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December 15, 2013: Paddling Through The World’s Biggest Rapids, Swimming in the World’s Coldest Oceans and More

Explorer in Residence Enric Sala encountered walruses on some of his 50 Arctic Ocean dives while in Russia's Franz Josef Land. (photo by Enric Sala)
Explorer in Residence Enric Sala encountered walruses on some of his 50 Arctic Ocean dives while in Russia’s Franz Josef Land. (photo by Enric Sala)

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

- Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Inga Rapids form on the Congo River form the world’s largest rapids, having 1.6 million cubic feet of water per second rush through it; by comparison, the Colorado River peaks at 100,000 cubic feet per second. Other teams have been killed trying to run the rapids, so naturally Rush Sturges and some friends decided they would try. Rush tells Boyd that there is little that can be done to prepare for rapids so large. The team’s efforts were turned into a film, “The Inga Project.”

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- This summer, a National Geographic expedition went to study Russia’s Franz Josef Land in order to encourage the Russian government to protect the plant and animal life that lives on the islands and in the surrounding oceans. But in order to understand the ocean life, scientists and researchers would have to get into the water. Explorer in Residence Enric Sala did approximately 50 of the team’s 250 dives into the 29 degree Arctic waters to observe the fish, anemones, coral, walruses that live among the ocean’s kelp forests. Sala said the diving was so beautiful that it would be one of the world’s most popular diving locations, if not for the freezing temperatures.

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- If all of the world’s ice melted instantly, a flood of water would cause the seas around the world to raise by 262 feet, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Wanting to know what that would look like, marine biologist Andrew Thaler used Google Earth to increase the ocean depth and flooded several major global cities that live along the oceans. “Drown Your Town” became popular online in his social media and science blog. He tells Boyd about how sea level rise will become a more pressing concern in future generations, and is already having an impact on cities around the world.

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Angry Birds isn’t just a video game. It’s an educational movement. The franchise’s parent company, Rovio, hopes to foster learning for young children in developing a curriculum for Chinese schools, as well as Angry Birds “activity parks” around the world that teach children and engage their minds while entertaining them. The company’s Chief Marketing Officer and “Mighty Eagle,” Peter Vesterbacka points to Finland’s boys as an example that video games can be educational: more of the country’s young boys speak English than girls, because the boys tend to play more video games. And physics professor Rhett Allain tells Boyd that the game’s mechanics force children to think about physics; the angle of the birds as they bomb the egg-stealing pigs, the speed and arc of the projectiles all encourage experimentation and manipulation of a world consistent rules that mimic those that govern our world.

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- In our “This Weekend in History” segment, Maggie Turqman celebrates a one-man a near-achievement by the Wright brothers, and say goodbye to a president.

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Hour 2

- Many mountain climbers grow up in the habit of climbing rock faces and mountains well before they’re in their late 30′s. But Alan Arnette waited until he was 38 to climb his first mountain, and quickly fell in love with the feeling of achievement – tempered by the pain – of conquering 8,000 meter peaks. He recently successfully climbed his sixth mountain of that height, the nearly 27,000 foot Manaslu, the world’s eighth highest peak.

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- Starting in the birthplace of humanity, National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek started walking “Out of Eden” approximately 10 months ago. Having put just over 1,000 miles behind him, he has another 20,000 before he reaches his end-point in Tierra del Fuego, at South America’s southernmost tip. He tells Boyd that leaving Ethiopia’s ancient valleys, he saw relics of people leaving Africa, both ancient and new: the route is regularly taken by modern migrants looking for work in the Middle East. He briefly rested in Jordan to speak by satellite phone.

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- Local cheese brands vary from the relatively tame blue cheese, to the more exotic cheeses that include live insect larvae; one thing that all of these cheeses have in common is bacteria. Cheese starts as milk and it is digested by various forms of bacteria that change its consistency, flavor and smell. UCLA postdoctoral researcher Christina Agapakis is harvesting bacterias from various places on the human body to challenge public perception of bacteria, and our food culture.

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- Mola mola, more commonly known as ocean sunfish, are the world’s best growers. They start their life the size of a Times New Roman “o” and can weigh as much as 5,000 lbs fully grown. National Geographic Emerging Explorer, Tierney Thys explains that the fish reach these sizes primarily eating jellyfish, which don’t provide much caloric value. Despite the fact that they reach huge sizes, they often are preyed upon by sea lions, who often end up ripping off their fins, but leaving the fish in frustration, because their hides are so tough.

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- As temperatures dip across the United States (and the Middle East), Boyd shares a story of scuba diving in Antarctica, highlighting its challenges as well as its rewards.

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