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August 25, 2013: Running Ultramarathons at 18,000 Feet, Meeting Captive Killer Whales, and More

The practice of keeping captive orcas, stars of aquariums around the world, has come under scrutiny since the large bull Tilikum (pictured) has been connected to three human deaths since being removed from his family off the coast of Iceland 30 years ago. Gabriela Cowperthwaite retraces Tilikum's life to understand what SeaWorld's disgruntled star can teach us. (Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures/Gabriela Cowperthwaite)

The practice of keeping captive orcas, stars of aquariums around the world, has come under scrutiny since the large bull Tilikum has been connected to three human deaths since being removed from his family off the coast of Iceland 30 years ago. Gabriela Cowperthwaite retraces Tilikum’s life to understand what SeaWorld’s disgruntled star can teach us. (Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures/Gabriela Cowperthwaite)

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 listen below!

Hour 1

There are few people whose bodies can withstand high elevations, and even fewer who can run at those heights. Runner and filmmaker Rebecca Byerly was one of just five women to finish the Swiss Irontrail race. She describes the run and a previous marathon in Nepal that took her to heights of 18,000 feet while recovering from Typhoid fever. Rebecca is documenting the marathons for Women of the Mountain.

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Our relationship with wolves changed over time as dogs evolved from the species to become man’s best friend. Today, Fido’s wolf relatives are known to be leery of humans in most places, but animal tracker Casey Anderson investigated a rare case of aggressive wolves that have no fear of humans on Vancouver Island. The wolves are reportedly attacking campers in the area. He shares why domesticated dogs might be to blame for the strange wolf behavior he witnessed while filming for National Geographic’s America The Wild.

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National Geographic Fellow Barton Seaver is a renowned DC seafood chef that has cooked all over the country. More recently he has focused on understanding how to best harvest from the oceans sustainably. He talks with Boyd about his recent trip to Alaska where he learned first-hand the fishery regulations that are sustaining the state’s salmon industry – and still managed to cook up some salmon for the crew after a long day’s work.

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Eating three fresh meals a day isn’t easy when you’re constantly on the go. We often settle for processed foods that can affect our health and energy, which gave entrepreneur Robert Rhinehart the idea to create Soylent, a powder that becomes a meal when mixed with water. Robert says the concoction has all the necessary nutrients for the human body to thrive. He explains how the mixture, although bland in taste, could also help solve the developing world’s hunger issues.

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In a new show segment, This Weekend In History, Boyd goes back in time with National Geographic Library Researcher Maggie Turqman to the year 1875 and the first successful swim-crossing of the English Channel, and to 1814 when First Lady Dolly Madison had to evacuate her own dinner party with the British invasion of Washington, D.C. 

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Hour 2

Watching orcas in person can be an amazing experience, but questions about whales in captivity abounded when SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau died after being attacked by one of the captive whales in 2010. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s documentary, BLACKFISH, tells the story of Tilikum, a large bull orca who has been connected with three human deaths since being forcefully separated from his family. The film uncovers some of the industry’s secrets of just how ill-suited the orcas are for life in a small pool, with little opportunity for socialization with their own kind.  

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The worlds of art and math may not be as distinct as the uninitiated might assume. National Geographic Emerging Explorer Stephon Alexander provides a perfect example of how a free-thinking mindset can alter science. As a theoretical physicist and jazz musician, he improvises within established rules to further our understanding of math, which, he explains, is very similar to what jazz musicians do to create new music. 

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Painting elephants for ceremonial display is a long tradition in India. Once done for Indian royalty, now the tradition is carried on for tourists and Indian weddings. In the August 2013 issue of National Geographic Magazine, Rachel Shea writes “Parades of the Painted Elephants” about the complicated relationship between elephants and their mahouts. While the elephants are beloved animals, they are also able to live in unnatural habitats.

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Boyd takes us on a road trip to The National Zoo where biologist Matt Evans shows him a black-headed python indigenous to northern Australia. Matt also gives Boyd a lesson in salamanders, a threatened species the zoo is studying to see how it is affected by changes in temperature.

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In this week’s Wild Chronicles, Marcus Manderson plays the piano as Boyd shares his trip to Paris’ Père Lachaise Cemetery where many famous people are buried and the afterlife is made into a game hopping to from one celebrity gravestone to the next. The trip made him ponder the most visited celebrity gravesites. 

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