Mankind vs. the Elements: Who Wins?

Mankind vs. the Elements: Who Wins?

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(tense piano music)
(heartbeat pounding) – [Narrator] Mankind and the elements. For some it’s an uncomfortable bond. – When the thunderstorms came, I thought it was actually over. – [Narrator] For others,
when weather strikes, inspiration begins. – These little things are
revelations about the universe. – [Narrator] These are the
people who challenge nature, seek out its limits, reveal its secrets, and embrace its awesome power. In this episode, we’ll meet
an ambitious photographer determined to capture
the heart of the storm. – [Photographer] What I like
about shooting weather is you won’t get the same picture twice. – [Narrator] A man exploring
the depths of the Earth who hopes to one day reach distant moons. – How could you not find satisfaction in solving those curious problems? – [Narrator] And a team of elite sailors on a mission to shatter a historic record. – This is man against ocean. This is man against the elements. – [Narrator] These pioneers
of the great outdoors ahead on That’s Amazing. (urgent violin music) (thunder crashing) When dangerous storms
approach, most people flee. Not 21-year-old Jonas Piontek. His popular lightning photographs
result from staying put in the face of certain danger. Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela is the lightning capital of the world, where locals know the near-daily phenomena as the never-ending storm. The menacing atmosphere ignites Piontek’s passion and creativity. Electrified, he snaps away, striving the capture the weather’s beauty, one flash at a time. (calming electronic music) – I started with photography in 2011 when I found out that my
dad has a very good camera. So I just grabbed it, went
outside, and shot everything. My interest in weather
started the same year as my interest started in photography, when a tornado ravaged parts of
a town close to my home town. I started to search for pictures and found some people out of my city that are actually hunting for storms, that are chasing those storms, and I started riding along with them, seeing and experiencing
everything they were experiencing. – Jonas is surprising young man. – That was one cool storm. I just got these bolts shooting down. – That is cool. His ability as a photographer and the way he’s centered for
his age is pretty impressive. (upbeat piano music) – Being published in great magazines such as The New York Times
is a great feeling for me because I think people acknowledge my work and people like my work. What I like about shooting weather is you won’t get the same picture twice. The weather is changing so quickly, especially when you have storms out there that you basically have one chance to get the picture you want. – Jonas has been captured by something very similar
that I was captured by more than 20 years ago. It’s enormous passion
for what happens here. (hip-hop beats) – [Jonas] Lake Maracaibo was
a place that not many people have traveled to yet. – Such an amazing combination
of wildlife, of culture, and, of course, this spectacular
phenomenon of lightning. – [Jonas] This is probably my
favorite place on this planet. – Actually just 30
kilometers in that direction is the one point on Earth with
the most lightning strikes. These lightning strikes reach 250 per square kilometer per year. – You have to treat lightning with respect and you have to consider if a storm is far enough away to actually
get the shots you want. When the storm starts closing in you have to decide if you
should move in and take shelter, or the weather shifts
in just half a minute. (thunder booming loudly) – Generally, the storm is
not only the lightning, but it’s also sometimes
hurricane force winds, tornadoes, all sorts of formations of
clouds, and very heavy rain. – [Jonas] One could describe this place turns to hell
at night, for some people. Of course, it’s amazing for me, but there is so much lightning,
so much storms around. (somber piano music) Lightning is the pure force of nature. It’s something that is actually dangerous, but beautiful together. – This lightning phenomenon here, it’s just the perfect typography. It’s an enormous body of
very, very warm water. Approximately 16, 17,000
kilometers of warm, very low-lying water, and it’s totally surrounded by mountains. On this map here, you can
actually see by satellite the image of the storms forming here. – And you have the image almost going around the whole lake, and they will start pushing
down the cold wind at night towards the lake, which creates this special
atmospheric condition to actually produce extremely
intense lightning storms. (epic intense music) The biggest challenge
of shooting lightning is to decide which aperture
you’re going to use. You have to do your best to actually capture this
whole experience at once, but you will never really
get the full thing captured. (soft piano music) Capturing weather and
capturing storms especially is a great feeling because I can share with the
world what I’m experiencing as a traveler, as a storm chaser, and as someone who puts
himself into this danger to get the pictures and
the experience I want. It’s just something that
humanity can’t influence and you will feel very, very small when you’re in front of a huge storm, and that’s the best feeling
for me that I can possibly get. – Aliens, jellyfish, bursting suns, that all is immaterial to me. I don’t really want them
to be like anything. I want them to be like nothing
else you’ve seen before. (mystical chiming music) My name is Anthony Howe. I’m a kinetic wind sculptor residing on Orcas Island, Washington. The unifying element to all my work is that the outdoor stuff
is all powered by the wind. The wind is attractive
because it’s always there. It’s not taking anything
away from anything else, and the fact that it can be
used to make a three dimensional object move is perfect for me. I don’t have a gallery
and haven’t had one for about 30 years. My wife and I have run the
whole business ourselves without agents, or
galleries, or consultants. Most of the people that see my work, see it on YouTube videos. A large scale piece will
generally start at say, 45,000, 50,000 and go up to 400,000 if it’s a really big sculpture, but that’s a kind of a piece
that takes a long time to make, and extracts a lot of
physical ability out of me. (upbeat acoustic guitar music) What I’m trying to do with the work is cause people to stop
whatever thought process they have in their head, and just for a moment, experience a different kind of reality,
maybe more meditative. They work, they take people out of their, whatever nonsense is
going on in their heads, puts them in a different place. It’s a feeling you get
when you see something that is very beautiful and unusual. That’s what I’m trying
to do with the work. (calming piano music) – [Narrator] In 2013,
entrepreneur Jim Clarke envisioned a boat built purely for speed. A boat so light, so fast, that it would shatter
every record it attempts. In 2014, that dream became a reality with the 100 foot Monohull Camanche. – [Man] It’s by almost any measure, the fastest Monohull in the world. – [Narrator] With her
revolutionary design, she has since been dominating the world of professional sailing, blowing competitors out of the water. Now skipper Ken Read is on a mission to break one of the sport’s
most prestigious records, the Transatlantic Record. – It’s one of the holy grails
of ocean going records. – [Narrator] A grueling journey
of 2,880 nautical miles, from New York, to the south tip England. The crew’s success depends
largely on how elite navigator, Stan Honey, can predict,
harness, and adapt to the Atlantic’s fickle weather patterns. If broken, this record will
secure Camanche’s position as one of the most successful racing boats in sailing history. (fast paced piano music) – [Ken] The build team that we assembled are the best of the best. – There was no expense spared
in creating this thing. It’s all like, carbon or titanium. – Carbon fiber sails, mast, everything, it’s just making for boats
that go significantly faster than they have in the past. – Kenny Read is the skipper, and Kenny couldn’t have been more clear with what they wanted to build. A boat that would be as fast as possible. A boat that was legal to
enter the major yacht races around the world, and ideally, to set the course
records for these events. (tense action music) – Ultimately, what I’m pretty good at doing is getting a compatible group of all-stars from all around the globe, that can actually handle a boat like this. It’s like a Formula One car,
you let it get away from you, it’ll get away from you. – It is a very dangerous boat. Everybody who is on board this boat, either has America’s
cup, Volvo Ocean Race, Grand Prix high end racing background. It’s their career, it’s their job. – The boat’s a 100 foot screaming machine that has been built to break every record in
the world that we can and she’s on her way to doing that. – [Narrator] Once in the water, Camanche immediately
began breaking records. – We just gotta go out and sail well, and let the chips fall. I think it’s fair to say, we got the fastest hundred
footer in the world. – [Narrator] With wind in their sails, the Camanche team set their sights on sailing’s most prestigious prize, the Transatlantic Record. – Stan Honey is a legend in our sport. When you think of all
the great navigators, Stan is one of those guys
right at the top of the list who comes to mind. The amount of work that he puts into it to make these attempts happen, without him, it wouldn’t happen. – So, the Transatlantic Monohull Record is probably the most prestigious
sailing record of any. The current project
we’re setting out to do is to try to set the Monohull record for the fastest transatlantic passage. That record is currently set at six days, 17 hours by Mari Cha. – This record is first of
all, all about weather, and it’s putting the boat
in just ahead of harm’s way. – [Stan] The conditions
where the boat really excels is where it’s windy. – We’d been watching
the weather for months. We’re looking for a front that’s gonna be coming
off of North America. It doesn’t have to be
a huge amount of wind. We don’t need a lot of wind
to make this boat go fast. – Since 2004, there
tends to be four or five good weather windows where Camanche could have substantially improved on the record, meaning taken 18 hours or
more off of the record. What I always do, is to choose to sail, a course that’s longer than a great circle because of the expected benefit. You’ll get there sooner
because of the predictions of the weather. – You can’t take the ocean for granted. This is man against ocean. This is man against the elements. If I’ve learned anything, you start to just get a
little cocky in the ocean, and it’ll bite you hard. (cautious pensive music) – Volcana just came at a period where he had a prior commitment
with the America’s cup, but that’s the nature of weather. I’d shit my pants to start with. (laughing) To be able to be told that, “Hey, you’re gonna be the guy in charge.” And I was really, really
happy to be in that position and trusted like that. – Casey in the pit. Nick Dana at the rig. – The transatlantic was a
very interesting one for us because we had three false starts. You’re waiting for that exact window and you have to be ready at any moment. So, your life’s pretty much on hold. At this point, we’re not that confident that this was actually the one. – We are getting constant
information from Stan. – We wanna start as close
as we can to the front, but ahead of the thunderstorms, because if the thunderstorms catch us, you guys know what happens. It’s a little bit of a feeling
of, “Is this gonna happen?” – It felt like a bit
like launch day for NASA. (epic inspiring music) – And then when we pushed off the dock and started motoring out, that’s when it really was like, “Wow!” We’re doing it, we’re gonna go. (tense suspenseful music) It’s real; it’s happening. We positioned ourselves about a mile away from the Ambrose Light, which gives us enough runway to hit the start line at full speed. We had the sail combination
that we wanted to use, we had the perfect wind. It was time to let it rip. The acceleration doing
25 knots to 30 knots. – 20, 21, this is perfect guys. – [Stan] Doing that jump in
such a short amount of time can often put you on your butt. – Copy, 16, 58, 16. – And we come passed the
Ambrose Light fully lit up. It was… Everyone gave a huge hoot and holler as we went passed the start
line, and off we went. – [Narrator] July 22nd,
(epic adventurous music) team Camanche is off like a rocket, sailing from New York City,
toward the tip of England, determined to crush the
Transatlantic Record. – The record time that we’re trying beat is six days, 18 hours, and we’re hoping to take a
good 24 hours off that record. – Okay, are you getting it? – And it’s pretty radical. You’ve got all sail area up. You got all the power
in the world you need. So you know, for a start
you don’t wanna mess it up. – [Narrator] But just as they’re off, things take a dangerous turn. As Camanche tangles with
a formidable thunderstorm. – The worst part of it, the most dangerous part, weather-wise, was actually the first
night and that next morning. (pensive suspenseful music) – We started ahead of the
front and the thunderstorms preceding the front came
out earlier than expected, and kind of gobbled us up. – I thought it was over. When the thunderstorms came, I
thought it was actually over. – We definitely had to sail a course that we weren’t expecting to sail, and the first thing in my mind is, “Are we sailing home and
going on standby again?” – And we managed to just
wiggle our way out of it, and keep on going. (calm pensive music) Being on board the Camanche in the middle of the Atlantic
ocean is something that you realize how small you are out there. Personally, I love the silence. – You have a lot of time to
think when you’re out there. The day slows down a lot. You’re living every hour. – It’s kind of cool to just disconnect and you’re out there in the elements, the wind, and the waves,
it’s nothing like it. It’s crazy. Things move differently
compared to other kill boats I’ve sailed on. One minute you’re doing 10 miles an hour, and then the next, you blink, and honestly, you’re up
to 20 to 30 miles an hour. (suspenseful music) – You got 18 guys on board, and it’s for five and a half days. So it’s pretty tight quarters, even though it is a hundred foot boat. You’re sharing bunks, sharing bowls, you’re sharing water bottles
for drinking and everything. You’re working the sails, you’re
grinding, you’re steering, you’re always sort of losing,
losing, losing, losing against the sleep. – There’s no place I’d rather be, even though it’s a terrible
place in a lot of respects. I wish I had new boots. (laughing) Okay, guys, there’s an ice contour that
we’re keeping track of. – You couldn’t see more than
100 feet in front of the boat. Fully engulfed in fog. You know, we’re doing 20 knots, 100 feet isn’t enough
warning to avoid the ice. – Yeah, we’re still in
the vicinity of ice. So, we have to be cautious. – It’s a real nervous time for the crew, and it’s hard to be here. It’s hard to sleep. (deep emotional music) – We knew we were on the pace. We knew that the time was right. – But it wasn’t until seeing England, and having the wind there as we got close, that it sunk in. Then it was like, “Wow, we’re gonna do this.” We got very, very lucky
with our weather window. That Stan refers to it as
the postage stamp of wind to carry across. – Essentially, we had crushed the record. – Now, hey! (clapping) – Good on you mate, good on you. – This boat was built to do that. It did it. We’re all very happy. – It’s such a special thing to be able to break this
Transatlantic Record. Huge thanks to the weather gods
to allow us to do it as well because that’s what it really took. (epic accomplished music) (curious inquisitive music) – [Man] Is there anybody
else out there besides us? Why should we be interested
in finding life elsewhere? – [Narrator] These are
the questions raised by Doctor Bill Stone. Explorer, caver, inventor
of a new class of robot called cryobots. – There are a number of moons
out there called ocean worlds. – [Narrator] Stone is building
his cryobots with NASA for unmanned exploration in space, nearly 400,000,000 miles from Earth. – There’s a reasonable chance that we could find microbial
life in those oceans. Simple-celled, single-celled,
multi-celled creatures. Could that exist on other worlds? – [Narrator] The team he’s
assembled spends years testing these robots in Earth’s
most extreme environments. – Try to take science-fiction
and turn it into science-fact. – [Narrator] By the time
their trip is scheduled, his cryobots will be ready to search for life across the galaxy. (upbeat inquisitive music) – I was 14 when Neil
Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. I wanted to be just like those guys. I wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to go to the moon and beyond. I went through college, grad
school, and a PhD program thinking all along that I was
gonna join the astronaut corps and we were gonna go back to the moon. I was not selected. I was told I was too independent. (laughing) But that’s okay because I’ve since gone on to do work related to private space exploration, and exploration here on
Earth in very deep caves. Some of our crews have
been to the deepest places inside this planet that
anybody has ever been, and distances so remote that
it takes more time to get there than it would to get
to the moon by rocket. So, to me, that’s kind of
where I really find life. Everything else in between
is just preparing for that. (inspiring and uplifting music) I founded Stone Aerospace
about 15 years ago with the idea of putting
together a collection of very talented individuals, who could take on difficult
scientific problems and turn them into reality. A lot of the stuff that we do involves expeditionary type work to places where it’s difficult to get to and requires technology
to do things there. Europa is one of the
Galilean moons of Jupiter. It is entirely covered with ice, and that ice is over an
ocean of significant depth. To me, it’s a very interesting
philosophical question. You know, is there life other than Earth? And here is a chance within
our lifetime to prove it one way or another. The best place that we can
get on Earth right now, that is kind of like Europa,
is the Antarctic ice shelf. That has depths of ice
of up to 4,000 meters over sub-glacial lakes. If we could build a device
that would go through 4,000 meters of ice in Antarctica, we would be paving the way
to enabling a Europa mission. A cryobot is a general term for what some people would
refer to as a melt-probe, an an ice penetrator. This is Valkyrie. This is the world’s first
laser powered cryobot. This entire thing right here, is a closed cycle hot water drill. (calming piano music) The purpose of a cryobot
is to get through the ice, but once you get there, what do you do? Well, the idea is to deliver an
autonomous underwater vehicle that goes looking for life. Artemis is a hovering
autonomous underwater vehicle. It was built to test ideas
for how to explore long ranges under an ice cap, and to investigate ways in
which you would look for life in environments like that. We’ve been to Antarctica three times now. I’ve spent almost a year
there with our crews. There is a really large
suite of scientific sensors on this vehicle. Everything from five
High-Definition cameras, to water collection systems. We can measure ocean currents. – So I’m getting a line that way. – And we can tell with tracking antennas where the vehicle is
moving below the ice cap even if it’s hundreds
of meters below the ice. This is the first one in
which we’ve had a vehicle where you drill through and ice cap and then send it off for
long distances on its own, and have it come back, and actually dock, latch,
and be automatically pulled to the surface. So, this is really a
prototype for a long-range Europa sub-ice carrier vehicle. What we would refer to as the mother ship. Something that would be able to create topographical maps of the
core of Europa, for example. It requires onboard intelligence at a level which we
have never deployed yet, not ever for example, with
Curiosity on Mars right now. So, the robots will have
to be much more independent than they are today, and they will have very specific roles in what they need to do. (light piano music) Could we pull off a Europa
mission to the sub-surface ocean? The answer is absolutely yes, one hundred percent, yes. I believe that it is
launchable within 10 years, if the money was on the table today. There’s two things I think that drive us. One is the pursuit of happiness, and the second one is
the pursuit of curiosity. If Galileo had not been interested
in the motions of planets or Copernicus, or Kepler, who would have provided the information that allowed Newton to figure
out the law of gravitation? These little things are
revelations about the universe, about us, our place in it. How could you not find satisfaction in solving those curious problems? (soft echoing organ music) – To play the instrument that is utilizing our gentle Earth, it’s like, you’re becoming
one with the instrument in a very true way. You just sit and go, yes. We’re looking at The
Great Stalacpipe Organ of the Luray Caverns in Luray, Virginia. When I press a key, it sends an electrical pulse
up to a rubber tipped mallet, which strikes the stalactite, causing it to vibrate, and producing a incredibly beautiful musical tone. The area that the strikers cover is roughly three and half acres, which then makes it literally, the world’s largest musical instrument. It is a very gentle sound, um, very peaceful. There’s only one like it in the world and it’s something incredibly different, and wonderfully beautiful. (peaceful piano music and nature sounds) – [Narrator] They look like something out of an Indiana Jones movie, bridges made out of living trees. This is Nongriat, a remote village in Northeastern India, where locals have been growing bridges for hundreds of years. This part of the world is
one of the wettest on Earth. The trees these bridges are made from thrive in the thick tropical forest, and do not rot in the rain, making them strong enough
to last generations. That’s Wiston Mua, the
head of the village. He’s lived here his
whole life, since 1952. To get the roots to grow in
a bridge across the water, they use wire and old tree
trunks to guide their path. (peaceful wintery music) Snow means something
different to everyone. – Snow takes all the complicated details and simplifies the landscape, to the possibilities of a
naturally occurring sculpture. – [Narrator] For snow globe artists Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz, snow is what draws you
into their surreal world. – There’s like a paradise feeling where man and beast live in peace and work together to do the laundry. – [Narrator] Here, they work out ambitions and exercise anxiety. – Teetering, there’s a sense of teetering and of tenuous balance. – [Narrator] The globes
freeze miniature landscapes in wintery wonder. Twisted logic and macabre humor. – It’s like our own little form of poetry. – [Narrator] Inspired by
nature and the elements. – We feel a lot of angst and
dread sometimes in the winter, and it goes into the globe. – [Narrator] The couple
puts a modern twist on an age old craft, transforming knickknacks
into custom works of art. – So, imagine a world full of stories and the camera goes in and just picks up this
little fragment in time, and that little moment, and that’s what the globes are. They are samples of a larger world, but becomes alive when you shake it. Working together, for
us, is one experiment, maybe like marriage, but it’s
a more complex marriage, because we’re trying
to create art together. We’ve been doing the snow
globes now for almost 15 years. (upbeat cheery piano music) It was started in 2001. That was when we made the first one and we had no idea we were going to be making snow
globes 15 years later. Everything starts with a small canvas that is the space that you
have to fill in the globe, and then you start adding figures, and you continue to explore the landscape in relationship to those figures. – I think I was fascinated
with the way that snow kind of takes all
the complicated details and simplifies the landscape, the unification of the landscape. It tends to be a great equalizer, and when there’s something
outside of that world that’s interjected into it, like a human, with a colorful wardrobe, or an animal, or a small house, or anything
that’s not of that world, becomes the focus. It is a frozen world. – [Paloma] We live at
the edge of a small town and on the other side of our house is a Northeastern American forest. It’s complete wilderness, and we walk it every day, and we love it. – [Walter] Depending on the
day and the time of year, and the time of day, and the weather, the forest can offer a
totally different face. – It’s like we have one
foot in the wilderness and one foot on civilization, we can bring those worlds
together through our work. (mystical wintery music) We say a lot of silly
things throughout the day. It litters into the work. – I’m from Norfolk Virginia, which is a flat coastal city
in the mid-Atlantic region, not known for its snow storms. So, I fantasized about escaping to a place where there was snow. – For me, the challenge is always, “How do I make something that is relevant?” That contributes something
to the conversation of what art is, and what being
a human being in this moment in time is like. – [Walter] A successful snow
globe would be absurdist humor, combined with a real human condition. – I think people find their
globes very interesting, they love them. They absorb you and they allow
the viewer to be immersed, even for just a few seconds in
a completely different world. (somber piano music) – My name’s Tim Doucette. I’m an amateur astronomer, and I’m also legally blind. Kind of an oxymoron, isn’t it? It turns out, I can
actually see the night sky better than most people,
probably better than you. (echoing wavy tones) When I was younger, it’s easy to become discouraged. You know, realizing that
you’re never gonna drive a car, that you’ll never be an astronaut. At least that’s what you’re told. I was born with congenital cataracts. They removed the lenses of my eyes and widened my pupils. That left me with only
about ten percent of my eyesight. For the average person, their
pupil automatically adjusts for the amount of light coming
in, it opens and closes, but for me, my pupil is open. So, it’s always letting in a lot of light. During the day, I see
everything extremely bright. Everything is overexposed. Colors are more vivid, but at night time, the tables are turned, and it’s like a curtain has been lifted. (mystical wondrous music) When I was a teenager, I went
on some additional surgery to improve my eyesight. I got home from the hospital
and I looked up at the sky and at first I thought I was actually having a detached retina. I was seeing millions of spots of light, and realized that, that was
the Milky Way I was looking at, and it was phenomenal. (curious inquisitive music) At first, I didn’t really realize what it had given me. I took 15 years later to realize that what I had was special. With my personal savings, I
built an observatory on a hill near my house, and called it Deep Sky Eye. When I’m looking through a telescope, I’m not wearing my glasses, and my eye is like a
camera without a lens. So, it’s focusing the light
very clearly onto my retina. I see a little bit extra light that most people wouldn’t see. You know, you look at the Orion nebula and you know, it looks
like a fuzzy patch but, you know, I kind of get a little bit of purplish tinge to it. The sky here is like a
tapestry of interstellar dust. It looks like a velvet background, you know, with diamonds all through it. It’s absolutely amazing. My wife is also legally blind. She doesn’t see very well at night, but most of the time when
we’re, you know, walking, or at the observatory, I’ll explain to my wife what I’m seeing. She appreciates the night sky even though she doesn’t see it very well. When I look through the telescope or look up at the night sky, it makes you realize really
that all your problems or the fact that you’re
legally blind, or whatever, it really just doesn’t matter. You realize that you’re
a part of this universe. (echoing bing)

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