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September 28, 2014: Meeting A Mountain Legend, Skiing First-Descents in Greenland 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 – Mountain...

The view of Italy’s Dolomites from the roof of Reinhold Messner’s Mountain Museum in Sulden am Ortler devoted to ice in all of its forms. (photo by Boyd Matson)

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!


– Mountain climbing legend Reinhold Messner grew up climbing with his siblings in the Italian Alps around Bolzano. Unlike 7 of his 8 siblings, he kept climbing even higher mountains throughout his life, until, he summited all of the world’s tallest peaks without supplemental oxygen. At the time, scientists proclaimed it impossible to climb above 8,500 meters without breathing through an oxygen tank. Messner describes his personal journey to keep climbing the tallest mountains despite losing his brother, as well as fingers and toes to high altitude climbing.

– In the second segment of Reinhold Messner‘s interview, he explains the philosophy behind building five Messner Mountain Museum locations, each dedicated to a different facet of man’s experience of living in the mountains. He also describes the camaraderie that used to exist among the climbing community that he doesn’t see at Everest, where the mountain guides are taking unqualified climbers to the top. Previously, climbers would quit their ascent in order to save climbers in danger, but because of “tourism in the mountains,” that culture doesn’t exist anymore. And, as Messner ages, he says that although “the mountains are becoming higher for me,” he still hikes and climbs, not to suffer as he once did when he was younger, but to enjoy his time in nature.

– When Sophie Healy Thow, Emer Hickey and Ciara Judge were told that their science fair experiment had “no point” because “it wouldn’t work,” the three budding scientists figured they would just find out for themselves. The result: a scientific breakthrough that could help wheat, barley and other “cereal crops” produce a dramatically higher yield. For their intellectual curiosity and perseverance, the three Irish teenagers were also the Grand Prize winners at the 2014 Google Science Fair. Healy Thow explains their project to Boyd and what it could mean for agriculture in the developing world.

– An epidemic of obesity, diabetes and other diet-related ailments currently afflicts the Western world at unprecedented rates. To try to cure our dependence on processed foods high in salt and sugar, Ann Gibbons looked to our human ancestors to try to learn of the ideal daily sustenance for humans. Some of her lessons include too much or a complete lack of meat might not be ideal; a more diverse “hunter-gatherer” style of diet is better than a less diverse wheat-centric diet; and an active lifestyle is necessary to maintain a healthy body. Gibbons’ article “The Evolution of Diet” appears in the September 2014 issue of National Geographic magazine.

– In our This Weekend in History segment, National Geographic Library research manager Maggie Turqman shares reasons to toast this weekend. Some of this weekend’s celebrations include the launch of the cruise ship RMS Queen Mary on September 26, 1934; the release of the Beatles’ album “Abbey Road” on September 26, 1969; and the conclusion of the Warren Commission that officially ended conspiracy theories surrounding President John Kennedy’s assassination.


– Professional skiers venture far and wide around the world to get the most beautiful lines and the rarest turns. National Geographic teamed up with big mountain skier Natalie Segal and adventurer, photographer and occasional climate scientist Kt Miller to venture to Greenland with an all-woman team. The objective of the adventure was to climb up and ski down mountains, in the hope of skiing peaks that have never been skied before, as well as gathering data about the water and sea ice surrounding the world’s largest island. They explained that they had more encounters with humans than polar bears, and while the bears are having a harder time surviving with reduced sea ice, the humans find that their crops have a slightly longer growing season.

– Vaccines don’t cause autism. That’s the message from Alison Singer, President of the Autism Science Foundation. She explains that vaccines are “a victim of their own success,” because they’ve proven so effective to prevent many illnesses and diseases that people used to fear like measles, polio and whooping cough. And because of a lively anti-vaccination movement in the United States, many of these diseases that were once nearly extinct in the country are back. Singer, and other specialists are featured in NOVA’s documentary,Vaccines: Calling the Shots, to explain the science behind and the importance of vaccines.

Rafael Reyna used camera traps to track Kibale's forest hogs.
Rafael Reyna used camera traps to track Kibale’s forest hogs.

– Pigs aren’t particularly subtle animals. They’re often huge, they squeal loudly, and they like to wallow in the mud. Yet, they proved elusive to National Geographic explorer and hog researcher Rafael Reyna, who has been trying to radio collar wild hogs in Uganda’s Kibale National Park. Reyna explains that they’re very smart and very afraid of people, as they’re being aggressively hunted by locals for food. Reyna says that it’s tough to tell hungry people not to poach wild animals, but he’s working to create a program that could help feed families and let the hogs live in harmony.

– The United States, a country covers a landmass that was once home to a wide diversity of Native American languages, primarily communicates in just a handful of tongues now. But to try to stave off the extinction of yet another native language, Marie Wilcox, a Wukchumni Native American in Northern California, has taken to writing down all of the words she can recall from her childhood language and creating her own dictionary, which has now grown to over 145 pages in length. Documentarian Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee learned about Wilcox’s efforts to save her language and told her story in the short film “Marie’s Dictionary“.

– In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd recommends his favorite landmarks to visit in Stockholm, Sweden, including a tour of the city from its Old Parliament rooftop, a monument to the world’s most impressive and least successful warship, but all of these historic jewels were trumped by ABBA: The Museum.

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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.