July 29, 2012: Adventures of “Jungle” Jack Hanna, Forest Fires Threaten Homes, and More

People love to live away from the city's hustle and in the quietude of nature. The problem with that, is forests have to burn to ensure their ongoing health. Michael Kodas discusses the property and human cost to bigger forest fires. (photo by Mark Thiessen)
People love to live away from the city’s hustle and in the quietude of nature. The problem with that, is forests have to burn to ensure their ongoing health. Michael Kodas discusses the property and human cost to bigger forest fires. (photo by Mark Thiessen)

Every week, embark with host Boyd Matson on an exploration of the latest discoveries and interviews with some of the most fascinating people on the planet, on National Geographic Weekend.

Please check listings near you to find the best way to listen to National Geographic Weekend on radio, or listen below!


Television personalty and director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, “Jungle” Jack Hanna has met every type of predator across Africa, Asia and North America, but he tells Boyd that one of his most dangerous encounters was just miles from his home in Montana. He was hiking in Glacier National Park and came face-to-face with a mother grizzly bear and her two cubs. Spoiler alert: he lived to tell Boyd the story. Listen here.

Colorado’s forests are in crisis. After one of the driest springs on record, journalist and former firefighter Michael Kodas tells Boyd that Americans’ habit of living along the edge of the woods and preventing them from burning in a controlled way have let nearly a century of tinder to build up. In some areas, that could lead to record breaking and catastrophic fires. But in others, it simply hurts the health of the trees and animals that call the forests home. Listen here.

Summer is the perfect season to hit the road, take your time, and get to know your state. Jamie Jensen, author of Road Trip USA: Cross-Country Adventures on America’s Two-Lane Highways, highlights his favorite destinations. This week, he tells Boyd about The Enchanted Highway, a stretch of road near Regent, North Dakota, dotted with some of the world’s tallest metal sculptures. Listen here.

Not all treasures are universally valued. Deborah Carlson, National Geographic grantee and President of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology, spends many days diving in the Aegean Sea hunting for treasures. But the things she hopes to find are from Bronze Age wooden ships that mostly have decomposed. She is able to find out much about the ships from a small piece of biological material, like wood, that may be revealing about the ship’s cargo or workers. Listen here.

David Braun, editor of National Geographic Daily News, brings stories of monsters, this week: 700 years ago in Bulgaria, a body was dismembered, with a stake driven through the heart. This would-be vampire also had its teeth removed, just to ensure it wouldn’t be able to drink blood on its return to life. Listen here.


One of the new threats facing southern Africa’s big cats is also an old one. National Geographic Explorers-in-ResidenceDereck and Beverley Joubert, tells Boyd that the fashion industry is looking for an edgy new trend — and they’re returning to furs. Although Botswana has banned all hunting inside its borders, the Jouberts say that there are only 50,000 leopards left and that a few thousand are being poached yearly. They also chat about their new movie, The Unlikely Leopard, about a cat that may have become a bit too comfortable letting his mother provide for him. Listen here.

The result of NASA’s most ambitious project yet will finally come to fruition on August 5. Washington Post space reporter and author of National Geographic’s e-short, Mars Landing 2012: Inside the NASA Curiosity Mission, Marc Kaufman says that  the Curiosity rover won’t be looking for life, but rather indications that life may once have existed there. It will attempt to come to a halt after approaching the red planet at 13,000 miles per hour. The stakes are high for NASA, as the mission’s $2.5 billion price tag could dictate the value of future space outreach to the government writing the checks. Listen here.

There is much more to New Orleans than music festivals and Mardi Gras. Caroline Gerdes, one of National Geographic’s Young Explorer Grantees, speaks with the city’s Ninth Ward residents to hear their stories first-hand before they disappear forever. Gerdes shares with Boyd why red beans and rice are a Monday meal, why New Orleans residents don’t sound particularly Southern to outside ears, and the best places to hear live music. Listen here.

In societies around the world, language is closely connected with culture. Through language, it becomes easy to understand what is important to people, as well as providing a different world view than that of another culture. Russ Rymer, author of Vanishing Voices in July, 2012’s issue of National Geographic magazine, tells Boyd that native peoples, due to their closeness with plants and animals, often have words for species unknown to Western science. Listen here.

In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd tells about his recent trip to Montana with the National Geographic Kids magazine essay contest winners and the importance of good water fighting abilitiesListen here.


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Meet the Author
Justin O'Neill produces the weekly radio program National Geographic Weekend with host Boyd Matson. Check it out on on SiriusXM satellite radio (XM channel 133 Sundays at noon), subscribe to the iTunes podcast, or stream it directly to your smartphone with Stitcher Radio.