December 8, 2013: Discovering Record Setting Remains, Climbing Antarctic Peaks and More

National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Mike Libecki takes a break from climbing in Antarctica. He tells Boyd why he prefers cold adventures – his answer includes hot chocolate. (photo by Cory Richards)

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

– American and Russian spies in the Cold War mastered the art of hiding in plain sight. It was with this in mind that National Geographic Explorer in Residence Lee Berger decided to go back and check some of the most explored ground on earth for fossils of ancient hominid remains. And, to his surprise and delight, he found a trove of ancient bones hidden deep inside a crevasse with a seven inch wide mouth. He tells Boyd about how he found a team of tiny cavers and archaeologists who acted as his eyes and ears while excavating in such a tight location. Listen here.

In part two of the interview, paleoanthropologist Lee Berger explains the implications of finding such a rich den of fossilized pre-humans while refusing to speculate about the age or provenance of the bones. Listen here.

– Bonobos live in a section of African jungle that falls within the boundaries of Democratic Republic of the Congo. The country is afflicted with an ongoing war with rebels, similar to those that decimated crops and had both chimpanzees and bonobos killed for bushmeat in the recent past. In his new book, Empty Hands, Open Hearts Deni Béchard highlights the conservation efforts of the Bonobo Conservation Initiative to endow locals with an ecotourism economy that will help save the great apes that call the region home. Listen here.

– History books, with their attention to fact and disinterested language, often fail to convey the true horrors of war. Journalist and cartoonist Joe Sacco wasn’t interested in writing that type of history book. In his book, The Great War: July 1, 1916 he maintained a journalistic indifference, but portrayed the devastation of the first day of The Battle of Somme, as it would have been seen from above. His 24-foot pen-and-ink drawings show young men leave their camps optimistic, and those who returned did so broken. Listen here.

David Braun, editor of National Geographic Daily News, celebrates Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year, “selfie,” or a photo taken by oneself, by sharing tips from National Geographic Photographers, who often take selfies in exotic locations. Listen here.

Hour 2

Mike Libecki was one of National Geographic’s candidates for “Adventurer of the Year” in 2013, and it’s easy to understand why: the experienced mountaineer led expeditions from places as disparate as Antarctica and the Philippines. Libecki is also a father. He tells Boyd what it’s like to raise a child as a risk-taker, and how he handles his daughter wanting to follow in his footsteps, across frozen continents and through lush jungles. Listen here.

– Climbers and mountaineers view risk-taking as a necessary part of pushing the boundaries of possibility; they often speak about managing risk and danger. But mountains are often unpredictable. Susan Oakey-Baker is the widow of Jim Haberl who died in an avalanche while on the mountain. Her new book, Finding Jim, describes her emotional journey, that included her facing the mountain that claimed her husband. Listen here.

– One of the most iconic images of the American West is the tumbleweed rolling down a dusty road of an abandoned boomtown. The issue with that image, photographers Diane Cook and Len Jenshel point out, is that the “American tumbleweed” is an invasive species from Russia. Their photos appear in the December, 2013 issue of National Geographic magazine, where they help tell the story of the weed’s own version of Manifest Destiny. Listen here.

– In what sounds like an apocalyptic scenario, the collision of galaxies can be a fairly mundane event, says National Geographic Emerging Explorer Brendan Mullan, at least from millions of miles away. He tells Boyd that the coexistence of galaxies can be harmonious because they’re mostly empty space. The astrobiologist hails the study of stars and planets as an accessible “gateway drug” to science, and he also breaks the news to Boyd that getting a PhD is tougher than it sounds. Listen here.

– In this week’s “Wild Chronicles” segment, Boyd laments the swift decline in elephant numbers, with fresh figures coming out of Africa in this week’s news. 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.