Abandoned Engineering (2016–…): Season 2, Episode 7 - Germany's Lost Warship - full transcript

After running aground in a Norwegian Fjord during WWII the Georg Thiele sank despite its technological advancements. Also investigated, a mysterious concrete giant on a mountain peak in Bulgaria, a structure built in the middle of...

Rob: A technological masterpiece
lost to a Norwegian fjord.

When you get up close,

you realise there's a lot
more than meets the eye.

Tom ward (narrates): An
ambitious arctic structure

that became an
environmental hazard.

Man: Nothing had
ever been built like it.

It was one of the greatest
feats of arctic engineering

that's ever been.

A mysterious concrete giant
on an icy mountain peak.

Buzludzha is this
amazing structure

that is a little bit mysterious.

It reminds me of something
out of a 1970s Sci-Fi film.

And a fantastical castle in
the middle of the Hudson river.

He left an incredible building

which was an icon
all over the world.

Once they were some of
the most advanced structures

and facilities on the planet

at the cutting edge of
design and construction.

Today, they stand abandoned,
contaminated, and sometimes deadly.

But who build them and how?

And why were they abandoned?

(Theme music)

Deep beneath the Norwegian
fjord near the port of narvik

lies a forgotten
engineering masterpiece.

From among the scattered
debris littering the sea floor

rises a corroded bulk
of metal 37 feet wide.

When you first see this
mass of twisted rusting steel

in the otherwise beautiful
setting of Norwegian fjords,

you think, "hang on,
someone's just been

dumping junk down here."

For 390 feet,

it climbs towards the rocky
shoreline of rombaksfjord

where it protrudes
out of the water.

Yet something
appears to have crushed

and warped this metal structure.

When you get up close

and actually you
see just how twisted

and mangled this
mass of rusty steel is,

you realise it's not just
the roof of someone's shed

that they've lobbed down there
to disintegrate into the seas.

Actually, there's a lot
more than meets the eye.

What is this
mysterious metal wreck?

Why is it here in the
pristine nordic wilderness?

And why was it abandoned?

On 1 march, 1940,

Adolf Hitler ordered the
invasion of neutral Norway,

looking to exploit the
country's long coastline

and intent on obtaining
essential raw materials

for its growing war machine.

One of these was high-grade iron
ore flowing from the port of narvik.

But these waters were
patrolled by britain's royal Navy,

still the most powerful
Navy in the world.

To compete, the German Navy
needed a modern fleet of the fastest

and most manoeuvrable
ships, destroyers.

James: Destroyers
are not mini battleships.

They are, to some degree,

expendable weapons
with relatively small crews.

And they're capable of
a multitude of operations.

They're an essential
part of the Navy.

Destroyers were originally
developed in the late 19th century

in response to the
emergence of torpedo boats.

Through the interwar
years, they were light vessels

with little endurance

but packed with armour
and capable of high speeds.

They could escort
merchant convoys

but were increasingly
built as weapons

to counter submarines
and aircraft.

In the 1930s Germany, in
breach of the versailles treaty

began building destroyers again.

They create a
warship that represents

the absolutely apogee
of German technology.

And these destroyers are gonna
be the best warships on the sea.

Hitler's new fleet were
the type 1934 destroyers.

And this is the 'Georg tiller'.

At the cutting edge
of warship technology,

it cost around 67 million
pounds in today's money to build

and she entered service in 1937.

The 'Georg tiller' was
one of the first of Hitler's

new breed of warship that
he believed was gonna win him

the war on the waves.

It was bigger, it was faster
and much more heavily armed

than anything it was
gonna come up against.

On 6 April, 1940,

Georg tiller and
nine other high-speed

heavily armed destroyers
headed for narvik.

On board were three
thousand elite mountain troops

spearheading the
German invasion of Norway.

Viggo kristensen is an
author of the epic naval battles

that took place at narvik.

They had very
sophisticated machinery,

high-pressure boilers

delivering high-pressure
steam to the turbines.

And that gave the German
destroyers very high speed,

more than 40 knots.

Comparing to the
English destroyers,

the highest speed
was about 32 knots.

Despite her speed
and sophistication,

her modern design
was overcomplicated.

And compared with
royal Navy destroyers,

mechanical breakdowns
were common.

The Germans build warships
that, on paper, are excellent,

but, on through high seas,

they just can't
perform properly.

One of the ships' key
design flaws was that

she was top heavy, making
her unstable in rough seas.

To avoid the
threat of capsizing,

her fuel tanks had to remain
just 30% full at all times.

And that wasn't
her only weakness.

They were so heavy at the front

they'd really dip into the
water in heavy weather

and take on hundreds
of gallons of water.

The engines were unreliable
and the guns were too big.

Their powerful arsenal
consisted of 5 inch guns,

437mm anti-aircraft guns,

and eight 21 inch torpedo tubes.

For all its defects,

this was still a fierce
fighting machine.

On April 10, 1940,

the ten destroyers
powered towards narvik.

They actually,
very successfully,

landed in a surprise
attack on narvik,

landed their invasion force

which fairly quickly
seized the railhead

and the town of narvik,

drove out the
defending Norwegians.

Yet victory was short-lived.

A royal Navy attack force
thundered in to retake narvik.

Lynette: They were coming
with these highly tuned

German sports cars of destroyers

and they were coming up against

these clunky royal Navy
Land Rover destroyers.

And the Germans,
they fight very well.

The 'Georg tiller'
unleashed hell,

taking out one of the
royal Navy destroyers.

But outnumbered

and in the narrow
confines of the fjord,

she was unable to take advantage
of her superior speed and firepower.

Suffering seven major
hits in the process,

14 of her 325-man
crew were killed.

You're operating an
impossible situation.

You're in an enclosed area,

you can't effectively
use your torpedo,

and the British have
brought in cruisers

and much heavier ships.

British firepower sent
six German destroyers

to the bottom of the fjord.

Trapped, low on
ammunition and fuel,

the surviving German
destroyers fled.

But the 'Georg
tiller' stood defiant,

firing her last torpedo

as British destroyer
hms 'eskimo' closed in.

'Georg tiller's' last torpedo
rolled the boat off the eskimo.

The royal Navy set its
sights on the 'Georg tiller'.

Badly damaged,
there was no escape.

Well, the only option they
had was to ram their ship

as fast as they
could onto the shore.

That would allow their crew
some chance of escape onto land

and would effectively
scuttle the ship.

She headed for shore
at a speed of 45 knots,

beaching herself
on rombaksfjord.

What a sight that
must have been.

It's pretty much
a third of the ship

that made its way up onto land

to allow its crew some
chance of escape.

But just a phenomenal sacrifice

that those captains
made of the technology

and potentially of
their crew as well.

With her fate sealed,
the ship's crew fled

and escaped into
the surrounding hills.

The battles of narvik however
had cost the German Navy dearly,

half their total
destroyer force was lost.

Breaking in two, the stern
of this German war machine

sank deep into the rombaksfjord
while the bow rolled onto its side.

It was left mangled
and abandoned.

Today, the twisted steel
plates of 'Georg tiller'

still lie in this
Norwegian backwater

never able to fully unleash
here superior speed,

manoeuvrability, and firepower,

she was ultimately
defeated by the surroundings

in which she fought.

Well, in another
20-30 years or so,

it's likely what's
left will disintegrate

and slip further down

and finally come to
rest on the seabed,

joining its sister
ships down there.

And maybe that
is a more fitting end

to the last remaining survivor
of Hitler's long-vanished fleet.

Around 3,500 miles west,

high in the chugach
mountains of Alaska

is one of the world's first
fleets of arctic engineering.

Wedged in a glacier lined gap,

178 feet above the
fast-flowing copper river,

this rusting steel bridge
is almost 500m in length.

Man: Nothing had
ever been built like it.

It was one of the greatest
feats of arctic engineering

that's ever been,

and it's been copied
many times since.

It really required some
innovative thinking

and the challenges
were pretty demonstrable.

Supporting the steel bridge
are three huge concrete legs,

each 64 feet long and
21 feet thick at the base.

To get all of that material

in a very pristine
Alaskan wilderness,

it is truly mind-blowing.

Yet a closer look reveals
some unusual elements

to this mammoth structure

that hint at the unique
challenges this construction faced.

We have these concrete
blocks coming out of the water.


What are these concrete wedges?

And why was this seemingly
intact structure abandoned?

In 1900, Alaska was rich in
undiscovered natural resources.

Deep in the territories
wrangell mountains,

prospectors discovered
high-grade copper ore

and set up the kennecott mine
to extract the valuable mineral.

But that was only
half the battle.

How would they transport
this priceless ore to civilisation?

The mines' owners jp
Morgan and Daniel guggenheim

sank $25 million into
the copper river railway.

At 196 miles long,

the route faced a multitude
of obstacles thrown up

by the Alaskan
climate and landscape.

Dougal: Whenever you
have engineering projects

in high latitudes,
the arctic regions,

antarctic regions,
it's a problem.

It might be easier to
work there in winter

when the ground's more solid.

You've got that dynamic
problem of a melt season.

As you've got lots of snow,
when you get the summer,

a short summer, you
get lots and lots of water,

so you get big rivers.

So, all of these things
make engineering projects

in such environments
very, very difficult.

Standing in its way
were steep canyons,

Gale-force winds,
rivers, and glaciers.

In particular, two
formidable walls of ice,

the Childs and
miles river glaciers.

Barely 3 miles apart,

they blocked both
banks of the copper river.

The only solution was to build
this, the miles glacier bridge,

better known as the
million dollar bridge.

Andrew: The million
dollar bridge is aptly named

because that's what
it cost to construct.

It was a completely unique
engineering challenge.

Luke borer is a
local businessman

and has intimate knowledge
of the challenges they faced.

It was new technology
for everything.

Nobody had a glacier
on both sides of the bridge

that's dumping
1,000 tonne icebergs

and 100 mile an hour winds

and 60 below zero
temperatures across a river

that has a current of 10 knots.

Plus the fact access to
here was near impossible.

This impossible bridge
had to be light enough

to stretch across the river

but strong enough to
take the river's current

and the strain of
two fully loaded trains

meeting in the
middle of the span.

To achieve this economically,

engineers built four
steel truss spans

mounted on three concrete piers.

Roma: So, this bridge is a
Pennsylvania truss bridge.

Now, engineers love trusses

because they're full of triangles
and triangles are a strong shape.

It also means you've
got thinner pieces of steel

and you're cleverly
channelling loads

and forces through
it into the foundations

to create and efficient
structure and a light structure.

Construction of the
miles glacier bridge

began in April 1909.

The workers were
in a race against time.

The melt season released
1,000 tonne icebergs

that could potentially sweep
away all their hard work.

They finished in a
breakneck 13 months

and improvised the structure

to deal with these potentially
devastating battering rams.

Roma: You try and deflect them.

You try and stop those
massive pieces of ice

from actually hitting
the bridge itself.

There's two ice-breakers,

one in front of pier one
and one in front of pier three.

They're both
approximately 53 feet long,

31 feet wide buried about
20 feet into the bed of the river

and sticking out of the
water all of about 18 feet.

The iceberg had
come down and hit that

and are either split or
deflected by the ice-breakers

so that the ice doesn't
hit the piers themselves.

With the bridge complete
and now protected,

the first 1200 tonne load
of high-grade copper ore

travelled across the miles
glacier bridge in 1911.

For the next 27 years, the
bridge withstood the elements

to bring its investors
a massive return.

So, even though the bridge is
called the million dollar bridge,

for its day, which
was a lot of money,

the amount of money
that came out of the mine,

almost over $200 million,

more than paid for
the extravagant sum

that was spent at the time.

The bridge proved a vital
and hugely profitable lifeline.

But in November 1938,
having exhausted its resources,

the kennecott copper
mine shut down

and plans were made to transform

the railway bed into a
high wave of vehicles.

Then at 5:36am

on march 27, 1964,
disaster struck.

The earthquake
that struck Alaska

in 1964 recorded as the
second largest earthquake

every recorded in human history.

Whole communities were destroyed

and 139 people
killed in an earthquake

with a magnitude of 9.2.

Lucas: The '64 earthquake
knocked down stand four.

It fell down into the
water basically intact.

But the reason it fell
is the pier supporting it

had sliced itself in half

because there was no
structural reinforcement

in the concrete.

Armour rails were embedded
in the surface of the concrete,

running vertically to just
above the high water Mark.

This was to protect
it from icebergs.

Above these armour rails,
the concrete was sheared off

by the force of the earthquake.

It left engineers
grappling with a problem

for the next 40 years.

If the rest of the
bridge collapsed,

it could create an
environmental disaster,

not only blocking
the copper river below

but poisoning its waters
with its lead coating.

The engineers were torn

between repairing or
demolishing the bridge.

But in the end, its
fate was determined

by financial considerations.

It was less expensive to
repair it than it was to take it out.

In excess of $100
million was estimated

to take the bridge out,

and they spent 17 million
on phase one to fix the bridge.

In 2004, work began to
rebuild the damaged pier

and raise the fallen
span back into place.

Despite the repairs,
the bridge was redundant

as the highway it served
could no longer reach it.

The miles glacier
bridge was abandoned.

Today, the bridge serves no
purpose but remains a tourist attraction

as well as being an
environmental ticking time-bomb.

Andrew: It requires upkeep.
It's too expensive to get rid of.

So, what are you
gonna do with it?

Today, the million dollar bridge
is literally a bridge to nowhere.

Over 5,000 miles
away, across the Atlantic,

high up in the central
Balkan mountains of Bulgaria

is a structure that
appears out of this world.

Through the cold swirling mist,

a strange curved
concrete surface emerges,

punctuated by oblong openings.

An amazing structure

that is a little bit
mysterious I think I'd say.

It reminds me of something
out of a 1970s Sci-Fi film.

Eerie light and haze Pierce
the decaying copper roof

that covers this abandoned
22,500-tonne structure.

It looks like ufo
or a flying saucer

with a concrete
spire going above it.

The 230 foot high tower
tapering to only 30 feet

at its base rises from
the concrete disc.

But its purpose is almost
impossible to decipher.

If you told me it was
the control centre

for nuclear missiles,
I'd believe you.

If you told me it as some
paganist cult worship centre,

I'd believe you.

It's confusing.

What is this
extraordinary complex?

Why is it here 4,600 feet up in
the central Balkan mountains?

The answer lies
behind the iron curtain

of the 1970s.

At this time, Bulgaria
was the Soviet union's

most loyal eastern ally

thanks to the country's
communist dictator todor zhivkov.

As head of state,

he looked to a common
cause in Bulgaria's history

and a unifying project
on a grand scale

that would ignite
nationalist spirit

and unite his people under
the communist banner.

He chose a site of huge
national pride and significance.

The location's
important to Bulgarians

because it's built on the
site of a 19th century battle

between Bulgarian rebels, which
became the communist party,

and the forces of
the ottoman empire.

After battling
against five centuries

of ottoman occupation

and founding the Bulgarian
communist party here,

this was also the site where
partisans lost their lives

fighting fascist forces
during world war ii.

All combined to make
this a national symbol

of heroism and self-sacrifice

and the perfect location for
this, the buzludzha monument.

The first impressions
when you see the monument

are sort of bewilderment.

When you see monuments,
there's classical shapes.

This is not classical anyway.

And so it's strikingly strange.

For me, buzludzha
pretty much exemplifies

the methods communism
used to keep people

under the thumb
and to exert the power

over the people
through their brutalistic

and oppressive architecture.

The project began
on 23 January, 1974.

However, creating
such a massive structure

on top of this inhospitable
mountain range

was no easy task.

Dan: Constructing
anything of large size

in a remote area is challenging.

And I think it was sort of

classical socialist
will that decided,

you know, "we're gonna
build "this building right here.

"And no matter what it takes,

"we're gonna cart "all this
material up this mountain.

"We're gonna dynamite
"the top off the mountain

and this is what we're
gonna do," and they did.

530,000 cubic feet of rock

were blasted away to
level the top of the mountain,

dropping its height by
an incredible 30 feet.

At such high altitude, the
progress of construction

was at the mercy
of the elements.

Workers battled heavy snowfall,
high winds, and enveloping mists.

They worked around the
clock to achieve the build

in the narrow weather
window from may to September.

With such a demanding schedule,

a constant supply
of materials was vital.

Roma: Now, this thing's
made out of concrete.

So, you need to get
the aggregates up there,

you need to get the
wet concrete up there.

You need to mix it up
and make sure that it's all,

you know, properly
moulded together.

You need to get the
formwork up there

so that you can actually
shape the concrete.

It's really a big
logistical challenge.

Despite these difficulties,
70,000 tonnes of concrete

and 3,000 tonnes of steel were
used to construct the monument.

At its core was a y-shaped base

that took the whole vertical
load of the unique saucer.

Centred around a
simple interior structure,

it was the futuristic outer shell
that posed the greatest challenge.

Dora Ivanova is an architect
and runs the buzludzha project.

She works to
reconstruct the monument

and preserve it for
future generations.

The design of the monument
was a great challenge

for the engineering in the '70s.

The shape and the
concrete was calculated

by computers in Moscow.

When you're trying to
make something as curved

and as sinuous as this structure
that we're looking at here,

then you need to think about,

"well, how am I actually
going to achieve that?"

So, it's a really interesting
challenge for engineers,

especially in that era,

to create these really
smooth curves against

which they then want
to pour the concrete.

And the principle can
be actually explained

with a turned up umbrella.

There are thick steel
ropes that are pre-stressed

and concreted in order to
create this overhang of 25m.

The futuristic design was
inspired by a fascination with space.

This was the era not only
of the first man in space

but the first
Bulgarian in space.

An impressive 30
tonnes of copper cladding

covers the roof of the saucer

which can be heated
to melt heavy snowfall,

preventing the
roof from collapse.

One of the biggest challenges

that the engineers would
have had to consider

in designing this is
the amount of snow

that the roof would
need to resist.

So, having the shallow dome
shape is actually a fairly good shape

because it will allow some snow

to kind of move its
way off and to flow off.

A striking element of this
construction is the tower

that soars from the
mountain top towards the sky.

Its summit takes the load of
two 39 feet high red glass stars,

each weighing a
colossal 3.5 tonnes.

Dora: They were the biggest
illuminated stars in the world.

They could be seen from
hundreds of kilometres away

by good weather.

No expense was spared

on the lavish interior
of the structure.

Rob: From the outside,

you see this brutalist
concrete version

of the millennium falcon.

On the inside, the
feeling's quite different.

They used 35 tonnes of mosaic

and stained glass
to decorate the inside

to give it the atmosphere
that they wanted.

The mosaics were not
just for decorative purposes.

Every element
within the monument

was a reminder of
the communist cause.

From the one side,
could be seen the faces

of Lenin, Marx, and engels.

And from the other side, the
Bulgarian communist leaders.

A 538 square foot mosaic of
the hammer and sickle crowns

the centre of this
monumental achievement.

It took 7 years,
6,000 volunteers,

and more than 25 million
pounds in today's money

to construct buzludzha.

The grand opening
on 23 August, 1981,

was attended by the world's
top communist leaders.

The site was
immediately glorified

through the communist
world as a beacon of power.

Many of the communist structures

that we see were almost
monuments to either individuals

or to military control

to the power of that
communist party.

They weren't
necessarily beautiful

or maybe they were
beautiful in their own way.

There was certainly a
lot of concrete involved.

It served as a mecca
for communism.

Visits had a
ritualised character

and took the form of
an organised pilgrimage.

It also doubled a meeting place
for the Bulgarian communist party.

Dora: People were really impressed
and astonished by the building.

They still remember
until today their visits.

And in this sense, buzludzha
was a really effective tool

of creating communist mythology.

For eight years, it
served as the emblem

of Bulgarian communism
and drew 3 million visitors,

all requiring written permission
before making the trip.

1989, however, saw
the dawn of a new age.

It was the beginning
of the end for the ussr.

And todor zhivkov's
fall from power rendered

the buzludzha monument
a relic of the past.

With no interest in preserving
this symbol of communism,

the new regime closed its
doors and it was abandoned.

Today, having suffered
decades of looting and vandalism,

buzludzha monument is a
ruined shell clouded in mist.

And its future looks bleak.

On 24 November, 2016,
the Bulgarian government

passed a new law
banning public displays

of communist symbols.

So, are they going
to tear it down

or will this hill return
to its former glory?

Future generations
may never know

that here stood a powerful
icon of Bulgarian communism.

Say what you like about Eastern
Europe communist regimes,

but they could certainly
make a statement structurally.

Dora: It can explain
the story of its creation.

It can be a very
interesting museum

about history-Bulgarian history.

And it will overcome the
trauma of the communist past.

Deep in the forests
of upstate New York

hides a remote island
on the Hudson river.

And on it what appears to be
the remnants of a mighty castle.

When you first see these ruins,

it looks like just another castle
over a brooding Scottish loch.

Scattered ruins sprawled
across the island,

concealed amongst the
trees are multiple turrets

and towers typical of a
palace or medieval castle,

fortified with battlements
and arrow slits.

So, what is its purpose?

The giveaway is in the
letters along one of its walls.

What was this impressive
fortification trying to protect?

And why was it abandoned?

In the year 1900, at the
centre of New York City,

millionaire businessman
Francis bannerman vi

ran a successful
military surplus empire.

His store of military materials
on Broadway covered

almost an entire block.

But he needed a warehouse big
enough to store his explosive supplies,

including some 30 million
munition cartridges left over

from the Spanish-American
war of 1898.

Neil caplan head of
bannerman castle trust

runs this fantastical castle.

The city did not want him
to store black powder there

because it's very, very
volatile and just a small cup

could blow up
an entire building.

A solution was found 50
miles up the Hudson river

from New York City,

on a piece of land
considered haunted

by some native American tribes,

the uninhabited polipol island.

Bannerman purchased
the rocky land for $600

and created a series of structures
to house his dangerous supplies.

And it evolved into
this might fortress.

Bannerman's island arsenal,
better known as bannerman's castle.

Andrew: This is
no Scottish castle.

It's no British stately home
or ruined French chateau,

this is an ammunition warehouse.

It was close enough to New
York to carry on business

and where his lethal
catalogue of good

wouldn't pose a threat.

Placing his own unique
stamp on the island,

bannerman turned
his hand to design.

He was an amateur architect,
there were no blueprints.

He actually drew on
napkins and on paper.

And when he built
something, he said,

"I want you to
build it up to here."

And if he didn't
like it, he would say,

"break it up

"and put another
window in or something."

And the whole place
was built like that.

Work began in spring 1901,
blasting away tonnes of rock

to create a level platform
for a three-storey warehouse.

As business boomed,

so too did bannerman's
island creation.

In 1905, he constructed
two more buildings

and a harbour wall to receive and
store his expanding arms empire.

Rather than design
them in simple fashion,

he wanted something
far more elaborate

and he drew on his family
heritage for inspiration.

If I just passed by
bannerman's castle randomly

and I didn't know
where in the world I was,

I'd look at the kind
of quite classic,

you know, traditional
stone appearance of it,

the fact that it's
quite castle-like,

I'd think I'm in northern
Scotland somewhere.

Andrew: Why did bannerman
design the building that he did?

Well, he was a proud scot

and he was paying
homage to his homeland.

So, anything he could use

to make the structure
look sort of castle-esque,

that's what he wanted to do.

His building methods
were anything but ordinary.

To create the harbour,
he sank multiple barges

filled with junk and rubble
to act as foundations.

Frank bannerman was
a practical businessman

who made his
fortune selling junk.

What does that mean?

It means he never
wasted a thing.

If he couldn't
sell it, he used it.

Old bedsteads,
pieces of battleship,

he used them to
reinforce his building.

Incredibly, his unconventional
approach to building also extended

to all of the structures
on the island.

When you think about
the way this building's

actually been put together,
which is a complete mishmash

of all kinds of different
materials with a bit of brick

and a very thin layer of
concrete actually surrounding that,

I mean, that sounds
questionable enough

for someone to
live in or to reside in.

But then you put
explosives in there.

And I think that that's
quite frankly a terrible idea.

Yet in 1908, this
structure stored

one of the largest
private collections

of army surplus and ammunition
ever seen in the United States.

In this respect,
bannerman was a pioneer.

Andrew: Army surplus
stores are everywhere today.

But that wasn't always the case.

It's thanks to bannerman. He's
the one who bought this stuff.

Nobody else cared.

And before long,
Hollywood, Broadway,

they're turning to him and
him only for their props.

Bannerman's military
equipment and uniforms filled

the sets of Broadway
and Hollywood.

But to be closer to all
this new ammunition,

bannerman moved his family
into his own purpose-built castle.

Its amateur construction
and explosive stock

however was a
recipe for disaster.

It was a ticking time-bomb.

He realised,

"hmm, this is not the work
"of a master craftsman.

This has a
flavour of diy to it."

And that's what's
so interesting.

From a distance, impressive.
Close up, not so much.

Roma: I love the idea of taking
scrap bits of metal and material

and making something
fantastic out of it.

The one thing I
wouldn't recommend

is doing that on a structure

because, ultimately, if
you're gonna live in there,

it needs to stand up.

I definitely wouldn't
want to live there.

Francis continued building

and enlarging the complex
until his death in 1918,

when the business
passed to his wife Helen.

Then on 15 August,
1920, disaster struck.

His wife was here,
Helen bannerman.

She was up at the residence
sitting in her hammock.

And as soon as she got up,

she went into the
house to get a cup a tea,

she turned around,
and the building blew up

and a piece of that building
went right in the hammock

where she was sitting.

200 pounds of black powder
stored in a munitions house

exploded throwing a
25-foot section of wall

across the river and
onto the railway tracks.

bannerman's castle complex

survived the explosion.

For 30 years, as bannerman's
business dwindled,

his island complex
fell into disrepair.

Then in 1969, a
catastrophic fire

that burned for three
days sealed its fate.

Bannerman's castle
was abandoned.

Today, the ruins are stabilised
and bannerman's island

has become a popular
tourist attraction,

hosting guided tours,
theatrical events, and film nights.

Francis bannerman's
fantasy castle continues

to fascinate all
those who visit.

Neil: He left an
incredible building here,

which is an icon
all over the world.

People come and ask
about bannerman island.

Andrew: Clearly,
bannerman's building

is in a state of disrepair.

It will require
millions to restore.

But I think we
should make the effort

because this is a slice
of history that, frankly,

I don't think
should be forgotten.

Now abandoned,

they were once on the cutting
edge of human engineering.

Within these decaying structures
are the echoes of history.

They speak of war and terror

but also of exploration
and human endeavour.

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