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!

San Marino (S3.02)

S03E02 San Marino Audio

In this episode we’ll be talking about the Most Serene Republic of San Marino, the world’s oldest constitutional republic, and a country that is, in itself, a historical oddity. Similarly to other European microstates, such as Monaco, Liechtenstein and Andorra  it’s a relic of a time when borders were formed based on the area that a cannon could reach from a city’s walls. Founded on the slopes of Mount Titano in 301 AD, this tiny republic has seen the rest of Europe consolidate around it, surviving attacks by other self-governing Italian city-states, the Napoleonic Wars, the unification of Italy, and two world wars. Today, it’s borders are entirely enclosed by Italy, making it one of only three countries in the world to be enclosed by another nation.

It is the smallest independent state in Europe after Vatican City and Monaco and, until the independence of Nauru (1968), was the smallest republic in the world, at just 61 square kilometre (23.6 square miles). Tourism dominates the economy of modern day San Marino.  which plays host to more than three million visitors every year, while the republic is home to just over 30,000 people.

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 San Marino   

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

Music you heard 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!

Hong Kong, 1941 (Christmas Special)

Christmas 1941 – Hong Kong Audio

Merry Christmas from the 80 Days team! We hope you enjoy this Christmas themed “minisode” – this is a new, shorter and more focused format of episode we’re trying out before we launch Season 3. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this different style of storytelling (positive or negative), or indeed we’d love to hear your thoughts on anything on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @80dayspodcast or by email at 80dayspodcast@gmail.com

Best wishes for 2018, wherever you are around the world.

Birobidzhan, the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (S2.10)

Birobidzhan Audio Link

In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be discussing the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (JAO), a somewhat independent region in the Russian Far East wedged between Siberia and Northern China. Its capital is the city of Birobidzhan, and with 75,000 inhabitants it is by far the most populated part of the region. For that reason, the name Birobidzhan is often used to refer to the whole area.

Officially founded in 1934 as an attempt to create a Jewish state within Russian borders, the territory was the world’s first attempt at a Jewish national homeland in modern times, and today is Russia’s only autonomous oblast. Aside from Israel, it is the world’s only officially Jewish territory. As of the 2010 Census, JAO’s population was 176,558 people, or 0.1% of the total population of Russia. Judaism is practiced by only 0.2% of the population of the JAO.

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This special episode was commissioned by one our very generous Kickstarter backers, Ian Prince from New York (who does terrible things with food on Instagram). 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)

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The somewhat familiar-looking flag of Birobidzhan

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Some sources and further reading for this episode;

  • Masha Gessen’s Where The Jews Aren’t was the basis for this commissioned episode, you can find it on Amazon here, or listen to the author talk about it on NPR’s Fresh Air here
  • We also relied heavily on this excellent multimedia gallery from Swarthmore College, entitled Stalin’s Forgotten Zion.
  • An interview from People’s World with Masha Gessen provides some solid background on the region.
  • We mentioned the RT profile of Birobidzhan in this episode, you can find that here on YouTube.
  • The New York Times profiled Birobidzhan back in 2012. It’s worth a read.
  • The book Jews and Jewish Life in Russia and the Soviet Union by Yaacov Ro’i has some interesting info on the JAO and wider context surrounding Jewish communities in Russia.
  • If you’re interesting in learning more about Stalin in particular, you can check out our episode from earlier this season on Georgia, birthplace of “Joe Steel”.
  • Michigan State University has a good article on the history of the region, as well as some visual essays here.

Thanks to Louise Ireson, John Killeen, Simon Greene for your support on Kickstarter. Thanks too to Rabbi Eliyahu Riss in Birobidzhan for interviewing with us.

We also need to thank our sponsor for the season 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”.

This will be the final episode for this season, but never fear, we’ll be back with more obscure goodness soon. We’re extremely grateful to everyone who’s supported us over the past year and a bit of podcasting, and if you want to hear more stay subscribed to the feed and keep an eye on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We’ll see you soon!

Liechtenstein (S2.09)

S02E09 Liechtenstein Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: an exploration podcast,  we’ll be talking about Liechtenstein,  a tiny European principality, sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria that is still ruled by the same family since the early 18th century. In a small valley towards the beginning of the mighty Rhine river, it was frequented by the Romans and incorporated into the empire before that all went sideways and the Vandals earned their name. After passing through the infuential spheres of central Europe through the centuries they were eventually taken over by the Liechtenstein family in a bid to get more favor with the Austro-Hungarian Empire (which worked a treat as it happened.) They side-stepped the devastation of World War 2 and spent the latter half of the 20th century becoming a financial services powerhouse, while also making a surprisingly successful go of manufacturing – dentures and drills in particular. Builders drills. Not dentists drills. Though there’s a business plan in there somewhere.

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Liechtenstein – strong contender for the nicest place we’ve profiled. Apologies to Liberia…

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

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In a break from our normal desktop research, we sent the intrepid Joe Byrne into the field with the savage Liechtensteiners to risk his life in doing some field research. Turns out it’s super safe and lovely. Who knew? Well you did if you listened in, as well as the chilled out nature of the locals and how normal it is to just run into some royalty if you live there.

Proof of Joe’s expedition below-

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That’s Joe there, showcasing the Liechtenstein flag like a boss.

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Above are a selection of photos from Liechtenstein, including the Roman ruins and the bronze Celtic figurines discussed in the episode. More photos can be seen here.

Here are some HOTLINKS (guitar solo here) to give you all the extra background you apparently weren’t sufficed with in our mega-bumper podcast, you info-hungry maniac:

Some music associated with Liechtenstein:

Thanks to Sarah O’Farrell and Niall O’Leary for your support on Kickstarter and Sinéad Dowling who helped our man on the ground Joe Byrne with his visit and research. Thanks too to Martin Meier for a useful conversation and Donat Büchel, curator of the Liechtensteinische Landesmuseum for some assistance. Special thanks to students Julia and Sebbi from the Liechtensteinische Gymnasium (High School) for a long and informative interview – they make videos that can be found on YouTube.

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”.

Newfoundland (S2.04)

S02E04: Newfoundland Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: an exploration podcast, we return to the north of North America and explore  Newfoundland, a Canadian island in the North Atlantic.  At over 100,000 square kilometres (40,000 sq mi), Newfoundland is the world’s 16th-largest island, and Cape Spear, just south of the capital, St Johns, is the easternmost point of North America, excluding Greenland. Newfoundland has long been a sparsely populated and harsh land, with residents traditionally relying heavily on fishing to survive. The area has a significant Gaelic heritage, with strong connections to Ireland and Britain. Modern-day Newfoundland has a population of just under half a million, and is the most populous part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

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). Our guest contributor this week is Dr Philip Hiscock (Department of Folklore, Memorial University, Newfoundland)

Table of Contents:
[01:16] Intro
[01:57] Early history – indigenous peoples and pushy Catholics
[09:00] Eric the Red – bad egg/ass
[13:00] Soil update – no codding you
[20:10] As usual the British turn up
[25:40] 80 Days Guest Dr Philip Hiscock – with some local knowledge
[30:00] The French arrive and shrug disinterestedly
[41:54] Beothuk people try to avoid conflict… uh oh
[47:40] Census, politics and telegraphy
[54:11] World wars, & reluctant Canadification
[1:09:06] I’m here from the government and I’m here to help (resettlement, cod & seals)
[1:20:24] 9/11 “We’re diverting you to Newfoundland. All of you.”

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

There is a lot of music (particularly Irish-inspired folk), some examples of which we would recommend if you enjoyed what you heard in the episode:

Thanks this week to Dr Jenn Jones and Jeffrey Doker, 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 http://www.hairybaby.com by using our promo code – just listen in to the episode for exact details.

Seychelles (S2.03)

S02E03: Seychelles Audio

Welcome to our third episode in season 2 of 80 Days: an exploration podcast. Today we will be looking at the little island paradise of the Seychelles, a country made up of an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean. This former British colony has a population of just over 90,000, the smallest of any independent African state, and lies 1,500 kilometres (or 932 miles) off East Africa.

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)

Like neighbouring Madagascar, the islands are best known for their unique geology and diverse wildlife populations. White sand beaches and clear blue oceans abound here, in what was once a haven for pirates marauding throughout the Indian Ocean. A tropical rainforest climate ensures that the islands are hot and humid year-round. Victoria, the capital city of Seychelles, is the smallest capital in the entire world, with a population of around 27,000 and the country today is one of the most prosperous in all of Africa.

900px-Flag_of_Seychelles.svgLocation_Seychelles_AU_Africa.svg

Table of Contents:
[01:10] Intro – sounds pretty nice tbh
[02:07] Early history – coco de mer the rudest fruit
[06:28] Discovery – Seychelles can’t get no respect
[14:00] Pierre Poivre & other French colonial hijinks

[19:54] As usual the British turn up and Seychelles surrenders many times
[26:13] Welcome to the Empire Seychelles
[29:24] Seychelles – exotic prison colony with balls, baths and Birch
[36:30] Smut(s) and WW2’s loyal aliens
[40:30] Independence – Brits start to feel bad
[45:44] Commie Coup
[53:20] Mad Mike Hoare and his bad couping
[1:00:37] Democracy, climate change and geology

[1:04:22] Food – sharks and tiny persons
[1:07:13] Economy – tourism & N. Korean… friendship
[1:37:07] Modern day

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Hindu temple (credit: Murat Dagdeler)Key Facts

  • Smallest population of any independent African state (92k) mostly on Mahé
  • 1500 km east of African mainland
  • 115 islands in archipelago spread over 1m sq km
  • Unique Geology
  • Interesting flag, looks like a combination of Hungary and Romania (/r/vexillology) – third flag since independence, adopted after end of single-party state
  • Low temp of 24 degrees, highs in the 30s…
  • Mix of granite islands (only examples and oldest islands in the World) and coral islands (very new)
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Local fishmarket (credit: Murat Dagdeler)

Music:

And now you can check out some of the main reference links for the podcast. It’s a red letter day for you and no mistake.

And here’s the coco de mer that got us all so… excited. Think you can see why.

Thanks to Rob Curran & Krista Phillips for their generous Kickstarter support. You guys are heroes.

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 (www.hairybaby.com) by using our special promo code, read out during the episode. We recommend the 80 Days official tee.

Brunei (S1.09)

Audio: S1E09 Brunei

In this week’s episode of 80 Days, we are talking about Brunei a tiny independent state of just 2,200 square miles, located on the north coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. Borneo is a tropical, equatorial island, one of the largest in the world, divided between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Brunei borders exclusively on the Malaysian section of Borneo. Its small section of coastline is inhabited by just over 400,000 people, and is among the richest nations in the world in terms of natural resources. Traditionally ruled by a Sultan, it became a British protectorate in 1888 and gained independence from the United Kingdom on January 1st 1984. Modern Brunei is ruled by a ‘Malay Islamic Monarchy’, where a Sultan acts as Supreme Head of State, ruling effectively as prime minister, finance minister, and commander of the armed forces. Brunei is the first and only country in East Asia to be ruled by Sharia law, introduced by the current Sultan in 2013. 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)

 

There are some things we talked about you might want to know more about:

  • It is difficult to say much for certain about the important Chinese diplomat, trader or prince Ong Sum Ping (the local Hokkien pronunciation of 黃森屏, Huang Senping in Mandarin), but he was clearly an important figure in Brunei’s earliest history, arriving in the area around 1375, marrying into the family of 1st Sultan Muhammad Shah, and subsequently helping to repel an invasion from the Sulu islands. His exact role is often occluded in modern history perhaps because he was either not Muslim or not Malay. Some of the conflicting information and opinions can be found on Wikipedia, the Brunei Times, from blogs I’m Just Saying, and Nomadic Republic, and from Malaysian politician Lim Kit Siang
  • In 1521, Brunei was visited by the first voyage to circumnavigate the globe, the Magellan-Elcano Expedition and an account was kept by Antonio Pigafetta (an Italian and the historian on the ship) of their meeting with the Sultan: “The king to whom we presented ourselves is a Moor, and is named Raja Siripada: he is about forty years of age, and is rather corpulent. No one serves him except ladies who are the daughters of the chiefs. No one speaks to him except by means of the blow-pipe
  • The Castillian War between the Spanish in Manilla and Brunei was a defining moment in 1578 when conflict over trade, religion and land led to military enagement between the Europeans and the Sultanate. In the end, disease played a large role in weakening the Spanish forces, hastening the Bruneian victory. Read about it on Brunei Resources (more from the same author in the Brunei Times), including the following quote:

Why did the Spaniards leave? According to Brunei legends, the Spaniards kept facing attacks organised by Pengiran Bendahara Sakam. The latter is seen as one of Brunei’s past folk heroes. He attacked the Spaniards with 1,000 men and defeated them. However, Western historians do not accept this version and deny that Bendahara Sakam even existed, preferring the version that the Spaniards left because of dysentery. According to the Spanish records, only 17 died of dysentery in Brunei and another six on the return to Manila, although a number of Filipinos also died. – Brunei Resources

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Gibraltar (S1.08)

Audio: S1E08 Gibraltar

In this week’s episode of 80 Days, we are talking about Gibraltar the “key to the Mediterranean”. Famous for the imposing Rock of Gibraltar, this 6.7 square kilometre British Overseas Territory is an historic anomaly at the tip of the Iberian peninsula with a unique status and culture. It forms the northern side of the Pillars of Heracles which mark the beginning of the Atlantic Ocean. The tiny territory is also famous for its Barbary macaques, the only  wild monkey population in Europe. 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)

 

There are some things we talked about you might want to know more about:

  • Archaeological finds at Gorham’s Cave and other sites have given evidence that Neanderthals lived her until about 32,000 years ago – much more recently than had previously been expected. It is thought that this area was a lush Savannah climate at the time and very rich in food and resources. The BBC have a report from when the caves were granted UNESCO World Heritage status earlier this year.
  • The name Gibraltar comes from the Arabic Jabal Tariq (جبل طارق) named for Tariq ibn Ziyad who led the Moorish/Umayyad conquest of what is now Spain in the 710s; he had gathered his invading troops at the Rock of Gibraltar before pressing inland.
  • In 1706, when the English took the Rock during the War of Spanish Succession, nearly all of the inhabitants decamped to the City of Gibraltar in the Fields of San Roque, expecting a temporary stay. The Spanish city of San Roque is still there to this day and still features symbols of Gibraltar in its crest
  • Gibraltar’s status as an British territory was regularised, by Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713)

The Catholic King does hereby, for himself, his heirs and successors, yield to the Crown of Great Britain the full and entire propriety of the town and castle of Gibraltar, together with the port, fortifications, and forts thereunto belonging; and he gives up the said propriety to be held and enjoyed absolutely with all manner of right for ever, without any exception or impediment whatsoever.

Crew of the HMS Wasp who demolished O’Hara’s Tower (O’Hara’s Folly)

  • New Statesman has an article describing the history behind the legends that tie the presence of the famous Barbary macaques to British control of the Rock
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Photo of a “Barbary Ape” over Gibraltar by user kanu101 on Flickr

  • We spoke about the unusual airport that spans Gibraltar’s entire border with Spain and crosses the main street; there is a video on YouTube which shows the airport from above and a plane taking off from its short runway

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

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