Treacherous Places

Last Update: 02 April 2001

Source: Channel 5 (UK)

Episode 1 - 19 March 2001

Treacherous Places is a 3-part documentary series examining the natural phenomena that make certain locations the most dangerous places in the natural world.

Using a combination of new footage, re-enactments, personal videos and eyewitness accounts, this hard-hitting series looks at terrifying dangers including quicksand, avalanches and lahars.

This week, Treacherous Places focuses on the dangers related to the Earth element…

“We live our lives in the assumption that nature can be counted on, that the earth will always be firm beneath our feet. But there are places in the world where nature’s basic processes pose a threat - and the earth turns into a killer!”

So announces movie idol Sean Bean as he narrates this hard-hitting documentary about some of the most Treacherous Places on earth.

Mud flats around Girdwood, Alaska, are a natural disaster waiting to happen. We hear the tragic story of the newly-weds who attempted to cross the mud in a buggy in July 1987. With one of the highest and fastest rising tides on earth, the mud flats can quickly become akin to quicksand. Sadly, despite the best work of the fire department, John Dickenson lost his young wife when she became stuck in the mud, and drowned slowly as the tide rose.

Ever since June 1991, when Mount Pinatubo erupted after 600 dormant years, the town of Bacolor in the Philippines has lived in constant fear. For while the initial blast was huge, and a blizzard of ash turned day into night, the long term legacy has proven even more treacherous. Lahars - flash floods of ash, debris and water that flow like a raging river - have left Bacolor buried beneath volcanic fallout. We meet the mayor who speaks of the town’s revival from on top of his old municipal headquarters!

We also discover the sunstorms link overloading electricity lines around Quebec, with the destruction of the Telstar 401 satellite in 1997 - this could trigger nuclear defence systems; and witness the tragic events that occurred when Hawaii’s picturesque Sacred Falls became the site for a rockslide that killed eight and left 35 badly injured on Mother’s Day 1997.

Episode 2 - 26 March 2001

This week, Treacherous Places focuses on the dangers related to the Water element.

Thunder Hole, Florida is an underwater cave stretching down hundreds of feet below the surface of North Florida. It's an irresistible lure for divers and a potential death trap. And because it's so easy to become lost in these dark caves, divers must carry extra gear and plenty of air, but cave diving is an unforgiving sport and even the most experience diver can get into trouble. We follow the case of Linda Richardson, a novice diver, who became lost inside the cave with her air running out.

The Southern Ocean, surrounding Antarctica is perhaps the most treacherous on the planet. 50-foot waves are common, and giant storms rage for weeks on end. We follow the Vendee Globe, a solo sailing race, which goes through this ocean. The boats are equipped with cameras, and through this footage we witness extraordinary danger and also courage and heroism.

Granfalls Canyon, Arizona, though now a desert, is the scene of deadly flash floods. The floods can arise from thunderstorms miles away, with no warning that they are coming. We watch two unsuspecting sunbathers who are trapped on a ledge as a wall of water cascades through the canyon, threatening to wash them away.

In the winter of 1999 is snowed heavily in the Alps. Ski areas were closed because of the risk of avalanche. Three English tourists thought they were safe shopping in a small French village when an avalanche swept through town. They were lucky enough to have survived and discuss their experiences. However, just hours later, a second avalanche hit. The residents of neighbouring village would be far less lucky.

Episode 3 - 02 April 2001

This week, Treacherous Places focuses on the dangers related to the Air element...

The African Sahara is the world's largest desert, a place of extreme heat and almost no water. Amazingly, extreme athletes run a marathon here - the 150 mile "marathon des sables" billed as the toughest foot race on earth. We follow the gruelling adventure of Mauro Propsperi, a man who was caught in a sandstorm during the race, and wondered along for 9 days, drinking his own urine, before being rescued.

Mt. Washington, New Hampshire is home to some of the world's worst weather. The highest wind speed ever recorded on earth - 231 miles per hour - occurred here. Though under 6000 feet tall, nearly as many people have died here as on Everest. We profile two ice climbers who miraculously survived a 1000 foot fall.

The Congo Republic has been the site of Ebola Outbreaks - one of the most dreaded infectious diseases with a death rate approaching 90%. Scientists have not identified the natural source of the illness but they believe bats may carry it. We follow a group of virologists who go into a bat and cockroach infested gold mine in the Congo in search of the sources of Ebola and the related Larburg viruses.

Los Angeles, it is said, has four seasons - fire, flood, earthquake and drought. It is home to a greater variety of natural dangers than virtually any other major city. We focus on the Traister family who survived having their home burnt down in an LA brushfire only to have their new apartment destroyed in an earthquake. And we learn about how the unusual threats, which lie beneath LA - not just major fault lines,
but a rare and deadly spore - that can be released by earthquakes and which caused a mysterious illness after the Northridge Quake.

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