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February 23, 2014: Cycling to the South Pole, Saving India’s Killer Tigers and More

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 – The balmiest of days in Antarctica would...

Tigers rarely kill people for food. The vast majority, including the recent spell of human deaths from tigers in India, are accidents that happen when humans try to attack the cats. (photo by Michael Nichols/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

– The balmiest of days in Antarctica would rival the bitterest winter temperatures in much of the United States, but Daniel Burton celebrated the Austral summer by riding a fat-tire bike from the Antarctic coast uphill, in a stiff headwind 730 miles to the pole. He tells Boyd that one of the biggest challenges of his record-setting expedition was staying dry while riding. Burton wasn’t able to take breaks because if his body temperature lowered his sweaty clothes would freeze, and setting up his camp took too long to do more than once each day. Listen here.

– Sounds are something that everybody encounters nearly constantly, but few people stop and ponder the way an audio engineer might. Trevor Cox wrote The Sound Book, drawing attention to our appetite for audio, as well as what he refers to as “the sonic wonders of the world.” Cox highlights Virginia’s Luray Caverns, which is home to a “Stalacpipe Organ,” and a grooved highway that plays The William Tell Overture when driven upon as unique celebrations to sound that also might help get his audience pondering the audio they encounter each day. Listen here.
– For many Americans, gold rushes are relegated to California’s 19th century history books, but Tom Clynes says that one is quietly happening right now in Canada’s Yukon Territory. With so much wealth at their disposal, the Yukon’s government is reconsidering their land use agreement with local native tribes that originally pledged as much as 80 percent of the Peel watershed region set aside for conservation. The government is now defining “preserve” as a distinctly less-than-pristine natural wilderness, but Clynes remains optimistic that conservation groups can win some victories in the name of nature. Clynes further explains the issue in National Geographic‘s February, 2014 issue. Listen here.
– Snowy owls have escaped from their home in the boreal wilderness, colonizing huge chunks of North American terrain where they’re traditionally unseen, including Bermuda, Florida and Hawaii. Scientists are uncertain what causes these “irruptions,” but Mass Audubon‘s Henry Tepper suspects it has something to do with food availability.

In the second half of the segment, one of the snowy owl explorers found its way to Washington D.C.’s McPherson Square, where it was hit by a bus and then a SUV. The owl was recovered by D.C.’s City Wildlife, where it was treated for minor injuries. City Wildlife’s Paula Goldberg explains that the owl is now at an outdoor sanctuary, but suspects it won’t be re-released to the wild. Listen here.
– Conservation remote locales is often left to those who take it upon themselves to monitor a region’s wild plants and animals. To this end, National Geographic Emerging Explorer Erika Cuellar trains residents of Bolivia’s Gran Chaco region as biologists, who are trained in conservation techniques and then act as guides and naturalists who can advocate for the region’s protection. Listen here.
Hour 2
– Bryan Brown is a man with impeccably high standards for himself. When he was working on his 2,400 mile kayaking descent of the Green and Colorado Rivers, his rule was that if he were to swim out of his kayak during one of the five stretches of Class III, IV or V whitewater rapids, he would have to unload its 62 pounds of survival gear, carry it back upstream and try the rapid again. While this routine may be exhausting, he feels it was the only way he could satisfy his urge to actually paddle the entire length of the rivers. In order to supply his 100-day unsupported journey, Brown tells Boyd that he would often hitchhike to the nearest town for a grocery store run, and hitch a ride back to where he left his kayak on the river.  Listen here.
– National Geographic photographers have jobs that are perceived as glamorous, but Charlie Hamilton James‘ story might be considered cautionary for anybody who is pondering the profession: after going on several tropical shoots, including some to the Amazon River, he found that a bot fly had made James’ head a home. He tried to allow the fly to mature, but the parasite’s feeding on his head-tissue became too painful and he had to remove it. James was also infected with leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease that is considered curable, but unprofitable for large drug companies to develop better medications for. James shares his “Disgusting Disease Diaries” with Boyd. Listen here.
– Tigers have killed seventeen people in India dating back to late 2013, but biologist Ullas Karanth would call it a misnomer to say that the endangered cats are “man-eaters.” Karanth tells Boyd that hundreds of thousands of India’s 1.2 billion people have made their home in traditional tiger habitats and live in close proximity with them. When tigers emerge from the forest, people often harass and try to chase them away, often leading to human fatalities. But he does say that since tigers reproduce fairly rapidly, it’s important not to value one tiger’s life over the protection of the rest of the species, so if one animal insists on killing humans, it must be put down. Listen here.
– Most conservationists spend the largest portion of their budget on expensive cameras and GPS tags to track animals. But Cagan Sekercioglu, a National Geographic explorer, had to lure his animals in before he could collar them. He spent a large portion on his budget on dead sheep, “but fresh, like from the butcher,” he explains to Boyd. Once he lures the bear with his sheep steaks, he’s able to collar them and monitor their positions for two years before the collars fall off. He estimates that Turkey has as many as 3,000 bears living in remote sections of forest. Listen here.
– In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd reflects that much exploration spent in the pursuit of one area yields results in another. For example, while he was in the Congo with explorer Mike Fay looking for elephants, he first found parasites burrowing into his legs. Then they also found elephants. Listen here.

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Meet the Author

Justin O'Neill
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.