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June 8, 2014: Diving From 90 Feet Above Havana Bay, Free the Dancing Bears and More

Former Olympian Blake Aldridge dives from a 90 foot platform above Cuba's Havana Bay. He says that even though he's been diving his whole life, hitting the water still hurts. (Photo courtesy Red Bull Cliff Diving)
Former Olympian Blake Aldridge dives from a 90 foot platform above Cuba’s Havana Bay. He says that even though he’s been diving his whole life, hitting the water still hurts. (Photo courtesy Red Bull Cliff Diving)

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

Pat Farmer ran 13,000 miles pole-to-pole in 2011, from the north to the south, averaging two marathons per day, without a day off. He regularly had to run more than 70 miles per day through Central and South America to make up for lost time in the Arctic. The jaw-dropping feat is something that most people couldn’t fathom; yet Farmer, a former member of Australia’s House of Representatives, refers to his most recent Middle East Peace Run as his “greatest accomplishment.” Farmer explains that the 900-mile run through Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine brought people of different religions and cultures together through their common enthusiasm for sports. While the run wasn’t without tense moments, Farmer says that the goals of finding common ground across national and religious borders were fruitful and successful.

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- Domesticated dogs have evolved with humans as their caretakers, earning their keep by offering protection, loyalty and companionship. These characteristics also make them ideal soldiers in some of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones. And sometimes dogs provide comfort to families when soldiers don’t come home. Christy Ullrich Barcus tells of one family’s struggle to cope with the death of their son and brother and how Eli, his retired service dog, provided comfort to all of them. The June 2014 issue of National Geographic magazine features many services that “The Dogs of War” provide on the battlefield.

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- Spring is a season of romance for many animals. Famously birds and bees bring babies into the world, but Whitney Friedman studies how dolphins do so as well. The National Geographic Young Explorer studies the dynamics of male bands of dolphins in Australia’s Shark Bay as they try to woo female dolphins into mating through coordinated leap displays and other methods.

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- Across the United States, the number of people commuting to work by bicycle is slowly, but steadily growing. But the carbon-free, traffic reducing commuting option is often coupled with dodging cars who drive without much concern for their safety. Robert Kotch, owner ofBreakaway Courier Systems, a Manhattan-based company that runs bike messengers across New York City says that it is possible to ride for years in high-traffic areas for years without getting hit by a car. Kotch shares some of his time-tested tips to help commuters get to work safely, if a little sweatier than their four-wheeled peers.

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- Camping is a good way to escape the crush of the city, in exchange of forgoing some of the creature comforts of home. But National Geographic gear guru Steve Casimiro has tips to enjoy the outdoors safely and comfortably with some important tools, like a fuel free LED lanterna bike helmet that allows more air flow but provides better protection and “magical” knee protection.

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Hour 2
 
- Not all diving boards are created equal. The Olympic 33-foot high dive might be daunting to non-divers, but Blake Aldridge has learned through personal pain that water feels significantly harder when it’s being approached from a 90-foot cliff. The British diver won the year’s first event of Red Bull’s Cliff Diving World Series in Cuba and explains that it was a large adjustment to triple his diving height. Aldridge also disagrees with Boyd that colliding with the water might be easier if divers wore baggy swim trunks, rather than their skimpy Speedo suits. The Series’ second event is June 7 in Forth Worth, Texas.

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- Scouring the ocean’s depths for something recently lost is difficult enough, as was learned this past spring when Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing; with that in mind, locating a wrecked ship that sunk nearly 500 years ago can seem much more daunting. Richard Lundgren spent 20 years searching the Baltic Sea’s frigid depths for the legendary Swedish war ship, Mars. With perspective from historian Johan Ronnby, they confirmed the ship’s location. The divers explain how they dove to the bottom of the Baltic to confirm their finding and how they hope to honor the legendary ship’s legacy.

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- As the economists and ecologists ponder the world’s booming population and the increasingly high-protein dietary demands of the developing world, one of the most pressing questions of humanity’s future remains, “How will we feed everybody?” In the June 2014 issue of National Geographic magazineJoel Bourne looks at aquaculture’s role in the planet’s food future. Bourne explains that large fish pens in the open ocean could provide healthy, clean fish for millions, but that the cost could potentially be prohibitive, when compared with the lower quality fish mills in rivers closer to land.

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Sloth bear cubs are stolen from their mothers when they're young and raised by poor communities to be "dancing bears" for tourists. That practice has now ended by providing financial and educational opportunities to uplift them from their poverty. (photo courtesy of Wildlife SOS)
Sloth bear cubs are stolen from their mothers when they’re young and raised by poor communities to be “dancing bears” for tourists. That practice has now ended by providing financial and educational opportunities to uplift them from their poverty. (photo courtesy of Wildlife SOS)
- The best conservation programs strike a delicate balance between condemning a practice that abuses and endangers animals, but doesn’t leave people hungry or without an income. Kartick Satyanarayanco-founder of Wildlife SOS, shares the story of one of his group’s biggest conservation successes when they were able to wean a small community off the brutal practice of creating “dancing bears” for tourism that was endangering local sloth bear populations. Satyanarayan’s group offered financial and educational inducements to help the group create a conservation-based economy around saving the bears they once abused. Satyanarayan explains that he hopes to replicate the model in similar communities.

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- In this week’s Wild Chronicles segment, Boyd shares the story of a recent scuba diving trip to Anguilla. Boyd, who is decidedly a non-beginner diver, made a classic beginner mistake by becoming too enthralled with a ship sunk 85-feet below the ocean’s surface. He explains the series of events that led him to the surface, hoping he didn’t get decompression sickness.

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