This week on National Geographic Weekend, join host Boyd Matson as we fend off polar bear attacks in Canada, search for life inside of our solar system, unburden our souls with Mongolian shamans, climb Yosemite's El Capitan for science, dive deep into underwater caves to take pictures, survive whiteout training for expeditions to the earth's poles, introduce a child from a remote Cambodian village to the entire world, and give girls in Kenya an opportunity.

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  • In the Arctic, polar bears claim the title of alpha predator. It goes where it wants, eats what it wants, and doesn't often take "No" for an answer. But last winter, Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry gave one polar bear exactly that answer when it decided to snack on them. The bear responded with a sneeze when Eric hit it in the nose with a short camp shovel, but eventually took their advice and moved on to easier prey. No bears or McNair-Landrys were hurt in the making of this story.
  • Life on other planets are portrayed in Hollywood as creatures that resemble something like humans, whether they're short and wrinkly like Steven Spielberg's E.T. or drooling, scorpion-like monsters like James Cameron's Aliens. But to astrobiologist and National GeographicEmerging Explorer Kevin Hand, of NASA'S Jet Propulsion Laboratory, they're more likely to be microscopic bateria from a planet inside of our solar system. Although he doesn't necessarily rule out deep-sea monsters.
  • To encourage its citizens to work as hard as possible in this life, the USSR's Communist Party cadres suppressed any form of organized religion or spiritualism. In the two decades since the Soviet States dissolved, shamanism has returned to Siberia and Mongolia, where its practitioners accept donations from those who need access to the spirit-domain. David Stern, author of "Masters of Ecstasy" in December 2012's issue ofNational Geographicmagazine,tells Boyd that people don't choose to become shaman-the spirits choose them.
  • Academics spend hours pondering a very specific topic, and devoting many years of their lives to studying, publishing and teaching their topic. So, it's an understatement to say that they must love their subjects. And Roger Putnam loves Yosemite's El Capitan peak. He tells Boyd that the 3,000 foot piece of granite formed approximately 100 million years ago. He is studying the formation period of the rock, to understand how it formed, as well as how it came to be in its current shape. He has climbed the landmark fifteen times, both in the name of science and recreation.
  • Did you know that the world's tallest wooden structure stands 505 feet? Or that the most popular surgical procedure is lipoplasty? Boyd learns both in the intermittent "Did You Know?" segment.


  • National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen regularly shoots photos underwater. But he rarely does so in such a quiet environment that he has to hover inches above his subject, without being able to cause a single ripple that could stir up some shot-ruining silt. For this mission, he had to brush up on his scuba skills and spend up to five hours at a time.
  • Technology reduces the distance between people around the world, who can communicate and connect in ways that were unimaginable as recently as a few years ago. One ofTravelermagazine's "Travelers of the Year,"Diana Gross seeks to break down physical distance by giving students in Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia (among other countries) a digital voice and a global perspective by connecting them with students from around the world.
  • For many women in developing countries, many time-honored traditions aren't evolving quickly enough. National GeographicEmerging ExplorerKakenya Ntaiya, started a school for girls in her small Kenyan hometown. Her students love the opportunities the school gives them, but men in the village were slower to warm up to her new tradition of rigorous academic training for their daughters.
  • In this week's Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd expresses his admiration for Kakenya Ntaiya's school, and shares the story of his visit to the school.


Listen to National Geographic Weekend

Episode 1250 - Air Date: December 9, 2012

  • 11:00 Tom Morgan

    Most people wouldn't dream of trekking to one of the most remote (and frozen) parts of the Earth to try to find a way to race upon reindeer across the frozen tundra. But Tom Morgan, creator of The Adventurists, sees cold, remote places as an opportunity for adventure. He then raced motorcycles up a frozen river in Siberia and decided that seemed like a better plan for his racing series, which strives "to make the world less boring."

  • All remote places have their quirks, and the Falkland Islands are no different. The islands, located in the south Atlantic Ocean, have just over 3,000 residents, and Vern Cummins and Jamie Gallant tell Boyd that the size of their community fosters unique types of collaboration: The pilot flies pigs and reindeer to the veterinarian, a lighthouse operator serves as a leader of military resistance, and reindeer play the role of sheep dogs—even saving lives. Cummins and Gallant are documenting the islands and the people who live on them in their short documentary series 51° South.

  • Large animal predators are known to work hard for their food. Lions chase down zebras and wildebeest. Polar bears wait hours on end for seals to show up at holes in the Arctic ice. But just because they aren't eating other animals doesn’t mean capuchin monkeys aren’t also working for their food. National Geographic Explorer Dorothy Fragaszy studies the primates in Brazil's Piaui state and says that the monkeys find rocks that weigh half as much as they do and use them to smash open nuts.

  • Approximately one hundred Kenyan lions are dying every year due to an ongoing difference in opinion with local farmers—the lions like to eat livestock; farmers don't agree that this is a good idea. Shivani Bhalla, a National Geographic explorer with the Big Cats Initiative, is working with locals to save the cats through community outreach and education. She has rebuilt the local lion population to 45 individuals, up from 15 cats after she lost nearly an entire pride due to conflict with locals.

  • David Braun, editor of National Geographic Daily News, tells Boyd about storms on Uranus and speculates about how water arrived on Earth. The topics appear in his new book, National Geographic Tales of the Weird: Unbelievable True Stories.

  • 11:00 Greg Hill

    Skier and mountaineer Greg Hill spent last year hauling his skis up mountains and then riding them down. In his bid to ski two million feet in a single calendar year, he tells Boyd that he had to cover 5,500 feet per day. He chased winter all around the globe and finally finished his feat on December 30, 2011. Climbing is a challenge, he says, but skiing down the mountain he’s just hiked is the reward. This past summer, while he attempted to climb Mount Manaslu, the world's eighth tallest peak, an avalanche nearly buried him on the mountain. He escaped, but several others weren't so lucky.

  • 09:00 Amy Russell

    Many people have a vision of Africa as a wild, dangerous land filled with armed rebels and bloodthirsty predators. But, as Amy Russell tells Boyd, that's not the case. Russell, who was selected as one of National Geographic Traveler's “Travelers of the Year” for 2012, is walking from Cape Town, South Africa, to Cairo, Egypt, to raise awareness for clean water. On her walk, Russell has been drinking local water from wells or rivers, which she purifies, as needed. She said that the biggest challenge has been educating people about the dangers of unsafe drinking water.

  • The current conflict in Syria pits an oppressive government regime against a group of rebels with various political and religious agendas. But one thing that unites the rebel forces is their need for weapons. Anna Therese Day is an American journalist covering the Syrian conflict, and she joined the Free Syrian Army while they ran arms across the Turkish border to rebel groups inside the country. She said that Syrians view the conflict with trepidation, as experienced fighters join the rebels from Afghanistan and Pakistan—but the rebels have different aims than simply toppling a despotic president.

  • To help celebrate Big Cat Week, we have another story about lions in Africa. National Geographic Emerging Explorer Paula Kahumbu tells Boyd the story of a young boy whose job it was to help protect his family's homestead at night from lions hoping to make a meal of their livestock. Initially, he had to prowl around the property with a flashlight to show the lions that he was there, vigilantly watching them. But needing more sleep, he devised a contraption that made flashing lights appear randomly around the property. This has the cats sufficiently baffled—so much so that in the two years since his invention, they haven't made a single meal of the family's livestock.

  • In this week's Wild Chronicles segment, producer Justin O'Neill fills in for Boyd and explains how a routine trip to a Washington, D.C. dog park earned him a four-day stay in the hospital.