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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The Grand Canyon...
..one of the world's greatest natural wonders.
Carving through sheer rock and almost invisible from the rim,
the mighty Colorado River.
# Oh, sinners, let's go down
# Let's go down, let's go down
# Oh, sinners, let's go down
# Down in the valley to pray. #
Just 150 years ago, all this was utterly uncharted territory.
Until a band of Wild West pioneers decided to take it on
for the very first time.
Now, Dan Snow is embarking on a massive historical mission
to find out just how those early pioneers
put the Grand Canyon on the map.
I'm pretty excited I'm on this trip, but I'm pretty nervous to be honest.
And it's 18 days.
It's going to be a long time with not many creature comforts.
Tucked in the far south west of America,
the Grand Canyon was called simply, "The Great Unknown".
Then, in 1869, a one-armed war veteran Major John Wesley Powell
lead nine men in three tiny boats
into a hostile and alien world.
Not all of them would come out of the canyon alive.
Dan's own team will enter a world that has barely changed
since Powell first explored it.
And they will brave the Colorado's treacherous rapids
in specially commissioned boats,
identical to Powell's 1869 originals.
# I'm on the highway to hell
# On the highway to hell... #
They might be more fit for a museum
than some of the wildest water on the planet.
But for Dan, these boats are time machines.
# Highway to hell... #
And using diaries from the original expedition,
our modern team will experience the canyon through the eyes
of those first pioneer adventurers.
Just like the 1869 team,
Dan will enter the canyon with three boats and eight brave men.
This is yours?
There it is.
Where's the boat builder? Well done, man.
Feel great. Can't wait to get them in the water.
-Are you worried?
-No, they're happier in the water.
Ben Kahn is the team's carpenter.
He's spent six months creating three traditional river boats
thousands of miles away in Washington State.
Carefully copied from original photographs,
they've been perfectly crafted down to the last detail.
In 1869, this was state of the art technology
and perfect for most rivers.
But boats like these were never designed to survive
the rocks and torrents of white water hell.
Huge hole here.
Didn't sleep at all last night.
I'm just trying to keep the boats going on the river.
This is, you know, this is my job.
Just like Powell's men, Ben's going to have his work cut out
as the mighty Colorado does its very best
to batter his boats to destruction.
A lot of love went into these vessels,
so I think the boats will be good.
As well as a challenge, this is a historical experiment.
Because no-one has any idea of how these boats will stay afloat.
Or exactly what Powell and his men went through in 1869.
I mean, we're paddling boats that are technology of 150 years ago.
So it's, er, I mean it's going to be great in the flat water,
but when we get in the white water
it'll be challenging for sure.
I'm worried that they're just going to fill up with water
and be immobile, just at the mercy of the river.
The river experts might be worrying about the boats
but some of the others have rather different interests.
There's all these people here and they're all concentrated
on that wet thing that's running through.
But for me all I can see is an amphitheatre all ready of rocks.
I still can't take the grin off my face just by looking at the rocks
around me already and we haven't even set foot.
For me it's going to be what the river's taking me through
that I'm going to be excited about.
Careful so you're not sliding in.
I don't feel too guilty doing a bit of bird-watching
because everyone else is standing around just chatting about boats.
I'd rather chat about birds and look at birds.
Enter wildlife expert Mike Dilger.
This is found nowhere else in the world other than the Grand Canyon.
For Powell, a century and half ago, the canyon's wildlife meant dinner.
For Mike, today, it's an ecological time capsule
protecting creatures that Powell himself would have encountered.
But while he's at home with rattlesnakes and scorpions...
He's not quite so good with the wet stuff.
Physically, I'm absolutely fine. Emotionally, I'm shot to bits.
So far, though, he's happily still on terra firma.
I love seeing rare things. I LOVE seeing rare things.
I love seeing birds actually. If I find one of the really rare ones like
an ash-throated flycatcher, I'm going to flip.
-It's gone, yeah.
Just to get a little bit of bird watching under the belt then.
OK, let's try and go as straight out if we can.
Boats launched, it's time for a test drive.
And Dan's team will have to learn quickly because tomorrow
they head back in time on the adventure of their lives.
Into the world of Major John Wesley Powell.
Dan will be in the blue boat alongside geologist, Dougal.
It's good. I'm getting...
-Oh, now they are rocking the boat.
-It's not so good.
And chilled out river guide Tom.
Now on each boat there's two people that haven't been on this river
and they may not have even been on any white-water,
so part of my role is to calm those nerves, you know.
In the green boat, giant river man Adam on the steering oar,
with ecologist Mike, and adventure kayaker Bryan.
I'm really used to being a one-man show in a kayak.
Now we're a three-man show.
And in the smaller scout boat, maritime historian Sam,
and born and bred canyon man Fred.
I'm not that nervous.
I've been here many times. I've been in lots of different crafts.
I don't know these crafts yet.
After the first couple of rapids I might get real nervous.
Fred's confidence in the boats, though, is already taking a knocking.
I'm very concerned how much water has transferred
-back and forth from the hatches.
-Is it going in?
Oh, yeah. The water sloshing, for one, it compounds the problem
every time you rock or you tilt.
But the hatches need to be fairly dry to keep our supplies.
-It's not dry, it's definitely wet.
Just half an hour on calm water and they're already bailing.
With boat trials on hold,
Dan turns his attention to his predecessor John Wesley Powell
and his ground-breaking expedition.
Two things going on in the 1860s, I think are really important for this expedition.
One is the Civil War that's been raging
largely across here and out in the east between the southern states and northern states.
That gets sorted out. So America is ready to turn its attention
to the west and the unexplored bits of the country.
Men like Powell had experienced awful things
but they'd lived a life less ordinary.
They'd lived the life of great adventure, enormous travel
and he wanted to keep having those extreme experiences.
Powell had lost an arm but he didn't let that stop him. If anything it seemed to drive him forward.
Newly completed railroads allowed Powell to deliver his boats
out west to Green River in Wyoming.
And on May 24th, 1869 he began his epic journey.
To conduct a massive survey of uncharted land,
its geology and river courses.
That is the great unknown and that is what Powell and his men
were going to try and add. They were going to try and go through there
and add to the sum of human knowledge, he was driven by that.
He wanted to fill in that space.
No-one's done this journey in these boats since 1869
and there's probably a good reason for that.
Tomorrow morning, Dan's team sets out for real.
And like Powell, this is a one-way trip.
Once in the canyon, there can be no going back
and there are no easy ways out.
I'm nervous about the people I'm going with.
I don't know these people.
I've known them for 24 hours and we're going to do 18 days
in one of the deepest gorges in the world.
Just the fact I have no idea how they will respond
to something difficult.
You can see it in the eyes of the river guides,
they're not sure what's going to happen.
And when you see them thinking that
you think, "Well, this is different."
Drive now. There we go.
For the Powell team, 18 days of hard rowing lie ahead.
I'm going to miss him so much.
It's the one thing I don't like about being a river guide
is being away from them all the time.
To comply with modern rules, Dan's team will be accompanied
by safety experts, ready to react to any emergency.
Where is Tom? I can't hear him.
And film crews will be on hand to record every moment.
Dan's mission - to survive the mighty Colorado River.
From Lee's Ferry, at the head of the canyon,
all the way to the Grand Wash at the other end.
With 280 miles of canyon and around 100 rapids in between.
Dougal, say hello to a piece of equipment you're going to use
more than anything else.
-Guess what they are.
Yeah, bail buckets.
Brilliant. I think that's Dan's job.
Just like their predecessors, Dan's team plans to be
completely self-sufficient, carrying all their own food and kit.
My biggest concern right now is how the hell
are we going to fit all of our supplies in these boats?
It's going to be tight. We're going to get creative.
We have to strap them in the hull, not just in the hatches.
It's going to look like the Clampetts going down the river
with stuff tied on and lashed on everywhere.
This is our whisky so that's got to go somewhere safe.
Whatever's not lashed down will probably become part of the river.
Room also has to be found for period equipment.
They've got quite a lot of moving parts and they really need to be cared for.
To explore how Powell managed to survey the canyon
nearly a century and a half ago.
This is a good bit of kit.
Sam Willis is a maritime historian
and the team's navigator.
Powell gave the responsibility to local mountain man John Sumner.
Now, Sam has to take on the same tasks.
With dividers, sextants and a bit of improvisation,
Sam has to work out how Powell knew where he was.
Ideally there'd be some kind of horizon.
A task that, in one of the world's deepest gorges, is far from easy.
I'm more used to bigger boats with sails, quite frankly.
If you put me pretty much anywhere it won't take me long
to tell you where I am.
Apart from in the middle of a desert, down a canyon
where you can't see the horizon,
you can't measure the angle of the sun or moon.
Boats packed to the gunnels, it's finally time to go.
See you guys down there.
Boats like these were originally designed to keep a straight line
when ferrying passengers from steam ships to shore.
Our guides must rely on long sweep-oars on the stern
and their novice rowers to steer a course down the river.
And through its rapids.
-Here it comes.
After two hours of rowing,
the Powell team's first real test is coming up.
Eight miles down from Lee's Ferry,
the comparatively mild Badger Creek.
Wish me luck.
Just easy, just a nice walk.
No-one knows how Ben's antique boats will cope.
Powell himself always went first.
Finding the best line through the white water in his smaller
and more agile scout boat, the Emma Dean.
# I see the white of your eyes I'm a stuntman
# See the white of your eyes I'm a stuntman
# See the white of your eyes I'm a stunt man
# See the white of your eyes... #
In the scout boat, Fred's concern over yesterday's leak
suddenly seems small beer in the white water foam of Badger Creek.
Well, let's start bailing.
Wave after wave came over and filled us up with water.
It was really, really cold.
The boat feels stable.
It just takes on a lot of water.
You see them surviving and you know we're going to be fine, basically.
It's always quite good. They're like the canary in the mine.
# See the white of your eyes I'm a stuntman
# See the white of your eyes I'm a stuntman
# See the white of your eyes... #
Come on, guys, let's do this.
# See the white of your eyes... #
Go ahead and give a few good power strokes.
Get ready for a hit, right here.
Just hours into day one and expert kayaker Bryan
discovers one of the perils of his period craft.
I thought I was locked in, then next thing I knew, boom,
all the way back in here and I couldn't grab anything,
and I'm just floating around like this.
Adam had to let go of the tiller and pull me up.
Bryan Smith is an adventurer and film-maker.
An extreme kayaker, Bryan knows white water inside out.
But he's more used to operating solo in hi tech fibre glass
than one of a trio in a ton of oak.
Three people in a boat, we're all right next to each other.
It's where personalities either start to gel or start to clash.
The boats are still all afloat, but like Powell, Dan's team
will need to get used to being continually drenched
with often very little time to dry out between rapids.
Big waves, much bigger waves...
Some of which pose a much greater threat than Badger Creek.
It's important to get three quarters the way across the river
otherwise we're going to draw some of these rocks and there's some
things that will take the keel right off the boat if we hit that.
You guys just watch us right where we enter.
This one's a crucial one. You want to be on the same spot so...
Unless I mess up and then do something different.
All righty, we're going in.
Fred guides Sam and Ben over the top.
# All I can do is step on the gas
# And keep my foot on the floor... #
We're doing great, guys!
Already getting a feel for the smaller scout boat,
Fred takes command of the surging river.
All right, let's get those bail buckets ready.
Following up behind, Dan and Dougal pull hard into the waves.
As Tom calmly shapes a course through the foam.
# Cos, baby, I'll love you until the river runs dry
# Until the booze in the bottle has gone
# Oh, and I love you where the roses grow
# But the roses have long since gone... #
SHOUTS FROM BOAT
# Out here in the canyon, yeah... #
Keep rowing, nice and easy. Big hit right here.
Drop your oars.
We need some bail.
But despite Adam's massive strength in the stern...
..Bryan's boat once again struggles.
Well, in our boat you've got two people, Adam and myself,
we're both Americans, we're both used to white water.
We speak the same language.
..then we have Mike.
If we can catch this eddy, we're going to try and catch it.
-Go hard, whatever you got.
-I got it.
Mike's from a different country and he has a different interest here.
I think that Mike's interests are probably off the river
not on the river. And erm...
We're just struggling to kind of get in the groove.
-Yeah! Nice job, Adam. Nice job.
-You guys did it.
I think in a boat where there's less experienced people, like Mike,
in a boat with more experienced people,
the temptation is going to be to blame the less experienced people for mistakes.
As soon as something goes wrong, this river is going to seek out
these tiny little weaknesses and cracks and tear them apart.
And I'm expecting that over the next few days.
# Well, I'm sitting on this row boat and I'm not in control
# But I hope it knows the way back to your heart and to your soul
# To your soul
# Hey, hey, hey, hey, yeah. #
Powell recruited some of his men over just a few days.
Once going, they had to bond quickly as a team
and become attuned to the dangers posed by one of the world's
most powerful rivers.
I mean, you see all the turbulence after the rapids,
that's where it gets you.
It's not the rapid itself, I mean people freak out,
their head's under water, they get tired, they panic.
Even strong swimmers are going to go down and drown and suck a lot of water.
SHOUTS FROM OTHERS
I am currently the only person awake from the Powell boats.
That was a long, hard day and everybody has taken the opportunity to go to sleep.
So I thought I'd just show you one or two people flat out.
The two boatmen here, Adam and Tom asleep in the boats.
It's not even nine o'clock.
It's hard out there.
Erm, my back's a bit sore.
But, yeah, we took a bit of a battering yesterday.
Actually, I haven't slept on the floor since my student days
when sleeping on the floor was quite a normal pastime.
But, oh, God!
It's five am.
I feel like I've been in a car crash.
Every bit of my body hurts.
My back hurts, I've somehow pulled a muscle in my leg in a tiny boat.
We've got a big rapid today - House Rock.
Significantly bigger than the last rapid we did yesterday.
So, I don't know, I'm thinking about that a little bit right now.
Dan's team is suffering after just one day.
Powell, by comparison, had been going for months.
Leaving from Green River, Powell started much higher upstream
with no idea just how long his gruelling mission would take.
He had already 74 days on water
before reaching Dan's current position.
One of them, Bradley, kept a very precise diary and he wrote all the time.
He actually did it in secret. No-one knew he was doing it.
He'd simply write "another hard day".
He says, "We came across a dangerous rapid and had to cling to the smooth sides of the rocks
"until we could view the situation."
They got out of the boat, portaged all their kit and then lined the boats down.
They sent the boats down empty on lines.
But interestingly, it shows how tough this day was
because tomorrow as it were, Bradley says,
"we've been in camp all day repairing the boats,
"the constant banging against the rocks has begun to tell sadly on them.
"And they are growing older, faster, if possible, than we are."
Down to the knees with a flat back.
For Powell by this stage, things were beginning to get desperate.
With the most treacherous part of the canyon still ahead,
his team was close to breaking point.
By the time they got here their clothes were rotting on their bodies and they didn't have shoes.
They were getting short of food so they were absolutely knackered.
Even by 1945, less than 100 people had attempted to run
the canyon's rapids.
Today, specially designed rafts take thousands of people
on the journey...
..including our film crew.
But attempting Powell's expedition in original boats
is utterly unprecedented and formidably difficult.
We're going to have to make a turn in here
and there's a big hole at the very bottom,
there's a big wave coming back on itself and crashing.
It's really deep, you can't tell how big it is from here.
17 miles in - House Rock Rapid.
Complete with its awkward bend,
and a deep and dangerous waterhole.
If we do end up in the water which way do we go?
Which way does the river take us?
The river's going to take you... You can see the current going down.
Where the current line and the eddy line meet, if you hit that
get on your belly and start swimming,
otherwise it's going to suck you down because there's little whirlpools on it.
So, Fred, it's worse than it looks and it looks pretty bad.
That is correct. And these boats don't turn.
-I think the blue boat does.
Good luck, guys!
Tom has said he's already been through mentally
how he's going to take this 50 times in his head.
And when a guide who's done the Grand Canyon 100 times says that to me,
then I'm really nervous.
Powell himself didn't even attempt to run House Rock.
# With your feet in the air and your head on the ground...
Without backup, he had to be cautious.
Shifting his supplies and often lugging his boats across dry land.
But Dan is determined to test the replica boats to their very limit.
-Oh, God, they were lucky to miss that.
-Oh, my word. They just disappeared down the hole.
-Oh, my Lord.
Powell's caution was well founded.
As Fred flirts with disaster...
..and Sam is almost flung from the boat.
I think we had a great line.
We came in with a nice pace, lined up on that lateral
and the very tail-end of it, and had a nice surf
which put us way out of harm's way.
All Dan's guides have an intimate knowledge of the Colorado.
For Powell, every rapid presented an uncharted hazard.
Stop. Stop, stop.
Tom, though, seems to have an almost spiritual connection with the water.
Somehow dancing Dan's boat over the waves.
He's incredible to watch in the rapids.
His personal serenity comes through the oars,
and I'm seeing some form of Buddhist perfectionist in him.
I think he's just got a touch.
He's really good at what he does.
Water's a little chilly today but, erm, we got some good runs.
I don't know, boats have their own nature, you know.
It's kind of learn how it moves, how it wants to move,
anticipate to how it reacts to certain waves and the water.
That's the key.
# Down by the river where it bends around
# Sat the town on the river bend... #
After the dramas of House Rock, time to relax a little.
# Got an old dog and she loves it there
# One foot in the grave but she don't care
# I set the dog on a second wind
# Taking her down to the river again. #
For maritime historian Sam, it's a chance to begin the task
of exploring how Powell knew where he actually was.
I've been on the river for three days now
and you get a real sense of just how tough an environment it is.
It really makes me think of the kind of people
who actually came on this expedition with Powell.
This guy is particularly interesting, called Sumner.
He was their navigator.
Now, you might think why would they need a navigator on a river trip
like this because it's fairly straightforward.
The canyon is a couple of hundred yards wide and it goes that way.
But to properly survey the river and its geology,
Sumner had to work out exactly where they were.
Give ourselves a starting line.
A navigational feat that was one of the 1869 expedition's
First, they had to know how far they'd travelled
along a winding course.
I'm going to chuck it in not far from the bank and we'll see what we have got.
So measuring the speed of its current was crucial.
There it goes.
I'm going to do the same thing again
but I'm going to chuck it right out into the middle.
Four seconds that took, so that's twice as fast.
Unfortunately, the river seems to flow at different speeds
in different places.
That's what makes it a complete nightmare
to work out exactly how far you've travelled.
While is Sam is just beginning the long and difficult process
of working out how Powell knew where he was...
# Pull the pin and settle in... #
..Dan and Bryan are exploring what he actually saw.
Every single place you look at is like a frame.
Especially here, this is extraordinary.
So the wild thing is when Powell was here on a second trip...
-..he was taking photos in 3D.
Here's a scene right here that's not far off from what...
-Hey! Look at that!
-..we've got going on right over there.
The beach, several boats.
That is magical.
Those are our boats.
Adventure photographer Bryan wants to try to out Powell's method
of creating his ground-breaking images.
-It's actually quite stressful.
When your used to taking digital photos, you're just like, ch-ch-ch.
Let's take another quick look at the focus.
Powell exposed and transported dozens of delicate glass plates.
Wow, that is unbelievably cool.
-Can you see the river down there?
-Yeah, I can see the river.
If that comes out, buddy, you've done well.
OK, so, you can pull this out and we have seven seconds.
That's a long time. That's why everyone looks so staged in Victorian photographs.
They had to stand still for seven seconds or whatever.
And they're off.
One, two, three,
There's our photograph.
With almost 260 miles of canyon still to navigate,
Dan and the team move on.
Before dark, they have to get through a relentless chain of rapids,
collectively known as the Roaring 20s.
-Don't force it.
-Just get on case.
On this particular stretch in 1869, this was the section
that battered the boats to bits.
This is a difficult little stretch for these boats but, so far, we're doing OK.
Pull hard, let's go. Get together, get together.
Dog it, dog it.
# When the day has come
# I've lost my way around
# And the seasons stop
# And hide beneath ground
# When the sky turns grey... #
Even on a conveyor belt of white water,
the crews are beginning to have faith in their boats.
But they know that every rapid calls for some serious bailing.
It was like a huge wall of water.
The boat's supposed to go up,
and we went right through the middle of it.
I was... I was nearly knocked out. Fred nearly went.
It's the closest we've been to tipping.
Now, though, with precious time between rapids
there's a real possibility of going under.
# I bleed out for you
# So I bare my skin
# And I count my sins
# And I close my eyes
# And I take it in
# I'm bleeding out... #
That's the closest we've come to sinking.
In fact, technically, we did sink.
You know, we were floating just below the water level.
32 miles completed and nine exhausted men crawl into camp.
Well, we cracked the first keg of whisky.
It's either a sign of success or failure,
but I think on today's note, success.
But kayaker Bryan knows that expedition trips
are all about the long haul.
You don't have the same amount of energy everyday.
Like, tomorrow we'll start a little bit tired and sore,
my hands are blistered,
the next day it will get a little worse and a little worse, so...
You know, we're happy but I'm personally feeling it a little bit.
The boats also need some TLC.
This goes through here
and it keeps this oar lock from popping straight up.
used to look like that.
Adam needs that to save our lives.
Unfortunately, it's kind of bent out of shape.
If that happened right in the middle of House Rock,
that could have been absolutely hideous.
While Ben patches up the boats,
Fred turns his attention to a gourmet camp supper.
It is a Lebanese peanut bulgur wheat with sauteed onions
to a caramelised perfection, one pot meal.
Do you know what? This is heaven for me.
I've got no problem with that.
That's nice food for me. I don't like fancy dinning.
I love camp cooking. It reminds me of going on canoe tripping with my grandpa in Canada when I was a kid.
Everyone's having a great time.
We're fed. We're happy. We're living the dream.
You do a lot of Grand Canyon trips. This one...
This one's it, huh?
-Oh, yeah. This is a river trip, right?
Just like Powell in 1869, Dan's team is not only aiming
to navigate the canyon but to understand it.
While Dan is out to explore the history of the expedition itself,
rock lover Dougal is looking into a much deeper past.
You know I've seen cliffs, I've seen canyons, I've seen stuff,
but this is...
It is an amphitheatre in every direction.
Dougal Jerram is the team's resident geologist.
It's a very old geology, it's been kicked around the park a bit,
it's been bent up, pushed around.
Dougal has wielded his geological hammer all around the world.
But this is his very first trip down the Grand Canyon.
So, he thinks he can share the same wonder that Powell felt
when he encountered the canyon's unique rock formations
for the very first time.
Everywhere I look is... It's extraordinary.
Here, billions of years of Earth's turbulent history
are laid out in all their glory.
You've got the Redwall Limestone, you've got sandstones above it,
right all the way up to the rim.
I can see right up to the rim, hundreds of meters above us.
And it's everywhere! Everywhere you look.
Powell knew his journey was taking him back in geological time
as the river wound down through gradually more ancient rocks.
The comparatively recent marble canyon is formed
from thousands of sedimentary layers.
Some of which are revealed in one of the canyon's greatest landmarks...
..a vast cavern called Redwall.
-Check it out. I mean, try to walk and look up.
-It's disconcerting, actually, it closes in on you.
-It just keeps going. Layer after layer. It's beautiful.
-It's hard to imagine how high the river would have been to create this.
-Sweeping in here, cutting it out.
-Have you ever seen a cavern like this?
-It's brilliant, isn't it?
What's amazing is you look over the other side there
and you can see all the layers and we're just in one little piece.
This little layer here is just one piece of time 350 million years ago.
Look at that one there.
The minute you see things that look like ordered structures,
they often are something biological.
-They are probably bryozoan leaves.
-They're like fans, aren't they?
Filtering food particles out of the ocean water.
And, so, obviously that tells us
that 350 million years ago where the Grand Canyon is today was an ocean.
-It's hard to believe, really, travelling down this river.
-It is, yeah.
-And we know Powell came here. He wrote quite a lot about it.
DAN: Powell was seriously impressed, he wrote in his diary.
"The water sweeps rapidly around the elbow of this river.
"It's cut its way under the rock excavating a vast
"half circular chamber. If used for a theatre,
"it would give seating to 50,000 people."
It would make a great concert venue.
It's like a football stadium.
While the canyon has preserved unique evidence of our planet's
history, its deep walls have also protected a unique ecosystem.
As naturalist Mike explores a side canyon, he is experiencing
a habitat that has changed little since Powell's own time.
Ooh, look at this, Mike. A spider's web with a massive moth in it.
That is a very good find. Fantastic, man.
It's still alive. It's a hawk-moth.
These are the B52 bombers of the moth world.
See that pink there on the high wing?
That pink is to flash, if anything tries to eat it,
just flashes that pink. It's a warning colouration.
I'm just going to take it out and let it go.
This is one lucky moth. There it goes.
Sorry, Mr Spider.
-So, there's a lucky moth?
And somewhere there's an unlucky spider.
I couldn't see a spiders, which is why. If there's a spider on it,
I would have absolutely left it there.
Oh, there's the spider right in here.
It's got a big nest too and an egg sack. It's a Black Widow in there.
I'm very excited
but slightly pissed off that Adam is finding all the best stuff.
I've seen people being bitten by Black Widow spiders
and it's potentially life-threatening.
One of my fellow guides was bit and he actually went unconscious.
They drove him up Diamond Creek Road, one of the worst roads ever,
and if that didn't wake him up you knew he was in trouble.
On a calm stretch of the river,
Dan's team need to put in some serious rowing.
It's day four, and 52 miles from their start they reach Nankoweap,
a site of ancient human settlement
long before Powell arrived on the scene.
Actually, Powell quotes about this place in his diary.
I assume it's this place, it fits it perfectly.
"About 200 yards from camp we discover
"the ruins of two or three old houses.
"Only the foundations are left.
"In one room I find an old milling stone," I guess a grind stone,
"deeply worn as though it's been much used."
He could be describing this exact spot.
Most definitely. This is a grinding stone.
Somebody just put these here, I'm sure, but this is the real deal.
Grinding it down to fine flour.
And then storing it.
Eating it, but certainly saving some for the winters, definitely.
Hundreds of years ago,
Native American tribes farmed the Colorado's once fertile banks.
Venturing into the Great Unknown
and finding evidence of ancient habitation became Powell's passion.
He later promoted the way of life of the local indigenous tribes.
Although he did bring along his own head-dresses.
To make them look a bit more "Indian" in his photographs.
-So these are storehouses in the shade.
Basically their pantry,
the place where they would've collected their strongest seed,
the best squash, the best melons, corn, cotton.
They would put it all in here, take some of this limestone, mud
and water and just seal it all up so it would be safe from the elements.
Then they could come back next season, dig it out and plant again.
I mean, the different periods of people who lived here
and then left and came back, probably 800AD and then 1000
and then 1100, and then they just migrated away.
A little spicy.
Back in camp, Fred is once again playing chef.
Tonight, just like Powell,
he's supplementing the team's rations with some fresh catches.
This right here is the payoff for a hard day.
Caught some fish!
We've got bacon, fish, beans...
It's going to be a delicious spread.
Is it garlic naan?
Where is the garlic? I know we brought some.
They might be self-sufficient
but Dan's team is cheating on some of the ingredients.
-Here's to the chef, man.
In 1869, Powell was 60 days in, and desperately short of rations.
Not sure Powell had that much chilli with him.
Powell had to make do with stale flour mixed with water
and two month old bacon.
Often washed down with crude coffee, day after day after day.
-I caught that!
-All these bad boys.
# I love you till the river runs dry
# Till the booze in the bottle has gone
# Oh, and I love you...#
Just like Dan's team, though, Powell did have plenty of rough whisky left
to keep his crew's spirits up.
# Oh, honey, don't you know
# It would have been fine if I'd have stayed at home #.
THEY WHOOP AND CHEER
Dan's team are back on the water.
And the river is changing.
They've reached the emergence of the Little Colorado River,
turning the canyon's water muddy brown.
The team is about to enter a whole new section of the canyon
and with it comes a whole new set of dangers.
The geology is changing dramatically.
You've got this lovely buff brown, peat sandstone,
that's an obvious layer in contact with these older rocks.
And that's only about 20 to 30 metres above the canyon.
Yet just over there,
that exact same layer is hundreds of metres up the canyon.
In fact, the rocks below are now tilting,
they are tilting down into the canyon like that,
there's a major fault running up through that area.
Rivers are going to start carving into that
and as you get weaknesses and faults, you get bigger side canyons.
That could mean bigger rapids.
From their start at Lee's Ferry, Dan's team has covered 62 miles,
through the Marble Canyon.
Now, they're about to enter much harder rock.
The notorious Upper Granite Gorge.
The creeks of the side canyons
dump tons of boulders into the Colorado, forming the rapids.
But here, hidden beneath the water, isn't smooth, weathered marble,
but sharp peaks of jagged granite.
Making a boiling cauldron of white water.
I'm looking at the guides a lot and they are starting to get
a little bit nervous, it's quite fun to see.
Tom, for example, has broken out his running shoes,
the flip flops have gone.
So he's expecting some heavy action in these boats we are going down in.
So, there are these little things you notice that are changing.
Hance, Sockdolager, Grapevine, and Horn Creek are all dangerous rapids
which must be navigated in a single day.
In the narrow gorge there's nowhere to stop, let alone camp.
Powell was wary of the granite, aware of its hidden dangers.
Today, the same threat worries extreme kayaker Bryan.
You know, Adam will ask for all four oars in the water,
and I'm in the water, and Mike needs a drink of water
or he needs sunscreen, or whatever.
Some of that stuff hasn't mattered to this point
but it's going to matter down there.
As the river gets bigger,
if we don't have all three people in unison at all times,
we're going to fill full of water, we're not going to be able
to bail quickly enough and we are going to end up in trouble.
It's a whole new test for Ben's boats.
Support and safety crews hover just a little closer...
As the Powell boats approach Hance Rapid.
OK, we're spinning.
Let go, stop, stop.
With nowhere to land and portage,
the usually cautious Powell was forced to take on Hance.
Big move, big move - go!
Row hard. You guys are doing great!
Come on, Mike - go!
Fred and Adam both reverse their boats down,
steering precariously from the front.
Keep going, push!
But the tactic makes a long sweep oars vulnerable
to catching on hidden rocks.
I have no oar.
MUSIC: "Breathe" by The Prodigy
That's it, keep going.
Good. Keep going.
Dan's boat simply fills with water.
# Come play my game
# Exhale, exhale, exhale. #
It beats the office most people go to.
This is my oar.
Snapped like a dry twig.
Did it break on the nails?
In Powell's day this would have been a major repair.
The Powell boats had a lot of spears.
If you look at the pictures, they had oars actually strapped
to the gunnels on the outside of the boat.
-But I think they ended up breaking the spears...
And then they had to fabricate new oars out of driftwood.
Today, with driftwood protected, Dan has to grab a replacement.
They are on the move within minutes.
It doesn't take long before they reach the sheer walls
of a terrifying sequence of rapids.
Big strokes, big strokes. Take it in, take it in.
The team's confidence, nurtured over the preceding days,
is torn to shreds.
Powell called this his granite prison.
Filled to the brim, all the boats are at the mercy of the river,
as they're swept downstream between ever narrower granite cliffs.
Watch out, here it comes - big hit!
Incredibly, through it all, Dougal is still rock-watching.
Most of the grain in this schist is going up vertically
and you see little sheets of granite shooting up in it.
The geology here has completely changed.
We are in deep pre-Cambrian billion year old rocks,
really messed up, and the river's messed up as well.
I have never seen a man
so excited about seeing some granite in my entire life.
So Dougal, it's fine. In the middle of a rapid he will drop his oars
and take a picture of a fault line running through the cliffs.
He's got no concept of boat safety in the rapids
because he's just looking up.
He's probably a bit like Powell in that respect
because Powell didn't seem to care that the food was running out
or there were dangers ahead.
He was just obsessed with the scenery and landscape and the rocks.
One, two, three.
It's been the toughest day by far.
Oh, it's the fun boat, the green one.
This time we lost a bucket and snapped an oar.
Don't quite now what's going to happen next time actually.
That happened within an hour.
Kind of a series of dramatic... Kind of worsening each time.
And just like the 1869 crews, as the pressure builds, tempers fray.
I'll be honest and just say he's getting on my nerves.
You know... He annoys me a bit.
As for the boats, like the men,
they're beginning to seriously break down.
One, two, three and over.
-I'm really happy we flipped the boat over.
This is not good.
We can't replace this.
It's pretty serious.
We're just going to patch it. It's all we can do.
Ben is using period tools, of the type Powell used.
But Powell also had to find his own materials.
It's going in like butter.
Harvesting pitch pine resin
from trees high up in the canyon to make glue.
An extraordinarily laborious process.
It's been really hard physically.
Some people are looking a bit tired...including me.
There's a great quote from one of the guys in one of Powell's boats.
This guy called Sumner says, "I've been in the cavalry charge
"and I've stood by the guns to repel a charge
"but never before did my sand run so low, in fact it all ran out.
"But as I had to have some more grit, I borrowed it from the other boys."
I think there's probably a few people in camp
thinking like that tonight.
Right in the corners?
Yeah, one in each corner.
Splintering boats, aching bodies and rattled nerves.
The granite gorge has been a wake-up call.
And Dan's expedition is still 200 miles from safety.
There's a long journey ahead...
And it's that way,
and it just keeps on going for miles and miles and miles.
It's the distance that's just so kind of staggering.
Hang on! Hang on!
The boats just get trashed.
The agonies of lugging boats on land.
It's actually really dangerous.
Some slightly disconcerting wildlife.
This is definitely the most frightening campsite we've had.
And the biggest rapids of all.
The canyon continues to grind down Dan and his team.
We're beginning to learn that the Grand Canyon's not all giggles.
# Keep all your lamps
# Trim them burning
# Keep all your lamps
# Keep them burning
# Keep .#