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August 4, 2013: Running 135 miles through Death Valley, Swimming with Navy Seals, and More

Ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes running the 135-mile Badwater race course that takes runners from 282 feet below sea level in Death Valley to the 8,360 summit of Mount Whitney. (photo courtesy of Dean Karnazes)
Ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes running the 135-mile Badwater race course that takes runners from 282 feet below sea level in Death Valley to the 8,360 summit of Mount Whitney. (photo courtesy of Dean Karnazes)

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, or click the links after the descriptions below!

Episode: 1331 – Air Date: August 4

Hour 1:

Ultra Marathon ManDean Karnazes doesn’t believe you need a special body type to run long distances. Dean ran marathons in all 50 states for 50 consecutive days, for his Run Across America and he shares with Boyd the most challenging endurance race he seems to keep coming back for – despite the 130 degree temperature.

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From his start with National Geographic Society in 1975, Bob Ballard has made a career out of discovery: he was the first to find hydrothermal vents near the Galapagos Islands, located the Titanic‘s watery grave, as well as the Lusitania and scores of other ships in the Mediterranean Sea. Despite such a successful past, Ballard craves learning more about the oceans. The National Geographic Explorer in Residence is using the Explorer Now program to continue his exploration to new sites, including the Caribbean underwater volcano Kick-‘em-Jenny.

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Fighting and slapping is not something exclusive to the human race, according to Filipa Samarra who studies the acoustic behavior of herring-eating killer whales off the coast of Iceland. She describes how these killer whales actually use their tales to slap and stun their prey and what they communicate through the sounds they make.

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The world we live in gets smaller as technology grows and proliferates in what seems like every country on Earth, but there are still some rare places it hasn’t reached. Ryan Killackey has been in Ecuador’s Yasuni Biosphere Reserve documenting its biodiversity for Yale Environment 360, and witnessed the troubles its natives are experiencing in the process.

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Dan Gilgoff, Director of Digital News at National Geographic, talks royal baby and dolphin names with Boyd. He also explains how Sharknado is actually potentially realistic.

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Hour 2

Setting a record in paragliding is, perhaps, a bit more unpredictable than setting a record for other sports. Gavin McClurg recently set the North American record for longest distance paragliding at 240 miles, but he says it was practically up to good luck and reliable weather. Gavin stayed up in the sky for a straight eight hours to make the record flight and describes how he kept his focus.

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Rural areas often get the reputation for having nicer people, but Leo Hollis, author of “Cities Are Good For You” argues to the contrary. In cities where people constantly surround you, you’re more likely to be civil to the large number of acquaintances you encounter. Leo debunks other preconceptions about cities in his book and discusses the important role cities will play as the world’s population will be up to 70% urban by 2050.

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How many frogs must you kiss before you find your prince? For biologist Valerie Clark licking frogs allows her to study the amphibians’ secretions. It helps her find out how frogs defend themselves, but she warns not to try frog licking at home – you might lick up some unexpected poisons.

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Boyd takes a road trip to The National Zoo to chat with seal-keeper Malia Somerville about a fishy topic: feeding her pinniped friends. Similar to training a pet, food helps to motivate the seals to do tricks and get their check-ups. Malia also brags about a colleague who once served as a Navy seal, although her contributions to national security remain mysterious.

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In this week’s Wild Chronicles, Boyd shares his trip to Italy’s historic town of Assisi and then Florence, where he met National Geographic Fellow Mauricio Seracini. Mauricio is searching for Da Vinci’s lost painting that he believes is hidden in the Hall of Five Hundred.

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