I hope you have had the chance to listen to one, several or all of the Podcast of Doom podcasts, because I think we have had an excellent start. Our first episode was the Great Peshtigo Fire. In 1871, a forest fire hit the small lumber and wood factory town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin. It happened following a summer of extreme drought and it was caused by a change in weather as well as numerous people setting fires that they presumed would burn out on their own. They were wrong and when winds of over 100 mph struck the town, the fire turned into a conflagration. More than 1,500 people were consumed by flames or died from asphyxiation or by getting trampled by panicked people and animals. The lucky and the unlucky all congregated at the Peshtigo River where many drowned, many were crushed and many were burned alive. Somehow a fortunate few did manage to survive.
Our second episode explored the Genocide in Rwanda that occurred in 1994. This was a tragic tale that revealed some of the unintended consequences of transitioning into a post-colonial society. Rwanda, a small but densely populated country in sub-Saharan Africa was populated for millennia. The two main ethnic groups, the Hutu and the Tutsis, had more or less lived peacefully side by side and amongst each other for hundreds of years. When the Belgians took control of the country they instituted a number of laws and practices that resulted in the divisions of the two groups and the deliberate advancement of one group over the other. Thirty years after the revolution that put the subordinate group in charge, civil war broke out and an atmosphere of death and genocide took place. As upwards of 800,000 people were brutally murdered the governments of the world stood by on the sidelines and watched it happen.
In our last episode, we looked at the remarkable story of the Man-Eating Tigress of Champawat, and the hunter who eventually brought her killing to an end, Jim Corbett. Corbett knew why tigers developed a taste for human flesh. The tiger he was charged with hunting had killed 200 people in Nepal before being chased into India. There the tiger would consume another 236 people. Villagers in the area were absolutely terrified by the tiger. In one village, the residents locked themselves inside their homes for five straight days without access to food or water. If Corbett had not intervened, all would have perished. Corbett relates how he tracked the tiger based on information he received from eyewitnesses. He was able to locate the tiger’s trail by examining physical evidence and assemble a hunting party that nearly ruined the entire expedition. Eventually, he corners the tiger in a steep gorge. When Corbett runs out of ammunition he must use all of his cunning and resources to stay one step ahead of the tiger.
In our next two episodes we will look at the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during World War II and the worst aviation disaster of all time, the air crash at Tenerife.