June 23, 2013: Brokering Peace for Elephants, Surfing Down the Baja Coast, and More

National Geographic explorers Justin DeShields and Bryan Morales walked, paddled and surfed 1,000 miles from San Diego to the tip of Mexico’s Baja California. (Photo by Willy Forsyth)


Many rebel armies struggle for international recognition and money, in stark contrast to the well-funded government forces they oppose. In Africa, some such groups see wildlife as walking dollar signs, and poach elephants and rhinos to sell their ivory and horns abroad for cash. National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Mike Fay has made a career of protecting those animals, particularly in Gabon and Central African Republic, even when it calls him to fly into rebel-held forests to negotiate with the army leaders. Listen here.

Mexico’s Baja California peninsula is a dry desert surrounded by water. Because all that water is salt water, National Geographic explorer Justin DeShields had to carry up to fifteen pounds of the fresh stuff in order to survive his 1,000-mile expedition. DeShields and his childhood friend walked, paddleboarded and, occasionally, surfed their way down the remote Mexican coast in search of a connection between the wilderness they found there and the urban sprawl they grew up with in nearby California. Listen here.

Following Ancient Egypt’s peak of strength, it was overrun by the Nubian civilization to the South. This ushered in a time when “Black Pharaohs” ruled Egypt. National Geographic grantee Michele Buzon tells Boyd that rather than dismantling Egyptian society and replacing it with their culture, the Nubians learned from it and incorporated many Egyptian traditions into their own. Listen here.

Problem solving is an important life-skill for anyone, but especially for climbers clinging to rock faces without any ropes. Boyd met climber Mitodi Chilimanov on a recent trip to Macedonia, where he learned about a “bouldering marathon,” where climbers develop these skills without putting their lives on the line. Listen here.

In his first segment with the show, Dan Gilgoff, Director of Digital News at National Geographic, tells Boyd that the Philippines plans to crush five tons of ivory to make sure it stays out of circulation in a country that craves elephant tusks for the creation of religious icons. Listen here.


Charles Baird decided to take a break from life and spend some time alone. Rather than taking a beach vacation, he spent the winter roughing it on Alaska’s Latouche Island in a hut he made. Chuck said he was inspired by Alaskan Pioneers who would have endured similarly long, arduous winters. He passed the time shoveling, growing his 5-inch beard, and trying to enjoy what little sunlight he had throughout the long dark days. Listen here.

There is a large difference between those who take risks and those who seek adrenaline. Peter Gwin writes about “The Mystery of Risk,” in the June, 2013 issue of National Geographic magazine and tells Boyd that many people who enter dangerous situations for the sake of advancing knowledge often see themselves not as welcoming risk, but as carefully managing it. Listen here.

On the East Coast of the United States, train travel is often only a way for suburban commuters to get into the city without driving through heavy traffic. But in Europe, train travel is a way of life. Annie Fitzsimmons, National Geographic’s Urban Insider, tells Boyd about her favorite way to travel Europe and how the culture of train travel varies from country to country. Listen here.

The Chilean government is looking to develop its country’s energy infrastructure and has begun to look for answers in hydroelectric power. The catch: they want to dam beautiful, wild rivers in the Patagonia region. James Q. Martin has been documenting the reaction to the government’s plans in a series of films that focus on the beauty of the river (in his Rios Libres series), as well as anti-dam protests (in the film Streams of Consequence)Listen here.

In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd reflects on the time he spent with Mike Fay on his Megatransect walk through the Congo Basin and Gabon. He was particularly taken by how Mike would never detour around swamps deep in Africa’s forests – he would simply walk right through them. Listen here.

Changing Planet

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.