January 12, 2014: Climbing Buildings, Hunting Poachers and More

Alex Honnold makes his way up Yosemite's El Capitan, without ropes or help from friends. Honnold plans to free solo Taipei 101, the world's 5th tallest building, this spring. (photo by Jimmy Chin/National Geographic)
Alex Honnold makes his way up Yosemite’s El Capitan, without ropes or help from friends. Honnold plans to free solo Taipei 101, the world’s 5th tallest building, this spring. (photo by Jimmy Chin/National Geographic)

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

– Alex Honnold has made a name for himself as a climber of international renown. Establishing himself as one of the world’s best young climbers with a daring free solo of Yosemite’s El Capitan peak, he’s now pursuing headlines on another continent. Honnold is developing plans to free-solo climb, without any ropes, Taiwan’s 1,670 foot tall Taipei 101, one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers. He tells Boyd that he regularly takes the elevator to the observation decks of tall buildings whenever he travels, but this time, he will use the building’s window sills as hand and foot holds and will reach the top floor under his own power. Listen here.

– Skiing’s roots are generally closely associated with the Swiss Alps and Scandinavian Peninsula, but another country claims to be home to the world’s first people to glide atop deep snow: China. The exact date of China’s first skiers is debatable, but Mark Jenkins tells Boyd that today, tribes in the Altay Mountains practice an ancient type of skiing that they use for traveling, hunting, and occasionally, getting air off jumps. His article, “On the Trail With the First Skiers,” appeared in the December, 2013 issue of National Geographic magazine. Listen here.

– Across the United States, millions of people buy pine trees from farms that they proudly decorate and display in their living rooms to celebrate Christmas, only to drag them to the curb once the New Year’s ball drops in Times Square. But the National Christmas Tree Association’s spokesperson Rick Dungey says that the trees don’t have to simply be dragged to a landfill. Many communities have recycling options so that the trees’ death can be used for good: they house birdsrestore beaches, and create energy to power homes. Dungey says that people should try to find out about recycling opportunities before the needles start to fall off. Listen here.

– Submarine travel is much like flying in an airplane: they’re cramped, they rely on recycled air, and they are flown by “pilots”. But unlike airplanes, once submarines are as far from sea-level as they can go, they act as a window to a world full of strange animal life. Submarine pilot and National Geographic Explorer Erika Bergman shares what life is like 2,100 feet under the sea off of Honduras’ Caribbean coast. Listen here.

– David Braun, editor of National Geographic Daily News, shares the re-discovery of the “Asian Unicorn,” the saola, which has been spotted in the wild for the first time in nearly 14 years. Listen here.

Hour 2

Damien Mander's organization helps train and obtain new equipment for park rangers on the front lines of the poachers' war on wildlife. (photo by Davina Jogi/IAPF)
Damien Mander’s organization helps train and obtain new equipment for park rangers on the front lines of the poachers’ war on wildlife. (photo by Davina Jogi/IAPF)

– Damien Mander is a former Australian military sniper who served 12 tours of duty in Iraq, protecting Australian diplomats, training Iraqi security forces and engaging in direct combat to stabilize the country. Since leaving the military, Mander has applied the skills he acquired in war to protect animals to start the International Anti-Poaching Foundation. He explains to Boyd that he sees the poaching epidemic as a “war on wildlife.” He now lives in South Africa, where he trains park rangers to track and engage poachers, and advocates for the protection of “high target species,” like elephants, rhinos and gorillas. Listen here.

– War veterans have discipline, courage and persistence, which help get them through conflicts, but also serve them in life after the fighting stops. Former Naval officer Lonnie Bedwell drew on all of these traits when he sought to become the first blind kayaker to descend the Grand Canyon’s rapids with only verbal assistance from Team River Runner‘s more experienced guides. Bedwell tells Boyd about the many hours of practice in a pond near his home, and what happens when he’s ejected from his kayak while descending the Grand Canyon’s largest rapids. Listen here.

– Animal lovers the world around rally around charismatic endangered animals like pandas, tigers and polar bears, devote much energy and resources trying to save a species that may be beyond saving. It’s a difficult question, but Christine Dell’Amore tells Boyd that there are some conservationists who would rather save ecologically important animals, because of the significant role they play in their environment’s health, rather than the fact that they look good on postage stamp. Listen here.

– Some of the world’s largest countries so strapped for resources, that they, and those that they do business with, are mortgaging their futures in order for an immediate payoff. In the National Geographic web series “Water Grabbers,” Fred Pearce explored the way that India, Saudi Arabia and others have spent their underground water stores in order to feed, clothe and power their countries. But series begs the question of how they will continue to do so in the future? Listen here.

– Boyd was recently riding a bus in northern Norway when it broke down. He had to stand outside in the cold Norwegian night and he couldn’t be happier. The reason: Aurora borealis. He tells the story of Norway’s northern lights in this week’s Wild Chronicles segment. 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.