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And now, my dear listeners, that's you guys. You can get $250 off of the Pod Pro Cover. That's a lot. Simply go to 8sleep.com/tim or use code TIM. That's 8, all spelled out E-I-G-H-T, sleep.com/tim or use coupon code TIM. 8sleep.com/tim for $250 off your Pod Pro Cover. Hello boys and girls, ladies and germs. This is Tim Ferriss, and welcome to a very special episode of the Tim Ferriss Show, recorded at many degrees below zero. And my guest today, I met on the road. I did not expect to meet her, and I met her in Antarctica. Sue Flood. Sue Flood is amazing. Sue is a photographer and former BBC filmmaker. Her work has taken her and still takes her all over the world, but she has a special passion for the wildlife and icy beauty of Antarctica, which is where we met. As I mentioned, a Durham University zoology graduate, who spent 11 years with the BBC Natural History Unit working on series including the Blue Planet and Planet Earth with Sir David Attenborough. We talked quite a bit about him before turning her focus to photography. Her most recent book, Emperor the Perfect Penguin, is absolutely spectacular. It's stunning, with a forward by Sir Michael Palin, was published in September 2018. Check it out. At the very least, look it up online to see some of the imagery. She has appeared on screen for the BBC Discovery Channel and National Geographic, been featured on the series "Cameraman Who Dare" and has had her images in National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, Geo and other distinguished publications. Her work has won many awards and competitions including Travel Photography of the Year, International Photography of the Year, International Garden Photography of the Year and a Royal Photographic Society Silver Medal. In recognition of her photographic achievements, Sue was invited to meet her Majesty the Queen during special adventures and Explorers event held at Buckingham Palace. She has so many adventures to share, so many incredible stories and it was just an honor and a thrill. Also a gas, we laughed a lot to meet Sue unexpectedly in Antarctica and I knew that we had to sit down and record this episode. You can find her online, sufloodsueflood.com, Instagram, suflood photography, Twitter, suflood photos, Facebook, suflood photos. We'll link to all of those in the show notes at Tim.blog/podcast. And now without further ado, please enjoy a very wide ranging and what was for me a very enjoyable conversation, a hilarious conversation with Sue Flood. Thank you for being here. I am delighted to be here. In my cozy podcasting studio. And how would you describe where we're sitting right now? Why don't we start with that? Yeah, this is definitely not quite as cozy as I'd imagined. So we are sitting in the Weddle Sea at the most remote camp in the Antarctic right now. And we are sitting in a tent with a table made of snow and ice and looking out the window so we can see a twin after and some Emperor penguins. So it's cool in every sense of the word. It is cool on every level. And as I was mentioning before, I clicked record of using the royal wheel already that I've tested this gear in some very hot conditions, but never in very, very cold. So I'm watching battery very closely.
Guests' Early Life And Career Stories
Where does the word "penguin" come from? (07:45)
Why don't we start, since you mentioned penguin, we're here or the guests are here certainly to see penguins. You are a penguin master of sorts. We'll get into that. Where does this word penguin come from? Oh, that's very cool. So I'm Welsh. I hailed from North Wales, born in a place called Syntassif and living in a place called Schlamthevel near the edge of Stononia. Roles off the tongue. It certainly does roll off the tongue. And there's a community of people from Wales who settled in Patagonia in South America. And pen is the word for head and Gwyn is the word white. So pen Gwyn white head. And it's thought that the first Welsh sailors who came over to South America, they saw much Atlantic penguins as they're now known and called these birds pen Gwyn white-headed birds. But there is still a community of people who speak Welsh in Patagonia. So there is a connection between Wales and penguins. It's so wild.
HalyconAurora Camp, Mt. Ushkovsky (08:55)
Yeah. I've already mentioned that as I was on my, I'm not going to say first, I'm not going to say seventh glass of wine, probably second and a half glass of wine. I was like, you got to be kidding me. And you can hear snow machines in the background. It's part of this audio verite you mentioned. Yeah, absolutely. The aircraft. And this is a, what would you call it? It's a working camp. It's not exactly, is it a station? Is this considered a station? Not a station, but yeah, a working camp that is put up, especially for the purpose. And that snow machine you hear is cutting away some of the, let's say waste that will be flown out back to South America because we have to keep this place absolutely pristine. So everything, can I mean everything? Pottery products get flown back out to South America to keep this place as beautiful as it can possibly be. Yeah, it's like a burning man was fewer bikinis. This is true. And I wanted to have this conversation on tape because I recall that I have this experience every once in a while when you and I were trekking back from the Empire Penguin Colony, hiking our sleds behind us, which are attached to us at the waist. And you're telling me all these stories and I thought, God damn it, I really wish this were being recorded. God, it bothered me so much. But we've spent a little bit of time together, certainly in close quarters because we have the mountain tents in which we sleep and then we have one structure right next to us. What is this even considered? It's almost, if people can imagine, this is not the best description, but a wine barrel laying on its side, cut it in half horizontally and then you have the top half, you put it on top of snow, looks something like that. But what is this considered? So this is a structure called a weather haven and it is absolutely fantastic, very strong. Once you put it up and metal hoops covered in a strong canvas-y material and that's our dining tent and it gets very, very toasty in there. Then if you've got a nice warm sleeping bag, it can be really toasty in your tent, maybe minus 20 or so, the worst. But then you get into your nice warm sleeping bag and stick on your headphones and the only thing to disturb the silence is probably my snoring, heard throughout the camp. And hopefully you have ice shades as well because it is incredibly bright here at the moment, 24 hours a day, which has been difficult to get accustomed to. I'm not sure if you ever do, but the light prompt, every time it would peep through the cracks in my ice shades, I would pop up thinking, "Oh, it is morning," and check the alarm and be like, "No, it's water in the morning." It is technically the morning, but it's one or two in the morning. Let's pull a hard left. You mentioned this yesterday and I thought it might be an interesting place to start the chronology, so this is going to sound strange to be listening, but tell us about the very early days of your time on this planet and hips.
A unique release-day birthday and other early obstacles (11:50)
What happened to you? Oh, well, I was due to be born on Thursday the 12th of August and I was actually a day late, born on Friday the 13th. My poor parents were told that I would never walk and my hips weren't formed properly and they were told I'd always be in a wheelchair. They were obviously devastated by that. As a consequence, my poor dad had a life longer version to Friday the 13th, but they tried this revolutionary new treatment at the time to try and build this special frame to hold my legs in a certain position and I was able to recover. A couple of years later, I was todling around and the fine physical specimen you see before you today. I often think about how lucky I've been to not turn out the way they thought I would turn out. Not long ago, as I understand it, correct my memory here, you came across that brace, which I guess is almost like a retainer for your entire body. Were they stiff suspenders that would hold your hips in a particular position? It's a little X-shaped cross with hooks on the end of it and it would hook over my shoulders and then hook under my backside to sort of hold my legs in a certain position. My mum used to tell me it was just awful because they'd put me into this thing and I would just cry and cry and cry. But they were told that they had to do this to try and give me a chance to possibly walk. We'd unfortunately, my father passed away recently and we were clearing out the house and found this little thing and my brother was like, "Oh, check that out." And I said, "No, I'm going to keep it." That's in my office just as a constant reminder that I've been very lucky. How much of it is a reminder of being lucky versus something else or maybe it's a combination say of overcoming adversity? It's a leading question, of course, and I'm asking it. I'm wondering if you could just expand a bit on why you would want to have that at the ready as a reminder. Aah, never to take anything for granted is I feel like I've lived a super privileged life, not in any financial sense, but in a... My mum used to say, "I've lived a life of five people and I have my absolute dream job. It's what I've wanted to do since I was a kid." And I, as a child, I would watch David Attenborough on all these wildlife documentaries and there were two people who really, really inspired me. One was David Attenborough. I remember seeing him crawling around in the Rowan and jungle with mountain grillers and thinking, "Wow, that's a cool job." And then also my dad. My dad used to be in the merchant navy, so he would have all these amazing stories from Japan and China and Burma as it was. We had this big camp for a chest. He brought back from being at sea with kimonos and hats and headhuntersaws from Borneo and all this incredibly cool stuff and it was inspirational as a child. But yeah, I never dreamt I'd actually get to do this dream job of being a wildlife filmmaker, but I did. And it wasn't quite as simple as just signing up.
How did Dan break into the industry? (15:27)
As I understand it, it wasn't a sign up sheet. So if we go back to then the inspiration, so you have these figures, your father, David Attenborough, probably among others, but there's two primary inspiring you. When did you start and how did you start finding your way towards this job that you have now? What did the earliest chapters look like? I have no idea how to go about it. I wrote to the BBC, to the Natural History Unit as it's called, which is a special department in Bristol that makes all of the BBC's wildlife documentaries and a very kindly producer there saw my letter and bothered to reply. And of course they get thousands of letters from people wanting to make wildlife forms with David Attenborough, of course. I went and studied Zoology at university, so I went to Durham University in the UK, and this producer had said, "Look, you need to put something on your resume that will make us take a second look because we get lots of people with their Zoology degrees or their biology degrees or whatever." So I went, managed to get on to this really cool expedition to Australia, and I had to raise money to go on that, and that was working for the Queensland National Parks Wildlife Service for three months, unpaid, diving on the barrier reef, doing these surveys for crown of sword starfish, which were damaging the reef, whitewater rafting through the rainforest and bugging this path through the rainforest, and caving in the outback in Chile. So this was all interesting. Caving, meaning cave diving. Caving, going into caves into this limestone cave system, that was a character building experience. It's like, "I don't like the dark and I don't like the spaces." So that was a great mix. And then I also heard about a place called Bermuda Biological Station, and they had this three-month work study program where you could volunteer and assist the marine biologists. So I managed to get on to that, and the three months became eight months. And it was really great experience being out there, because I was able to use that time, and it was an unpaid position again. So I didn't have the money to do this, but I was racking up really useful experience. I got my food and my board and built up a credit card bill. I was assisting the marine biologists, as I say, and then there was this team who came out from the UK, and they had been working excavating the Mary Rose. And the Mary Rose was this, was Henry VIII's flagship. So this incredible vessel that had been found, and they had managed to excavate this ship. And they were now coming out, these specialists, to dive on a wreck called the Sea Venture, which had sunk in 1609. And so I volunteered in the days of Snowmill to, could I possibly help them? And they took me on to go and help that team as well as working at the biostation. Could I bookmark this for one second? Sure. So don't lose your place. Okay. I want to rewind to this letter that you sent. So they get thousands of letters. Do you recall at all what you said in this letter? I'm just wondering why, because it's not physically possible that the producer who received it replied to the many thousands of letters that were received. What did you put in that letter? Do you have any idea? Yeah. And I have his reply somewhere at home. So it was along the lines of, ever since I was a child, I've watched David Attenborough's documentaries. He's inspired me to want to become a wildlife filmmaker. I'm going off to university to study zoology. I'd love to come and work for the BBC and can you give me any advice? That kind of thing. And this person, Mike Solsbury, he was, he's a really kind, generous guy. And he, it's typical of him to bother replying. And he was the producer on a lot of the Big Attenborough series. So things like Life of Birds, Life in Cold Blood, all these, actually, and that was with my friend Miles. But he'd worked on all these big key series and some of the older ones like Living Planet and so on. That was the question to him. So he receives the letter, replies to the letter.
Selling yourself: its crucial in conservation too. (19:57)
I want to connect a couple of dots to you arriving in Australia. Yeah. So this was, let me get the Operation Rally. Yeah. So this was straight after university. I'm sorry, what was the producer's name again? Mike Solsbury. Mike. So Mike, in effect, please, please feel free to fact check this, but said, we get a lot of people who check these several boxes. You'd best differentiate yourself. Right. And add some special sauce. Yeah. And then we'll bring that to arriving in Australia. So this Operation Rally, it'd been started up by Prince Charles and also a guy called John Blushford Snell. And the idea of it was to give young people a chance to do community work, conservation work, you know, character building stuff. And I come from this very tiny village in North Wales where that much happens. And a friend at university said, "Hey, look at this." Because it was all over the TV and the papers. Those advertised for applicants. It was very, very, very popular. And you know, wow, this seems amazing. And she said, "Let's apply." And in the confident way I have, I said, "You're never going to get on to that." She said, "Come on, come on, let's apply." And anyway, we applied. So you had to fill out this form, this very detailed form. If you got through that, you got interviewed. And I remember going into this dusty old room university being interviewed by some equally dusty old men and thinking, and they were all terribly, terribly posh, I guess, thinking there's no way I'm going to get through this. But I did get through the interview. And then you got on to what was called a selection weekend where you went away for a whole weekend and they put you through your paces. Just a little. Yeah, and I remember going to sleep in this tent at about 10 o'clock at night and then they wake you up at one in the morning. And we got given a box with a dead rabbit and some potatoes and things to make your evening meal. And no one wanted to touch the rabbit, but I did zoology, so I was happy with that. And then the piazza resistance at the end of the weekend in a very cold November in Newcastle was to there was an outdoor swimming pool, unheated where they told us to jump in and swim a couple of lengths. And at that point, my friend Alice who'd encouraged us to apply, she'd also got through. She promptly burst out crying and she did not get on. And I think I was made a stir the stuff. Maybe I'm just more used to the cold. Wow. So Alice, I hope Alice gets some chocolate, sir, Chris, Chris, what's going on? For that push, for that nudge in that direction. Okay, thank you very much. That was great. I'm very glad we filled in some gaps there. So then, in Australia, you end up in Bermuda, this crew from the UK shows up. They, I suppose among other things, are doing wreck dives. And they bring up, what was the date you said on the 1609. 1609. And they were, we were finding all these really cool things like shoes, like these leather shoes that have been preserved from being buried in the civil center. And you volunteered to do this.
Wreck dives in Bermuda reveals 400-year-old shoes. (23:17)
I did volunteer and coin weights. And so I was, because I heard that they were coming out and I thought, wow, does that sound amazing? And by now, when I was at university, I knew that there was a chance of getting onto this operation rally. I'll be at a very small chance, I thought. And also, so I learned to dive when I was at university in the hope that I got accepted and could go and do this dive project on the barrier reef. But you know, geez, I never thought I'd get to do a thing like that. It was amazing. And I never thought I'd get to Australia. It may as well have been on the moon as far as I was concerned, because I had been to France. And that was it. So I was 20 years old and I'd hardly traveled. Wow.
Cindy's first opportunity with the BBC. (24:03)
All right. I kind of think here, because you have, as I guess we were chatting yesterday, and our now mutual friend, Om, was asking you key life lessons takeaways. You mentioned Carpe diem. Yeah. Because you seem very good at taking advantage of these sliding door moments where you sort of feel like opportunity sliding. However, you also have this long term chance favors the prepared mind, type of orientation, because you did the diving in the hopes that one day, if you were accepted, you would make the cut, which you ended up being able to do. How do we go from that point in time, the diving that you're doing to, I have to provide a spoiler, but to David Attenborough. Well, you know. And there's no rush. So whatever the path is director meandering as it may be, I'm just curious how we go from there. Well, it was quite an interesting trajectory. So by now, I've got some interesting things on my resume. You know, I've got the experience in Bermuda. I got the experience in the Australian, in Queensland, with the National Parks. And so now I was writing to the BBC and saying, well, actually, now I've done this. So instead of getting rejection letters, if I applied for a job, now I was getting interviews. So you know, first of all, it was, I'm getting through to the last couple of hundred for the job, then it's the last 50, then I'm down to the last 10. And I... Pause for one second. Up to that point, how many letters of communication of one sort or another had you sent to the BBC? I would write pretty regularly. And there was a... What happened? There was, you know, I get encouragement from people. Also, there were a couple of wildlife film festivals that I would go to and I'd just go, hi, here I am. And still here, I'd love to be a researcher. But, you know, not quite getting there. And then I got to the last two for a job and I didn't get it. Oh, and it was for this children's TV program called The Really Wild Show. But the producer, Geichel Paul Appleby, he was really kind and he said, look, he didn't quite get the job, but would you like to come and spend the day in the studio? And one of the people who had interviewed me for the job... It's very kind. Yeah, it was very kind. He's a nice guy. And one of the people, it was a board of three people interviewing me. And one of them said, if you're ever in Bristol, just let us know, come for coffee in the BBC canteen and come and tell us what you've been up to. So of course, I pretended I was in Bristol. You haven't happened to be direct bath to Bristol. Exactly. So I took a five hour co-tried to get there and this producer, Michael Bright, we had a coffee and he, what have you been up to? What have you been doing? And he said, I don't suppose you've got any free time, have you? Because there was this researcher meant to be starting today and she just didn't turn up. And he said, have you got any free time? And I said, absolutely. And he said, when could you start? And I said, today. Yes, today. Yeah, so I was given a three day contract. And yeah, and then that got extended by another three days and a few weeks. And then what was the project? There was a series called, While Life on One. Actually, just before that, there was a. Oh, that's right. While Life on One as in BBC One. BBC One. Now, back in that time, just for context, for people who are not from motherland, not from Britain, in the case of us yanks at least, at that time, as I recall, my childhood, for instance, was it effectively what BBC One, Two, Three, Four? And then it was BBC One and Two? One and Two. Yeah. And then there was ITV and Channel Four. Channel Four. Yeah. There we go. But in the sense that you're getting incredible coverage to be on BBC One. Yeah, absolutely. With a larger percentage of the population than people now can younger generations would imagine because it's not like there are a thousand channels to choose from. No, exactly. So, and this was the BBC's longest running nature program at the time. So, it's presented by David Attimer. And wow, so I was getting to work with David at last. Getting closer. Closer. Yeah, absolutely. So, what did working with him look like? Was it through multiple errors? Did you have direct communication? What was that like? Well, that's a great question to me because I remember phoning him up. And I imagine that there was going to be some secretary answered the phone and you know, you hear his voice because I said, "Hello?" And I said, "Oh, David, hello." So, it's so flood. And I'm surprised who you answered the phone. He said, "Well, yes, I do live here." No. So, you know, I had to produce, risk my boss and so on. And I was the researcher. But occasionally I'd have to speak to him and that's still exciting because he's such a wonderful guy. But yeah, it was, that was my first break was working on, on "While Life on One." And then there was a series that was coming up with the provisional name, "Oceans." And this was going to be a series, an eight part series that was going to be a big budget series on the natural history of the oceans. And this is the series that became the blue planet. And one of the cameramen had told me about this and he said, "You know, you should try and get a job on that because it's going to be a really, really good series." And I said, "Oh, they won't get me for something like that." But he said, "Well, you're a dive instructor. I was a dive instructor by now." And I'd worked for a smaller TV company on a series about the oceans as well. So I knew my way around and, "Yes, I applied." And then my boss, Alistair, Father Gill, Alistair was the head of the natural history. Great name. Yeah, great English. And Alistair said, "You've got the job." And I recall exactly what I said. I said, "That's better than winning the lottery." And it was. It was better than winning the lottery. Even now, if you could turn back the clock and I had the choice between winning the lottery and working on blue planet, I would choose working on blue planet. For people who don't know or maybe just have a passing familiarity since the name has come up quite a few times with David Attenborough.
Sir David Attenborough. (30:29)
Yeah. Who is David Attenborough just so that we can paint that picture just a little bit before we keep going? Okay. What has made him so iconic? Oh, well, he has a longevity in terms of wildlife presenters. But I mean, he's so much more than that. He's now 95. He has inspired millions and millions and millions of people around the world. He's just recently spoken at COP. And as a child, he was presenting these amazing documentaries as he still does. But he's just an incredible communicator and just has this constant fascination for everything. And he's not just an expert biologist. He's an expert on all sorts of things, paleontology type of trainer, amber, all sorts of things. And he is a fascinating and lovely man who, as I say, he's inspired millions of people. He also used to head up BBC Two, but he was going off doing things in his 20s that were really extraordinary going off, exploring in places like New Guinea and remote parts of Indonesia and doing some very, very cool things that I recall seeing as a child. But for people listening, I'll play foil just as a stand-in for some people to say, "TV presenter."
Why Sir David Attenborough is amazing. (31:58)
That's like a TV host on our side of the pond. How hard could that be? Isn't he just reading a script? Isn't that what happens? Oh, so not like that. I mean, he had many of the ideas for series. So he would come up with the idea and he would be writing the scripts. And the thing with David is he makes his job look like falling off a log, but it really isn't. It's incredibly difficult to get to that point. Oh, yeah. And he just to go into a recording studio, he's there reading the script. You've hopefully written for him and he's always going to come up with some improvements. But yeah, it's really so much more because he's out in the field. And he's just as I got this incredible enthusiasm for the subject matter and an incredible knowledge. And it is absolutely infectious. And anybody in the BBC Natural History Unit would have been inspired by him as a kid and he can do no wrong. And the voice. I mean, let's not forget about the voice. Oh, and here we are. You didn't class or go over or pause pause. No, not snow leopard. I'm mixing up my leopards. Leopard seal, the footage. But just the pacing, the pacing is so outstanding. He's absolutely brilliant. He is so unbelievably kind and nice. And there's this great story where because his number used to be in the phone book. I always remember him saying how this little boy had phoned him up because his rabbit was ill. He was phoning up David. So David now as he was knighted, of course, but it's like calling the president of the United States to be like, yeah, the the the the the traffic light at my corner. He's not really doing what it's supposed to do. Exactly. And one of the I'm jumping ahead a little here, but we can jump all over the place. One of my top few experiences in my life, a couple of years ago, I'd done this book and one of the paragraphs in the acknowledgments was thanking David for all he'd done to inspire me as a kid. And I'd gone to this book launch for a friend's book, Michael Palin, and he had written this book called Erebus. And I had a copy of my book in my bag. And David was there. So the three of us had a drink together and I said, David, please forgive me for doing this, but I'm never going to be able to do it again. And I basically took my book out and held on to his arm and read out this paragraph and the acknowledgments about what he meant to me and how it inspired me. And then I got to the end of this paragraph and slightly teary eyed and then he gave me this big hug. Yeah, it was great. It's so amazing. Full circle. And that book, just for people listening, I'm sure I will have already mentioned it. And the intro, but which book is this? It's a book called Emperor, the Perfect Penguin. And I've been lucky to spend a lot of time with Emperor Penguins, which as you know now, Tim, are the biggest of all the 18s penguin species. They're the happy feet penguin if you like. And they are so spectacularly beautiful. And I'd done a book, mainly photo led book about emperors and why to me they were the perfect penguin and been photographing them over about 14 years. Crockett, that's a long time.
What is involved in brooding? (35:43)
So that was a book that came out a couple years ago. And literally as we're sitting here, we can look and we're looking at that in between some structures here and we see a line. Yeah. It's almost like cutter ants on their way back to the colony. But in this case, it is a line of pretty closely spaced Emperor Penguins. Yeah. That's that. To Bogging. Could you explain what the Bogging is? Yeah, it's a big thing. Well, they can walk, you know, maybe even 100 kilometers from the edge of the ice where they've been feeding back to the colony to feed their chicks. And of course, todling along on their little legs takes them a long time, but they'll flop onto their bellies and then propel themselves along using their flippers and their very strong feet. That's exactly what they're doing now. So we're just sitting here watching this trail of the most beautiful bird in the world to Bogging along on their bellies going off to feed their chicks. It's very cool. They're a lot faster on their bellies than I would have expected. They really move. They really, really move. They're like oblong bowling balls. I mean, they really hustle and you have this beautiful photograph that you showed the group here, which is of the track left behind, which would be just completely befuddling to decipher unless you knew what was going on. Because how are they propelling themselves? They do glide, but then they do glide, but they use their feet. They've got really strong feet that have special lipids to help stop them freezing because of course they're standing around in the middle of winter, maybe minus 50 or so with wind chill and the males will be incubating the eggs. So they'll be using those strong feet to propel themselves along and then using their flippers to push in the snow. So you get this very cool track of where their bellies rubbing through the snow and then these little sharp lines either side of that. But yeah, you can never get bored of them preparing ones. And a big one, as I say, the biggest of the penguins, but a big one would be about 1.25 meters tall, which is pretty big. Yeah, it is big. It's like a waist-forty-five kilo. Fourish feet tall, something like that. You said 40 kilos, you have about thereabouts. And you mentioned the males incubating. And the eggs are laid, then the males will stand guard and keep the egg heated by putting it into what is this structure? They have a thing called a brood pouch, which is a bare bit of skin at the bottom of their belly and they'll tuck the egg in there. So the female, of course, lays the egg. She will pass it over to the male and she'll then be zipping off to sea and leaving him to do all the work of looking after this egg during the winter. But it's a really precarious thing to pass this egg in super cold temperatures over to the male. And then this big sort of flap of insulating skin goes over the top of the egg and he's able to maintain that egg at about 34, 35 degrees, even though the outside temperature can be minus 50 centigrade. And just to emphasize the endurance required after that point, after the past has been successful, the males will stand around for what anywhere between two, two and a half months and lose something like 30, 40, 40 percent of their body weight. Yeah, it's not incredible. So they cannot eat for about four months from the time they're arriving back at the edge of the ice, they're finding their partner mating, taking care of the egg, sitting on the egg for two, two and a half months. So that can be about four month period that they're not eating. And then when the chick catches, the first meal they get is from the father and he produces this kind of mix of protein and fat that he feeds through the chick from the special glands and his esophagus. So just an amazing life cycle that they can breathe over the Antarctic winter like that. Incredibly harsh. So incredible.
Commercial Break (39:59)
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The first moments that made Doug's career. (41:21)
So let's flashback to Blue Planet. Now you've captured, why don't you just give people a teaser of some of the firsts that you've captured. So we're going to bounce around a little bit, but then we're going to go back to Blue Planet. So what are some of the firsts that you've captured? Oh, yeah. I've been so lucky to photograph some very cool things. So the first shoot I went on for Blue Planet with Cameron, Doug Allen and Tom Fitz, we went to Monterey Bay in California and that was to film Killer Whales or Orca hunting Grey Whales as they migrated up the west coast of the States towards the suburb feeding grounds in Alaska. Then, a couple of months later, Doug and I went up to Lancaster Sound, Jones Soundback Pardon in the Canadian I-Arctic, where there was a super rare event of polar bears hunting beluga whales that were caught in something called a Southside, which is a hole in the ice being kept open by the movement of animals. And the reason they're trapped, it's not because it's a pond, it's because they're mammals of beluga whales. Ultimately, if the next opening in the ice is too far away, they have to stay where they are. So being marine mammals, belugas have to come to the surface to breathe and it's thought that what had happened, they've been feeding at the ice edge, waiting for the ice to break up before they could move into the summer feeding grounds and there'd been a bit of a cull snap and in still conditions, the ice can freeze very suddenly overnight, the sea ice. And so that ice had encroached on them and trapped them in this hole, but we were camping on the sea ice when we were filming this, a bit like camping on the sea ice here. But with the difference that you don't hear it kind of groaning and do your 10 in such as large areas were in here. You've certainly had no shortage of adventure and I want to explore a bit more of the experience in Monterey Bay because this phenomenon of orcas hunting, which type of whale was it again?
Comparative Study Of Orcas And Great Whales
Orcas killing great whales in Monterey (43:10)
Grey whales. And I guess specifically, what do they refer to as the sort of adolescent or young great males? So you've got mothers with their calves, so the calves are born in San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja, California and they're going to migrate up the west coast of the states to the summer feeding grounds in Alaska. And Nancy Black, who was the biologist we worked with, she had this theory that it was the immature mothers that were taking a shortcut across Monterey Bay Canyon, this very deep water, and we knew that National Geographic had tried to film this and not been successful. And in my boss, Alistair, who I mentioned before, he gave me the task of deciding should we go and film this. So that was obviously quite onerous, deciding, you know, shall we spend this money to go and give it a go? And we were extremely lucky that on day three, someone reported this behavior. And Nancy, who runs a whale watch business and she's a biologist in California, she had never seen an attack from start to finish in the whole time she'd been watching this. So she said, "This is my hunch. I know roughly when it happens, because, you know, the blue planet team had gone off to this marine mammal conference and had said, if anyone's got any stories that they think would be interesting for us, let us know." So this really interesting situation. And day three, we saw these killer whales hunting gray whales. May I pause for just one second? Sure. So day three, I don't want you to lose your place. You're mentioning that the younger mothers, the so the theory goes, would take their calves. Straight across the bay. The short, out on the shortcut, not having the sort of, not having the life experience of the more senior mothers who were hugging the shores. Exactly. And we know dragons. Dragons be. Yeah. You know, there'll be dragons. Exactly. And why had the couple of questions you can answer them in any order? Why do you think, or perhaps you know, the National Geographic attempt had failed? And then when you're tasked with deciding go or no go, how did you think about making that decision? In other words, for instance, maybe there's not much downside to you personally in your career for if you say, let's do it and it doesn't work. It's like, well, bad luck. Maybe there are consequences. But if it actually pays off, then like the outside is huge, right? So the two things, why did, whether it's speculation or something that you know, why did Nat Geo not capture the footage? And then how did you think about making the decision? In terms of not getting a footage, I think they were unlucky because they had a fantastic cameraman, Mike DeGree, who was, he was a brilliant cameraman and a wonderful person who's sadly no longer with us. But he and another fantastic cameraman, they were really good guys and they didn't manage to get it. But then I thought if they're sending them to do it, they obviously think it's worth a try. So let's give it a go. But then in terms of trying to decide, my whole life as a wild life filmmaker is trying to make sure that the camera team was in the right place at the right time. And I love logistics, I love the research. And some of these behaviours, you know, if you're going to film something where an animal is, it's well known what it does, you know, maybe it's a lion going to hunt in parlour in Zambia or something like that. And people are seeing that regularly. But when it's something that's not been filmed before, you're just trying to have to piece together the bits of the jigsaw. So as I say, this woman Nancy Black, the biologist, she knew roughly where it was happening, roughly when. And then you have to think about, well, if you're not there, you're not going to get it. So let's go and give it our best shot. Work with her because she seemed to be the person as she was. Indeed, the person who knew most about it. Get a good boat, have a zodiac that we could get into to go and film from. And all you can do is try. And a zodiac is what would you say at 12? How many meters long have you been? Oh, crocky. Maybe about five meters. Yeah, so roughly 15 feet long. People have seen these before. They look, I suppose they are. Are they inflated? Yeah, yeah. They're inflated around the perimeter, the flat on the inside with an outboard motor. Yeah. It's more navigable. We were sitting and when we found this event where the killer whales were surrounding this mum and car, when we quickly clambered into the zodiac, I remember my mum saying when she saw a photo of this, you haven't got your life jacket on because we got in so quickly, I'd forgotten to do that. Oh, yeah. And at one point, the gray whale mother was trying to shelter under our boat. So it was, you know, as a biologist, it was incredible to see this behavior, you know, absolutely amazing behavior. And literally the killer whales were, the orca was close enough that if I'd wanted to, I could have touched them because they were coming right around the boat. But then, and as a filmmaker, wow, this is exciting. No one's fullness before, you know, how incredible is that? Very, very high octade stuff. But then, you know, as a human being, it was pretty grueling to sit and watch this poor little calf get drowned and then eventually eaten. But hey, killer whales have to eat. That's not called killer whales for no reason. Exactly. Not called cuddling whales.
Comparing orcas and great whales in size (49:13)
So I'd love to get a bit more detail. So how large are orcas compared to the calves? Now, let me have a think about that. I would say... We can use metric because we have to accommodate one of the few holdouts in the world, aka US. I think a big male orca would be about 30 feet, 10 meters. I need to check that, but I think that's what it would be as I recall. But the calf, I guess the calf would have been about 5 meters, 15 feet, something like that. Okay, since, I mean, there's a size differential, but not as much as I would have expected. Yeah. So it's a big male orca, because they can have a dorsal fin that's about 6 feet high, but the females would be smaller. Why are their dorsal fin so long? So dorsal fin for people, imagine Jaws, the shark fin, cutting to the water on the, let's just say on the spine, on the back of that. That's the dorsal fin.
Dorsal fin length. (50:07)
Why is the dorsal fin of the orcas so long compared to the length of its body? Why is that? I do not know the answer to that. Why is it so big? It is really low. It's helping, maybe it's acting a bit like a rudder or something. And certainly, I guess if you're traveling in rough seas, other members of your pod can see you, because if you didn't have, I'm just huzzling, I guess there, because there are interesting society. It's a matriarchal society. And when the male calves grow up, eventually they'll be, they'll leave the pod. And yeah, and you've got basically a group of females and calves. I mean, they're extraordinary animals and I've seen them do some really neat behaviors. After Blue Planet, I went on to produce a film about killer whales. We got to film some really, really cool behaviors. Like what? For example, in the Straits of Gibraltar between the southern tip of Spain and Morocco, they were hunting Blufin tuna. So Blufin tuna will go into the Mediterranean to spawn. And then about August time, they're coming back out of the Mediterranean. And at that point, the fishermen are long lining for them. They are so smart. They had learned that when they'd been milling around and you'd see them just swimming around, you know, just keeping an eye on things. And then the minute a fishing boat hooked one, they had clued in to the sound of the winch as they're winching. And as soon as they made a B line for a boat, you knew that boat hooked a tuna and they would just be diving on this line. And then the fishermen would haul it up and be big killer whale sized bites out of it. And yeah, I mean, they're very impressive animals.
Butchering gray whale calves. (51:58)
It's like some predators elsewhere will become attuned if they're surrounded by hunting to the sound of gunshot. Yes. Grizzly's and so on. And about Orca, so in the case of Monterey Bay, are they, this is going to sound stupid probably. Are they hunting the gray whale calves to primarily eat? Are they teaching their young how to hunt? And well, let's start there. Is it is it? A bit of both. Yeah. A bit of both. So, I think the theory that what they were doing was eating the tongue and leaving the rest of it. And we were able to fill on that and show it was that was the case. So what happens? They've got this thick layer of blubber, but the killer whales were going in sort of through under the jaw and to the soft palate. And they drowned the calf by jumping repeatedly on top of it and holding it under and ramming into the side of it. And then they were actually eating the tongue. And once they'd done that, they'd leave it and then just swim away and dug the camera and he got into the water and was able to actually film this slightly gruesome carcass of the whale, which then sank to the bottom of the ocean and then would be feeding other creatures. So, again, all part of nature's great cycle, albeit a bit subtle witness. So if they're just consuming the delicacy of the tongue, which is true for humans also, I feel like at some history of say, some Native American tribes would regularly just remove the tongue of the bison and leave the rest, of course, which would then get consumed by other things. But what is your theory of what primarily was happening in that case? Was it teaching hunting? Was it sport? Was it simply sport? There was definitely an element of teaching hunting and we were able to show that with the footage we got because there was a particular matriarch that had a very noticeable little notch in her fin. So you could see that she was leading the attacks, if you like. But then she would hang back and you could see her and the other adult females hanging back and letting the calves go in and kind of have a go, if you like. So there was definitely an element of teaching.
Orcas, the smart animals. (54:15)
I've seen that with Orca in other places up in Alaska, for example, they were hunting maganzas. So these sea ducks would be swimming around on the surface and then the whales would swim underneath them, get hold of their feet and just pull them under, just pulling them under for a few seconds and letting them go. So these birds were flustered and flopping around and then they'd come up and do it again, just like playing and then of course eventually they drown these poor ducks. But they are the smart animals. The smart animals. Coming back to the size of the dorsal fin, I like that the signaling theory is most in the hunting that you've observed how much of it is coordinated group hunting, almost like a wolf pack or something like that, versus solitary hunting. Far more so than the former, and there was a fantastic film made by David and Liz Pera Cook some years ago. Gosh, about 20, 25 years ago called Wolves of the Sea. And they are just that. Wolves of the Sea, they're coordinated hunting in a pack and there are different types of killer whales, residents that hang around in one place they tend to eat. There's transients that hang more offshore and they tend to eat marine mammals and then there's an offshore type that's a bit of a mix of the two. But yeah, I really enjoyed working with them. My one regret is I haven't got in the water with them yet, but one of these days.
The danger level of swimming with orcas. (55:48)
Is it? What is the danger level in getting in the water with workers? There's never been a case of a person being killed in the wild by an orca. I mentioned that place near Terefer in Spain where they're coming out of the meadow after spooling. And one of the stories that I just loved was they'll have these great big pens where they're catching the fishermen are catching a tuna. And if they're not in great condition, they'll put them into the pens to kind of fatten them up if you like for later in the season. And this guy's, his job was to repair these nets, make sure they're in good condition, no holes in them if someone's caught it on their propeller or something. And he was there in the water in his dive gear, sort of sewing up this net with a bit of rope and he became aware that someone's watching him and he turned and looked over his shoulder and there's this killer whale just sitting at his shoulder watching him repair this net, which yeah, that would give you a... And that's spooky at all. Not spooky at all. That would give you a wee bit of a fright. But got a lot of thrill. And you'd mentioned also, I'll give you a visual cue. And maybe you could... Do you remember? Oh, I do remember. So I let you just... It takes you to a whole different level. I love this. So there's a camera and a cool, Andrew Penneker in New Zealand who worked on this killer whale film with me. And he was telling a story about his friend diving in the Pawnite Islands in New Zealand, which is this absolutely brilliant dive spot. And this guy's swimming around and then all of a sudden snags his leg as he thought. And he thought he'd caught it on some, you know, fishing gear or something like that. And he turns around and there's this... Orca, this killer whale that's basically holding his calf between its jaws and just gently squeezing his wetsuit with its teeth. Well, this doesn't look like it's going to taste too nice and just let him go. Yeah, that would be a... I think you'd probably feel quite wide awake after that. Yeah, no extra coffee needed after that time.
Insights From Wildlife Photography And Responsibilities
Dream situation in water with Orcas (57:59)
Wow, so incredible. What would you like to do if you got in the water with workers? Just... What would your dream scenario be? I would like to photograph them, but then equally it's, you know, nice to not have a camera and just sit and observe them. Because as I say, no one has been killed by one and we did have the intention when we were filming the Montreux Bé sequence that we'd get in the water. But then we decided not to do that because they were really kind of thrashing around when they were hunting the grey whales. And I think there's probably a very good chance you might have got injured just in the melee. This is as good a layup of a segue as I could hope for. It might as well use this opportunity, the divorce will. Oh, the divorce whale. Oh, dear God. Well, so Dirk, who I mentioned earlier, Doug Allen, Dirk is a fantastic, fantastic documentary cameraman. But as I always tell him, not such a fantastic husband. But anyway, he proposed to me when we were adrift on a piece of ice in the Canadian high Arctic during the making of the blue planet with the classic line, "If we get rescued, will you marry me?" As I always tell him, probably he thought he was going to die to do that. But then some considerable time later when we were working on planet Earth, we were filming humpback whales in Tonga in the South Pacific, which is definitely my favourite shoot from my time with the BBC. And we spent 10 weeks filming humpbacks. And the humpback whales that were in the subtlely latitudes, when the winter approaches in the Antarctic, they're going to move to northerly climbs to have their calves. So places like Tonga where you've got shallow, warm, protected waters. Anyway, we were filming them. We were both in the water. He's filming the mum and calf, and I'm filming him filming the mum and calf for the secrets for the discovery of the channel. And you're quite close. And I was quite close, and I looked over the top of the camera and realised I was way closer to the calf, because I was on a very wide-angle lens. And the calf was kind of flopping around because it didn't have the control that the mum had. And you know, the mum's 45 feet long, 15 metres long, and the calf was about 15 feet, 5 metres, weighing about a ton. And this calf basically bumped into me with its tail. I mean, certainly not being aggressive or anything, just because it didn't have the control of the mother did. I mean, bump is a perhaps an understatement. Yeah, because I was filming at the time, this was all caught on camera. And it just really felt like I'd been hit with a sledgehammer, and I thought straight away I've broken my leg. So I stuck my head above the water and shouted to dig, I've broken my leg. Normally, I would clip the video camera on before I get in the water. But this day I hadn't, because we'd gotten the water very quickly, so I was just holding the video camera. And that was slightly negatively buoyant, so it started sinking. Anyway, given the choice between rescuing me with the potential broken leg or the camera, sadly, there was no contest. So I was not in any doubt before the incident that Doug preferred his camera to me, but I was definitely left in no doubt at all after that event. So I always joke and call out the divorce whale. But so we are divorced for a number of reasons, but that I think was a nail in the coffin. But we do get on much better now. I'll get my own back one of these days.
The mistakes made by young apsiring wildlife photographers (01:01:47)
You've had tremendous success in your career. But are some of the most common mistakes or any mistakes that you see in novices who are trying to become or are, but just in the early stages of being wildlife photographers? We can start with that category. You need to walk a fine line between being determined but not too pushy. No one wants to paint in the ass. Hopefully I'm not. But you need to want to do that job more than anything else in the world because it is absolutely all-consuming and I don't have kids. And there are a very small number of people who have made a success of this career who do have kids, but it is a very small number. But yeah, you just have to want to do it to the exclusion of practically everything else. But I did. I did want to do that. It's just been a fabulous life getting to do what I absolutely love.
Working and personal relationships with people who "do cold" and those who don't (01:02:58)
Now you are remarried. And you are chatting with some other folks on this trip also just curious as to how the relationships work, what the kind of agreements are since some people here and I don't know what your split looks like, but they will spend 200 plus days of the year on the road and they are significant other is not on the road. Yes. Could you just tell us a bit more about that? My husband Chris, he and I were at primary school together. So we met with 10, then didn't see each other for 37 years. A dear friend of mine, Judith Owen, she is a fabulous singer-songwriter and I have been to stay with her and her husband Harry Shearer and Santa Monica and photographed you to sell them. Chris had seen a post I had made about this and then he said, "Wow, that's what an amazing voice this woman has got." And we had got back in touch. I invited him to go to the gig and that's how we remit after all this time. But he is not good in the cold. Whereas Doug was the world leading pole account. It's a bit of a contrast there. So I think he wishes he'd married the tropical specialist, but he absolutely loves being at home. He loves being at home. And of course we've just had lockdown. So we've been at home together for almost a couple of years. And amazingly he seemed to have enjoyed spending that time with me. But yeah, I'm going to be away a lot probably the next couple of years trying to make up for a bit of lost time and revenue. But it's what I do for a job and I need to be able to go to these places and do these things because it's what makes me tick. So it actually works out really, really well because it's funny. Someone was joking about having a home husband and a work husband because I like working in the cold and have friends I can do that with. And then Chris likes being back home and friends with the log fire in North Wales. It sounds like he and my girlfriend would get along. When I first shared the description of this trip and I sent it to her and if she gets sleep in a sauna, not to be confused with this. What is it? A sauna. A sauna. Yes. We had some confusion earlier. I do not speak the Queen's English. A sauna. What's the sauna, Tim? Yeah, yes. What is that? Sounds vaguely foreign. The response she gave me when I shared it and I sent it very enthusiastic because I was downtown working. Very enthusiastic emails. This is even more amazing than I possibly could have imagined. All these caps. And then we talked about it later. She said, "Yeah, I really hope you have the best home because you should go and this is not for me." She's probably on holiday with Chris as we say. They might be sitting in front of a log fire. I think there was a tropical island somewhere.
5.Thinking about photography as breaking news and time for change. (01:06:06)
How many people who are in relationships do you meet who have an opposite as you do in a sense versus someone who perhaps understands because they do the same type of work because I've met some of both here? Is there a breakdown that you've seen or just in your experience? That's an interesting one, isn't it? I think that for me, it definitely works better being married to someone who's the opposite than doing someone who's got similar passions because it's the sort of job where you have to be very driven. You can't think, "Oh, I'm going to stay in the tent today when the polar bear is off doing something exciting outside." The longest we had in one spell filming was 36 hours because there was this interesting behavior going on. So you need to be... 36 hours of continuous filming? Yeah. That's a lot. But that was super rare and that was this polar bear hunting beluga whales thing. So you have to be prepared to put up with discomfort. But then the really cool thing about my job now is since I decided to leave the BBC because I wanted to go out on a high after planet Earth. Getting out at the top like Rocky Marciano? Oh absolutely. Just with smaller biceps. Possibly. And yeah, no, I do. It was just such an amazing experience. And by now I'd had 11 years working on these David Attenborough series and this had been my absolute dream as a child. And I just thought, "Well, I've been doing photography as part of my job. So I've been promoted to assistant producer, associate producer, then producer and director." And I thought, "You know what, I'm actually enjoying photography more than being a producer. So I decided to see if I could make a go of that." Now a quick interjection because I enjoyed your presentation the other day. Time really blurs here by the way. Time dilation and contractions. It's very hard to know how tired you are or awake you are. I'm sure you figured out on time. But for me I'm like, "Oh, I'm so hungry and tired and it's probably 11 in the morning. Oh wait, it's one in the morning. It's very confusing to my circadian rhythm." But when I was watching your presentation a couple of days ago, it feels like a couple days ago, you mentioned that your photographs were sort of inching their way, centimeter in their way, closer to the covers of magazines. So that was that also part of the reason you decided, you know? Yes, it was. I think there's a shot. I think there's a pretty good shot here. Yeah, my... Yeah, well, you know, in the same way that as a kid I thought, if I don't give it a go to try and work with David Attenborough and that was what going back to that Operation Rally Project in Australia, what that gave me was the confidence to at least try. And if I didn't succeed, at least I tried, you know, better to have loved and lost and not to have loved it all kind of thing. And then same with this idea of the photography, so I, as you mentioned, I got a shot of a great white shark on the cover of the BBC World Life magazine, and then I got it on the cover of a National Geographic magazine. And then I had another shot on the back cover of the National Geographic magazine, and I thought, "Well, you know, I'm getting a bit closer here, so let's give it a go. If it doesn't work out, at least I tried. I won't be sitting here wondering if I just succeeded." So I handed him my notice and I had a really good bit of luck the next day, although the old thing of, "You make your own luck right." So I was asked the following day, "Did I want to join this Russian icebreaker that was going to the North Pole?" And they asked me, "Did I want to do that?" And I was going to go and speak about polar bears and other Arctic wildlife because I'd just finished this film about polar bears. So that led to me doing seven trips to the North Pole by a nuclear icebreaker and getting to have some wonderful experiences working on this ship. Quick question.
Sustainable hybrid-electric propulsion for icy landscapes. (01:10:18)
What does nuclear icebreaker mean? Icebreaker, I understand. What is the significance? Yeah. So rather than running on diesel or whatever, it runs on nuclear power, and the Russians have a number of... Can you hear those? I'm preparing ones in the background, isn't that great? Another reason that you don't sleep normally here. That's right. I mean, the other night, about three in the morning, there was one clearly standing right outside my tent and about two foot from my head, and then suddenly started calling, which was rude awakening. But lovely. Just to build on that so people can fully appreciate these emperor penguins. Do not have, as I understand it, any terrestrial predators. So when they are out of the water, we briefly mentioned leopard seal. We can maybe come back to that, but people can certainly Google it and see some crazy imagery. On land, they are utterly unafraid. I mean, you can still freak them out if you move too quickly or something, but I guess some of the staff here call them the inspectors. Yeah. Because they'll come right up to you and check you out. Absolutely. It's really incredible. Yeah. And there are very strict guidelines about how close you can approach them. So no closer than five meters, et cetera. But of course, if you sit still and wait, they'll come and check you out. And it's just a magical experience. I mean, one time I'd carried my camera bag out to the colony and it was a really cold day. It was minus 22 centigrade. And I laid down, I put my head on the camera bag and was just listening to the chicks. And I actually fell asleep while I was listening to them. And my hand was stretched out on the snow and I woke up, I know, 15, 20 minutes later. And my arms on the snow with my glove on. And there was this little Emperor Penguin chick with its little flipper stretched out on my hand right next to me. But yeah, going back to the ice breakers, I mean, I had seven trips on those and lockdown has given me the chance to think about how I want to slightly change how I'm working. So flying less, cutting my carbon footprint, which has obviously been very easy in the last year and a half because I've hardly been anywhere. But flying less, and it was very cool in September, a couple of months ago, I was asked to join a hybrid electric ship going to the North Pole. This is this amazing ship which new design and by Pommart, the French company. So I'm going to be working with them the next couple of years. So it's really lovely to be able to find this hybrid electric ship running on liquefied natural gas and battery power and just doing things in a very different luxurious way. Hurrah. Well, you also mentioned it in a very quiet way, right? Yeah. Which is, I suppose obvious once you say it, but you're mentioning that you're on deck and being able to take these amazing photographs of polar bears because the ship is so quiet and you actually had to ask some fellow passengers to pipe down because their voice was the loudest element of the ship. It was a ship. It was incredible. So we were able to stand there photographing this mother and cub, you know, playing around in the snow, clambering over the ice, rolling, just behaving completely naturally, not affected by our presence.
Tweaking the job of presenter. (01:13:39)
It was, yeah, absolutely wonderful. So being able to sort of tweak the way you're doing your job is really important. One of the things that I've seen you doing here with some mutual friends is going through photographs, discussing photography. What type of feedback do you give most frequently when you are interacting with people, say, at a camp like this? What are some of the things that people perhaps don't pay enough attention to or things that are missed by folks who come here? Many people who come here are experienced, not necessarily well-trained, but experienced photographers. Yes. I'm one of the few people here who isn't carrying equipment. How do those feedback/teaching sessions go? That's one of the things actually that since I left the BBC that I've really enjoyed doing is teaching people and getting that feedback from people who watch these documentaries as opposed to just being with people who make them. I realized that actually being with people and getting them to observe the natural world and tell them about animal behavior and help them capture it with their cameras or their iPhones or whatever, that's something that I really, really enjoy doing. That's led to a number of, whether it's working for different travel companies or private individuals where I'm taking them on location and doing that for them or maybe making a book of their trip, that sort of thing. I love doing that and just trying to point out different bits of behavior. Because as a zoologist, that's been very helpful getting to be a wildlife filmmaker or photographer, so you can observe the animals and point those things out to them and try and get them to look for the little moments that make a special photograph, not just it's standing there, but what is about the scene in front of you that you can capture and turn into a special moment? That might be an example. Something like Emperor's, when you're watching them, because I've been fortunate to photograph them so much, you can tell when an adult has paired up with its own chick. It's coming back from feeding at the colony. It's walked now, at the moment, we're about 10 miles from the edge of the ice. It's walked about 10 miles to come and bring food to the chick. They locate their chick amongst thousands of birds by calling to it. They will find their chick. That's so much more poetic than that. It is. It is. I guess someone was saying they're byharmonic, so it has a very particular sound to it. It's a fantastic sound, and then the chicks are calling to the adults, and it's just lovely. You can see if that adult is with its chick, because when it is, it's snuggling close to it, and then you can see when it's about to feed it. I'm able to say to people, "Look, you see that one over there? That's its chick. It's not a stranger if you like." Then it will stand there and regurgitate its meal of fish, squid, krill to the chick, which is a lot more photogenic than I'm making. It's a sound. But being able to do that kind of thing and help people see little bits of behavior is a cool thing to do. Same when I'm taking people on Safari. If you see a leopard, and you can anticipate what that leopard is going to do, because I take people in Safari to Zambia every year and watching marine mammals in Alaska, whatever it is, it's just trying to get the detail and trying to help them tell a story with their photos. If you have one, this was a very large component, which is your Venn diagram of strengths of helping people anticipate, or perhaps first just see the behaviors. Certainly, you have your books, are there any other books that you've gifted most to other people? I actually gifted one recently, a friend of mine, Ian Dawson, he trains Mountain Rescue people, Mountain Rescuers in Scotland. He was working with me at the North Pole, and he'd never seen a polar bear before. He absolutely fell in love with the environment. I gifted him a book called "Artic Dreams" by Barry Lapers. This is on my to-read list of "Wolves and Men" by Barry Lapers. It was one of my favorite non-fiction books I've read in the last 10 years. And "Artic Dreams" I was just saying on the way here in the airplane that I wished I had "Artic Dreams". I haven't read it yet. It is a magical book, and yeah, I gifted that to Ian, and I know he loved it. That is a great read. You have to immediately dash off "Well, Pup's Not Now", but when you get back to civilization, yeah, that's a really beautiful book. And I've brought that for quite a few people. There's also a fabulous book on polar bears called "A Matricificty Enough" polar bears, something like their ecology behavior, something like that by Ian Sterling.
Understanding Polar Bears And Perseverance
On the allure of polar bears. (01:18:49)
And Ian is the world's leading polar bear biologist who is a fantastic person. And I've had some amazing experiences with him going tagging polar bears. Just, yeah, so that's another brilliant book. And having worked a lot with Ian in the Canadian High Artic, I've got quite a large collection of books about artic stuff, whether it's wildlife or the internet themselves, or polar art and so on. So we'll link to all these for folks in the show notes afterwards. So we'll give that URL a little bit later. But I'm curious about polar bears. I've never seen a polar bear. And as chatting with some folks here, we have a lot of staff from Alaska. We have folks from Bath and Island. And a number of them have commented because I was asking about grizzly bears as well, about how small grizzly bears seem compared to polar bears, which is kind of mind boggling for me to even funder because I'm seeing grizzly bears and they're by no means. They don't strike me as small. And it's, I'm wondering why polar bears are so huge because you'd think their task of hunting seems to be much more difficult than say a grizzly bear. I'd say so, yeah. So wouldn't it make more sense that to sustain a larger body requiring more calories would be better suited to the environment of the grizzly bear as opposed to the Arctic? So why are polar bears so huge? What am I missing? Well, for starters, they have to be able to survive a few months without food when the sea ice breaks up because they need sea ice as a hunting platform to hunt for amongst other things, ring seals, which are the most numerous seal in the world. That's their favorite prey, but they can also hunt other seals. Sorry, rustling a bit there because I'm sitting here in my parka in our little-- Oh, you're good. I'm going to put my top box. My head's getting pretty chilly. You need a little fur around the face. Also, you've maybe seen footage of documentaries where they'll pound the ice and break through the ice to break into a seal layer. So they can break through several inches of snow and ice. So they've got to be pretty hefty to do that. That's right. Yeah, so the seals, the ring seals will build a little snow layer under the ice and they will be in there with their pup. And then the polar bears will walk along and they'll be able to sniff the seal through the ice and then pound on that. So the seal layer, it's effectively a burrow? It's called a submivian layer.
Volcanoes and polar bears. (01:21:30)
So it's like a little layer under the snow. So they will come up from the ocean and there'll be a hole kind of into this little den, this little pocket. And then there's a-- I think the word is agalu, this little tiny little hole which is open to the air where they can breathe in both the anywhere and bears can spot this quite how I'm not sure or still. And then the other thing is that they will, as well as being, you know, pounding through the ice and as I mentioned, you know, there'll be a pregnant female when she goes into the maternity den when the ice breaks up. She's going to be in that for a few months. So they give birth to the cub and it'll be about the size of a guinea pig and she'll be in the maternity den with that cub for about three months before they emerge out in about March, April time. So she's got to have the subcutaneous fat for her to last that time. And actually, what does-- really cool fact, I managed to get this into this for my read about polar bears with Ian Stirling and David Attenborough. So in 1990-- oh gosh, I think it was '93, it might be '98, Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines. And when that-- you think what the heck's that got to do with polar bears, right? So when Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines, it threw up huge amounts of volcanic ash into the atmosphere. And that obviously stopped some of the solar radiation getting through. So the following spring, temperatures were about one and a half degrees cooler than normal. And that meant that the sea ice stayed longer than it would usually, maybe an extra couple of weeks. And so that meant the polar bears, including the free mills, they were able to feed up a lot more on ring seals, put on more weight, so that when they went into those maternity dens, they were able to basically have more cubs or hang onto their cubs and the cubs were in healthier condition. So they actually called the bears that emerged at spring, the Pinatubo bears. Isn't that incredible? So this volcano in the Philippines was directly linked to the success of those bears.
A few bear stories. (01:23:56)
More bear cubs. Isn't that cool? That is amazing. And also actually polar bears, he came out with this great statistic that polar bears being affected by forest fires. And you think, what's that all about? But in the southern Hudson Bay population of polar bears, which are the most subtly population, unusually they'll dig, sometimes they'll be digging maternity dens into river banks where there are tree roots and so on, which will kind of hold the substrate together. But when there's a forest fire, then that will burn the tree and then that is affecting how well that den can hold together. Anyway, all sorts of interesting facts about polar bears and here we are in the Antarctic rum poll. Yeah, I accidentally, antarctic as a real hassle to spell with your thumbs on an iPhone. So I told a friend of mine, I was going to the Arctic to see penguins and he's like, you know, you might want to just double check and make sure you're going in the right direction. And I was like, okay, I will. Well, I'll tell you what, you sleep a lot better in a tent on the sea ice in the Antarctic than you do in the Arctic. Oh, I bet. There's a couple of occasions where we've been woken up in the tents by polar bears. And in fact, Doug, my ex, who we heard about with the divorce whale, Doug was filming polar bears with an Inuit friend and they were in the tent around about March time. And it was pretty chilly, so he's kind of huddled in his sleeping bag and his feet were pressed against the wall of the tent. And he was woken up by a polar bear pouring his feet through the wall of the tent. So he woke up and drew a video at Fred and said, Hey, we've got a bear in camp. And Andrew said, just open the tent and it'll run away. He said, no, you open the tent. Oh, God. Yeah, no, thanks. I'll let you do that. You seem confident. Yeah, we just think all this gray hair came from. Does that actually work? I mean, it does work. Yeah, they, they, they, they, they, the tent and the bear ran away. That's so strange to me. Because I've also seen footage of bears like smacking on windows and trying to get in. Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, people are barely regularly killed by them.
Where to find Sue online. (01:26:09)
But, you know, the first time we ever went to the Arctic, I will never forget it as long as I live. And I've got pretty big feet and I was able to stand and put both of my feet inside one paw print and have a bit of space around the outside. They're so big. Yeah, they are. It's really incredible and very impressive. Speaking of boots, I'm in these boots. I own little toasty feet. Well, they're rated down to, I guess, negative 100 Fahrenheit and my toes are cold. Oh, dear. That's okay. They're not frostnapped or frostbitten. But your backside will be soon. Yeah, my ass. I don't know if I can even feel my ass anymore. Sue, where can people find you online? They can find me on my lovely new website, which is just soofflood.com. Flood like lots of water, sufflood.com. And then, you know, Twitter and Instagram, soofflood photography or soofflood photos. And yeah, love to hear from you. We will link to everything in the show notes at Tim.blog/podcast. So please check it out. You have to see Sue's work. It's just spectacular. It's really and it's not just the expertise and the patience and the endurance and the creative eye that is reflected in the work. It's also the spectrum of your photography. I mean, it's not just even if it were solely in, say, Antarctica, it would still be amazing, but you operate and have been able to capture such incredible visuals in so many different environments with so many different animals. It's very impressive. I must say. Thank you.
Being patient with animals and not people. (01:27:54)
Thanks so much. But you know, my mum, Tim, she always used to say, "How come you're so patient with animals and not with people?" What's your answer there? You don't talk back. Yeah, something like that. Yeah, it's a lot easier to be patient with a polar bear or a leopard than some people.
Never giving up on your dreams. (01:28:16)
But yeah, it's thank you for that lovely comment. And you know, it's a massive privilege to do what I do for a job and I never forget it. And you know, the great thing is going back to full circle to when I was at school because when I was about 15, I was asked by a teacher at school, "What do you want to do when you leave school?" And I said, "I want to make wildlife films with David Attenborough." And was told, "Nobody gets to do that. How about cooking?" Which was obviously a non-sequitur. And a few years ago, I was invited back to my school to hand out prizes on prize-giving day and give a speech in Chester Cathedral. So I was able to tell that story and say, "You know, if you have a dream to pursue something, pursue it because I was never the smartest, I was never the hardest working, but I knew what I wanted to do and I'm too stubborn to give up." So that's probably the secret of some of the success. But it's a privilege to get to do it and be told to you about it. So thank you. That's so fun. It's great. I mean, what a spectacular environment. I can't think of the next time that I will have a chance to sit in a snow slash ice lounge in this sort of half-spherical tent. It's like being inside the top half of a 20-sided dive or any D&D nerds out there. This ice table that has been created. It's pretty fancy. And I am very impressed that the gear has actually lasted this long. And I also want to give credit where credit is doing. We have handed out to thank for many things, keeping us alive and running this cap, being very high on the list. But also, just to humanize you a little bit, she was telling a story because we were kind of huddled around the oven in there that I guess it was a previous trip where there was a daily practice of sitting down and she would say, "Maybe you can fill in the gaps here. Sue, you have to tell us three good things about yourself because you're so bad at it." She did say that and she brought it up the other day. Yeah, that is not my high suit. I have constant imposter syndrome, constant. And so Hannah punished me by trying to get me to say three nice things about myself. But it's funny. You make me think to him that there was this event. I'm still astonished that I was invited to this event at Buckingham Palace to go and meet the Queen as a result of my photography. My first reaction when I got this was someone playing a joke on me. Yeah, and it wasn't. And I just find that remarkable. And I've got one of my photos hanging on the wall of Buckingham Palace, which, wow, I mean, the Queen, good grief. And I did the World's Worst Curtsy, which was having watched American football on TV. It would not have looked out of place at American football match or a rugby scurbing wheels. But anyway, it was a rare chance for me to wear a dress that doesn't happen very often. And when I got married, I think it was the last time. Amazing. Well, to a great many adventures had and a great many adventures to come. Yeah. It's really wonderful to spend time with you. You've been so generous with everyone here.
Wrap-Up And Reminders
Nerd Icetron 5000TM sign-off! (01:31:41)
Oh, thank you. And it's really wonderful to see how excited you still are to engage with the work being out there and sitting out there and listening to the penguins and watching the penguins as I have been has always gone hand in hand with watching you on your side crawling around and pangolin going out doing the little, come on, come on, the little hand beckoning to get the. Yeah. And I often talk to, you know, I'll often talk to wildlife because you, you know, whether it's a, you'll often catch something's attention if you start talking to it. Or, you know, if you're in the water with a humpback whale or something, you can start singing down your snorkel or, you know, think something where you're going to catch something's attention. Catch their attention. So now next thing we have to do is we have to go to the Arctic together. Then we can do a podcast about more polar best stories. I'm into it. I'm very, very into it as long as I don't have to be the one unzipping the tent. I'm all for it. Yeah. I'll be a luxury icebreaker. I'm all over it. Don't worry. All right. I'll bring, I'll bring the, I'll bring my podcast studio with me, which for those who obviously can't see this is just an H six zoom sitting on my thigh. It's the only warmth that I'm currently getting. And let's not forget your special hat. Oh, yes. Yes. And then I have, I have a banya, a Russian banya hat, a sauna sauna hat, which insulates your head, especially if you're bald, like I am. So you don't turn your ears into Chinese dumplings when you're in these things. And it turns out to be perfect for an ice table when you want to put your gear down without destroying it. No expense spared. No expense spared. I like hand me down Russian banya hat. And I would say this has been a great success. So thank you again, Sue. Hey, thank you. Absolutely loved it. I'd really appreciate the opportunity. And yeah, look forward to the Arctic next North Pole. Here we come. North Pole. Here we come. And everybody check it out, suflood.com and we'll link to all the socials. You're on all the, on the various networks and so on. Where are you most active on social media? Probably Instagram. Instagram. What is your Instagram handle? We'll put the right one in. Pretty, pretty easy advice. Suflood pH. And then we'll pop right up. So check it out everybody. I can't recommend it highly enough. And Sue, what a gift your work and your teaching is. So thank you again for that. I'm cringing you now. You sing something nice. I know it's nice things. Nice things. Nice things. And well deserved. And to everybody listening, I'm going to go warm up my body and my feet and my rear side with some hot coffee, hot instant coffee. I love, I wouldn't say it's shitty, but I really enjoy hot instant coffee. Yeah, you're just talking about it. I need to get off. Where's my cup of cheese and what I need to do? Yeah, well, you know, I'm from Long Island. No one ever accused me of being too high class. So I'm showing my true colors and everybody listening. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time. Be safe. I'm adventurous. Let someone else unzip the tent. And you'll be able to find everything at Timbuplog/podcast for links to everything we've discussed. And just one more thing, boys and girls, this is an afterword. I forgot to mention something. And that is in February of 2021, Sue won the climate change category in the science photographer of the year contest, which was run by the Royal Photographic Society. This image is pretty stunning. It's beautiful. Also shocking in some ways. And you just have to Google North Pole underwater, Sue Flood, and the image will pop right up. And I recommend checking it out. Thanks for listening. Hey guys, this is Tim again. Just one more thing before you take off. And that is Five Bullet Friday. Would you enjoy getting a short email from me every Friday that provides a little fun before the weekend? Between one and a half and two million people subscribed to my free newsletter, my super short newsletter called Five Bullet Friday.
Five Bullet Friday (01:36:04)
Easy to sign up, easy to cancel. It is basically a half page that I send out every Friday to share the coolest things I've found or discovered or have started exploring over that week. It's kind of like my diary of cool things. It often includes articles I'm reading, books I'm reading, albums perhaps, gadgets, gizmos, all sorts of tech tricks and so on that get sent to me by my friends including a lot of podcasts, guests and these strange esoteric things end up in my field. And then I test them and then I share them with you. So if that sounds fun, again, it's very short, a little tiny bite of goodness before you head off to the weekend, something to think about. If you'd like to try it out, just go to Tim.blog/Friday. Type that into your browser, Tim.blog/Friday.
Eight Sleep (01:36:54)
Drop in your email and you'll get the very next one. Thanks for listening. This episode is brought to you by 8Sleep. My God, am I in love with 8Sleep. Good Sleep is the ultimate game changer. More than 30% of Americans struggle sleep and I'm a member of that sad group. Temperature is one of the main causes of poor sleep and heat has always been my nemesis. I've suffered for decades, tossing and turning, throwing blankets off, putting them back on and repeating ad nauseam. But now I am falling asleep in record time faster than ever. Why? Because I'm using a simple device called the Pod Pro Cover by 8Sleep. It's the easiest and fastest way to sleep at the perfect temperature. It pairs dynamic cooling and heating with biometric tracking to offer the most advanced but most user-friendly solution on the market. I polled all of you guys on social media about the best tools for sleep and enhancing sleep and 8Sleep was by far and away the crowd favorite. People were just raving fans of this. So I used it and here we are. Add the Pod Pro Cover to your current mattress and start sleeping as cool as 55 degrees Fahrenheit or as hot as 110 degrees Fahrenheit. It also splits your bed in half so your partner can choose a totally different temperature. My girlfriend runs hot all the time. She doesn't need cooling. She loves the heat and we can have our own bespoke temperatures on either side which is exactly what we're doing. Now for me and for many people, the result, 8 Sleep users fall asleep up to 32 percent faster, reduce sleep interruptions by up to 40 percent and get more restful sleep overall. I can personally attest to this because I track it in all sorts of ways. It's the total solution for enhanced recovery so you can take on the next day feeling refreshed. And now my dear listeners, that's you guys. You can get $250 off of the Pod Pro Cover. That's a lot. You can go to 8sleep.com/tim or use code TIM. That's 8 all spelled out E-I-G-H-T, sleep.com/tim or use coupon code TIM. 8sleep.com/tim for $250 off your Pod Pro Cover.
Athletic Greens (01:39:07)
This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. I get asked all the time what I would take if I could only take one supplement. I would ask this for years. The answer is invariably A-G1 by Athletic Greens. I view it as all-in-one nutritional insurance. So you can cover your basis. If you're traveling, if you're just busy, you're not sure if your meal is where they should be, it covers your basis. I've recommended it since the 4-hour body, which was got a year ago, 2010 and I did not get paid to do so. With approximately 75 vitamins, minerals and whole food source ingredients, you'll be hard pressed to find a more nutrient dense formula on the market. It has a multibitamin, multimineral greens complex, probiotics and probiotics for gut health and immunity formula that just event times and adaptogens. You get the idea. It is very, very comprehensive. I do my best, of course, to focus on nutrient dense, proper meals, but sometimes you're busy, sometimes you're traveling, sometimes you just want to make sure that you're getting what you need. A-G1 makes it easy to get a lot of nutrition when whole foods aren't readily available. It's also NSF certified for sport, making it safe for competitive athletes as what's on the label is in the powder. It's the ultimate all-in-one nutritional supplement bundle in one easy scoop. Right now, Athletic Greens is giving my audience a special offer on top of their all-in-one formula, which is a free vitamin D supplement and five free travel packs with your first subscription purchase. Many of us are deficient in vitamin D. I found that true for myself, which is usually produced in our bodies from sun exposure. So, adding a vitamin D supplement to your daily routine is a great option for additional immune support, support your immunity, gut health and energy by visiting athleticgreens.com/tim. You'll receive up to a year's supply of vitamin D and five free travel packs with your subscription. Again, that's athleticgreens.com/tim.