom asleep in the boats.

0:22:470:22:50

It's not even nine o'clock.

0:22:530:22:55

It's hard out there.

0:22:550:22:57

Erm, my back's a bit sore.

0:23:060:23:08

But, yeah, we took a bit of a battering yesterday.

0:23:090:23:13

Actually, I haven't slept on the floor since my student days

0:23:150:23:19

when sleeping on the floor was quite a normal pastime.

0:23:190:23:22

But, oh, God!

0:23:220:23:24

It's five am.

0:23:270:23:29

I feel like I've been in a car crash.

0:23:320:23:34

Every bit of my body hurts.

0:23:340:23:36

My back hurts, I've somehow pulled a muscle in my leg in a tiny boat.

0:23:360:23:40

We've got a big rapid today - House Rock.

0:23:420:23:44

Significantly bigger than the last rapid we did yesterday.

0:23:450:23:49

So, I don't know, I'm thinking about that a little bit right now.

0:23:490:23:54

Dan's team is suffering after just one day.

0:23:550:23:59

Powell, by comparison, had been going for months.

0:23:590:24:02

Leaving from Green River, Powell started much higher upstream

0:24:060:24:11

with no idea just how long his gruelling mission would take.

0:24:110:24:14

He had already 74 days on water

0:24:150:24:18

before reaching Dan's current position.

0:24:180:24:20

One of them, Bradley, kept a very precise diary and he wrote all the time.

0:24:220:24:26

He actually did it in secret. No-one knew he was doing it.

0:24:260:24:29

He'd simply write "another hard day".

0:24:290:24:32

He says, "We came across a dangerous rapid and had to cling to the smooth sides of the rocks

0:24:320:24:36

"until we could view the situation."

0:24:360:24:38

They got out of the boat, portaged all their kit and then lined the boats down.

0:24:380:24:41

They sent the boats down empty on lines.

0:24:410:24:44

But interestingly, it shows how tough this day was

0:24:440:24:47

because tomorrow as it were, Bradley says,

0:24:470:24:49

"we've been in camp all day repairing the boats,

0:24:490:24:52

"the constant banging against the rocks has begun to tell sadly on them.

0:24:520:24:55

"And they are growing older, faster, if possible, than we are."

0:24:550:24:59

Down to the knees with a flat back.

0:24:590:25:01

For Powell by this stage, things were beginning to get desperate.

0:25:030:25:06

With the most treacherous part of the canyon still ahead,

0:25:080:25:11

his team was close to breaking point.

0:25:110:25:13

By the time they got here their clothes were rotting on their bodies and they didn't have shoes.

0:25:150:25:19

They were getting short of food so they were absolutely knackered.

0:25:190:25:23

Even by 1945, less than 100 people had attempted to run

0:25:270:25:31

the canyon's rapids.

0:25:310:25:33

Today, specially designed rafts take thousands of people

0:25:360:25:39

on the journey...

0:25:390:25:40

..including our film crew.

0:25:430:25:44

But attempting Powell's expedition in original boats

0:25:460:25:49

is utterly unprecedented and formidably difficult.

0:25:490:25:53

We're going to have to make a turn in here

0:25:550:25:57

and there's a big hole at the very bottom,

0:25:570:25:59

there's a big wave coming back on itself and crashing.

0:25:590:26:02

It's really deep, you can't tell how big it is from here.

0:26:020:26:06

17 miles in - House Rock Rapid.

0:26:070:26:10

Complete with its awkward bend,

0:26:130:26:17

treacherous rocks

0:26:170:26:19

and a deep and dangerous waterhole.

0:26:190:26:22

If we do end up in the water which way do we go?

0:26:240:26:27

Which way does the river take us?

0:26:270:26:29

The river's going to take you... You can see the current going down.

0:26:290:26:33

Where the current line and the eddy line meet, if you hit that

0:26:330:26:36

get on your belly and start swimming,

0:26:360:26:38

otherwise it's going to suck you down because there's little whirlpools on it.

0:26:380:26:42

So, Fred, it's worse than it looks and it looks pretty bad.

0:26:420:26:47

That is correct. And these boats don't turn.

0:26:470:26:50

-Nice.

-I think the blue boat does.

0:26:510:26:54

Good luck, guys!

0:26:560:26:58

Tom has said he's already been through mentally

0:26:580:27:02

how he's going to take this 50 times in his head.

0:27:020:27:05

And when a guide who's done the Grand Canyon 100 times says that to me,

0:27:050:27:10

then I'm really nervous.

0:27:100:27:12

Powell himself didn't even attempt to run House Rock.

0:27:180:27:21

# With your feet in the air and your head on the ground...

0:27:250:27:29

Without backup, he had to be cautious.

0:27:290:27:32

Shifting his supplies and often lugging his boats across dry land.

0:27:320:27:37

But Dan is determined to test the replica boats to their very limit.

0:27:390:27:43

-Oh, God, they were lucky to miss that.

-Aw!

0:27:470:27:50

-Oh, my word. They just disappeared down the hole.

-Oh, my Lord.

0:27:500:27:55

Powell's caution was well founded.

0:27:580:28:00

As Fred flirts with disaster...

0:28:010:28:04

..and Sam is almost flung from the boat.

0:28:070:28:09

Amazing!

0:28:150:28:17

I think we had a great line.

0:28:170:28:19

We came in with a nice pace, lined up on that lateral

0:28:190:28:23

and the very tail-end of it, and had a nice surf

0:28:230:28:27

which put us way out of harm's way.

0:28:270:28:29

OK, pull.

0:28:290:28:31

Pull. Pull.

0:28:310:28:34

All Dan's guides have an intimate knowledge of the Colorado.

0:28:360:28:39

For Powell, every rapid presented an uncharted hazard.

0:28:420:28:46

Stop. Stop, stop.

0:28:510:28:54

Tom, though, seems to have an almost spiritual connection with the water.

0:28:570:29:02

Somehow dancing Dan's boat over the waves.

0:29:090:29:12

He's incredible to watch in the rapids.

0:29:170:29:19

His personal serenity comes through the oars,

0:29:190:29:22

and I'm seeing some form of Buddhist perfectionist in him.

0:29:220:29:26

I think he's just got a touch.

0:29:270:29:30

He's really good at what he does.

0:29:300:29:31

Exhilarating.

0:29:330:29:35

Water's a little chilly today but, erm, we got some good runs.

0:29:350:29:39

I don't know, boats have their own nature, you know.

0:29:410:29:45

It's kind of learn how it moves, how it wants to move,

0:29:450:29:48

anticipate to how it reacts to certain waves and the water.

0:29:480:29:51

That's the key.

0:29:510:29:53

# Down by the river where it bends around

0:29:530:29:56

# Sat the town on the river bend... #

0:29:580:30:01

After the dramas of House Rock, time to relax a little.

0:30:030:30:06

# Got an old dog and she loves it there

0:30:080:30:11

# One foot in the grave but she don't care

0:30:110:30:14

# I set the dog on a second wind

0:30:140:30:18

# Taking her down to the river again. #

0:30:180:30:21

For maritime historian Sam, it's a chance to begin the task

0:30:250:30:29

of exploring how Powell knew where he actually was.

0:30:290:30:32

I've been on the river for three days now

0:30:340:30:37

and you get a real sense of just how tough an environment it is.

0:30:370:30:40

It really makes me think of the kind of people

0:30:400:30:42

who actually came on this expedition with Powell.

0:30:420:30:45

This guy is particularly interesting, called Sumner.

0:30:450:30:48

He was their navigator.

0:30:480:30:50

Now, you might think why would they need a navigator on a river trip

0:30:510:30:54

like this because it's fairly straightforward.

0:30:540:30:56

The canyon is a couple of hundred yards wide and it goes that way.

0:30:560:31:00

But to properly survey the river and its geology,

0:31:000:31:04

Sumner had to work out exactly where they were.

0:31:040:31:07

Give ourselves a starting line.

0:31:080:31:10

A navigational feat that was one of the 1869 expedition's

0:31:100:31:14

greatest challenges.

0:31:140:31:16

First, they had to know how far they'd travelled

0:31:180:31:21

along a winding course.

0:31:210:31:22

I'm going to chuck it in not far from the bank and we'll see what we have got.

0:31:220:31:26

So measuring the speed of its current was crucial.

0:31:260:31:29

There it goes.

0:31:290:31:31

Eight.

0:31:330:31:35

Nine.

0:31:350:31:37

I'm going to do the same thing again

0:31:390:31:41

but I'm going to chuck it right out into the middle.

0:31:410:31:44

Gone already.

0:31:510:31:53

Four seconds that took, so that's twice as fast.

0:31:530:31:56

Watch this.

0:31:560:31:58

Unfortunately, the river seems to flow at different speeds

0:32:000:32:03

in different places.

0:32:030:32:06

That's what makes it a complete nightmare

0:32:060:32:08

to work out exactly how far you've travelled.

0:32:080:32:10

While is Sam is just beginning the long and difficult process

0:32:120:32:16

of working out how Powell knew where he was...

0:32:160:32:20

# Pull the pin and settle in... #

0:32:200:32:23

..Dan and Bryan are exploring what he actually saw.

0:32:250:32:28

Every single place you look at is like a frame.

0:32:280:32:32

Especially here, this is extraordinary.

0:32:320:32:35

So the wild thing is when Powell was here on a second trip...

0:32:350:32:39

-..he was taking photos in 3D.

-No way.

0:32:410:32:43

Here's a scene right here that's not far off from what...

0:32:430:32:47

-Hey! Look at that!

-..we've got going on right over there.

-Brilliant.

0:32:470:32:51

The beach, several boats.

0:32:520:32:54

That is magical.

0:32:560:32:58

Those are our boats.

0:32:580:33:00

Adventure photographer Bryan wants to try to out Powell's method

0:33:030:33:06

of creating his ground-breaking images.

0:33:060:33:09

-It's actually quite stressful.

-I know.

0:33:150:33:17

When your used to taking digital photos, you're just like, ch-ch-ch.

0:33:170:33:22

Let's take another quick look at the focus.

0:33:220:33:25

Powell exposed and transported dozens of delicate glass plates.

0:33:250:33:29

Wow, that is unbelievably cool.

0:33:310:33:33

-Can you see the river down there?

-Yeah, I can see the river.

0:33:330:33:36

If that comes out, buddy, you've done well.

0:33:360:33:39

OK, so, you can pull this out and we have seven seconds.

0:33:390:33:44

That's a long time. That's why everyone looks so staged in Victorian photographs.

0:33:440:33:48

They had to stand still for seven seconds or whatever.

0:33:480:33:51

And they're off.

0:33:510:33:53

One, two, three,

0:33:530:33:56

four, five,

0:33:560:33:58

six, seven.

0:33:580:34:00

There's our photograph.

0:34:010:34:03

With almost 260 miles of canyon still to navigate,

0:34:090:34:12

Dan and the team move on.

0:34:120:34:14

Before dark, they have to get through a relentless chain of rapids,

0:34:180:34:22

collectively known as the Roaring 20s.

0:34:220:34:25

-Don't force it.

-Just get on case.

0:34:280:34:30

On this particular stretch in 1869, this was the section

0:34:310:34:35

that battered the boats to bits.

0:34:350:34:37

This is a difficult little stretch for these boats but, so far, we're doing OK.

0:34:370:34:41

Pull hard, let's go. Get together, get together.

0:34:420:34:45

Dog it, dog it.

0:34:450:34:46

# When the day has come

0:34:510:34:54

# I've lost my way around

0:34:540:34:56

# And the seasons stop

0:34:560:35:00

# And hide beneath ground

0:35:000:35:02

# When the sky turns grey... #

0:35:020:35:06

Even on a conveyor belt of white water,

0:35:060:35:08

the crews are beginning to have faith in their boats.

0:35:080:35:11

But they know that every rapid calls for some serious bailing.

0:35:170:35:21

It was like a huge wall of water.

0:35:230:35:25

The boat's supposed to go up,

0:35:250:35:27

and we went right through the middle of it.

0:35:270:35:30

I was... I was nearly knocked out. Fred nearly went.

0:35:300:35:34

It's the closest we've been to tipping.

0:35:340:35:36

Now, though, with precious time between rapids

0:35:390:35:43

there's a real possibility of going under.

0:35:430:35:45

# I bleed out for you

0:35:450:35:48

# So I bare my skin

0:35:480:35:49

# And I count my sins

0:35:490:35:51

# And I close my eyes

0:35:510:35:52

# And I take it in

0:35:520:35:54

# I'm bleeding out... #

0:35:540:35:56

Whoo!

0:35:560:35:58

That's the closest we've come to sinking.

0:36:050:36:08

In fact, technically, we did sink.

0:36:090:36:12

You know, we were floating just below the water level.

0:36:120:36:15

32 miles completed and nine exhausted men crawl into camp.

0:36:180:36:25

Well, we cracked the first keg of whisky.

0:36:250:36:27

It's either a sign of success or failure,

0:36:270:36:30

but I think on today's note, success.

0:36:300:36:33

But kayaker Bryan knows that expedition trips

0:36:340:36:36

are all about the long haul.

0:36:360:36:38

You don't have the same amount of energy everyday.

0:36:390:36:42

Like, tomorrow we'll start a little bit tired and sore,

0:36:420:36:45

my hands are blistered,

0:36:450:36:46

the next day it will get a little worse and a little worse, so...

0:36:460:36:49

You know, we're happy but I'm personally feeling it a little bit.

0:36:490:36:55

The boats also need some TLC.

0:36:580:37:01

Oh, Jesus.

0:37:010:37:03

This goes through here

0:37:040:37:05

and it keeps this oar lock from popping straight up.

0:37:050:37:09

This...

0:37:100:37:13

used to look like that.

0:37:130:37:14

Adam needs that to save our lives.

0:37:150:37:18

Unfortunately, it's kind of bent out of shape.

0:37:180:37:22

If that happened right in the middle of House Rock,

0:37:220:37:25

that could have been absolutely hideous.

0:37:250:37:27

While Ben patches up the boats,

0:37:280:37:30

Fred turns his attention to a gourmet camp supper.

0:37:300:37:34

It is a Lebanese peanut bulgur wheat with sauteed onions

0:37:340:37:40

to a caramelised perfection, one pot meal.

0:37:400:37:44

Do you know what? This is heaven for me.

0:37:440:37:46

I've got no problem with that.

0:37:460:37:48

That's nice food for me. I don't like fancy dinning.

0:37:480:37:51

I love camp cooking. It reminds me of going on canoe tripping with my grandpa in Canada when I was a kid.

0:37:520:37:57

SINGING

0:37:570:37:59

Everyone's having a great time.

0:38:070:38:09

We're fed. We're happy. We're living the dream.

0:38:090:38:12

You do a lot of Grand Canyon trips. This one...

0:38:120:38:15

This one's it, huh?

0:38:150:38:16

-Oh, yeah. This is a river trip, right?

-Absolutely.

0:38:160:38:21

Just like Powell in 1869, Dan's team is not only aiming

0:38:380:38:42

to navigate the canyon but to understand it.

0:38:420:38:45

While Dan is out to explore the history of the expedition itself,

0:38:480:38:52

rock lover Dougal is looking into a much deeper past.

0:38:520:38:57

You know I've seen cliffs, I've seen canyons, I've seen stuff,

0:39:010:39:04

but this is...

0:39:040:39:06

It is an amphitheatre in every direction.

0:39:060:39:09

Dougal Jerram is the team's resident geologist.

0:39:110:39:14

It's a very old geology, it's been kicked around the park a bit,

0:39:140:39:19

it's been bent up, pushed around.

0:39:190:39:21

Dougal has wielded his geological hammer all around the world.

0:39:220:39:26

But this is his very first trip down the Grand Canyon.

0:39:270:39:31

So, he thinks he can share the same wonder that Powell felt

0:39:330:39:36

when he encountered the canyon's unique rock formations

0:39:360:39:39

for the very first time.

0:39:390:39:41

Everywhere I look is... It's extraordinary.

0:39:420:39:47

Here, billions of years of Earth's turbulent history

0:39:470:39:50

are laid out in all their glory.

0:39:500:39:53

You've got the Redwall Limestone, you've got sandstones above it,

0:39:530:39:58

right all the way up to the rim.

0:39:580:40:00

I can see right up to the rim, hundreds of meters above us.

0:40:000:40:04

And it's everywhere! Everywhere you look.

0:40:060:40:08

Powell knew his journey was taking him back in geological time

0:40:130:40:17

as the river wound down through gradually more ancient rocks.

0:40:170:40:22

The comparatively recent marble canyon is formed

0:40:230:40:27

from thousands of sedimentary layers.

0:40:270:40:29

Some of which are revealed in one of the canyon's greatest landmarks...

0:40:290:40:34

..a vast cavern called Redwall.

0:40:360:40:38

-FRED:

-Check it out. I mean, try to walk and look up.

0:40:380:40:42

-MIKE:

-It's disconcerting, actually, it closes in on you.

0:40:430:40:47

-DOUGAL:

-It just keeps going. Layer after layer. It's beautiful.

0:40:470:40:50

-BRYAN:

-It's hard to imagine how high the river would have been to create this.

0:40:500:40:54

-FRED:

-Sweeping in here, cutting it out.

0:40:540:40:57

-Have you ever seen a cavern like this?

-It's brilliant, isn't it?

0:40:580:41:01

What's amazing is you look over the other side there

0:41:010:41:04

and you can see all the layers and we're just in one little piece.

0:41:040:41:08

This little layer here is just one piece of time 350 million years ago.

0:41:080:41:13

Look at that one there.

0:41:130:41:14

The minute you see things that look like ordered structures,

0:41:140:41:17

they often are something biological.

0:41:170:41:19

-They are probably bryozoan leaves.

-They're like fans, aren't they?

0:41:190:41:23

Filtering food particles out of the ocean water.

0:41:230:41:27

And, so, obviously that tells us

0:41:270:41:30

that 350 million years ago where the Grand Canyon is today was an ocean.

0:41:300:41:34

-It's hard to believe, really, travelling down this river.

-It is, yeah.

0:41:340:41:39

-MIKE:

-And we know Powell came here. He wrote quite a lot about it.

0:41:390:41:42

DAN: Powell was seriously impressed, he wrote in his diary.

0:41:420:41:45

"The water sweeps rapidly around the elbow of this river.

0:41:450:41:49

"It's cut its way under the rock excavating a vast

0:41:490:41:52

"half circular chamber. If used for a theatre,

0:41:520:41:55

"it would give seating to 50,000 people."

0:41:550:41:59

It would make a great concert venue.

0:42:000:42:03

It's like a football stadium.

0:42:030:42:04

While the canyon has preserved unique evidence of our planet's

0:42:060:42:10

history, its deep walls have also protected a unique ecosystem.

0:42:100:42:16

As naturalist Mike explores a side canyon, he is experiencing

0:42:180:42:22

a habitat that has changed little since Powell's own time.

0:42:220:42:26

Ooh, look at this, Mike. A spider's web with a massive moth in it.

0:42:280:42:32

That is a very good find. Fantastic, man.

0:42:320:42:36

It's still alive. It's a hawk-moth.

0:42:370:42:39

These are the B52 bombers of the moth world.

0:42:390:42:41

See that pink there on the high wing?

0:42:410:42:44

That pink is to flash, if anything tries to eat it,

0:42:440:42:46

just flashes that pink. It's a warning colouration.

0:42:460:42:49

I'm just going to take it out and let it go.

0:42:490:42:52

This is one lucky moth. There it goes.

0:42:520:42:55

Sorry, Mr Spider.

0:42:550:42:56

-So, there's a lucky moth?

-Yeah.

0:42:560:42:58

And somewhere there's an unlucky spider.

0:42:580:43:00

I couldn't see a spiders, which is why. If there's a spider on it,

0:43:000:43:04

I would have absolutely left it there.

0:43:040:43:06

Oh, there's the spider right in here.

0:43:060:43:09

It's got a big nest too and an egg sack. It's a Black Widow in there.

0:43:090:43:12

I'm very excited

0:43:130:43:15

but slightly pissed off that Adam is finding all the best stuff.

0:43:150:43:17

I've seen people being bitten by Black Widow spiders

0:43:170:43:20

and it's potentially life-threatening.

0:43:200:43:23

One of my fellow guides was bit and he actually went unconscious.

0:43:230:43:26

They drove him up Diamond Creek Road, one of the worst roads ever,

0:43:260:43:30

and if that didn't wake him up you knew he was in trouble.

0:43:300:43:33

On a calm stretch of the river,

0:43:400:43:42

Dan's team need to put in some serious rowing.

0:43:420:43:45

It's day four, and 52 miles from their start they reach Nankoweap,

0:43:500:43:56

a site of ancient human settlement

0:43:560:43:59

long before Powell arrived on the scene.

0:43:590:44:02

Actually, Powell quotes about this place in his diary.

0:44:040:44:08

I assume it's this place, it fits it perfectly.

0:44:080:44:11

"About 200 yards from camp we discover

0:44:130:44:14

"the ruins of two or three old houses.

0:44:140:44:17

"Only the foundations are left.

0:44:170:44:19

"In one room I find an old milling stone," I guess a grind stone,

0:44:190:44:23

"deeply worn as though it's been much used."

0:44:230:44:26

He could be describing this exact spot.

0:44:260:44:28

Most definitely. This is a grinding stone.

0:44:280:44:32

Somebody just put these here, I'm sure, but this is the real deal.

0:44:320:44:36

Grinding it down to fine flour.

0:44:360:44:39

And then storing it.

0:44:400:44:41

Eating it, but certainly saving some for the winters, definitely.

0:44:430:44:47

Hundreds of years ago,

0:44:500:44:52

Native American tribes farmed the Colorado's once fertile banks.

0:44:520:44:56

Venturing into the Great Unknown

0:44:590:45:01

and finding evidence of ancient habitation became Powell's passion.

0:45:010:45:05

He later promoted the way of life of the local indigenous tribes.

0:45:070:45:12

Although he did bring along his own head-dresses.

0:45:120:45:15

To make them look a bit more "Indian" in his photographs.

0:45:150:45:19

Wow.

0:45:250:45:26

-So these are storehouses in the shade.

-That's right.

0:45:270:45:31

Basically their pantry,

0:45:310:45:32

the place where they would've collected their strongest seed,

0:45:320:45:36

the best squash, the best melons, corn, cotton.

0:45:360:45:41

They would put it all in here, take some of this limestone, mud

0:45:410:45:46

and water and just seal it all up so it would be safe from the elements.

0:45:460:45:51

Then they could come back next season, dig it out and plant again.

0:45:510:45:55

I mean, the different periods of people who lived here

0:45:570:46:00

and then left and came back, probably 800AD and then 1000

0:46:000:46:07

and then 1100, and then they just migrated away.

0:46:070:46:10

A little spicy.

0:46:100:46:13

Two tablespoons.

0:46:150:46:17

Back in camp, Fred is once again playing chef.

0:46:170:46:20

Tonight, just like Powell,

0:46:200:46:22

he's supplementing the team's rations with some fresh catches.

0:46:220:46:26

This right here is the payoff for a hard day.

0:46:260:46:29

Caught some fish!

0:46:290:46:31

We've got bacon, fish, beans...

0:46:310:46:34

It's going to be a delicious spread.

0:46:340:46:38

Is it garlic naan?

0:46:380:46:40

Where is the garlic? I know we brought some.

0:46:400:46:44

They might be self-sufficient

0:46:440:46:46

but Dan's team is cheating on some of the ingredients.

0:46:460:46:50

-Here's to the chef, man.

-Yeah.

0:46:500:46:52

THEY CHEER

0:46:520:46:53

In 1869, Powell was 60 days in, and desperately short of rations.

0:46:530:46:58

Not sure Powell had that much chilli with him.

0:46:580:47:01

MAN CHUCKLES

0:47:010:47:03

Powell had to make do with stale flour mixed with water

0:47:040:47:08

and two month old bacon.

0:47:080:47:10

Often washed down with crude coffee, day after day after day.

0:47:120:47:18

-I caught that!

-All these bad boys.

0:47:180:47:20

# I love you till the river runs dry

0:47:200:47:23

# Till the booze in the bottle has gone

0:47:230:47:24

# Oh, and I love you...#

0:47:240:47:26

Just like Dan's team, though, Powell did have plenty of rough whisky left

0:47:260:47:30

to keep his crew's spirits up.

0:47:300:47:33

# Oh, honey, don't you know

0:47:330:47:35

# It would have been fine if I'd have stayed at home #.

0:47:350:47:38

THEY WHOOP AND CHEER

0:47:430:47:45

Day five.

0:47:570:47:59

Dan's team are back on the water.

0:48:010:48:03

And the river is changing.

0:48:070:48:09

They've reached the emergence of the Little Colorado River,

0:48:110:48:14

turning the canyon's water muddy brown.

0:48:140:48:17

The team is about to enter a whole new section of the canyon

0:48:200:48:24

and with it comes a whole new set of dangers.

0:48:240:48:27

The geology is changing dramatically.

0:48:310:48:34

You've got this lovely buff brown, peat sandstone,

0:48:340:48:38

that's an obvious layer in contact with these older rocks.

0:48:380:48:42

And that's only about 20 to 30 metres above the canyon.

0:48:420:48:46

Yet just over there,

0:48:460:48:48

that exact same layer is hundreds of metres up the canyon.

0:48:480:48:52

In fact, the rocks below are now tilting,

0:48:520:48:54

they are tilting down into the canyon like that,

0:48:540:48:57

there's a major fault running up through that area.

0:48:570:49:00

Rivers are going to start carving into that

0:49:000:49:03

and as you get weaknesses and faults, you get bigger side canyons.

0:49:030:49:07

That could mean bigger rapids.

0:49:070:49:09

From their start at Lee's Ferry, Dan's team has covered 62 miles,

0:49:110:49:15

through the Marble Canyon.

0:49:150:49:17

Now, they're about to enter much harder rock.

0:49:180:49:22

The notorious Upper Granite Gorge.

0:49:230:49:26

The creeks of the side canyons

0:49:300:49:31

dump tons of boulders into the Colorado, forming the rapids.

0:49:310:49:35

But here, hidden beneath the water, isn't smooth, weathered marble,

0:49:370:49:42

but sharp peaks of jagged granite.

0:49:420:49:45

Making a boiling cauldron of white water.

0:49:470:49:50

I'm looking at the guides a lot and they are starting to get

0:49:510:49:55

a little bit nervous, it's quite fun to see.

0:49:550:49:59

Tom, for example, has broken out his running shoes,

0:49:590:50:02

the flip flops have gone.

0:50:020:50:05

So he's expecting some heavy action in these boats we are going down in.

0:50:050:50:09

So, there are these little things you notice that are changing.

0:50:090:50:12

Hance, Sockdolager, Grapevine, and Horn Creek are all dangerous rapids

0:50:120:50:21

which must be navigated in a single day.

0:50:210:50:24

In the narrow gorge there's nowhere to stop, let alone camp.

0:50:250:50:31

Powell was wary of the granite, aware of its hidden dangers.

0:50:310:50:36

Today, the same threat worries extreme kayaker Bryan.

0:50:380:50:42

You know, Adam will ask for all four oars in the water,

0:50:420:50:45

and I'm in the water, and Mike needs a drink of water

0:50:450:50:50

or he needs sunscreen, or whatever.

0:50:500:50:53

Some of that stuff hasn't mattered to this point

0:50:530:50:56

but it's going to matter down there.

0:50:560:50:59

As the river gets bigger,

0:50:590:51:00

if we don't have all three people in unison at all times,

0:51:000:51:03

we're going to fill full of water, we're not going to be able

0:51:030:51:08

to bail quickly enough and we are going to end up in trouble.

0:51:080:51:11

It's a whole new test for Ben's boats.

0:51:150:51:18

Support and safety crews hover just a little closer...

0:51:220:51:27

As the Powell boats approach Hance Rapid.

0:51:270:51:30

OK, we're spinning.

0:51:310:51:33

Let go, stop, stop.

0:51:330:51:34

With nowhere to land and portage,

0:51:370:51:40

the usually cautious Powell was forced to take on Hance.

0:51:400:51:43

Big move, big move - go!

0:51:480:51:50

Row hard. You guys are doing great!

0:51:500:51:53

Come on, Mike - go!

0:51:530:51:55

Fred and Adam both reverse their boats down,

0:51:550:51:57

steering precariously from the front.

0:51:570:51:59

Keep going, push!

0:52:000:52:02

But the tactic makes a long sweep oars vulnerable

0:52:060:52:08

to catching on hidden rocks.

0:52:080:52:11

I have no oar.

0:52:110:52:12

MUSIC: "Breathe" by The Prodigy

0:52:120:52:18

That's it, keep going.

0:52:180:52:21

Good. Keep going.

0:52:210:52:23

Dan's boat simply fills with water.

0:52:240:52:27

# Come play my game

0:52:270:52:29

# Exhale, exhale, exhale. #

0:52:290:52:32

It beats the office most people go to.

0:52:370:52:41

This is my oar.

0:52:410:52:42

Snapped like a dry twig.

0:52:450:52:47

Did it break on the nails?

0:52:480:52:50

In Powell's day this would have been a major repair.

0:52:500:52:52

The Powell boats had a lot of spears.

0:52:520:52:55

If you look at the pictures, they had oars actually strapped

0:52:550:52:57

to the gunnels on the outside of the boat.

0:52:570:53:00

-But I think they ended up breaking the spears...

-One minute.

0:53:000:53:04

And then they had to fabricate new oars out of driftwood.

0:53:040:53:09

Today, with driftwood protected, Dan has to grab a replacement.

0:53:110:53:15

They are on the move within minutes.

0:53:190:53:22

It doesn't take long before they reach the sheer walls

0:53:220:53:25

of a terrifying sequence of rapids.

0:53:250:53:27

Big strokes, big strokes. Take it in, take it in.

0:53:270:53:31

-Whoa!

-Woo-hoo!

0:53:320:53:36

The team's confidence, nurtured over the preceding days,

0:53:390:53:43

is torn to shreds.

0:53:430:53:44

Powell called this his granite prison.

0:53:480:53:51

Filled to the brim, all the boats are at the mercy of the river,

0:53:550:53:59

as they're swept downstream between ever narrower granite cliffs.

0:53:590:54:03

Watch out, here it comes - big hit!

0:54:140:54:16

Incredibly, through it all, Dougal is still rock-watching.

0:54:280:54:33

Most of the grain in this schist is going up vertically

0:54:360:54:39

and you see little sheets of granite shooting up in it.

0:54:390:54:42

The geology here has completely changed.

0:54:420:54:45

We are in deep pre-Cambrian billion year old rocks,

0:54:450:54:47

really messed up, and the river's messed up as well.

0:54:470:54:52

I have never seen a man

0:54:520:54:53

so excited about seeing some granite in my entire life.

0:54:530:54:57

So Dougal, it's fine. In the middle of a rapid he will drop his oars

0:54:570:55:02

and take a picture of a fault line running through the cliffs.

0:55:020:55:04

He's got no concept of boat safety in the rapids

0:55:040:55:07

because he's just looking up.

0:55:070:55:08

He's probably a bit like Powell in that respect

0:55:080:55:10

because Powell didn't seem to care that the food was running out

0:55:100:55:13

or there were dangers ahead.

0:55:130:55:15

He was just obsessed with the scenery and landscape and the rocks.

0:55:150:55:18

One, two, three.

0:55:180:55:22

It's been the toughest day by far.

0:55:220:55:24

Oh, it's the fun boat, the green one.

0:55:250:55:28

This time we lost a bucket and snapped an oar.

0:55:280:55:31

Don't quite now what's going to happen next time actually.

0:55:310:55:34

That happened within an hour.

0:55:340:55:35

Kind of a series of dramatic... Kind of worsening each time.

0:55:350:55:41

And just like the 1869 crews, as the pressure builds, tempers fray.

0:55:410:55:47

I'll be honest and just say he's getting on my nerves.

0:55:470:55:51

You know... He annoys me a bit.

0:55:510:55:54

As for the boats, like the men,

0:55:560:55:59

they're beginning to seriously break down.

0:55:590:56:01

One, two, three and over.

0:56:010:56:03

Jesus Christ!

0:56:050:56:08

-I'm really happy we flipped the boat over.

-Yeah, yeah.

0:56:080:56:11

This is not good.

0:56:110:56:12

We can't replace this.

0:56:150:56:16

It's pretty serious.

0:56:180:56:20

We're just going to patch it. It's all we can do.

0:56:210:56:24

Ben is using period tools, of the type Powell used.

0:56:240:56:28

But Powell also had to find his own materials.

0:56:280:56:31

It's going in like butter.

0:56:310:56:33

Harvesting pitch pine resin

0:56:330:56:35

from trees high up in the canyon to make glue.

0:56:350:56:38

An extraordinarily laborious process.

0:56:410:56:44

It's been really hard physically.

0:56:450:56:47

Some people are looking a bit tired...including me.

0:56:470:56:50

There's a great quote from one of the guys in one of Powell's boats.

0:56:520:56:56

This guy called Sumner says, "I've been in the cavalry charge

0:56:570:57:00

"and I've stood by the guns to repel a charge

0:57:000:57:03

"but never before did my sand run so low, in fact it all ran out.

0:57:030:57:09

"But as I had to have some more grit, I borrowed it from the other boys."

0:57:090:57:14

I think there's probably a few people in camp

0:57:140:57:16

thinking like that tonight.

0:57:160:57:19

Right in the corners?

0:57:190:57:20

Yeah, one in each corner.

0:57:200:57:22

Splintering boats, aching bodies and rattled nerves.

0:57:220:57:26

The granite gorge has been a wake-up call.

0:57:270:57:31

And Dan's expedition is still 200 miles from safety.

0:57:310:57:35

There's a long journey ahead...

0:57:360:57:40

And it's that way,

0:57:400:57:41

and it just keeps on going for miles and miles and miles.

0:57:410:57:47

It's the distance that's just so kind of staggering.

0:57:470:57:52

Hang on! Hang on!

0:57:530:57:56

Next time...

0:57:560:57:58

The boats just get trashed.

0:57:580:57:59

Lift!

0:57:590:58:01

The agonies of lugging boats on land.

0:58:010:58:03

It's actually really dangerous.

0:58:030:58:05

Some slightly disconcerting wildlife.

0:58:050:58:08

This is definitely the most frightening campsite we've had.

0:58:080:58:11

And the biggest rapids of all.

0:58:140:58:17

The canyon continues to grind down Dan and his team.

0:58:190:58:23

We're beginning to learn that the Grand Canyon's not all giggles.

0:58:230:58:27

# Keep all your lamps

0:58:270:58:29

# Trim them burning

0:58:320:58:34

# Keep all your lamps

0:58:370:58:39

# Keep them burning

0:58:420:58:44

# Keep

0:58:450:58:46

# Your

0:58:480:58:49

# Keep .#

0:58:510:58:52