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February 1, 2015: Shooting Sharks, Models and The Pros and Cons of Adventure Preparation

HOUR 1 – Some adventurers prepare exhaustively for their expeditions. And others take more of an “off-the-cuff” approach to their adventures. Toby Storie-Pugh explains that “where you sit on the preparation continuum is a matter of personal choice.” And for a motorcycle trip from Nepal to Paris, Storie-Pugh’s decision was to learn how to ride the...

Photographer Ben Horton shoots wildlife for National Geographic magazine, then models for bathing suit companies. He says the variety keeps him sharp. (photo by Ben Horton)


– Some adventurers prepare exhaustively for their expeditions. And others take more of an “off-the-cuff” approach to their adventures. Toby Storie-Pugh explains that “where you sit on the preparation continuum is a matter of personal choice.” And for a motorcycle trip from Nepal to Paris, Storie-Pugh’s decision was to learn how to ride the bike in the weeks leading up to the 8,000 mile road trip and stay as sharp as possible during the ride. Storie-Pugh rode through Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran on his route, but said that the vast majority of people in those countries were very welcoming. His 2015 plans include summiting Everest and walking the length of the Congo River.

– Few professions afford as much versatility as photography. And for Ben Horton, variety is the spice of life. The Los Angeles based photographer spends time snapping sharks and crocodiles in Costa Rica, shooting models on California’s deserts, and riding horses in Mongolia. Horton appreciates the comforts of Los Angeles, but enjoys the call of adventure that capturing images for National Geographic affords. Hortons says composing images and shooting models has helped him improve his wildlife photography skills as well. But Horton says that sharks and crocodiles are often less willing subjects than the models.

– National Geographic grantee and Turkish biologist Cagan Sekercioglu has been working to preserve the wetlands along that country’s Aras River. Turkey’s government has been discussing a plan to divert the water to support agriculture, flooding a swath of land that is home to 1,800 people, and disrupting one of the largest bird migration routes between Europe and North Africa. When he’s not campaigning to save Turkey’s wetlands, Sekercioglu has been known to attempt to summit the 16,854 foot Mount Ararat; his last attempt had him abandoned near the summit by a sick 15 year-old mountain guide.

– In our This Weekend in History segment, Nat Geo research library manager Maggie Turqman brings events to celebrate this weekend, including: 1893’s completion of the first moving picture studio, Voice of America’s 73rd birthday, and the 1990 American soft-power victory of having McDonald’s open in Moscow.


Peter Athans, a mountaineer who has summited Everest seven times on 16 expeditions to the mountain, looks back on his adventures as a young climber taking risks that, he admits, he would never consider now. Athans tells the story of one such expedition to Alaska where he and two other climbers packed for a four-day climb that turned out to be a 13-day “gross miscalculation.” Athans lost 30 pounds, but all three men survived the expedition. He explains that he’s still able to be a mountaineer and a father, but it involves preparing more carefully and avoiding situations with unnecessarily high risk.

– The universe is governed by many rules that humans have been able to figure out through centuries of careful observation of how celestial bodies interact. But there are potentially more rules of the universe that we’re still in the dark on. Two such forces that we’ve been able to theorize but never observe are dark matter and dark energy. Timothy Ferris, author of the January 2015 National Geographic magazine article “A First Glimpse of the Hidden Cosmos,” explains that the galaxy we call home contains five times more dark matter than it does visible matter. But Ferris says that this field of science studying rules of the universe that we have such large knowledge gaps of, “it’s impossible to say as of yet what the future of this field will be like… nobody will know until there’s a whole lot more research and experimentation.”

– All around the world, indigenous and nomadic people are losing their culture to the economic forces and environmental fragmentation forcing them to settle in communities. These “transitions to modernity” are a source of curiosity for National Geographic Young Explorer Hannah Reyes. Reyes lived with a pygmy community in the Philippines who dressed in jeans and t-shirts, and would request “whitening soap” to lighten the tone of their skin. Reyes explains that through their televisions, these indigenous people learned that their darker skin was less desirable in the mass culture of southeast Asia. But Reyes explains that, at least in the Philippines, the indigenous people’s transitions to modernity aren’t always that simple, because the kids are often teased in schools and the parents resort to dressing up in traditional costumes to make money in the cities.

– Travel is now easier than it ever has been in the history of humanity. But what to do when you’re abroad? Mimi Sheraton compiled a collection of 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die, breaking down each country’s culinary delights. She also explains the genesis of the words, including Britain’s “black pudding hash,” which she explains has nothing to do with pudding cups or hash browns; “soused herring,” which is similar to pickling; and deep fried Mars bars. Sheraton explains that “not everything in the book is logically wonderful. The overall point of this book is to give people an idea of what the world eats.” Sheraton also points to Australia’s vegemite as another food a foreigner might not line up for, but is very popular in its home nation.

– In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd explains the many difficulties of celebrating a birthday at Everest’s base camp: from the challenge of simply getting there, to the hardship in blowing out candles at 17,700 feet above sea level.

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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.