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August 31, 2014: Diving Deep For Bioluminescence, Mixing Climate Change With Music and More

National Geographic Emerging Explorer David Gruber studies bioluminescence and biofluorescence in sea animals to better understand the behaviors of the aliens of the deep. (photo courtesy David Gruber/ Luminescent Labs)
National Geographic Emerging Explorer David Gruber studies bioluminescence and biofluorescence in sea animals to better understand the behaviors of the aliens of the deep. (photo courtesy David Gruber/ Luminescent Labs)

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
A lot of life happens in the span of 57 days. But when six people confine themselves to a rowboat, while rowing in two-hour shifts from Australia to the Seychelles, many unpredictable events punctuate the adventure. Skipper Leven Brown and his crew survived a collision with blue whales, a run-in with pirates and occasional capsizes on their 4,200 mile row across the Indian Ocean to raise awareness and money for the global plight of elephants. His next adventure, a row across the North Pole, aims to benefit polar bears. Listen here.
For thousands of years across Africa, humans meticulously tracked animals, observing the smallest details to glean any insights as to the whereabouts of an animal they’re trying to turn into dinner. But as our technology improved and access to food became less bushmeat-oriented, the art of tracking seemed destined for the history books until ecotourism and anti-poaching efforts revived it. Master tracker Louis Liebenberg gives Boyd a crash course on tracking animals so that Boyd can get a perfect shot at a prize rhino – with his camera. Listen here.
When ancient stone structures and monumental achievements are considered, the Greeks and Egyptians roll in the accolades. But now Orkney has joined that rarefied company, for its numerous neolithic sites that were undisturbed for thousands of years.Roff Smith tells the story of the people who once called this remote island home, as understood from the artifacts and buildings they left behind. His story is in the August, 2014 issue of National Geographic magazine. Listen here.
Deep beneath the sea, where the sun’s rays are unable to penetrate, sharks, fish and other animals too strange to be fictional lurk. And they glow in the dark. National Geographic Emerging Explorer David Gruber explains how and why these creatures glow, although the answer usually seems to involve mating or eating. He also tells the story of how the angler fish is able to harvest a very specific type of bacteria that, when gathered in enough concentration, allows them to shed an eerie glow that allows them to lure their prey. Gruber also explains how science is learning to put nature’s natural glows to work in hospitals. Listen here.

The Amazon rainforest is South America’s best known jungle habitat, but National Geographic/Buffett Award winner Alberto Yanosky tells of a dry forest that spans across the borders of Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, which is South America’s second largest. The chaco forest, also known as “The Green Hell,” is shrinking at the rate of 2,000 soccer fields each day, in the name of clearing pasture for cattle. Listen here.
HOUR 2
What do Antarctica, quantum physics, climate change and hip hop have in common? The answer: DJ Spooky, aka Paul Miller. The musician visited the frozen continent to create his most recent album, “Of Water and Ice,” using climate data and sound he collected from Antarctica to inform the patterns that he incorporates into his songs. His songs “Of Water and Ice” and “Check Your Math” speak to the themes that drove this album, with Miller discussing the fact that many people don’t believe in human-caused climate change; however, “You can’t debate with a storm that just smashed your house.” Miller, who grew up in Washington, D.C. says the city’s many museums were a perfect escape from the city’s punishing heat, while feeding his curiosity. Listen here.
Following in the footsteps of his famous grandfather Jacques, Fabien Cousteau has devoted his life to search in the deep and advocate for the creatures that live underwater in the silent world. Recently, Fabien completed Mission 31, living for 31 days in a habitat studying the mysteries of hidden reefs. While he didn’t see any of forgotten mermaids or sunken treasure, he did watch an endangered goliath grouper make quick work of a barracuda. He also spent up to 10 hours each day out in the water planet so he could come back up to firm land and share the cries of the deep that he heard while he was in the lagoon of lost ships. Listen here.

The reintroduction of wolves in the lower 48 United States has been a touchy subject for years. Since they’ve been delisted in certain western states from the Endangered Species list, some municipalities have worked hard to kill all of the wolves in their region, while other areas have been more reserved in reaction to their new neighbors. Jay Simpson recently collected a crew of his friends to follow 1,200 miles in the paw prints of wolf OR-7, a solitary gray wolf who loped from Oregon to Northern California in order to better understand the region in which the wolf is choosing to make his home. Simpson shares some happy news – OR-7 found a mate. But on their expedition, each of Simpson’s team members did fall victim to one bloodthirsty critter, that they ruthlessly killed by the dozen: the mosquito. Listen here.
The Mars Curiosity Rover remains an improbable accomplishment that took equal measures of mathematical wizardry, meticulous planning and, to hear Marc Kaufman tell it, imagination. His new book, Mars Up Close, tells the story of how NASA was able to park a vehicle on the surface of a planet 140 million miles away. The rover had to slow its approach from 13,000 miles per hour to a near-stop before cratering into the planet and destroying years of work and millions of dollars of investment and space research. Listen here.
On a visit to South Africa, Boyd took a tracking lesson. For thousands of years, people in Africa used these techniques to kill animals on Africa’s grasslands. But today, the tracking techniques are more commonly used to hunt those who are trying to illegally poach rhinos and elephants. Boyd also tells the story of one of the easiest animals to track, whose vision is so poor that you can get within 15 feet of them without them knowing. Listen here.