Vanuatu (S4.07)

S04E06 Vanuatu Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be talking about The Republic of Vanuatu, a Pacific island country located in the South Pacific Ocean, around 1,700 kilometres (or 1,000 miles) east of northern Australia and 540 kilometres (340 miles) northeast of New Caledonia.

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First inhabited by Melanesian people around 3,000 years ago, parts of the archipelago were settled by British and French colonists in the 1800s, and in 1906 France and the United Kingdom agreed to administer the islands jointly in a unique form of government known as the British-French Condominium. Vanuatu gained its independence in July 1980, and is today home to around 270,000 people.

Only around 65 of the archipelago’s 82 islands are inhabited, and although the country is spread across 12,200 square kilometres (4,700 sq mi) its land surface is very limited to around 4,700 square kilometres or 1,800 sq miles, a similar size to the Falkland Islands or our old friend The Gambia. The indigenous population, called ni-Vanuatu, is overwhelmingly Melanesian, and the main language is a pidgin creole known as Bislama, though English and French are both widely spoken, as are up to 113 indigenous languages. According to The NYT Magazine, “A meaningful national identity has been constructed from a common appreciation of ceremonial pig-tusk bracelets and the taking of kava, a very mild narcotic root that looks like primordial pea soup and tastes like a fine astringent dirt.”

Straddling the seismic strip called the ‘Ring of Fire’, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis have all been relatively commonplace over recent decades, earning Vanuatu the unfortunate distinction of being the world’s most dangerous place when it comes to natural disasters.

This episode, just like all of our recent ones, is supported by our Patreon backers. If you want to help out the show, you can help out by joining us over on www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast to give us whatever you can in terms of financial support and avail of all the lovely awards and extras that entitles you to. If you’re unable to support us financially, you can always leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts from.

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A panorama of Port Vila, capital and largest city of Vanuatu

Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Ireland . (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella). We’d also like to thank Professor Lamont Lindstrom for his contribution to this episode. You can find more about him here.


Some further reading:

  • Science Magazine has more on the graves of the Lapita peoples, the first settlers of the Western Pacific.
  • The DNA research by David Reich of Harvard Med School on these ancient civilisations can be found here.
  • Early Vanuatu Chief Roi Mata, discussed in this episode, is profiled by Lonely Planet.
  • His domain has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can read more about that at the UNESCO website.
  • Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, the French navigator mentioned in this episode, is profiled by Brittanica here.
  • You can read more about Peter Dillon, the sandalwood trader, at the Australian Dictionary of Biography.
  • The Australian National University has further reading on Erromango, the Martyr’s Isle.
  • There is also further reading from the same source on the British-French Condominium (definitely our favourite form of government).
  • Joe’s stories of planters gambling with the servitude of natives as currency were sourced from this article at The Pacific Historial Review.
  • The Wall Street Journal has an extensive article about the Allied bases that were set up on Vanuatu during World War II.
  • Some excellent photos of the same bases can be found at WW2Wrecks.
  • The obituary of Jimmy Stevens, the Coconut War revolutionary, can be found here.
  • The New International has more information on The Phoenix Foundation and the role they played in the so-called Coconut War.
  • Walter Lini, Vanuatu’s first Prime Minister, is profiled here by Brittanica.
  • Extensive info on the Flag of Vanuatu can be found on Gettysburg Flag Works.
  • The United Nations University report on Vanuatu’s vulnerability to natural disasters can be found here.
  • More info on Vanuatu’s economy can be found at The Commonwealth.
  • You can also find Vanuatu on the Happy Planet Index — it currently ranks #4 in the world.
  • If you’d like to hear more about Bislama, there is a TED Talk on it and other similar languages by Tess Walraven here.
  • The mindblowing video of Land Diving that we all enjoyed can be seen below:

Music that might interest listeners:

 

Trinidad and Tobago (S4.05)

S04E04 Trinidad and Tobago Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be talking about Trinidad & Tobago, a twin island nation, located just off the northern coast of the South American mainland, around 11 kilometres or 7 miles from Venezuela. It is the southernmost of the West Indies island group, and today is home to around 1.3 million people.

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Trinidad, the southernmost and larger of the two islands, has a landmass of around 4,760 km2 (1,840 sq miles), comprising 93% of the country’s territory. Tobago, around 40km or 25 miles to the northeast, is around 300 km2 (120 sq mi) in total. The islands enjoy a warm, tropical climate, and only have two seasons – a dry season for the first five months of the year, and a wet season for the remaining seven. Occupied by Amerindian tribes up to 1498, the islands were then discovered by Christopher Columbus and later became a Spanish colony. Sovereignty over the islands was disputed throughout the 19th century, before the two were unified as one British colony in 1888. Independent since 1962, the country has benefited greatly from the discovery of oil in 1857, and is today one of the richest and most ethnically diverse countries in the region. Trinidad and Tobago is also famous for its extravagant carnival celebrations, and is known as the birthplace of limbo dancing.

This episode, just like all of our recent ones, is supported by our Patreon backers. If you want to help out the show, you can help out by joining us over on www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast to give us whatever you can in terms of financial support and avail of all the lovely awards and extras that entitles you to. If you’re unable to support us financially, you can always leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts from.

Port_of_Spain_Trinidad

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Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Ireland . (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella)


Some further reading:

Music that might interest listeners: