January 19, 2014: Waging War Against Whalers, Paragliding Above Pakistan and More

Hernan Pitocco soars high above the Karakoram Mountain Range in northern Pakistan. Adventure photographer Krystle Wright flew in a tandem paraglider to capture photos, but a scary crash on take off ended her expedition. (photo by Krystle Wright)
Hernan Pitocco soars high above Pakistan’s Karakoram Mountain Range. Adventure photographer Krystle Wright flew in a tandem paraglider to capture photos, but a scary crash on take off ended her expedition. (photo by Krystle Wright)

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

– Mountains can be haunting for their beauty and the dangers they hold for to those who attempt to climb them. National Geographic climber and writer Mark Synnot knows that they can also haunt those who fail to make the summit. Mark tells Boyd about his attempts to climb Pakistan’s 21,600 foot Trango Towers. He and a team made it to the top in 1999, but they quickly noticed a 15-foot dome of rock, covered in ice that represented the true summit. Lacking proper ice gear, they were unable to claim the summit, which Synnot says he still thinks about. He shares his secrets of making successful summits and, more often, not making successful summits, but accepting that and descending safely. Listen here.

– Many nations around the world agreed in 1982 that they should no longer kill whales for meat. But three nations still regularly do so, citing a long history of whaling as a part of their cultural heritage: Iceland, Norway and Japan harvest up to 2,000 whales per year. In order to try to protect whales and frustrate Japanese whaling ships, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society sails the Southern Ocean, throwing smoke bombs and slippery powder aboard the large 425 foot factory whaling ship, Nisshin Maru, hoping to harass and prevent them from killing whales. Laurens de Groot served on the Sea Shepherd and shares his experiences riding the frigid Antarctic waters in his new book Hunting the Hunters: At War With the Whalers. Listen here.

– Many impoverished nations don’t have enough work for all of its citizens to feed, clothe and house their families. People in these countries are sometimes forced to leave their homes and work abroad, sending money back for relatives or children who can’t make the journey. Migrant workers find their way to richer nations whose populace don’t want to perform certain types of labor, which are often physical, uncomfortable or dangerous. Cynthia Gorney examines this issue in the oil rich United Arab Emirates in the January 2014 issue of National Geographic magazine, but is quick to point out this is not a phenomenon unique to UAE; the United States benefits from many migrant workers as well. Listen here.

– Since humans have had the power to kill bacteria, the general assumption has been that the fewer of the bugs on our body and in our system, the better. But microbiologist and professor Jonathan Eisen says this isn’t always the case: most micro-organisms are beneficial or harmless. He even goes as far as saying that the dirtier someone is, “the more microbes you get exposed to, and the healthier your immune system seems to be.” He also explains how probiotics help maintain health, and some pets have a disgusting habit that could be done in the search of bacteria to soothe the intestines. Listen here.

– National Geographic research librarian Maggie Turqman returns to share some historical happenings that fell on January 18th and 19th for This Weekend in History, including why the United States government banned sliced bread during World War II. Listen here.

Hour 2

– Explorers gain fame by climbing dangerous mountains or exploring remote regions and sharing their photos and videos with the public. But in order to share their adventures, a photographer must join the team to document everything that happened. Andadventure photographer Krystle Wright has made a living by BASE jumping on Baffin Island, kayaking Russia’s Far East, and, once, playing elephant polo, and sharing her images with the world. But photographing adventures isn’t without risk: Wright was paragliding in Pakistan when her copilot slipped on takeoff and planted her face-first into a boulder. She lived to take the photos, and has the scars to show off today. Listen here.

– Afghanistan has been much invaded, but never subdued. The Soviet Union occupied the it in the 1980’s, the Taliban held much of the country in the late 1990’s, and the United States and its allies have been fighting there since 2001. Robert Nickelsberg has been photographing Afghanistan for the past 25 years and he says that the people have learned to put the past behind them, and appreciate the present without putting too much certainty into their thoughts about the future. His new book, Afghanistan A Distant War is on sale now. Listen here.

Lionfish are taking over Caribbean reefs. Young Explorer Erin Spencer studies the fish and discusses ways to limit their growth - including human consumption.
Lionfish are taking over Caribbean reefs. Young Explorer Erin Spencer studies the fish and discusses ways to limit their growth – including human consumption.

– Most conservation programs focus on preserving animals and their natural habitats. But occasionally, in order to save a habitat, an invasive animal has to be eradicated. National Geographic Young Explorer Erin Spencer tells of the devastating impact lionfish, a beautiful but poisonous native of the Indian and South Pacific Oceans, has had in Florida and the Caribbean. In Florida, there have been many efforts to eradicate the fish that are eating nearly any animal from Caribbean reefs that they can fit in their mouths. Listen here.

– History is most familiar with the civilizations that left the greatest monuments to be excavated and explored: the Egyptians and the Incas, with their beautiful ruins, gained the most attention. But recent archaeological theories have put other societies that left very little evidence into a potentially crowded Amazon River Basin. National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis says that early European expeditions to the area put up to 10 million people in the area whose buildings tools were made of wood and other organic matter that has decomposed without a trace over the centuries. Listen here.

– In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd shares a story of very close encounters with sperm whales in Mexico’s Gulf of California and wonders why anybody would want to kill such a magnificent creature. 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.