Bougainville (S5.06)

Audio: Bougainville

In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be talking about Bougainville, the main island of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, which is part of Papua New Guinea. Located 1,000 kilometers east of the mainland national capital of Port Moresby, Bougainville is the most remote of Papua New Guinea’s 19 provinces. Bougainville is the largest island in the Solomon Islands archipelago, lying around 1500km or 1000 miles off the northeast coast of Australia, in the Solomon Sea. Most of the islands in this archipelago (which are primarily concentrated in the southern and eastern portions of it) are part of the politically independent Solomon Islands. At around 3,500 square miles or just under 9,000 square km, Bougainville is comparable in size to Hawaii’s largest island, Puerto Rico or Cyprus. Residents speak Tok Pisim, a pidgin language spoken widely in this region, in addition to 20 different indigenous languages, depending on where they are from, and the region currently has a population of around 250,000.  Inhabited by humans for at least 29,000 years, Bougainville was first discovered by Europeans in 1616, and was named for the French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville, one of the first people to circumnavigate the globe. The German Empire annexed present-day Bougainville in 1886, before the islands were occupied in 1914 by Australia during World War 1. Taken by Japan in 1942, the islands were fought over by both sides during the latter years of World War 2, and have retained a secessionist streak since the mid 1960s. However, tensions between different factors remain unresolved to this day, and while officially the island is today an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea, many still push for independence, particularly following a bloody 10-year civil war which concluded in 1997. A referendum in 2019 voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence, but the exact implementation of that still remains to be seen.


Flag_of_Bougainville  Bougainville in Papua New Guinea (special marker).svg

Flag of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, and map of location within Papua New Guinea

Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Dublin, Ireland, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Galway, Ireland. Our theme music and other stings come from Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella. 

We’ve also just launched a merch store in associated with TeePublic. You can find our store by clicking here, with exclusive discounts at the time of publishing. 

 

Further information and some of the sources we consulted can be found below:

Some music from Bougainville can be found at the following links, including some excellent examples of ‘bamboo bands’:

Thanks to all our patrons who support the show. We really appreciate your continued backing of us. If you want to join them, more information is available at www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast

This episode, we’d particularly like to thank new patrons, Dana Fox, AC C, Daniella Sponsler, Stepehen M, and some long-standing supporters: Emily Cranfill, Collin Macharyas, Simon Greene, Nathan Hixson, Darren Clarke, Erin Barclay and Mark Wood.

Nauru (S1.02)

Audio: S1E02 Nauru

In this week’s episode of 80 Days, we are talking about Nauru, a small isolated island nation in the middle of the Pacific, only 60 km from the equator and about 3,000 km from Australia, the country it is largely a dependent of. It’s a rags-to-riches-and-back-to-rags tale of an island paradise, once called Pleasant Island, its disastrous encounters with colonialism and brutal treatment in World War 2. The discovery of rich phosphate deposits led to it briefly being the wealthiest nation per capita for a time, but strip-mining and poor administration left the country where it is today – always in the news for the wrong reasons. Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach, in Hong Kong, the UK and Ireland, respectively. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle)

Note: We had previously said that we would broadcast our episode on Panama this week, but once again Nauru was in the news, after the release of the “Nauru files” giving details of the scale of human rights abuses in the migrant detention centres the island hosts on behalf of the Australian government. We thought that this episode would give a good background on a country you might be reading a lot about in the next few weeks. This episode was recorded before the files were released, but we do discuss the issues that were highlighted in those reports.

Some things you might want to read/listen more about:

  • Early Nauruan practice of aquaculture – i.e. catching the fries of milkfish/ibiya in the surf and raising them to adulthood in brackish pools inland. This article (Spennemann, 2002) also describes the early history of Nauru and its first encounter with European whaler John Fearn
  • The 10-year long Nauruan Tribal War is summarised in an article on Military History Now – it resulted in the death of about 500 people, nearly a third of the island’s population
  • Nauru: A Cautionary Tale, an essay by Vlad Sokhin in World Policy Journal discusses the squandering of the phosphate resources of the island and also features some great photos from the smallest republic in the world
  • S. E. Morrison’s book History of United States Naval Operations in World War II: Aleutians, Gilberts and Marshalls, June 1942 – April 1944 (Univeristy of Illinois Press, 2001) describes the operations in and around Nauru and features the following comments on the then-occupied island:

    But, the more Nauru was studied, the less anyone liked the idea of assaulting it. For Nauru is a solid island with no harbor or lagoon, shaped like a hat with a narrow brim of coastal plain where the enemy had built his airfield, and a crown where he had mounted coast defense artillery. The hilly interior was full of holes and caves where phosphate rock had been excavated – just the sort of terrain that the Japanese liked for defensive operations

  • The Japanese occupation of Nauru and deportation of the native people to Truk Island is described on Wikipedia
  • Radio show This American Life did an episode, including stories from Nauru a few years ago: “The Middle of Nowhere“, emphasising its role in money laundering and how it keeps appearing as a footnote in major world events
  • Australian Radio National’s Earshot has discussed the country’s “bizarre” story
  • Fertiliser island scents musical success: First Night: Leonardo” by David Lister in The Independent describes the opening night of Leonardo the Musical: A Portrait of Love, co-written by Duke Minks
  • Paradise Well and Truly Lost” in The Economist deals with all of Nauru’s problems and how it all went wrong, including how it can be considered a test case for understanding widespread diabetes
  • The music from the break can be found on YouTube

On a slightly lighter note… We are very fond of the names of people from Nauru, such as inaugural President Hammer deRoburt, Duke Minks (the musical guy), Kelly Emiu (chief secretary to the government who was involved in the musical happening) and current President Baron Waqa. And finally, video evidence that Naruans are quite good at powerlifting:

Next week’s episode will be more cheerful, we promise.