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August 11, 2013: Holding our Breath in Underwater Caves, Biking Across Kyrgyzstan Mountains, and More

Underwater archaeologist Guillermo de Anda dives into cenotes in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula to study ancient Mayan artifacts. This photo is part of a series featured in "Secrets of the Maya Otherworld" in the August issue of National Geographic Magazine. (photo by Paul Nicken)
Underwater archaeologist Guillermo de Anda dives into cenotes in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to study ancient Mayan artifacts. This photo is featured in “Secrets of the Maya Otherworld” in the August, 2013 issue of National Geographic Magazine. (photo by Paul Nicken)

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: 1332 – Air Date: August 11

Hour 1

To keep their religious practices secret, the Mayans held ceremonies in hard to reach underwater cenotes, which are caverns opened to the world by an open sinkhole. National Geographic Emerging Explorer Guillermo de Anda and his team explore the dark labyrinth of submerged caves around Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to find out more about the Mayans, featured in the article “Secrets of the Maya Otherworld” in the August issue of National Geographic Magazine. He tells Boyd of the dangers of this type of exploration and how easy it is to get lost while deep underwater.

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From tablet magazines to Twitter, our everyday experiences with media are becoming more interactive through digital technology. Raghava KK, a 2013 National Geographic Emerging Explorer, is using EEG technology to make otherwise two-dimensional paintings multiple dimensions of possibility for the consumer. He explains how his art changes based on viewers’ reactions to the images.

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Sometimes, when we cannot see something, we must rely on our other senses to tell us more about a subject. That is what biologist Simone Baumann-Pickering does to research beaked whales for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She listens to the sounds, called echolocation clicks, rare beaked whales use to find prey when they’re deep underwater. Many clicks may sound similar, but Simone describes how there are slight differences that distinguish several beaked whales species.

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Animals look for a competitive advantage to increase their own genes’ chances of surviving long enough to reproduce themselves. They do this through the process of selecting the fittest, strongest and, therefore, most viable mate to reproduce with. National Geographic explorer Neil Losin and his partner Nate Dappen went to Spain to study how that very instinct creates a catch 22 for female lizards in the Mediterranean. Neil documents the Ibiza wall lizards in his new book, The Symbol.

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Dan Gilgoff, Director of Digital News at National Geographic, chats with Boyd about what Earth looks like 900 million miles away, the possibility of not water – but snow on Mars and the longest-running experiments in the world.

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Hour 2

Alpinist Kyle Dempster biked and climbed about 750 miles on his way up unexplored mountain ranges in Kyrgyzstan. He filmed the trip to capture the beauty of Kyrgyzstan, also capturing what might have been his last moments prior to crossing a perilous river. His footage has been edited into the film,  The Road From Karakol. Kyle tells Boyd how outdated Soviet Union maps and drinking with the locals made the adventure all the more unpredictable.

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In the United States, surfing is seen as part of the counter-cultural youth movement that began in California in the 1960′s. But surfing historians, Peter Westwick and Peter Neushul, clarify in their new book “The World in the Curl: An Unconventional History of Surfing,” that in pre-colonial Hawaii, surfing was the culture. The authors trace our relationship with the sport, from the time it was virtually banned by missionaries, to its current status as a multi-billion dollar industry.

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Boyd takes us on a road trip to St. Petersburg, Russia for the 11th National Geographic World Championship geography bee and chats with United States’ geography bee team-member, Neelam Sandhu about the hard work that goes into competing with teams from all over the world for global dominance of maps and atlases. Neelem focused on Asia and Australia for the U.S. team and Boyd tests her knowledge.

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Tales of outlaws have long fascinated Americans. Old Western movies, books and  TV dramas like The Wild Wild West, give us a glimpse into the rebellious lives of robbers and gunfighters. Author Mark Lee Gardner writes about one of the most infamous outlaws of all time in “Shot All To Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West’s Greatest Escape”, which separates fact from fiction of Jesse James’ life and crimes.

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In this week’s Wild Chronicles, Boyd hops from Russia, over to Estonia, where he learned about the country’s independence from the Soviet Union. He visits a unique prison where Estonian freedom fighters were once held captive, and just how happy Estonians are to be a free country again.

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