The Antarctic Whale Hunters

Photo: A whale on the flensing plan at Grytviken, South Georgia, 1914-17 (Photo by Frank Hurley/Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge/Getty Images)

One of my favourite podcasts is Witness by the BBC World Service. In each episode they talk to people who were there at moments in history. There are some amazing stories in their archive. Each episode is an easy to digest twelve to fourteen minutes long.

In the latest episode Gibbie Fraser talks about his time on a whale catcher in the Antarctic in the 1950s and 60s.

Other episodes that stand out for me:

There are 2348 episodes in their archive, so something for all tastes.

Mind The Gap

Have you ever wondered who the voice behind “MIND THE GAP” is? Wonder no more. Phil Sayer was the voice actor who recorded this phrase and many other phrases used on the London Underground and other places in the UK.

While listening to a recent episode of Everything is Alive I heard an interview with Elinor Hamilton. She is a voice actor who can be heard in many train and underground stations in the UK. She told of the comfort she got hearing her late husband Phil announce arrivals and departures as she got off trains, but also her grief at finding out that a particular station had stopped using his voice.

It’s a lovely interview, and if you’ve ever taken public transport in London or possibly other cities in the UK I think you’ll like it too.

The Supernova in the East

The latest episode of Hardcore History is another amazing audio tour through history, even if Dan Carlin himself says he is unqualified and it might not be completely accurate. He’s a great story teller. This one covers the rise of Japan in the early twentieth century and beyond.

Dan’s coverage of the Manchurian Incident reminded me I have to re-read the Tintin story, “The Blue Lotus“. Hergé definitely applied his imagination when recounting how the train track was blown up but I’d never have known about that period of time if I had never read that book.

And similarly, I wouldn’t have known the railway track was barely damaged if I hadn’t listened to Hardcore History!

Mindbomb – the beginning of Greenpeace

I’m going through my backlog of podcasts and this episode of Undone stood out. It’s about the beginnings of Greenpeace when a group of people in their twenties sailed a boat around the Pacific Ocean hoping to confront a fleet of Soviet whalers.

Near the end of their supplies they heard Russian voices on the radio and spotted the ships. The rest is history but the story is fascinating.

While looking up “Greenpeace mindbomb” I came across this article about a movie on Greenpeace called “How to Change the World” which covers the same subject. Here’s the trailer:

Unfortunately the podcast Undone was cancelled after one season but I’ve downloaded the rest of the episodes and look forward to listening to them!

Go Listen to Ezra Klein

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When I find myself stopping a podcast a minute or so before the end because I want to be reminded to share it, I know I’ve found something that others will enjoy.

When I find that it happens more than once I know I should just write a blog post about the podcast and encourage anyone reading to go subscribe.

This happened recently with The Ezra Klein Show. I loved his interviews with Andrew Sullivan on his Catholic faith, why he gave up blogging and Donald Trump. There’s also the one with Arianna Huffington who talked about sleep, death and social media.

There was also the one a while back with Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, that did not turn out the way I thought it would.

Go listen, you (hopefully) won’t regret it!

Sounds of the Irish Smoking Ban

The Irish Smoking Ban

It’s hard to believe that smoking was banned in the workplace in Ireland in 2004. It was a huge change but very welcome (by most) and the best thing a Fianna Fail government ever did.

Listen to this Witness podcast on the subject here to be brought back eleven years.

Since the ban it became clear that a bunch of dancing sweaty people consuming alcohol are a smelly lot but the increased ventilation that some nightclubs have installed has helped. 🙂

Is it better to be fearful or fearless?

“It seems like such an odd bargain. If you have no fear, more terrible things will happen to you, but you don’t personally experience them as terrible. If you have a lot of fear, fewer bad things are likely to happen, but it’s very probable that your life is more painful to you. So is it better to be fearful or fearless? Which side of the continuum do you choose?”

Invisibilia

From NPR’s new podcast, Invisibilia, Fearless. A transcript is also available.

NPR’s Serial podcast was the hottest thing last year in the podcast world. People started listening to podcasts who had never done so before to follow the story. I hated it. They dragged things out and I got bored and unsubscribed after 3 or 4 episodes. Invisibilia is NPR back on form. It’ll blow your mind. Great show.

What’s Bill Gates up to now?

It’s still weird to me that Bill Gates is one of the good guys now. As head of Microsoft he was a ruthless business man who ran a monopoly that every Linux user despised. Since then Microsoft has faltered, or at least the computing arena has changed since the nineties and they’re still catching up.

Anyway, he and his wife now head the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that do amazing work combating disease and helping projects all over the world. For a taste of what they do here are two podcasts worth listening to:

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  • Bill Gates on the Nerdist Podcast. I loved hearing his anecdotes from the early days of computing but what was more interesting was hearing about the fight against polio.
  • Scientific American have a two part show here and here that I’m listening to now.