February 9, 2014: Cycling and Climbing Through a Sufferfest, Surviving a Traumatic Brain Injury and More

This map retraces the “Endurance” expedition of Ernest Shackleton, nearly 100 years ago. We spoke with Tim Jarvis, who recreated the expedition in Shackleton’s period clothing. Jarvis shares his very cold, very wet journey. (photo by Laszlo Kubinyi)

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

– Cedar Wright and Alex Honnold set out on what they thought would be an easy three week, 750-mile bike ride and mountain climb adventure. But their “Type 2” fun turned into a complete Sufferfest, which turned out to be the name of the film that Wright made of their adventure. They rode from Mount Shasta south to Mount Langley, climbing a 15 of California’s 14,000-foot mountains. Wright shares their most suffer-worthy moments in his conversation with Boyd. The film can be watched in episodes on EpicTV. Listen here.

– When Kevin Pearce fell and knocked himself unconscious on the snowboard halfpipe while training to go to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, he never could know how much his life had changed in an instant. He spent 10 days in a coma, after which he had to re-learn to walk, talk and other basic functions. His family and friends were shocked when he started talking about getting back to snowboarding. His recovery is captured in the film The Crash Reel. Pearce now raises awareness of brain trauma as an injury comparable to a broken leg, rather than a simple bruise that can be overcome with grit or determination. Listen here.

– Australia is a country that so many people associate with the animals that make it their home, including kangaroos, koalas, sharks and crocodiles, not to mention the Great Barrier Reef that sustains so much sea life and ecotourism. But recently the government of Australia has been making decisions that leave many Australians puzzled. They recently decided to dredge a deep sea port that will endanger parts of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Abbot Point. And on the continent’s west coast, they have started culling sharks and crocodiles. Conservationist Bob Irwin discusses the threats to Australia’s ecosystems. Listen here.

– Many around the world have been captivated by the Mars Curiosity Rover, leaving tire tracks on a distant planet for the first time. But Matt Taylor works on a different space mission – one he says is even cooler than Curiosity. He helped the European Space Agency send Rosetta into space, which is a mission to land a probe on a comet traveling 25,200 miles an hour. As Taylor explains it, the space craft will “harpoon” the comet and reel itself in to gently “kiss” its surface and screwing into the rock. Taylor says Rosetta will help teach us about the ingredients present when the universe began. Listen here.

– David Braun, editor of National Geographic Daily News, shares stories of creatures with green blood, green bones and green internal tissue – and no, they aren’t aliens attacking the Rosetta spacecraft. Also, Braun talks about King Tut’s mummified penis. Listen here.

Hour 2

Tim Jarvis, wearing early 1900's period exploration gear, poses on South Georgia Island, while Chasing Shackleton's legacy. (photo by Paul Larsen)
Tim Jarvis, wearing early 1900’s period exploration gear, poses on South Georgia Island, while Chasing Shackleton’s legacy. (photo by Paul Larsen)

– Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 “Endurance” voyage was a feat of survival against the elements and the odds, after his ship was destroyed by Antarctica sea ice and he made a mad dash to South Georgia Island, in an effort to be rescued. Shackleton endured this trip in a small boat across the Southern Ocean because his life depended on it. But Tim Jarvis‘ life didn’t require that Shackleton’s trip be recreated. But once Jarvis and his crew sailed into the Antarctic waters wearing only the cotton clothing of Shackleton’s day, his life did depend on staying as dry as possible, and not falling into the water. Jarvis’ expedition was captured in the book, Chasing Shackleton and in a PBS documentary. Listen here.

– Despite as many as 70 million people descending on the confluence of three polluted rivers for Allahabad, India’s annual Kumbh Mela festival, people leave the crowds feeling restored and in better health than when they first arrived. Laura Spinney, author of “Karma of the Crowd,” in the February, 2014 issue of National Geographic magazine, tells Boyd that western medicine tends to not value the restorative benefits of communal living in the same way that Indian and Asian societies do, but the benefits are real and does impact our health positively. Listen here.

– Chest thumping and celebrating over the conquered rival has become so ubiquitous in sports that psychologist and judo coach, David Matsumoto began to wonder about the roots of these types of behaviors. He’s now a professor of psychology at San Francisco State University and now has found that this impulse to display dominance is common among all humans, even blind athletes who have never witnessed the phenomenon visually. Listen here.

– Nine Russian hikers were found dead high in the Ural Mountains in 1959. Their camp was found undisturbed; boots were stacked neatly by tent doors, clothes folded in an orderly manner and the only hint of trouble was knife cuts in the tents, which had been done from the inside. Their bodies were found a mile away, improperly clothed for the elements. Over fifty years later, Donnie Eichar has been engaged in a Sherlock Holmes-style, process of elimination investigation to what could have happened to the hikers and he doesn’t believe that the deaths were caused by either aliens or Soviet soldiers, which had been rumored for decades. He tells the story of the sad incident in his new book, Dead Mountain. Listen here.

– Inspired by Cedar Wright’s Sufferfest Boyd shares stories of his own slog through the Sahara desert, lugging his own supplies on blistered, skinless feet. It was, as Cedar Wright would put it, “Type 2 fun”. Listen here.

Human Journey

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.