November 2012 NGM Highlights - View as PDF
This month, we capture the first ever slow-motion, high-definition running of the world’s fastest land mammal, the cheetah, with one of the world’s fastest cameras. In addition, scientists discover the secret of the emperor penguin’s incredible underwater speed. Elsewhere, Cuba’s new now is explored, as the people are responding to reform with excitement and skepticism; a paragliding photographer, George Steinmetz, captures the desert’s shifting sand shapes from above; strands of yarn may help unravel a lost chapter of New World History; and 40 years later, a photographer returns to the Arkansas Delta to see then vs. now.
Cheetah, the World’s Fastest Runner video — For the first time ever, one of the world’s fastest cameras captures the movement of the world’s fastest land mammal – in incredible high-def, slow motion.
- The Science of a Cheetah’s Speed video — From spine to skull, a body “perfectly designed for running.”
- A Geographer’s Personal Journey from Cuba to the U.S. video — National Geographic Geographer Juan Valdés shares his story of immigration to the United States from Cuba as a child in the early 1960s.
- Penguins as Elegant Emperors video — Join photographer Paul Nicklen to see penguins rocketing out of the water onto the ice.
- Penguin Feather Power interactive graphic — Drag the bar on the graphic to propel a penguin and see the steps it takes to rocket from sea to ice.
- Above the Desert video — Rise above the desert for incredible views with paragliding photographer George Steinmetz.
- Sand Dune Formation graphic — Tap on photos of sand dune formations to see how their sizes are determined and their shapes are formed.
Cheetahs on the Edge, by Roff Smith, photographs by Frans Lanting (Page 110). Shy, delicately built and unable to roar, cheetahs are one of the most vulnerable of the big cats. Fewer than 10,000 survive in the wild. While highly threatened, they are also shrewd survivors. Certain “supermoms” have astonishing success in raising cubs and even foster the offspring of others. Says one scientist, “I’m not aware of any other carnivore whose survival relies so heavily on the success of so few females.” A remarkable anatomical diagram shows the many features that make cheetahs unique, while a pullout poster documents a 7.19-second 100-meter dash by cheetah Tommy T at the Cincinnati Zoo. Smith and Lanting are available for interviews.
Cuba’s New Now, by Cynthia Gorney, photographs by Paolo Pellegrin (Page 36). Four years after Fidel Castro formally handed Cuba’s presidency to younger brother Raύl, the country is gradually shedding the ascetic nationalism of the revolution and becoming more open, flexible and entrepreneurial. Cynthia Gorney spent nine weeks over the course of two years traveling and interviewing both the optimists — many of whom are experimenting with new business ideas in a changing economy — and the pessimists, who are making plans to flee the island in pursuit of opportunities abroad. Meanwhile, everyone must grapple with the difficulties of the country’s two-currency system that fuels a lucrative black market and forces professionals like doctors to moonlight as cab drivers to make ends meet. Gorney’s text and Paolo Pellegrin’s photos highlight Cuba’s complexities, paradoxes and tensions as change slowly seeps into the country. Gorney and Pellegrin are available for interviews.
Penguin Bubbles, by Glenn Hodges, photographs by Paul Nicklen (Page 60). Shortly after British marine biologist Roger Hughes had been discussing the lubricating properties of competitive swimsuits with his wife, he saw emperor penguins “rocketing through the sea with trails of bubbles in their wakes” and wondered if the bubbles helped penguins swim faster. Hughes teamed with a mechanical engineer and another biologist to analyze hours of underwater footage and they discovered penguins use air as a lubricant to cut drag and increase speed. Air released from the penguin’s feathers in the form of tiny bubbles reduces the density and viscosity of the water around its body, enabling the bird to reach speeds that would otherwise be impossible. Shipping companies are now adopting air-lubrication systems to improve the efficiency of their containerships and supertankers. Paul Nicklen’s stunning photos capture the emperor penguins and their subtle adaptation in action. Hodges and Nicklen are available for interviews.
Vikings and Native Americans, by Heather Pringle, photographs by David Coventry (Page 80). Viking seafarers were “explorers par excellence of medieval Europe,” traveling as far as the coast of Newfoundland. Yet new evidence suggests that they had ventured even further north, to the northern tip of Baffin Island, one of the most inhospitable areas in North America. There, it seems, they constructed semipermanent housing and established a lucrative exchange of goods with native Dorset people, who ranged the eastern Arctic coast for nearly 2,000 years. Carvings of wood and walrus ivory found in Baffin — along with spun-wool yarn — indicate friendly contact between Vikings and these aboriginal Native Americans. There is also evidence that trade in furs and other luxuries seems to have flourished. Following a subtle trail of artifacts, archaeologist Patricia Sutherland is searching for a lost chapter of New World history. Pringle and Coventry are available for interviews.
Sailing the Dunes, photographs and text by George Steinmetz (Page 94). George Steinmetz learned to fly a motorized paraglider — one of the slowest aircraft in the world — in order to take aerial photographs of the Sahara. But what began as a means to an end for an assignment blossomed into a 15-year project to photograph the world’s most extreme deserts. The barchans, seifs, star dunes and other wind-blown sand shapes are variegated and highly textured when captured by Steinmetz’s lens, and his aerial images provide the viewer with a unique perspective on the desert. Steinmetz is available for interviews.
Return to the Arkansas Delta, by Charles Bowden, photographs by Eugene Richards (Page 124). Twelve thousand years ago, the end of the Ice Age and the melting of glaciers began a process that turned the Arkansas Delta into a promised land of agricultural fertility. American settlers and slaves turned the swamps into gold through the cash crop of cotton, but the wealth was impermanent and unevenly distributed. Eugene Richards moved to the delta during the civil rights movement of the late ’60s hoping to help improve the lives of the locals, and he began using his camera to document the poverty and violence throughout the area. There he met the woman who became his wife and endured violence and intimidation. Forty years later, he returns to consider the people and landscapes that became inextricably linked with his life and his memories, attempting to reconcile his past hopes and ambitions with the modern reality of a difficult and unforgiving place.
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