The Podcast of Doom is a study in human behavior—human behavior on a grand scale. In this podcast I will explore moments of monumental, epic failure. I will look at how people behave in life-threatening situations and times of complete, utter despair and hopelessness. I will examine the good decisions, the bad decisions, the lack of proper planning, the moments of enormous hubris, the acts of sensational heroism and some hallmark instances of incredible misfortune. This is a podcast about mistakes. The Podcast of Doom will be about some of the biggest mistakes ever made and the horrendous consequences that followed. As you can imagine from the title, episodes in this podcast will have no happy endings. The central characters in each episode will meet painful, harrowing, untimely demises. This is a podcast about bad things happening to good people and bad things happening to bad people.
Episode 31 - Lake Nyos - Carbon Dioxide Suffocation, 1986
On August 21, 1986, a giant cloud of carbon dioxide rose from Lake Nyos in Cameroon, Africa. Three hundred-thousand tons of toxic fumes poured over the lip of the lake and into two valleys down below. As the cloud filtered down it displaced all of the air in its wake. Sixteen miles away it settled into the villages of Cha, Nyos and Subum killing some 1,700 people. It was a completely natural disaster with no human actions or developments playing any part in the tragedy. It was the first known large-scale asphyxiation caused by a natural event.
Episode 32 - The Ancash Earthquake and Avalanche, 1970
On May 31, 1970, an enormous underwater earthquake struck 16 miles off the coast of Peru. It had a magnitude of 7.9 on the Richter scale. An area larger than the Netherlands and Belgium combined was affected by the quake, causing billions of dollars in damages to buildings and infrastructure, and leaving millions of people homeless. The earthquake also triggered an avalanche from nearby Mount Huascarán. Eighty million cubic meters of rock, ice and snow slid down the side of the mountain and buried the towns of Yungay and Ranrahirca. Nearly 70,000 people died in Peru’s worst natural disaster and the world’s most fatal avalanche hit.
Episode 33 - European and Russian Heatwaves, 2003 and 2010
In the summer of 2003, a change in global sea temperatures and abnormal conditions in the tropics, particularly in the tropical area of the Indian Ocean helped to create sustained, settled air conditions over Europe thousands of miles away. The air remained stagnant and winds were practically nonexistent. The stagnant air coupled with unrelenting heat created conditions which killed anywhere from 30,000 to 70,000 people during the heat wave event.
Just seven years later a heatwave even more severe hit the heartland of Russia. The heatwaves felt all over the northern hemisphere that year were part of an El Nino / La Nina cycle, with the La Nina event being the strongest on record. Anticyclones or high-pressure areas formed throughout the northern hemisphere from April to October of that year. In Moscow the temperature reached over 100 degree Fahrenheit - the hottest recorded temperature in 140 years. Like the earlier heat wave in western Europe, the heat and associated wildfires would cause tens of thousands of deaths.
Episode 34 - Bar Kokhba Revolt, 132 - 136
When the ancient Romans attempted to establish a colony in Judea during the first century of the modern era, they touched off violent rebellions from the native Jewish residents. These violent wars between the Jews and the Romans led to the deaths of thousands of people. In the year 132, Simon Bar Kokhba led a third and final revolt. A heavy Roman presence, implementation of harsher laws, economic upheaval and disrespect for the Jewish faith were some of the main causes of the revolt. After a number of initial rebel victories, Emperor Hadrian called in his general Sextus Severus to lead an immense Roman army assembled from every corner of the empire to deal with the Jewish rebels. The war led to the deaths of more than a half a million Jews. In an attempt to erase the memory of Judea and Israel, Hadrian renamed the colony Syria Palaestina and changed its capital from Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina.
Episode 35 - MOVE and the Branch Davidian Government Crackdowns, 1985 and 1993
Vincent Leaphart was a former Korean War veteran who held a grudge against the US government. He changed his name to John Africa and in 1972 founded the black liberation group known as MOVE. Functionally illiterate, John Africa dictated his manifesto, The Guideline, to a close associate. Soon he gained a number of followers, mostly African-American, who wore their hair in dreadlocks, took “Africa” as their surnames, followed a vegan diet, and advocated a return to a hunter-gatherer society. In 1978, Philadelphia police officers raided the house where MOVE members were living. A shootout erupted ending in the death of one officer, with injuries to seven others. In 1985, police attempted to enter a second MOVE residence. When gunfire broke out this time, the city police commissioner ordered two C4 explosive devices to be dropped on the house right in the middle of a densely populated residential neighborhood.
David Koresh was a powerful figure in the Davidians, a Seventh-Day Adventist splinter group. When their founder, Benjamin Roden died he named his wife Lois as his successor. Koresh had an affair with Lois, and when she passed away, a power struggle broke out between Koresh and the Roden’s son, George. A heavily armed band of Koresh and his followers attempted to raid Roden’s commune, but were captured by local police. There were no convictions, but the followers of Koresh continued to stockpile arms and weapons. In 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives raided Koresh’s ranch in Waco, Texas. A gun battle between the ATF and the Branch Davidians ended with the deaths of four agents and six of Koresh’s followers. Two months later, the FBI attempted to raid the compound again. During the raid, tear gas was launched into the domicile where the Davidians were holed up. There were 98 men, women and children inside the building when it exploded into flames.