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October 26, 2014: Give a Turtle CPR, Climb Yosemite’s Most Iconic Peaks, 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 – Gerlinde...

Yosemite National Park’s granite walls loom imposingly over the valley. And it wasn’t until the 1950’s that people set out in earnest to make it to the summit. The new film “Valley Uprising” discusses the birth of America’s climbing culture and how a feud pushed us to new heights. (photo by Charles Martin)

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!


Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner is the first woman to climb the world’s fourteen tallest mountains without the help of an oxygen tank at altitude, braving exhaustion and cold through the thin mountain air. But despite her success, she was thwarted on many occasions –  it took her seven attempts to summit K2 alone. She had a partner fall to his death and even on her successful summit of K2, she was trapped on the mountain in a two person tent for four days, with a climbing team of four people. Kaltenbrunner tells Boyd about her ordeals climbing K2 and her outlook on preparation for success, and why she no longer climbs the world’s tallest mountains.

Paul Theroux is an award-winning travel writer and novelist, who has the recipe for telling compelling stories about faraway lands pretty well figured out. He’s also the editor who compiled the 2014 Best American Travel Writing series who shared some of his best tips for travel writing, which include: the most terrible travel experiences make the best stories; the writer can make you see, feel and smell a place; and a travel writer has the sensibilities of a fiction-writer. Theroux also explains why he doesn’t plan to write any more books about Africa, and why he’s so curious about the American South.

– Packing for a long international trip can be daunting, but National Geographic Traveler magazine “Traveler of the Year” honoree Rebecca Rothney has one request: that we pack with a purpose. The former school-teacher can relate to teachers finding themselves strapped for school supplies in the United States. So that’s why, on her first trip to Africa, she delivered rulers to a school that didn’t have any. The small, simple care package can mean a lot to a place without the resources to properly outfit their schools and hospitals with stethoscopes, pencils, band-aids and deflated soccer balls. Her company, called Pack For a Purpose, helps connect travelers to schools and hospitals around the world that need supplies.

– Scientists use traps to capture turtles, so they can study their numbers in swamps around the country. The issue comes when water levels suddenly change, leaving oxygen-breathing turtles trapped underwater and they’ll die. But when David Steen found one such turtle, the biologist committed to animals and their conservation, he decided to try giving the turtle CPR. Steen explains how to perform CPR on a turtle with a thick shell. He also busts some rattlesnake myths and explains how invasive species can ruin the biodiversity of an ecosystem.

– In our This Weekend in History segment, Nat Geo Library research manager, Maggie Turqman celebrates the opening of the Erie Canal, Wyatt Earp’s shootout at the O.K. Corral, and the more recent anniversary of Hurricane Sandy’s thrashing of the United States’ Atlantic Coast.


– The Yosemite Valley has long been a destination for Americans seeking rest and relaxation with nature. But following World War II, some young Americans found their way to the valley and set up camp for a long-term stay in the valley seeking an alternate postwar dream than the one that was being promoted in the nation’s sleepy suburbs. What ensued was an arms race fit to rival the Cold War, but this one was made of flesh and rock: Royal Robbins and Warren Harding, both talented climbers with very different visions for the sport they were helping pioneer, each sought to become the first to ascend Yosemite’s granite cliffs. Their clashes, and the evolution of American rock climbing that followed in the ensuing decades through to the present day, are told in the new film, Valley Uprising. Directors Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen created the film and discuss the culture of climbing in the Yosemite Valley.

– The narrative of human evolution and migration out of Africa was recast yet again when Georgian anthropologist discovered the skull of a 1.8 million year old pre-human. David Lordkipanidze describes the skull as “primitive,” with an apelike face and a brain capacity that’s about a third the size of a modern human’s. But the other bones found with the skill indicate that the hominid had fairly modern legs, fit for running. Lordkipanidze explains that the primitive human outside of Africa was such a shock to paleontologists because it was initially believed that humans would have had to be intelligent and use tools well in order to live in unfamiliar landscapes, but the bones, found outside of Dmanisi in the Republic of Georgia, challenge those assumptions.

– National Geographic has been a long respected source of geographic knowledge. And the National Geographic Atlas, 10th Editionbuilds on that long standing tradition of mapmaking. The voluminous atlas contains 360 maps, 56 photographs and 300 diagrams, of the earth’s land, ocean floors, the moon and Mars. Juan Valdes, National Geographic Maps’ Director of Editorial and Research explains that, despite the changing climate, the world’s coastlines haven’t changed enough for it to be reflected much in the 10th Edition, but that the most noticeable impact is on the amount of multiyear ice in the Arctic.

– Few innovations to the way we produce food elicit such a strong reaction from the general public as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But Tim Folger, author of “The Next Green Revolution” in the October 2014 issue of National Geographic magazine, explains that 90% of corn, soybeans and cotton produced in the United States are already GMOs, and have been for the past two decades. The crops may need a public relations shift, as they are grown to be more resilient in the face of drought and pests that may plague farmland in the future.

– In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd relies on the help of a quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to summarize why many people seem concerned about an Ebola outbreak in the United States, during which he is taking a trip to Botswana and Rwanda: “That which is clearly known hath less terror than that which is but hinted at and guessed.” And, as Boyd puts it, you have to take a few risks to enjoy life.

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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.