From mammoth canals to ferocious seas, the world's waterways are vital to life on Earth. They are also arenas for trailblazers, criminals and adrenaline junkies. These 10 extreme waterways are dangerous, relentless and shocking.
From Nepal to Russia, witness extreme bridge engineering, bridges attracting thrill-seekers, zip lines with rusty pulleys & a 400-foot suspension bridge as a main thoroughfare. These are the ten most extreme bridges on earth.
Across the world roads are vital lifelines. Witness mountains blasted to keep roads open, the worlds worst traffic, and a one-lane road with a 1900 foot drop, known as Death Road. These are the 10 most extreme roads in the world.
From the Swiss Alps to a Japanese metropolis, tunnels can be wonders of modern construction, refuges in a crisis, and scenes of disaster. These are the ten most extreme tunnels on Earth. First, the world's craziest tunnel is the Moscow's Lefortovo. Start with a strong measure of Russian drivers, add some narrow lanes, mix with low light and pour over black ice, and you have a lethal Russian cocktail. With three crashes every day, it's notorious for horrific spine-chilling accidents. Unlike in Moscow, in New York the underground explosions are deliberate. An ambitious new subway line is under construction beneath the streets of Manhattan. It's taken 2000 tonnes of dynamite to blast out 23 new stations. This is the Second Avenue Subway Tunnel. We visit the team of elite tunnellers known as Sandhogs as they deal with a potential disaster, working just feet away from New York's skyscraper foundations. Next the Cu Chi tunnels of Vietnam. They're hundreds of miles long and were built by the Viet Cong, the fearsome Vietnamese resistance army who defeated the Americans and their allies in the Vietnam War. For the western soldiers who had to fight in these tunnels they were the deadliest on earth. We speak to Sandy MacGregor - a young officer in the Australian Engineer corps, and the very first Allied soldier to enter the tunnels. In Kansas we visit Larry Hall at his extraordinary new real estate project. He has bought up two cold war missile silos and is turning them into five star post-apocalypse living - it even has a pool and a fish farm! Next, we take a trip along the Bund Tunnel in Shanghai. A psychedelic magic carpet ride, six hundred and forty seven metres long. This is the weirdest tunnel in the world. Still in China we head to the village of Guoliang. It's perched high on a cliff and so remote that the 350 inhabitants had nothing but a steep mountain path to the nearest road. Until 1972, when the villagers decided to risk their lives and carve out this one mile-long tunnel with only their bare hands and a few pick axes. One of the original builders shows us around. The Salang Pass Tunnel is a product of Afghanistan's war-torn history. Built in haste by the Soviets in 1964, it's been left in ruins by years of conflict. It's also subject to 250 avalanches every year. But despite the damage and dangers the tunnel remains a strategic route through this mountainous country, and we speak to the man who led a ground-breaking renovation project to make this lifeline safer. The Gotthard Tunnel network in Switzerland is the world's largest. But when things go wrong, these tunnels are your worst nightmare. That accident came in 2001. Two trucks collided, and a deadly fire broke out, a mile from the exit. Dozens of people were trapped and 11 died. We meet one of the rescue workers from 2001. The Gotthard network is now also home to an ambitious new project - the Gotthard Base Tunnel. It is the deepest railway tunnel in the world, dug in a mile and a half beneath the mountain peaks. It's also the longest - thirty-five miles end to end. We meet senior technician Stephan Aerni as he performs an important test drive. The mightiest tunnels on the planet are Tokyo's storm drains. Japan lies under threat of Pacific typhoons and when a storm makes landfall, 120 mile per hour wind and pounding rain batter the country. Tokyo is a sitting duck. But it has an ace up its sleeve. A network of tunnels that swallow the floodwater, store it up and then pump it out slowly. It's a giant drainage system for the world's biggest city. Tokyo's typhoon tunnels may be mighty, but size doesn't always matter. On the US-Mexican border, authorities regularly discover state of the art smuggler's tunnels - used to move illegal drugs over the border and into the USA. Welcome to Mexico's infamous drug tunnels: the world's most criminal. We go on patrol with Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Lance Lenoir and see some extraordinary and truly extreme tunnels.
From India to Japan, railroads mean awesome engineering in extreme environments. From high-tech to home-made, the highest to the fastest, we get on board, in the driver's cab, and even on the roof, to bring you the 10 most extreme railroads on earth. A track in the Colombian port town of Santa Marta has become infamous. Teenagers lie down on the tracks & let the trains run right over them, with only inches between them and the train. We show you the extraordinary footage of this dangerous and illegal game, and how it has alarmingly spread to copycats around the world. In Peru we descend from the Andes on one of the world's highest and steepest railroads. The brake operator risks his life daily as he finds the balance between keeping control and not burning the brakes. The men transport valuable goods from one of the highest mines in the world, to earn a living for their families. Grand Central station is the largest railway station in the world. But under its 44 platforms lies a surprising secret. Danny Brucker takes us underground to visit Track 61, a hidden track going in and out of New York City, used by no less a VIP than Franklin D. Roosevelt. In Thailand, we see a bizarre railroad that cuts straight through a market. Eight times a day the commuter train passes within inches of market stalls - and the stalls part like the red sea. In the train's wake the umbrellas are put back up, the stalls pulled out again, and it's back to business. In a country with the most crowded trains on earth, we travel to the suburbs of Delhi to see commuters pile into trains to get to work on time. We follow Kavita as she pushes her way into one of the new women-only carriages. But there is no room there for Ramesh and Kumar, and they have a different idea. They climb on top of the train, joining dozens of others in the world's most extreme commute. The Bernina line is a breath-taking panoramic railway, in the highest mountain range in Europe. But there is snow on the ground all year round, and it causes numerous problems. We board an extreme machine - the Yellow Beast snowplough, the new weapon in the battle against snow covered railway tracks. This monster machine and its huge blades keep this track clear year round. In Manila we see the ultimate in homemade trains. On the roads millions of cars stuck bumper to bumper. The buses and taxis are at a standstill and the trains are expensive. Homemade trains of just a few planks of wood nailed together are cheap, simple and portable. But when a train on its way they must lift their taxi off the tracks and make sure they do it before the train storms past. Tokyo, the world's biggest city, is home to the world's busiest train stations. Trains come every three seconds but they are packed full, so men called The Oshiya are employed to actually push people onto trains. It's some extraordinary footage. Japanese railroad efficiency reaches its logical conclusion on a test track in Yamanashi, where the Maglev train became the fastest in the world - at three hundred and sixty one miles per hour. At number two is the world's most exposed railway. The Pamban Rail Bridge in Southern India, battered by waves and cyclones on this stormy coastline. But standing between the Pamban bridge and destruction are the maintenance team. We follow them as they avoid oncoming trains to keep the track safe from rust, and we speak to local villagers about the terrible day in 1965 when the village, and the old bridge, was almost completely destroyed by a cyclone. Finally, at number one, surely the most dangerous railroad on earth. For some of the youth in Soweto, Johannesburg, with little hope of a job and drug addiction rife, they find other ways to make their mark. Using the speeding train as their stage, Soweto teenagers perform ever more daring stunts. The most death-defying of all is train surfing: performing acrobatics on the top of moving trains, while dodging cables carrying three thousand volts of electricity.
These are the top 10 most extreme airports on the planet, connecting the world from Hong Kong to Alaska, Nepal to the South Pole. An Ice airport rebuilt every year, runways squeezed between skyscrapers and carved into mountains, vital lifelines and launch pads for thrill-seekers. The Princess Juliana airport on the Caribbean island of St Maarten. The planes fly in forty feet over the heads of unsuspecting holidaymakers. You can't get closer than this, and the footage is astounding. Next up we travel with scientist John Cassano to the most remote airport at the bottom of the world - the Sea Ice Runway serving the Antarctic scientific station of McMurdo. It is rebuilt every year and incredibly is capable of receiving 450,000 pound aircraft. But the planes need to turn around quick - stay too long and the ice could start to crack. Next up the roughest airport - Talcha in Nepal. A remote area of the Himalayas, days from the nearest town and accessible only by the roughest of tracks. That is until 2000 when Talcha airport opened. It's a sheer sided ledge carved into the mountainside, with a gravel runway and a wooden control tower. We land with veteran pilot Negendra Battharai and witness a sick man being flown to safety - thanks to this extreme runway in the clouds. Now to Alaska, where we visit the busiest seaplane base on earth - Lake Hood in Anchorage. For most of the year planes land on water. We see footage of the times where that hasn't gone to plan. Come winter, the lake freezes, and we join Michael Laughlin as he prepares to land his plane not on water, but on the ice... In Abu Dhabi we visit a truly unique airport. The Red Bull Air Race is the fastest motorsport on earth, and it demands an extreme runway. For one weekend of the year, a busy cargo port is turned into a temporary runway. This is a mammoth logistical challenge, which allows for some of the most breath-taking footage you will ever see. On the sunny Portuguese island of Madeira is the notorious Funchal Airport - our gustiest. Winds here can literally blow planes off the runway, and we see some terrifying footage last minute go-arounds, testament to the pilot's skill and nerve. For decades Hong Kong's airports have had to fight with buildings for every inch of runway. The legendary Kai Tak airport forced pilots to make a forty seven degree turn surrounded by the city's skycrapers. This was the Kai Tak Heart Attack or the dreaded Hong Kong Turn. But now Hong Kong has a new airport, a phenomenal structure that involved the flattening of two small islands and the creation of three thousand acres of new land. It is now one of the world's busiest airports. Next up is a truly unique landing strip. Barra in Scotland is home to an airport that disappears with every tide, because here the beach doubles as a runway for the two daily flights. We spend a day with Joe Gillies, whose work at the airport sees him take on the role of ATC, baggage handler, weatherman and even fireman. Back in the Himalayas, we visit Lukla airport - the gateway to Everest. This airport with altitude is a force to be reckoned with for even the most hardened pilots. With four crashes in the last five years, it is truly extreme. Veteran Lukla pilot Vijay Lama knows the risks of this landing, and he talks us through the approach, as Rajesh Srestha brings us through the clouds and prepares to land... Finally, Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan - the world's most extreme airport. Under constant threat of attack and tasked with managing hundreds of thousands of civilian and military aircraft movements every year, this is an extraordinary place. Operations commander Lt. Col. Scott Hoffman talks us through what it takes to keep a place like this running.
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