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March 24, 2014: Big Wave Crashes, Haitian Folk-Tunes, Babysitting Gorillas and More

Social animals are some of the most difficult to reintroduce into the wild, particularly if they don't have an established family group. Damian Aspinall and his foundation take entire gorilla families and send them back to parks in Gabon to help stabilize the wild population. (photo by Michael Nichols/National Geographic)
Social animals are some of the most difficult to reintroduce into the wild, particularly if they don’t have an established family group. Damian Aspinall and his foundation take entire gorilla families and send them back to parks in Gabon to help stabilize the wild population. (photo by Michael Nichols/National Geographic)

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
- Professional big wave surfer Greg Long wiped out while riding a 60 foot wave 100 miles off the coast of California. For most people, this would spell trouble. But when the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year couldn’t make it to back to the surface before two more waves crashed over him and he blacked out, his safety team responded quickly to save his life. Long shares surfer tricks on how to practice holding your breath and how this brush with his own mortality has changed how he lives. But he still surfs and wins championships.

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-  If you take Langston Hughes, add a dash of Haitian and New Orleans influence, and mix in some classical cello music, you’ll get Leyla McCalla. The musician took a break from her tour to play some tunes from her latest album, Vari-Colored SongsShe takes lyrics from Hughes’ poems and performs them to her own music, as well as performing traditional Haitian songs in their original Creole language.

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- Most times wild animals wander into a home, they’re quickly ushered out by broom or animal control. But rarely are they brought in for the sake of photography, the way that Merlin Tuttle did in National Geographic magazine’s March 2014 article “Call of the Bloom.” Susan McGrath tells Boyd that the bats were pleasant house guests and described their unique sonar relationship with a specific flower.

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Damian Aspinall believes that zoos have a higher responsibility to the animals that they house than just the function of educating the public. Aspinall, whose father created a wildlife sanctuary outside of their home in the English countryside, is leading a large reintroduction program that has put 80 gorillas back into the wild. He explains his reintroduction methods, as well as shares a story about his strong bond with one male gorilla, who, after five years of living in the jungle, embraced Aspinall, who had been searching for him, and introduced him to his new wild family.

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- National Geographic Library Manager of Research Maggie Turqman returns with some timely milestones plucked from history. This weekend, New Orleans, which has been no stranger to disaster throughout its existence, had 80% of its buildings burn down on March 21, 1788; post-presidential Thedore Roosevelt left for an expedition to British East Africa to “collect,” (hunt) big game animals in 1909; and Roger Bannister, the first sub-4 minute mile runner, was born on this weekend in 1929.

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Hour 2
- Well into the 21st Century, humans have mapped most of the Earth’s land masses and there very few blank spaces of the map to be filled. So why did polar adventurer Ben Saunders try to finish the 1,795 mile human-powered journey that Robert Falcon Scott died starting? He tells Boyd that he frequently asked himself that question during his 105 days on the exposed ice, but he says he hoped to explore the physical and mental boundaries of humans, rather than any space on the map.

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- Of the many reasons that people travel to faraway lands, there are two groups that seem at odds with each other: the people who wish to leave the familiar behind and seek new experiences in cultures strange to them, while the other group wishes to have a change of scenery, but still enjoy the comforts (and vices) of home. In their new film, Gringo TrailsPegi Vail and Melvin Estrella examines the pieces of paradise that have become havens for travelers and the fates that befall these remote locations: some are able to harness the dollars of tourists for good, while others become dens of debauchery and have their natural capital strewn with straws and other trash that party-goers leave behind.

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- Elephants and tigers have faced a well-documented downfall in the face of high demand for their parts. But bluefin tuna has been declining more quietly from the oceans than their land mammal counterparts. Kenneth Brower has followed the largely legal but unsustainable extraction of the fish that can grow as large as 700 pounds as the global demand for sushi has boomed in recent years. His story “Quicksilver Tuna” appears in the March, 2014 issue of National Geographic magazine.

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- Poaching and eastern demand for ivory has recently decimated the number of African elephants, but one of the largest ivory-consuming countries has just put in some new laws to help slow its illegal import. Bryan Christy says that the United States government added a requirement forcing shop owners to prove that the ivory they are selling is antique, rather than a recent illegal import. Christy also says that there are new limits on how many elephant trophies sport hunters can import annually.

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- To wrap up the show, Leyla McCalla plays “Latibonit,” a Haitian folk song from her new album, “Vari-Colored Songs“.

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