Kuril Islands (S3.06)

S03E06 Kuril Islands Audio

In this episode we’ll be talking about the Kuril Islands. This island chain is located in the Northern Pacific, and stretches between northern Japan and Kamchatka, Russia. The 56 islands extend for more than 750 miles across the ocean, and they total 10,500 square kilometers (4,000 square miles) of territory altogether, making their entire landmass roughly the same size as Lebanon or the island of Puerto Rico. The islands today have a population of roughly 20,000, and are controlled by Russia. However, the islands were previously administered by Japan  from the 18th century up until WWII, and have been subject to a land dispute ever since. Japan claims the southernmost islands as their ‘Northern Territories,’ and the conflict over them has led Moscow and Tokyo to avoid signing the peace treaty that would have formally ended the Second World War.

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)

Flag of the Sakhalin Oblast, where the Kuril Islands are officially administered by Russia  Map showing Kuril Island chain between Hokkaido in Japan and Kamchatka in Russia. The sea of Okhotsk and the island of Sakhalin to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east

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

Joe was recently in Honshu and Hokkaido and took some photos, including from a Jomon-era archaeological site, and the the Museum of Northern Peoples in Hakodate, which listeners might find interesting. Well worth a visit if you’re ever in the neighbourhood

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Music from these islands and the neighbouring territories, some of which you heard, can be found at 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 the support and input!

Finally, here is a picture of some of the postcards sent from Hokkaido to our Neil Armstrong-tier patrons on Patreon – they truly are out of this world!

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Cuba: Part 2 (S2.06B)

S02E06b: Cuba (part 2) Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: an exploration podcast we return to Cuba to bring its story from the Castro Revolution, right up to the modern day. As US-Cuba relations have been in the news this week, it’s impossible to keep up with all the twists and turns, but we do our best. If you haven’t already listened to Part 1 of this episode, we recommend listening to that first to see how we got here. Cuba is an island in the Caribbean Ocean, just 90 miles south of the US state of Florida. Cuba is home to over 11 million inhabitants. Cuba gained independence from Spain in 1902, but soon fell under US influence and became a playground for the rich and powerful; this was particularly true following the 1952 coup that brought Fulgencia Batista to power. Following a turbulent revolution which spanned almost the entire 1950s, the Communist Party of Cuba, under the leadership of Fidel Castro, took control of the country in 1965. Although poverty is widespread, modern Cuba has an outstanding health care and education system and relations with the US are currently beginning to thaw after a protracted embargo that has been in place since the 1960s. Since Cuba has an awful lot of history, particularly in the 20th Century, we decided to split this episode into two parts: this is the second part.

Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Switzerland and – as a new voice for regular listeners – we’re joined in this episode by  Erin Barclay in the USA. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle).

Table of Contents:

[02:20] Who is Fidel Castro?
[06:36] Castro starts his “July 26” Movement
[09:10] Exile in Mexico, meeting Che and the Voyage of the Granma
[12:28] Revolution!
[14:50] The ousting of Batista, victory for Castro
[17:38] Break
[18:12] Divisions within the revolution on the question of communism
[20:15] Courting the US, and the ‘communist closet’
[24:20] Che’s role in the world
[26:11] Refugees and Operation Peter Pan
[27:15] The Bay of Pigs invasion attempt
[35:26] US Trade Embargo begins
[36:57] The Cuban Missile Crisis – Armageddon averted
[44:00] Che leaves the stage
[46:03] ‘Castro really liked milk’, and other assassination attemps
[49:45] Cuba in the Soviet economic sphere – old cars
[51:42] “Los Frikis” punks
[52:42] Mariel Boat Lift
[54:03] Soviet Union falls, and the ‘special period’
[56:20] Medicine and oil
[58:31] Elian Gonzalez case
[60:21] Spies and political refugees
[61:07] Thawing of US-Cuba relations under Raul Castro
[64:10] What does the Pope have to do with this?
[65:30] Death of Fidel
[68:51] Trump’s evolving policies towards Cuba
[71:16] Sports! Baseball!
[73:00] Afro-Cuban traditions
[75:30] Some Cuban lunch

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

A massive thanks to Andrew Brogan and Crystal, two of the backers of our recent Kickstarter Campaign – thank you for making Season 2 possible. Thanks too 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 www.hairybaby.com by using our promo code “80DAYS”.

Cuba: Part 1 (S2.06A)

S02E06a: Cuba (part 1) Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: an exploration podcast we’ll be talking about Cuba, an island in the Caribbean Ocean, just 90 miles south of the US state of Florida. Cuba is home to over 11 million inhabitants, and is the second-largest island in the Caribbean after Hispanola. The country has been subject to numerous territorial disputes and conflicts throughout its long and complex history, but finally emerged into independence in 1902. Following a turbulent revolution which spanned almost the entire 1950s, the Communist Party of Cuba, under the leadership of Fidel Castro, took control of the country in 1965. Although poverty is widespread, modern Cuba has an outstanding health care and education system and relations with the US are currently beginning to thaw after a protracted embargo that has been in place since the 1960s. Since Cuba has an awful lot of history, particularly in the 20th Century, we decided to split this episode into two parts: this is the first part.

Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Switzerland and – as a new voice for regular listeners – we’re joined in this episode by  Erin Barclay in the USA. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle).

Table of Contents:

[03:28]  Early History – Taíno and others
[05:50]  In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue… and stuff happened
[09:25] Spanish Colony, ‘serfdom’ and Hatuey’s Uprising
[12:25] Slavery, Slave Rebellions and Pirates
[13:55] Trade monopolies and disputes
[19:00] Sugar boom and population imbalance, and Haitian influx
[20:39] Break
[21:10] “What could go wrong?” – just six revolutions
[27:52] Leopoldo O’Donnell and ‘The Year of the Lash’
[29:00 ] The Cuban Wars of Independence
[34:33] Sinking of the USS Maine and US entry into the war
[35:57] Break
[36:22] The Spanish-American War (and Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘Rough Riders’)
[39:49] An independent Cuba, the Banana Wars and US Interventions
[43:45] World War 1 and, inter-war years and President Muchado
[46:42] Batista leads the Uprising of the Sergeants
[47:25] World War 2 ,Ernest Hemingway’s  ‘Crook Factory’, and the ‘St Louis Affair’
[50:58] America’s Playground and a handful of boring presidents
[53:52] Return of Batista: who needs democracy?

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

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 www.hairybaby.com by using our promo code “80DAYS”.

Liberia (S1.06)

Audio: S1E06 Liberia

This week in 80 Days, we looked at Liberia, a small country on the west coast of Africa. Founded by freed American and Caribbean slaves, Liberia is Africa’s oldest republic and takes its name from the the Latin phrase meaning “Land of the Free.” Unfortunately, the country is best known for a long and bloody civil war that look place in the 1990s and 2000s, and more recently for the Ebola epidemic of 2014. The lush, rainforested country is just 700 kilometres or 430 miles north of the equator, and is bordered by Sierra Leone to its west, Guinea to its north and Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) to its east. Today, the country is home to around 4.5 million inhabitants, although most are native Africans rather than the descendants of freed slaves. It maintains strong ties to America, and even has a flag that strongly resembles the flag of the US, although it has only one star and 11 stripes. Discussing Liberia 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)

We thought when we researched Nauru previously that it was the most depressing place we would ever encounter. But we were wrong! Liberia is at the bottom end of most tables you want to be near the top in (GDP, communications infrastructure, life expectancy, infant mortality) and has suffered from all the plights you can expect in the region and more, all as a result of inequality, corruption, disease and civil war, but nonetheless, it has a unique story worth telling. Some sources which we found particularly useful in researching the episode were:

I would recommend you read, watch and listen to some of these sources if you want to learn more about the country than we could cram into the podcast.

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