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October 28, 2012: Love in the Northwest Passage, Giant Predators in Prehistoric Australia, and More

Fossils can provide incredible insight into the past.  Archaeologist Michael Archer studies fossils to help paint a picture of what life in prehistoric Australia was like.
Fossils can provide incredible insight into the past. Archaeologist Michael Archer studies fossils in Australia to help paint a picture of prehistoric life Down Under.

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!

HOUR 1

The Arctic has been preserved as one of the last remaining regions on earth that has deterred exploration until relatively recently because its weather is so unpredictable. Even in this age of diminished glacial conditions, ice can lock up an ocean so quickly that even large ships have a hard time getting through. This didn’t stop Chris Bray and his now fiance from refurbishing a wooden yacht and braving the Arctic waters over the last two summers. The Australian couple gingerly pushed their way through the icy waters, dodging curious polar bears, orcas and seals, while slowly making their way from Halifax back to Australia. Listen here.

Turkey isn’t known for its environmental outlook, but for birders, it’s an ideal vacation spot, due to the country’s strategic location as a crossing point for birds migrating between Europe, the Middle East and Africa. National Geographic grantee Cagan Sekercioglu tells Boyd that the country is beginning to change its ways and become more hospitable for animals. They’re making life easier for the Egyptian vulture by offering dead livestock and roadkill in “restaurants” established to help the scavenging birds along. Listen here.

Many people think of Africa as synonymous with vast savannas, deep jungles, and one famous snow capped peak. But few think of the long, unspoiled coastline that rings many of the continents countries. National Geographic Explorer in Residence Enric Sala is exploring one small section of coastline, twenty miles off the coast of Ghana. He tells Boyd that oil rigs are creating a synthetic reef, fostering life in an otherwise barren area.Listen here.

One year after the tragic incident in Zanesville, Ohio, in which 18 captive tigers and many other exotic animals were killed after they were released by a private animal hoarder, the WWF’s Leigh Henry stopped by NG Weekend to discuss the overabundance of the animals captive in the United States. She tells Boyd that there are more tigers captive in the United States than there are in the wild in India. Listen here.

David Braun, editor of National Geographic Daily News, tells Boyd that people have been sleeping on mattresses for as long as 70,000 years. From the new book that he edited, National Geographic Tales of the Weird: Unbelievable True Stories, he says that successive generations of people slept on this reed mattress, swapping in new vegetation for millennia. Listen here.

HOUR 2

Grantee archaeologist Michael Archer spends his life coloring in lines that aren’t quite there. He takes what he can find: pieces of fossilized animal, hints of the climate and flora of Riversleigh, one of Australia’s most famous fossil sites, and can deduce an amazing amount of information from that. He tells Boyd that Australia used to be a terrifying place, with nearly 30 foot crocodiles that liked to climb trees drop onto their prey and flesh-eating kangaroos that galloped on all fours through the jungle. Listen here.

While being a “birder” is a claim that not everybody would make, very few people could deny that they’ve stopped to ponder a unique looking bird that they spotted while walking down the road. But birder and illustrator Jonathan Alderfer says that’s exactly what makes a person a birder. In his new book, National Geographic Bird-watcher’s Bible: A Complete Treasury, he details birds, as well as expounds on the cultural niche that birds fill for people by pointing out the “Top 10 Bird Movies,” as well as many other bird-related facts. Listen here.

National Geographic fellow and environmental steward Jon Waterhouse likes to travel down rivers so he can accurately gauge the health of a body of water and its relationship with the people who live on it. He tells Boyd that while Alaska’s ecosystems are healthier than those down in the lower 48, based on the lack of population, years of mining and pollution still affect the northern state’s waterways. He joined us after paddling 600 miles down the Tanana River on his most recent Healing JourneyListen here.

Much of conservation is the act of finding a mutually agreeable balance between the people who live in an area and the health of an ecosystem. Bennett Hennessey faced the daunting task of convincing a Bolivian native group that their tradition of making headdresses from the macaws that live in nearby forests was critically endangering the birds. But unlike many conservation groups, he provided them with an alternative: colorful headdresses made from synthetic fibers that look very much like feathers. The groups have adopted the garments in their ceremonies and the macaws happily watch from the trees above. Listen here.

In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd tells of the first day of a recent trip to the Peruvian Andes. While still acclimating to the altitude and thin air, he hiked 10 miles straight downhill. He survived with a little help from his pack-carrying horse. Listen here.