April 7, 2013: Cycling to the South Pole, Swimming With Manatees and More

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, or pick your favorite segments and listen now below!

Episode: 1313 – Air Date: April 7, 2013


Manatees take to Florida’s warm rivers during the winter months. But here, they don’t always find the peace they crave – humans love to interact with the slow marine mammal. (Photo by Wes C. Skiles / National Geographic)

As fewer mountains remain unclimbed and “extreme” adventures becoming more difficult and dangerous, people drawn to these quests have to get creative in their expeditions of choice. Cold-weather adventurer and avid bicycler Eric Larsen joined two of his loves and decided to ride a fat-tired cycle 750 miles from Hercules Inlet to the geographic South Pole. The riding proved nearly impossible, as his bike regularly punctured the hard snow crust, but Larsen still set an Antarctic record, riding 335 miles. Listen here.

Australia has had a long and rich geological history. In NOVA’s special Australia’s First Four Billion Years, which will air on PBS in April, Dr. Richard Smith helps outline the country’s longtime partnership with Antarctica. He tells Boyd that they split up just 35 million years ago, which is very recent in continent time. The country’s isolation lent it some very unique dinosaurs, one of which was particularly ferocious and had “claws the size of bananas.” Listen here.

Green roofs are a conservation concept that big buildings are beginning to adopt. The theory goes that the building will be better insulated and will capture more rain, slowing the water cycle with plants on the roof. But National Geographic grantee botanist Clark DeLong has been researching the use of local plants that don’t require much upkeep, as the best to install on roofs. He tells Boyd that hardy, but local, plants are the best choices to put on a roof, so they have a greater connection to the rest of the local ecosystem. Listen here.

Police K-9 units require a very specific temperament and personality type — and that’s just for the police officer. Dan Parker is the head of police training at Vohne Liche Kennels, and is featured in National Geographic Wild’s Alpha Dogs. He tells Boyd that police dogs are much easier to train than their human partners. The dogs are just playing and provided that they get proper attention and reward for their drug finds and bomb discoveries, they’re just happy to be part of the team. Listen here.

David Braun, editor of National Geographic Daily News, shares stories of animals who use light creatively: carnivorous plants who use ultraviolet light to attract bugs and small sharks who use light to ward off predators. Listen here.


Elephants are loved for their expressive eyes and their social family structures. The African pachyderms that have been under assault for their prized ivory tusks also are intelligent and sensitive enough to understand the loss of one of their herd, says National Geographic Explorer Joyce Poole. She tells Boyd that years ago, she watched an elephant die of natural causes. Several members of the elephant’s herd tried to revive her for an hour, but kept returning to the body. Once park rangers removed the deceased elephant’s tusks, Poole says that the herd members were focused on the tusk wound, and kept smelling and touching it. Poole, who runs the ElephantVoices, suspects elephants understand the threat that humans pose to them. Listen here.

The 1960’s and 70’s were a time when protest created a lot of change in the United States. Civil rights and anti-war protests were the hallmark of a generation that created a lot of social change. It was the moment of social awareness that birthed the environmental movement. Mark Kitchell, director of “A Fierce Green Fire,” documents the history of the green movement in his film, by explaining the context of green radicals like Sea Shepherd’s Paul Watson and green politicians like Senator Gaylord Nelson for helping create Earth Day and the E.P.A. Listen here.

Longtime National Geographic photographer Annie Griffiths tells Boyd about her project, Ripple Effect Images, that helps document the impact of climate change and water issues on women in the developing world. She sells the images to raise money and awareness of how climate impacts those with the fewest resources and the smallest voices. Listen here.

When an endangered species begins to thrive in a certain area, that should be the cause of celebration. But in Kings Bay, Florida, the celebration is becoming problematic for the local manatee populations, that use the warm waters to survive the winters. The waters are becoming crowded with tourists who flock to the region to swim and kayak among the slow-moving marine mammals. But Mel White, author of When Push Comes to Shove,” in the April, 2013 issue of National Geographic magazine, says that the numbers and excitement levels of tourists often disturb the manatees who are just trying to survive. White also says that although the animals are thriving in certain areas, their numbers are still delicate: recently, 200 manatees died due to red tide algal blooms. Listen here.

In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd shares his own experiences with marine mammals. Years ago, he visited the Weeki Wachee Springs Mermaid Show, where air hoses have been installed in a natural spring to simulate mermaids, where they perform for crowds. Listen here.


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.