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Seven Wonders of the Industrial World Episode 3: The Bell Rock Lighthouse

Mark Everest; Kanopy (Firm)
Format
Video; Streaming Video; Online
Summary
The deadly Bell Rock Reef had terrorised seamen for centuries. Eleven miles out to sea off the coast of Scotland, this vast, treacherous rock lurked deceptively just a few feet below the surface of the water and stretched over a third of a mile long. The scene of countless shipwrecks, such was the fear of the reef that in storms sailors would risk the rough seas rather than face certain death approaching the Firth of Forth. In one wild night in December 1799, such a violent hurricane raged that seventy ships went down. Yet one young engineer, Robert Stevenson, dreamed of building the impossible – a lighthouse on Bell Rock Reef. His rivals ridiculed his plan that required building on a rock that was almost constantly submerged, set 11 miles off-shore in perpetually hazardous seas. Nothing like this had been attempted before. As they predicted, when Stevenson set off with a crew to check out his ideas, the waves and tides were so treacherous around the reef, they could not even survey the site.Taming the seas would prove to be an extraordinary battle against the elements that was to cost both reputations and lives. Stevenson, a lighting engineer who had worked with his father to light up Edinburgh was certain he could win – but no one believed him.This is his story, set against the Westminster establishment, distinguished engineers, ever greedy financiers – and above all the elements. During the Napoleonic Wars, as his plans were still thwarted, Navy ships continued to go down with countless lives lost.The worst disaster was in 1803 when HMS York was ship wrecked on the reef with the loss of nearly 500 lives and 60 guns – yet still no one would listen to the lighting engineer. Stevenson never lost faith in his plan, and after years of campaigning and researching lighthouse design – not to mention an Act of Parliament – in 1807, he finally won the backing he needed. Out at sea, he pushed his workers to the limit to create the impossible.They lived and worked moored above the dangerous reef for months on end. Men and children died as they were washed out to sea,working against waves, storms, and sea fogs. In one horrific incident, as their boats lost anchor and drifted out to sea against a fast rising tide, the whole crew were nearly drowned. Even as the lighthouse began to take shape, waves sixty feet high crashing against the walls could wash workers out to the sea to their deaths. Stevenson would not be deflected from his course, even when his own children had died back home. Yet this was to be Stevenson’s triumph. By February 1811, the lighthouse was built. In a historic moment, the first keeper, John Reid, lit the lamps which beamed out over the cold grey northern seas – and the light still shines to this day.
Director
Mark Everest
Performers
Narrated by Robert Lindsay.
Release Date
2003
Language
English
Notes
Off-air recording of the program broadcast: July 11, 2004.
Series
Seven Wonders of the World
Series Statement
Seven wonders of the world ; Ep. 3
Credits
Written and directed by Mark Everest; series producer, Debbie Cadbury.
Published
[San Francisco, California, USA] : Kanopy Streaming, 2014.
Recording Info
Originally produced by BBCActive in 2003.
Publisher no.
1050112 Kanopy
Related Resources
Cover Image
Description
1 online resource (1 video file, 49 min., 53 sec.) : digital, stereo, sound, color.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Technical Details
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