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September 14, 2014: Wiring an African Wilderness, Starting a Garbage-Fueled Country 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 – Otzi,...

A team of National Geographic Emerging Explorers went on the adventure of a lifetime to do a wildlife and water survey on Botswana’s Okavango Delta. (photo by Shah Selbe)

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

– Otzi, a 5,000 year old mummy found partially buried in an ice field in the Italian Alps, is one of the oldest cold-cases known to crime. The body had an arrowhead lodged in his back, and he was carrying a quiver of unfinished arrows. Italian scientists have used his possessions and cobbled together his last panic-stricken hours, running from at least one assailant who, it seems, got away with murder. Greta Mentzel shares what Otzi’s possessions tell us about his last few hours. Listen here.

Asher Jay visualizes Garbagea's foreign policy. (image by Asher Jay)
Asher Jay visualizes Garbagea’s foreign policy. (image by Asher Jay)

– South Sudan is officially the world’s newest country, but artist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Asher Jay has created a more recent, if purely theoretical, country that has a foreign policy predicated on the spread of garbage. The United Flotsam of Garbagea‘s borders, Jay explains, extend wherever garbage goes, which would make it the world’s largest country, as oceanographers have found plastics everywhere from the bottom of the sea to the inside of the animals that live in very remote regions. Listen here.

– Islands are seen as a relaxing, and occasionally mysterious, landscape that rise up from the ocean’s depths in the middle of the ocean. But for an isolated spit of land, how do vegetation, animals and humans come to call them home? J. Edward Chamberlin examines the impact on islands and how they came to influence the the continents in his new book Islands: How Islands Transform the World. He also recommends a few of his own favorite islands to visit. Listen here.

– When cancerous cells and tumors are detected late in their development, they can be hard to treat. But Allan Butler, a VP at the National Geographic Channel who is living with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, explains that traditional chemotherapy treatments aren’t the only recourse that patients have. In Butler’s message for the Stand Up To Cancer telethon, he explains that he participated in a medical trial, which has given him hope and a better outlook on living with the disease. Listen here.

– To recap the events of This Weekend in History, National Geographic Library research manager Maggie Turqman announces Roald Dahl’s birthday, the creation of Canyonlands National Park, and the penning of the Star Spangled Banner as reasons to celebrate this weekend. Choose wisely. Listen here.

Hour 2

–  For scientists, there are many metrics and data points that they can study to estimate the health of an ecosystem. But there is no better way than to visit the location and to experience the landscape inch by inch, which is what National Geographic Emerging Explorers Shah Selbe and Gregg Treinish just did in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The expedition, arranged by Steve Boyes, another Emerging Explorer, is an annual exploration of the waterways to document birds and wildlife. This year’s expedition added the collection and analysis of water and soil samples. But this year’s expedition was special: Selbe, a engineer who works with Engineers Without Borders installed permanent digital sensors to feed real-time data to scientists, while Treinish, who leads Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, will train fellows in the field to maintain these sensors. They survived crocs, hippos, and elephants in this pristine wilderness to help ensure the ecosystem’s health in the future. Listen here.


– Lonely. Strong. Sad. Deaf. These are all assumptions that humans put on a solo blue whale that swims up and down the North American Pacific Coast. The whale regularly called out, but as far as scientific researchers could tell, no whale ever answered. The whale, that calls at 52 hertz, approximately 35 hertz higher than other blue whales communicate, was immortalized in Leslie Jamison’se-book 52 Blue. The book tells the story of the whale, but is also about the community of humans who were inspired and given hope by the whale’s isolation. Listen here.

– Fifty years after the Wilderness Act was implemented, park rangers now find themselves having to weigh the pros and cons of intervening on the behalf of the nature that lives in their parks. Some disasters are natural, and nature will rebound, while other apparently innocuous invasive species spread through a landscape like a figurative wildfire. Jordan Fisher-Smith explains in the article“The Wilderness Paradox” featured in the September/October 2014 issue of Orion Magazine that wilderness management is now a product of natural curation by man to outweigh the negative impacts of the human world around parks. Listen here.

– In the American west, coyotes have had the run of the place for decades, after wolves were essentially eradicated from the landscape. But as coyotes loped eastward they finally encountered wolves. And coyotes, being the great survivors that they are, they mated with them. This has caused a new “entity” that isn’t completely coyote, isn’t a human-shy wolf, and has some domestic dog DNA as well. Brad White, chair of biology at Trent University, explains that the “canine soup” is a byproduct of human caused selection, but wouldn’t proclaim the “coywolf” a separate species. Listen here.

– In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd shares the tales of a recent trip to Italy where, in the search for something new, he discovered a peephole in downtown Rome from which he could see three sovereign states. 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.