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August 3, 2014 Radio Show: Paragliding at 18,000 Feet Above the Earth, Swimming 213 Feet Below the Ocean Without Air And More

Nick Greece and his crew paraglide and camp through the Sierras, hopping peak to peak for 8 days, breaking bones, finding love and adventure. (photo by Jody McDonald)
Nick Greece and his crew paraglide and camp through the Sierras, hopping peak to peak for 8 days, breaking bones, finding love and adventure. (photo by Jody McDonald)

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
Ashley Chapman explains breathing as often as we regularly do as “mostly mental.” This is a predictable opinion of someone who holds her breath as part of her trade. The former free diving world record holder swam 213 feet below the ocean’s surface, holding her breath for nearly three minutes. She tells Boyd that the sport is largely a mental exercise of self-control and most of all, refusal to panic.

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- Cheetahs aren’t known as the most aggressive member of the cat family. But like all of the wild felines roaming across Africa, you can’t trust them with your life. Big Cats Initiative grantee Amy Dickman remembered that lesson just in time to confront a cheetah lunging at her, and earned a “tattoo” for her mistake.

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- Americans are proud of their history of independence and bucking their colonial dependence on the European powers that once influenced the country. But lately, the nation has taken a step back toward reliance on France. Robert Crease, author of World in the Balance: The Historic Quest for an Absolute System of Measurement, tells Boyd that there is no physical foot to measure all feet by. In fact, the foot exists only in relation to the metric system’s meter. And the metric system is a French invention.

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- When people exist in isolation with limited resources, items that are necessary, but difficult to obtain, command an inflated value. Cynthia Gorney, author of the November 2012 National Geographic magazine article “Cuba’s New Now“, tells Boyd one such item in Cuba is spark plugs. The country has a glut of old American cars from the 1950s that are constantly falling in disrepair, so a bag of the plugs can go a long way to greasing the wheels for an American visitor in the nation.

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David Braun, editor of National Geographic Daily News, tells Boyd that the world’s largest bird was as large as 150 pounds, in his new book,National Geographic Tales of the Weird: Unbelievable True StoriesHe said that it had difficult time flying and needed to run down a steep hill to get itself off the ground.

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Hour 2 
- Most people think of parachutes as limp, frameless canvas structures that allow humans to float safely back to earth after an airplane crashes, or in extreme cases by choice. But Nick Greece and fellow paragliders have turned the ‘chute into a means of locomotion: they take off from high mountain meadows, coasting up to 18,000 feet in the air. He recently completed a two week tour where he and a group of friends camped, and flew for up to 50 miles in a day. There was only one serious crash leading to broken bones. But love was also found.

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- On a recent trip to the Norwegian arctic, Boyd saw many polar bears. Many tourists see the large numbers of polar bears living in close proximity and assume that, despite the news they’re hearing about climate change, the bears are doing fine. But naturalist and arctic aficionado Steve MacLean says that the bears would rather live farther apart, but they’re forced closer together by the diminished ice in the arctic summers. 

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– Most people think that Christopher Columbus was the first European explorer to reach the “New World”. But an entire century earlier, Vikings had built settlements well north of Hispaniola. Heather Pringle writes in the November 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine that, on Baffin Island, in the Canadian Arctic, the Scandinavian explorers attempted to maintain life in the frozen expanses. They didn’t stay permanently, and their artifacts were originally mistaken for Native American remnants, but scientists have recently solved the puzzle.

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– Bird watching is a low stress environment, but National Geographic grantee Trevor Price  may have a difference of opinion. While he was studying birds in Northeast India in the early 1990’s, the ornithologist was captured by a group of Kashmiri separatists until he escaped. He has since returned to the area to study the bugun liocichla, a recently discovered species, which is the first “new” bird in over a half-century.

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In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd continues his recounting his recent hiking trip to Peru. In this episode: rain freezes into snow, which gives way to hail. All of this creates mud. A few days of tough hiking, but that’s just part of the fun, he says.

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