July 21, 2013: Swimming From Cuba to Florida, Developing Deep Sea Diving Suits, and More

National Geographic Explorer Michael Lombardi tests his deep-water Exosuit in a pool before diving 1,000 feet into the ocean. (Photo courtesy of Michael Lombardi)
National Geographic Explorer Michael Lombardi tests his deep-water Exosuit in a pool before diving 1,000 feet into the ocean. (Photo courtesy of Michael Lombardi)

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 click the links after the descriptions below!

Episode: 1329 – Air Date: July 21


The Holy Grail in open-ocean long-distance swimming is that strip of water between Florida’s Keys and Cuba. Some have tried; none have yet succeeded. The Straits of Florida have unpredictable weather and strong currents. It’s also known to be home to sharks and, seasonally, jellyfish. But despite the many reasons why it seemingly can’t be swum, Chloe McCardel attempted the swim in June. She describes her ocean-swimming background and why she won’t do the swim again. Listen here.

Much can be learned from sitting back and just listening to the world. National Geographic Emerging Explorer Erin Pettit takes this attitude directly into her science, as she records glaciers and documents their retreat and sometimes dramatic collapses in Alaska. The glaciologist also explains what the sounds of ice melting can tell us about the past. Listen here.

Humans took a long time to come to our current, relatively hairless, upright form, which is much larger than that of our oldest ancestors. Few people are more aware of this than paleontologist Christopher Beard, who has found, and with the help of 3-D imaging technology, created a model of the incredibly well-preserved 55-million year old primate without removing the delicate fossil from the rock that encases it. Listen here.

The illegal wildlife trade has become so profitable, that the illegal sale and distribution of animals and their parts rake up an estimated $19 billion per year. International Fund for Animal Welfare’s Beth Allgood says that the trade brings in more money than art, gold and organ trafficking. Also, the trade has a toll that can be measured in human lives lost, with at least 1,000 forest rangers killed in the last decade trying to fight the poachers. Listen here.

Dan Gilgoff, Director of Digital News at National Geographic, tells Boyd people seeking to travel with their pets will have to follow some quirky rules, if they’re intending to travel abroad. Visitors to Egypt can’t bring birds, unless they’re live baby chickens in good health; European Union countries allow more than five pets, only if they’re headed to a competition; and New Zealand has many rules, including a dog quarantine and total snake ban. Listen here.


Mistreatment of indigenous peoples were a hallmark of the European colonial populations around the world. Like in the United States, European Australians forced the Aboriginal populations into schools designed to strip them of their cultural heritage, language and traditions and assimilate into the greater Australian population. Country singer Roger Knox, a native Australian whose mother was taken from her home as an eight month old, has become a well-known voice of the disenfranchised Aboriginals. His newest album, “Stranger in My Land,” is a classic protest album that laments the loss of a culture and identity for an entire population. (And the music is catchy.) Listen here.

How we perceive time can be a strange phenomenon. Many people, as they age, observe that years go by faster. When procrastinating, many people underestimate the amount of time it will take them to complete a task, and while waiting for a bus, just a few seconds can feel like many minutes. Author Claudia Hammond documents how people relate to seconds, minutes and hours in her book, Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time PerceptionListen here.

Because of the ocean’s crushing pressure at depth, divers who go down hundreds of feet have to spend a lot of time slowly ascending, to avoid becoming ill from decompression. For that reason, they’re not able to stay down as long as they may have hoped. But National Geographic explorer Michael Lombardi has spent a lot of time developing systems to increase the amount of time spent at depth, and will soon complete an open-ocean test of a pressurized suit that will keep him comfortable in the water over 1,000 feet down. Listen here.

Near the birth of our solar system, the planets still had a few things to work out. And approximately 3.8 billion years ago, Neptune and Uranus were forced into the path of a comet belt, which sent space shrapnel everywhere, including at Earth. Rob Irion, author of “It All Began in Chaos,” in the July, 2013 issue of National Geographic magazine, describes how the Earth absorbed many large chunks of asteroids and other planets that had been knocked loose and over time, included these rocks into its crust. Listen here.

In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd reflects on the impact that Elvis Presley had on our culture, but also on other countries, as Roger Knox has been called Australia’s “Black Elvis.” Boyd describes his run ins with “El Vez,” a Mexican Elvis character who was born of a cross between Charo and Elvis Presley. Listen here.


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Meet the Author
Gina Cook is an intern for the weekly radio program National Geographic Weekend. She is a graduate student studying multimedia journalism at the University of Missouri.