Paraguay (S5.02)

Audio: Paraguay


In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be talking about Paraguay, a small South American nation sometimes referred to as the “heart of South America”, bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. One of only two landlocked countries in South America, the other being Bolivia, Paraguay was home to a number of Native Indian groups, most prominently the Guarani, before being colonised by Spanish conquistadores in the early 1500s.


During the 17th century, Paraguay became home to a large number of Jesuit missions, where the native Guaraní people were settled and converted to Christianity. Following independence from Spain in the early 19th century, the country was involved in a number of regional conflicts and subject to the whims of numerous dictatorial governments. This period culminated in the disastrous Paraguayan War, which began in 1864 and resulted in the country losing up to half of its prewar population and up to a third of its territory.  Since colonisation, the Guarani culture, language and traditions have remained integral to the country’s national identity, and the majority of modern day Paraguayans are mestizo, descending from a mix of settlers and Guarani. The country has around seven million inhabitants today, and has a land area of around 400,000 sq km or 150,000 sq miles, comparable in size to Norway and slightly smaller than the US state of California. Despite a history of poverty and political repression, Paraguay often ranks as the “world’s happiest place” based on global polling data.

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. 

Some further reading:

  • Do your homework if you haven’t already and check out our Uruguay episode from way back in season 2.
  • Read more on the Jasuka Venda discovery of human habitation dating to 5,000 years, displaying “footprint style rock art”
  • More on the indigenous groups, including the Payaguá (whence the name Paraguay), Guaycurú, M’bayá, Abipón, and Chiriguano.
  • Historian Adalberto Lopez has written extensively on this region. His book on the The Revolt of the Comuñeros, 1721–1735 can be found here.
  • For more on the life of the Guarani and how their traditions have persisted through to the modern day, check out this video, which Joe mentions toward the end of this episode.
  • The trailer for period film The Mission, in all its glory, can be found on YouTube.
  • The UNESCO World Heritage website has more on the Jesuit Missions of La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná and Jesús de Tavarangue.
  • The Library of Congress also has a wealth of info on Paraguay which can be found here.
  • Wikipedia has a whole article dedicated to the unique Paraguayan Flag.
  • This fascinating video shows how the Paraguayan War played out day by day using map visualisations.
  • Military Wiki also has an extensive article on Francisco Solano Lopez, who is discussed at length in this episode.
  • Historian Leslie Bethell has written a paper on the Paraguayan War which can be found here.
  • Thomas L Whigham’s book The Paraguayan War: Causes and Early Conduct, quoted in this episode, is also available in its entirety online is here.
  • Eliza Lynch has an extensive page over on Wikipedia.
  • The two 150th anniversary articles referenced on the impact of the war on Paraguay are available from The Economist and The Guardian.
  • The New York Times has an article on the 1887 Nueva Germania colony that Joe speaks about in his second section.
  • TIME has a piece on the Nazi outposts in San Bernadino that are discussed in this episode, as does OZY.
  • The US Library of Congress has a short paper on Paraguay and WWII.
  • Read more on Paraguay’s hydropower capabilities at
  • José Felix Estigarribia, who Mark discusses in this episode, is profiled here at Britannica.
  • The graphic below gives an interesting indication of the plurality of languages spoken in Paraguay in the modern day.
  • For more on food, check out Culture Trip for 6 Traditional Foods You Have to Try in Paraguay

Some music by composers from in and around this region include:

  • Sanapana music from the Gran Chaco tribe, taken from this video.
  • The polka song, written in Guarani by Emiliano Fernandez about the Chaco War and performed by Romón Vargas Colman, can be found here.
  • We also include some Paraguayan Harp in this episode, which you can find more of here.
  • For a selection of music from Augustin Barrios, one of Paraguay’s most famous musicians, click here.


Tierra Del Fuego (S4.09)

S04E09 Tierra Del Fuego

In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be talking about Tierra Del Fuego, an archipelago off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland, across the Strait of Magellan. Tierra Del Fuego, which translates to Land of Fire, consists of a main island, Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, often called simply Tierra del Fuego or Isla Grande, with an area of 48,100 km2 (18,572 sq mi), and a group of smaller islands. First settled by humans around 8,000 BCE, Ferdinand Magellan was among the first Europeans to explore the islands in 1520, giving them their name. In 1830, a British crew visited the region in HMS Beagle, naming the main channel that runs through the archipelago after the vessel. Widespread displacement and genocide of the native populations took place in the second half of the 19th century, particularly after the discovery of gold in the region in 1879.

Screenshot 2020-07-19 at 11.43.10.png

Map of Tierra Del Fuego (via GeoCurrents)

Following a dispute in 1978, the main island is now split between Argentina and Chile. The eastern part of the main island, and a few small islands in the Beagle Channel (around 39% of the total area) belong to Argentina, while the western part of the main island, and almost all the other islands (61% of the total area) officially belong to Chile. The archipelago is divided by an east–west channel, the Beagle Channel, immediately south of the main island, and in total, the land area of Tierra Del Fuego is roughly equivalent in size to Slovakia or slightly smaller than the US state of West Virginia. The climate here is generally cold and wet, and has been compared to that of the Faroe Islands.

Although the region is split between two nations, total population as a whole is estimated to be around 135,000 (2010), of whom around 125,000 live on the Argentinean side. Tierra Del Fuego is also famous its biodiversity, but since the 1940s, a colony of invasive beavers have been perhaps the most notorious animal resident.

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 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.



The map of various border claims in Tierra Del Fuego, via Wikipedia

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:

  • An article on the Bahia Wulaia Dome Middens which Joe mentions early on can be found on
  • Antiquity also has an extensive paper on the early settlers of Tierra Del Fuego, which can be found here.
  • A short description of Magellan’s discovery of the strait which now bears his name can be found here.
  • Some of Captain Cook’s accounts of his time in Tierra Del Fuego, which Mark quotes from, are available here.
  • An account of the HMS Beagle’s first voyage to Tierra Del Fuego, part of which is quoted in this episode, can be found on Google Books.
  • The Wikipedia page which details explorers who committed suicide is here.
  • The Uttermost Part of the Earth by Lucas Bridges, which is referenced a number of times in this episode, is available in its entirety on
  • Charles Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle is also available in full online. The segment which deals with his visit to Tierra Del Fuego can be found here.
  • A biography (Spanish language) of the notorious Julius Popper can be read at
  • You can read more about the work of anthropologist Martin Gusinde on Google Books, or watch the documentary we reference in this episode on YouTube, featuring some truly breathtaking photographs.
  • Petroleum Economist has an article dealing with the discovery and production of oil in this region, which you can find here.
  • There’s been a lot written about Tierra Del Fuego’s “Beaver Plague”, you can find articles on it from BBC, National Geographic and Nature.
  • The Beagle Conflict, which Luke discusses at length in this episode has also been the subject of a a lot of discussion. Read more at Military Wiki, The American Journal of International Law, and even an official US Government Report.
  • The full text of the May 1977 Arbitration Agreement can also be found here.
  • The Rome Reports documentary about the Pope’s involvement is available on YouTube.

Music that might interest listeners:

SELKNAM (onas)- Cantos Ancestrales


Uruguay (S2.05)

S02E05: Uruguay Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: an exploration podcast, we’ll be talking about Uruguay, a small but prosperous country sandwiched between two massive South American powerhouses, Brazil and Argentina. Widely considered one of the most politically stable and progressive countries in Latin America, Uruguay is home to just over 3.5 Million people and almost ten times as many sheep.

By land mass, it is the second-smallest nation in the region. After a four-way struggle between Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay declared its independence in 1825. The country then stabilised until the 1950s, when political turmoil ensued.
In more recent years, Uruguay escaped the recession that spread throughout South America in the early 2000s, and has since emerged as a bastion of democracy, progressive policies and free speech.  

Your hosts 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).

Table of Contents:

[02:12] Intro – Homer Simpson and trampy birds
[08:30] Horny dirty Europeans and laissez faire gauchoing
[15:00] The inevitable British interest
[18:08] Artigas uncontemplative – not a calm guy
[27:23] If you liked Artigas you’ll love many endless wars forever
[33:46] Colorados vs Blancos – mob on mob violence
[40:39] Flores – Warlords don’t like peace, shoot your gauchos
[49:30] Jose Batlle – Mr 20th Century Uruguay
[57:54] WW2 – neutral, until it’s over and then they’re totally against Hitler
[1:06:08] Old timey radio show on Uruguay… is a bit dismissive of poor women
[1:14:46] Pacheqism – NOT to be confused with pacifism, too much torture for that
[1:16:30] Alive – plane crash and things only get worse from there
[1:23:28] South America in the 80s, how do you think it’s gonna go – “Politics is finished, I’m the leader.”
[1:30:38] Modern day – cannabis, football, music and good times

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

Some of the music we used in this episode, and other music we recommend:

Thanks this week to Nick Ison and Eoin Byrne, who backed our Kickstarter campaign. Your t-shirts should be on their way to you already. Thanks to our sponsor Hairy Baby, who in addition to making the funniest Irish-themed t-shirts, have also produced the official 80 Days shirt for our supporters. Find it by clicking here. You can get 10% off anything on by using our promo code “80DAYS”.

Easter Island or “Rapa Nui” (S2.02)

S02E02 Easter Island Audio

Welcome to our second episode in season 2 of 80 Days: an exploration podcast. Today we will be exploring the fascinating history and culture of Easter Island.

Named by Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, on Easter Sunday in 1722, the island is best known for the 887 extant monumental statues, called moai, which were built by the early Rapa Nui people. The island is one of the most isolated in the world, lying more than 1,289 miles from its nearest inhabited neighbour, and almost 2,200 miles from the closest continental point, in Chile. The tiny volcanic island consists of just 163.6 km2 or 63.2 sq mi, making it roughly twice the size of Manhattan. The native population, the Rapa Nui, have endured famines, disease, population collapse, civil war, slave raids and colonial power struggles, and the island was most recently annexed by Chile in 1888. Today, Easter Island is home to around 6,000 people, the majority of whom are descended from the original Rapa Nui settlers.


The flag of Rapa Nui (aka Easter Island)

Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne@anbeirneach in Switzerland. (Theme music byThomas O’Boyle) Our guest contributor this week is Dr Mara Mulrooney (Bishop Museum, Honolulu).

Table of Contents:
[01:20] Intro – a seriously isolated island
[05:17] Dr Mara Mulrooney – on polynesian explorers
[14:42] The mystery – where did all the people go?
[18:08] Moai – giant stone heads

[27:50] The other explanations for the mystery
[36:53] “Discovery” – Roggeveen, Dutch idiot
[42:32] Was there a Civil War…?
[46:30] Birdman Cult
[53:38] Catholics, slavery, smallpox and Joseph Byrne
[1:07:44] Dutrou Bornier – A bad man
[1:13:55] Salmond and his sheep and Chile takes over
[1:21:11] Mana and the Routledge archaeological expedition

[1:29:23] Thor Heyerdahl expedition
[1:32:15] Pinochet’s law is like Pinochet’s love
[1:37:07] Modern day


If an almost 2 hour podcast doesn’t sufficiently wet your knowledge whistle as it were, feel free to get into some of the bits and pieces from around the internet that we used for background research.

But before that please feast your eyes on the ill-advised result of Mark’s Moai instagram photoshoot.


And now you can check out some of the main reference links for the podcast!

Thanks this week to backers Nick Ison and Alec Richman. And a massive thank you, as always to our sponsor Hairy Baby, makers of the funniest Irish-themed clothing. Remember to get a 10% discount off anything you buy on their website ( by using our special promo code, read out during the episode. We recommend the 80 Days official tee.



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