New Caledonia (S3.05)

New Caledonia Audio

In this episode we’ll be talking about the New Caledonia, a French unique collectivity in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, about 900 miles (1,500 km) east of Australia. It includes the island of New Caledonia, where the capital, Nouméa, is located; the Loyalty Islands; the Bélep Islands; and the Isle of Pines as well as a number of far-flung uninhabited islets.

The main island is by far the largest and contains about nine-tenths of the population. It is surrounded by a coral reef, which encloses a large number of lagoons. These lagoons, with their diverse reefs and associated ecosystems, were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008. Sighted and named by Captain James Cook in 1774, it was later colonised by the French and turned into a penal colony.

New Caledonia has a land area of around 18,000 km2 (or 7,000 sq mi), making it just slightly smaller than Israel or the US state of New Jersey. Its population of around 270,000 consists mostly of a mix of Kanak people (the original inhabitants of New Caledonia), other Melanisians and people of European descent.

Your hosts are Luke Kelly in Hong Kong (@thelukejkelly), Joe Byrne in Bern, Switzerland (@anbeirneach), Mark Boyle in Surrey in the UK (@markboyle86) and our guest John Killeen (@johnkilleen90), who visited New Caledonia last year. Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle (@thatthomasfella)

Image result for new caledonia flag

Map of New Caledonia

Here are a few handy links for learning more about New Caledonia;

  • You can learn more about the New Caledonian upcoming independence referendum here on Wikipedia. The referendum is due to take place on November 4th, 2018, although according to a recent report by Radio New Zealand, support for independence is waning.
  • There’s a handy map of Captain Cook’s voyages around the world on Encyclopedia Britannica. He’s a man worth knowing about!
  • Here’s an image of the weird forked flagpole we described in this episode.
  • More info on the delicious-sounding New Caledonian dish Bougna can be found here.
  • The US government film used in this episode is entitled ‘Our Troops in New Caledonia’ and can be found on Archive.org
  • Find more on the ridiculously easy to hunt Kagu bird here.
  • You can view the photos that are described in this episode (courtesy of our friend John Killeen) below. None of John in the bath just yet, unfortunately.

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The music you heard in this episode was from the following sources;

A massive thanks to all of our patrons on Patreon who are supporting season 3. If you’d like to join them and see what rewards are available for supporters, and get a peek behind the curtain check out www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast. We really appreciate every penny!

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Alaska (S1.05)

Audio: S1E05 Alaska

This week on 80 Days, we talked about Alaska, the United States of America’s 49th state. The name Alaska comes from the Aluet word Alyeska, meaning great land, and it is a plentiful place in many respects. Rich in natural resources, Alaska has a longer coastline than the other 49 states combined  and is the largest state in the US. It contains over 3 million lakes, as well as Denali, North America’s highest peak. about 500 miles separates Alaska from Washington state, its nearest neighbour within the US, and it has a strong connection with Russia, which used to occupy and control the territory. Exploring Alaska for you are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Hong Kong, the UK and Switzerland, respectively. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle)

Flag of Alaska

Things you might want to read more about:

  • Alaska is the point of mainland America where it is generally considered humans first arrived in waves from Asia, including the ancestors of most indigenous South American peoples (25000-15000 years ago), the ancestors of many native Alaskan people and the Navajo and Apache Native American tribes  (14000-9000 years ago), the ancestors of Aleut and Eskimo people (9000-6000 years ago). This makes the area valuable for archaeologists trying to understand how people came to the Americas. Alaska’s indigenous people (including Tlingit, Athabaskan, Innupiak, Aleut and others) and much of their culture still persists to the present day, although they were, of course, greatly affected by the intervening centuries of colonisation.
  • Potlach – a “competitive altruism” practice among some native communities, such as Athabaskans
  • Music this week is all from aboriginal North American people and can be found here and here
  • Semyon Dezhnynov‘s expedition in the Bering Strait, which may have brought the first Russians to Alaska, although there are mixed opinions about this
  • The first Europeans to arrive in Alaska were the Russians, who – in the course of charting the Pacific coast of Russia – crossed the strait which is now named after Vitus Bering, a Danish navigator who led a voyage across to what is now Alaska. There were violent clashes with native Aleuts and Tlingit people and disease had devastating consequences on the indigenous population. Bering himself was marooned on an island on the way back to Russia and died.
  • Fur-trapping, particularly of sea-otters, became the major economic interest of the Russians in “Russian America” and a monopoly was given to the  Shelikhov-Golikov Company (later, the Russian-American Company), which set up headquarters at Sitka. This early settlement was attacked in the Battle of Sitka by the Kiks.ádi Tlingit clan.
  • Rather than lose their hard-to-defend province to the British in a war, the Tsar decided that the best course of action was to sell Alaska to the USA for $7.2m in 1867
  • We mentioned the instance of a Pope drawing a line on a map, which gave the Spanish a right to colonise some newly-discovered territories and the Portuguese others – this is dealt with in the Wikipedia article on the Treaty of Tordesillas
  • St Herman (the hermit) and St (Bishop) Innocent are two Russian Orthodox saints who were missionaries in the areas
  • The Klondike Gold Rush brought tens of thousands of people north to the parts of Alaska bordering Yukon as gold was discovered in the rivers of this region. Many were ill-prepared and most unsuccessful in staking claims. Con man “Soapy” Smith was an interesting character in this period, depriving treasure seekers of their money through tricks, games and crime, until his eventual death at a famous shootout on Juneau Wharf
  • During World War 2, there was a lot of action in the Aleutian Islands, while US forces attempted to dislodge a Japanese force which had occupied; American propaganda during WW2 was remarkably racial in nature, describing Alaska as a “Death Trap for the Jap

File:Alaska Death Trap.jpg

Panama (S1.03)

Audio: S1E03 Panama

In this week’s episode of 80 Days, we are talking about Panamaa central American nation most famous its canal that connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Located strategically on the tiny isthmus between Central and South America, control of this valuable trade route has been competed for by multiple powers throughout its fascinating history. The country is dominated by a central spine of mountains and hills that forms the continental divide. Today, Panama is bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the east, the Caribbean to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The capital, Panama City, is home to nearly half of the country’s 3.9 million people. If you’re unfamiliar with the geography, just imagine the two continents of Central and South America hanging onto one another by a thread – Panama is that thread.

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)

Please leave us a review on iTunes, connect with us on Facebook or Twitter or drop us an email if there’s anything you’d like to say.

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

  • Archaeological findings at various sites are described in the National Geographic article “‘Golden Chief’ Tomb Treasure Yields Clues to Unnamed Civilisation” by James Owen
  • The following video on YouTube shows the Ngobe Balseria traditions, including the sport which involves men throwing sticks at the legs of other men, while dressed in women’s clothing:
  • Some of the early colonists of significance: Rodrigo de Bastidas, who founded the first European settlement on the American mainland;  Vasco Núñez de Balboa,  who crossed the isthmus.
  • The Cimarrons of Sixteenth Century Panama“, an article by Ruth Pike (The Americas, 2007, vol. 64, no. 2, DOI: 10.1353/tam.2007.0161) gives a lot of detail on rebellions by African and African-descended escaped slaves in Panama, inlcuding “el rey negroBayano
  • We mentioned piracy a few times, as in important aspect of trade in the area in the early colonial period. Some well-known pirates who had an impact on Panama were Sir Francis Drake who sacked Nomre de Dios on the Carribean coast of Panama (1572) and the Welsh privateer Captain Henry Morgan who marched across the isthmus and sacked Panama City in 1713. The ruins of the old city are still there and the world remembers Captian Morgan today mostly for the brand of rum named after him!
  • BBC History has an article on “The Darien Venture” by Dr Mike Ibeji, describing the disasterous exploits of the Company of Scotland expedition, planned by William Paterson, bankrupting much of the country in the process
  • Richard Halliburton holds the Guinness World Record (from 1928) for lowest toll paid to pass through the Canal due to his low tonnage
  • The winding history of the Canal construction from the initial Frech attempt by Ferdinand de Lesseps to the intervention of US President Theodore Roosevelt (reknowned for his ‘robust masulinity’) is summarised here (PBS)
  • This article from PBS’s American Experience website desribes the contributions of militarty doctor William Gorgas to fighting yellow fever and malaria in the Isthmus of Panama as part of the canal works (and essential to its completion)
  • Notable political figures in Panama’s 20th century history: frequent president and fascist-sympathiser Arnulfo Ariasde facto leader and Maximim Leader of the Panamanian Revolution Brigadier General Omar Torrijos (if you get to make up your own title, make it a good one)
  • The Stuff You Should Know Podcast has an episode on “How the Panama Canal Works“, which is worth a listen
  • Trans-Americas Journey’s channel on YouTube has an accelerated video of the entire transit through the Canal, while this timelapse video shows a day of traffic through the Miraflores Locks – they are incredible and the only way to get a sense of the scale of the Canal
  • Some of the traditional music used in the episode comes from here.
  • The gruesome  torture and murder of Manuel  Noreiga’s opponent, nationalist Hugo Spadfora, is detailed in In The Time of Tyrants by R. M. Koster and other places – it is exemplary of the brutality of his regime
  • The full playlist played to force dictator Manuel Noreiga out of the Papal Nunicature during Operation Just Cause is detailed in the post-operational report, archived in George Washington University’s National Security Archive; an account of the event on the blog No Fear of the Future
  • Website Fun-With-Words has a history of Panama’s palindromes, in particular: “A Man, a Plan, a Canal – Panama
  • Fiesta” by Alfredito Payne is a cool funky Panamanian song

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.