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January 18, 2015: Backyard Photography Tips and Antarctic Volcano Hunting

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. You can listen to a growing archive of our interviews on SoundCloud as well! HOUR 1 – Riding kayaks off waterfalls is like graduating from school....

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.

You can listen to a growing archive of our interviews on SoundCloud as well!


– Riding kayaks off waterfalls is like graduating from school. As professional kayaker and filmmaker Trip Jennings tells it, your first real waterfall is ten feet high. Then progressively, a kayaker will practice riding larger falls until they will hit a 30 foot waterfall. Jennings explains that after “30 feet, things behave pretty similarly. The technique is the same, it just takes longer before you hit the bottom.” But Jennings explains that each waterfall behaves differently based on the volume of water going over the fall’s edge, because kayakers need the water to break the landing pool’s surface tension, rather than landing in flat water, which could cause a serious injury. Jennings shares more kayaking rules in this segment.

– An image that appears in the pages of National Geographic magazine is the result of a photographer’s years of practice, patience and a bit of luck. But Joe Petersburger also explains that knowing something about the animals that you’re shooting goes a long way too. The biologist and photographer, who has been three-times featured in NGM, shot images of a bee-eater bird presenting a caught dragonfly to his mate. Because he knew about the birds, he knew the behavior that would happen once the male caught a dragonfly. Petersburger also encourages people to shoot iamges around their homes, in areas that they can access during times of sunlight and storms, during the night and day.

– When blue whale biologist Asha de Vos found red floating clods of poop in the Indian Ocean, she became curious. She immediately assumed the world’s largest animals were mating, because the warm tropical waters typically are too warm for blue whales’ favorite foods. But as it turned out, they had found enough krill to support something of a feeding frenzy. De Vos warns that despite the fact that there are about 10,000 blue whales around the world, the whales live in separate populations, each facing their own risks and difficulties of survival. Although blue whales aren’t being actively targeted, the increase of global shipping puts the whales at risk of getting hit, because it’s impossible for container ships to see or steer around the whales. De Vos explains that although it’s assumed these collisions happen with some regularity, it’s very difficult to accurately estimate how often whales are killed in this way.

– Prozac is a medication used to treat depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder in humans. But Laurel Braitman, author of Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves, points out that the meds have been designed and tested for effectiveness in our animal friends as well. Braitman says that even though Prozac should help to chill out a dog with a fixation on tail-chasing, psychopharmaceuticals aren’t always the best answer. Exercise, counseling and even companion animals can help a depressed gorilla or a compulsive cat.

– National Geographic is home to some of the world’s most intrepid travelers, including Intelligent Travel blogger Robert Reid. It is for this very reason that we now know that Walla Walla, Washington is a worthwhile visit to make while in the Pacific Northwest. Some of the town’s charms include a blossoming wine culture. Reid also encourages travelers to walk as much as possible, because walking around a city generally forces people to walk with their heads up, paying attention, rather than riding in a taxi while texting friends back home.


-Twenty years after he first visited Africa, Boyd returned to the scene of his initial infatuation: National Geographic Explorers in Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert‘s Selinda Camp and lodges, near Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The Jouberts have expanded their land holdings in the area to help protect the African elephants and cats that they love. “This is not something you do on a weekend. You dedicate your life to it,” explains Dereck. Beverly says that they now have 7,000 elephants on site that, seven years ago when the Jouberts expanded their land and banned hunting, never would have come out to be seen by people during the day: “They were petrified.”

– Antarctica is nicknamed “the frozen continent,” so it would seem counterintuitive for a geologist to visit looking for lava. But National Geographic grantee and volcanologist Ken Sims rappelled hundreds of feet into Mount Erebus’ crater looking for lava samples, while simultaneously hoping to avoid being hit by a lava “bomb” flying from the volcano. Sims explains that he seeks to better understand some isotope “clocks” hidden inside of the lava, that can indicate the Earth’s age, how long the lava takes to move from deep inside the planet, and when the volcano might erupt next.

– Wolves and monkeys seem like unlikely life partners. But high on an Ethiopian plateau, a truce has been negotiated between the primates and canines that live there. National Geographic grantee and biologist Jeff Kerby studies the gelada “baboons” that graze the highlands in large herds eating grasses, “like horses”. Wolves walk among the monkeys, looking for small rodents to eat that live in the grasses. Kerby explains that the only violence that typically takes place is monkey-on-monkey, when the males fight over females, using their ferocious looking teeth to establish dominance.

– Many people around the world are hungry, but National Geographic Emerging Explorer Tristram Stuart explains that it’s not for a lack of food being produced. Stuart explains that humans currently produce enough food to feed 12 billion people, which is way more than the 7 billion people alive now, but we waste up to 33% of the food we grow. The solution to this frustrating problem, partially, lies in supermarket standards and supply chains. Any “ugly” fruit – a small apple, or a crooked carrot – that is grown might be left to rot or be fed to animals, rather than being directed to people who would be happy to eat that food. Stuart illustrates this problem by staging “Feeding the 5000” events where companies and grocery stories donate food that would otherwise be discarded to feed people who need it.

– In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd shares the story of his deja vu when he saw wild dogs chasing an impala through camp, much as he did twenty years ago on his first visit to Africa. Boyd also explains why he loves wild dogs, despite their ferocious reputation as some of Africa’s most effective hunters.

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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.