October 6, 2013: Throwing Axes Like a Lumberjack, Wolves Feeding Grizzlies, and More

In Yellowstone National Park, the presence of wolves help keep the elk population down. Oregon State professor Bill Ripple finds that the elk hurt the growth of berries, which have a negative impact on the grizzly populations. (photo by Joel Sartore)
In Yellowstone National Park, the presence of wolves help keep the elk population down. Oregon State professor Bill Ripple finds that the elk hurt the growth of berries, which have a negative impact on grizzly populations. (photo by Joel Sartore)

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!

Hour 1

Kevin Vallely is an adventurer who has put himself through many hardships: he biked 1,200 miles through the Alaskan winter, skied the Iditarod trail and trekked to the South Pole in record time. On the surface, rowing a boat through the quickly thawing Northwest Passage seems fairly tame for his resume. But Mother Nature didn’t cooperate and left Kevin and his three teammates dodging large icebergs that threatened to crush their vessel. He tells Boyd about his time on the water and what he learned about the quickly changing landscape by spending time with locals in the Canadian Arctic. Listen here.

Humans have always learned a lot from birds. Mariners used them as an indication of land, miners used them as indications of deteriorated air quality, and, Nobel-prize winning immunologist Peter Doherty points out that there is even more we can learn from them. Dying crows in New York city warned about early signs of the West NIle virus and waterfowl often harbor potentially pandemic flu viruses. He describes how birds have provided early indication of new or spreading diseases in humans in his book, Their Fate is Our Fate: How Birds Foretell Threats to Our Health and Our World. Listen here.

In September, the Dallas Arboretum unveiled their newly renovated Children’s Adventure Garden, where $62 million created a world in which children could interact with a hands-on explanation of everything that they’re learning in their school science classes, from renewable energy to Arctic icepack. Maria Conroy, the Arboretum’s Vice President of Education and Research, tells Boyd that the motivation behind their displays is to not just show that something does happen, but help the children understand how it happens. Listen here.

On a recent trip to Croatia with friends, Boyd felt the itch for adventure. That’s when Mountain Travel Sobek guide Luka Poznic arranged for a kayaking and swimming adventure from Dubrovnik to Lokrum Island. In this interview, Luka shares all of what Dubrovnik has to offer and highly recommends spending a little time in nature in this place, perfect for a dream vacation. Listen here.

David Braun, editor of National Geographic Daily News<, returns to the show, sharing stories of the multiple clocks that regulate the lives of marine animals, panda breeding difficulties, and 400-million year old fish with a face that hints to our own roots. Listen here.

Hour 2

As wind and water erodes rocks over millions of years, so too do bones and fossils fall victim to geological forces and begin to break down. So it’s rare to find well-preserved, nearly complete skeletons that are millions of years old. But National Geographic Explorer in Residence Lee Berger has done just that. Outside of Johannesburg, South Africa, the paleoanthropologist has found at least six 2-million year old pre-human skeletons, along with “potential fossil skin,” that would allow him to understand whether or not the individuals were closer to humans or apes in their body hair, sweat glands, and also search for DNA. Listen here.

American ‘tall tale’ heroes like Paul Bunyan and John Henry performed hard working jobs that, by an accident of history, have been driven out of existence due to the development of machines that are more durable, cheaper and can do the job much faster. But unlike steel drivers, lumberjacks have held on, to an extent, through outdoors games competitions. Dave Jewett is a competitive lumberjack who throws axes, saws and chops through logs with amazing speed and accuracy. He shares some axe-handling tips with Boyd, but cautions would-be choppers to be sure to keep their toes clear of the axe. Listen here.

For all of the controversy that reintroducing wolves to National Park areas in the contiguous United States created, they have a surprising and positive impact on all of the environment around them. Bill Ripple, professor of Forest Ecosystems & Society at Oregon State University, describes a surprising health benefit that the park’s grizzly bear population received from the presence of wolves, despite the fact that they’re both apex predators who generally avoid each other, when given the option. Listen here.

National Geographic magazine’s photographers, for as talented as they are, need some inspiration every now and then. Sarah Leen, the magazine’s Director of Photography is just the person to give them that boost. She tells Boyd how she chose National Geographic’s 501 best photos for the “The Power of Photography: National Geographic 125 Years” exhibit at Los Angeles’ Annenberg Space for Photography and what she looks for in a photo when she’s choosing it for the magazine. Listen here.

In this Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd vents about the senseless killing of an African elephant for entertainment on a NBC sport-hunting show, while the animals are being illegally slaughtered by the dozen for their ivory. Listen 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.