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.

Western Sahara (S3.10)

S03E10 – Western Sahara Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: an exploration podcast, we’ll be talking about Western Sahara, a disputed territory in North-West Africa. Home to roughly 550,000 people and bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the east, Mauritania to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Western Sahara is partially controlled by the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and partially Moroccan-occupied, and is often called ‘Africa’s last colony.’

Map of Western Sahara's position on the west coast of Africa, between Morocco and Mauritania

Map of Western Sahara’s position on the west coast of Africa, between Morocco and Mauritania

First colonised by Spain in 1885, the territory’s sovereignty has been fiercely disputed for decades, particularly since 1975, when Spain officially relinquished its claim over the region. Today it is alternately known as Morocco’s Southern Provinces or the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, however, we’ll be referring to the region as Western Sahara throughout most of this episode. At roughly 260,000 square kilometers or 100,000 square miles, Western Sahara is about the size of the US state of Colorado or just slightly larger than the UK. The territory consists mostly of uninhabitable desert, and nearly 40% of its inhabitants live in Laayoune, the largest city in Western Sahara, while up to 100,000 people from the region are currently living in refugee camps in neighbouring Algeria.

This episode, the Finale of Season 3, is our first Patreon-nominated and voted-on episode. Thanks to Erik Tastepe, in particular, for suggesting this interesting location and to all of you who voted. Join us over on www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast to have a say in the direction of future seasons or get access to various awards.

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


In this episode, we carried out an extensive interview with Nick Brooks (@WSaharaProject), a climate scientist, who has worked over many years in Western Sahara, co-directing a project with archaeologist Jo Clarke. This “Western Sahara Project” has led to a recently-published book on the topic (see here). Nick also has a very interesting blog about his time spent there, the politics of the situation and related topics called “Sand and Dust”. Beautiful photo galleries of all the archaeological discoveries from the research project in the desert have been shared on Flickr.

Here are a few things you may want to read/watch more about: