April 28, 2013: Wingsuit Flight Through Caves, Saving Polar Bears in the Arctic and More


Dr. Steven Amstrup, Chief Scientist for Polar Bears International, said some cubs are cuddly and friendly with researchers, while others are like a “chainsaw with fur,” and resist any attempts to be handled with their needle sharp teeth.
(Linda Drake/National Geographic My Shot)

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: 1317 – Air Date: April 28, 2013


If the budding sport of wingsuit flying can be equated to an arms race, then Alexander Polli has just conducted the first nuclear test. On a recent visit to Montserrat, Spain, he noticed a rock arch that appeared just big enough to fit through while flying at 150 miles per hour. After weeks of visualizing success and a few test runs, Polli successfully flew through the rock hole. But in the arms race scenario, Polli tells Boyd that landing without a parachute tantamount to victory in the cold war of winged human flight. Listen here.

Buried pirate treasure sounds like it belongs the realm of Peter Pan and fairy tales; but, Barry Clifford unearthed a bounty buried 30 feet under the sea floor. The pirate ship Whydah, originally built to participate in the Atlantic slave trade, was captured by Captain “Black Sam” Bellamy and sunk off of Cape Cod’s coast nearly 300 years ago. Clifford tells Boyd that the ship holds such a broad array of treasures because it was the 50th ship captured by Bellamy. Clifford’s recovered Whydah treasure are currently on exhibit at the National Geographic Museum. Listen here.

Great beaches, flavorful food and friendly, good looking locals would typically describe Brazil or a South Pacific island heaven. But most Americans would be surprised to hear Pamela Olson describe Palestine and her time in the Middle East in exactly these terms. She tells Boyd that life, when seen from the eyes of an Palestinian citizen, can be very difficult, but that shouldn’t dissuade others from visiting the region. Olson recaps her experiences in her new book, Fast Times in Palestine. Listen here.

African savanna grasslands cover an area half the size of the continental United States. But National Geographic Big Cats Initiative expert Stuart Pimm tells Boyd that this amount of space has been degraded to the point where they can’t support large predators like lions. Pimm’s recent lion census estimates that there are approximately 33,000 lions remaining in the wild, but the cats are nearly gone from West Africa. Listen here.

David Braun, editor of National Geographic’s Daily News, tells Boyd that despite our insistence on attempting to eradicate them, humans may be the source of the critters’ success. Our love of travel has helped the bugs diversify their genetics and allowed bedbugs from Europe to reproduce with the bugs in New York City. Listen here.


In kayaking, when a professional is breaking new ground, and pushing the limits of their body and equipment, it normally involves launching themselves off of an even higher waterfall than the last guy. But Ben Stookesberry and his team went to Hawaii and paddled around the base of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, which constantly flows lava into the sea. Stookesberry tells Boyd that he stopped before he felt that he might get a second degree burn from the lava heated water. Listen here.

In Emmanuel Vaughn Lee‘s new film, Elemental, tells the story of three environmental crusaders who seek to change the world that inspires them. Rajendra Singh pushes for a revolution in the way Indians relate to the Ganges River, Eriel Deranger fights development and oil exploitation in Canada’s Tar Sands that threatens her family’s health, and Jay Harman tries to invent a way out of global warming. Listen here.

Polar bears are animals that need the cold. Which is troublesome, considering the winter Arctic ice pack is at its sixth lowest level ever recorded.Steven AmstrupChief Scientist for Polar Bears International, tells Boyd that there is hope for the bears: with proper motivation, it’s possible to reverse global warming to the point of saving enough of the ice to allow the bears to continue hunting seals. Listen here.

The Peking to Paris Road Rally bills itself as an “Endurorace,” and author Dina Bennett confirms that the race takes stamina. She tells Boyd that a working knowledge on how to fix a 1940 Cadillac LaSalle as well as an ability to read maps and road signs in multiple alphabets. Despite the difficulties in navigating the highways from China to France, Bennett tells Boyd that once they arrived in France, they kept on driving all the way to Greece. Her new book, titled Peking to Paris: Life and Love on a Short Drive Around Half the World. Listen here.

Inspired by Ben Stookesberry’s lack of fear for lava, Boyd shares a story of his own visit to Kilauea’s volcano in this week’s Wild Chronicles segment. Listen here.

Human Journey

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.