A Rare Podcast at 30 Below Zero — Sue Flood on Antarctica, Making Your Own Luck, Chasing David Attenborough, and Reinventing Yourself (#567)

Illustration via 99designs

“We are sitting in the Weddell 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, we can see a Twin Otter and some emperor penguins. So it’s cool in every sense of the word.”

— Sue Flood

Sue Flood (IG: @suefloodphotography TW: @suefloodphotos) is a photographer and former BBC filmmaker. Her work takes her all over the world, but she has a special passion for the wildlife and icy beauty of Antarctica.

A Durham University zoology graduate, Sue spent 11 years with the BBC Natural History Unit, working on series including The Blue Planet and Planet Earth with Sir David Attenborough, before turning her focus to photography. Her most recent book, Emperor: The Perfect Penguin, with a foreword by Sir Michael Palin, was published in September 2018.

She has appeared on screen for the BBC, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic; been featured on the series Cameramen Who Dare; and has had her images in National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, Geo, and other distinguished publications.

Her work has won multiple awards in competitions including Travel Photographer of the Year, International Photographer of the Year, International Garden Photographer of the Year, and a Royal Photographic Society Silver Medal. In February 2021 she won the Climate Change category in the Science Photographer of the Year contest, run by the Royal Photographic Society.

In recognition of her photographic achievements, Sue was invited to meet Her Majesty The Queen during a special Adventurers and Explorers event held at Buckingham Palace.

Please enjoy!

P.S. See the slideshow below for some of her incredible work. All images are courtesy of the artist and are shared with permission.

  • Mated emperor penguins touch heads and look down at their fluffy, gray chick, which cocks its head.
  • Thirty emperor penguins investigate an orange and white tent on a giant glacier.
  • A fluffy, gray emperor penguin chick flaps its tiny wings in front of its parents.
  • Ten fluffy, gray emperor penguin chicks make their way across a large glacier.
  • Two emperor penguin parents watch three penguin chicks under a deep blue sky.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Amazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform.

Brought to you by UCAN endurance products powered by SuperStarch®, Athletic Greens all-in-one nutritional supplement, and Eight Sleep’s Pod Pro Cover sleeping solution for dynamic cooling and heating. More on all three below.

The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#567: A Rare Podcast at 30 Below Zero — Sue Flood on Antarctica, Making Your Own Luck, Chasing David Attenborough, and Reinventing Yourself

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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.


Want to hear an episode with another photographer who’s willing to go the extra mile for the perfect shot? Be sure to listen to my conversation with David Yarrow, in which we discuss breaching great white sharks, being spat on by John McEnroe, FIGJAM, ghost towns, capturing Diego Maradona in his element, and much more.

#443: David Yarrow on Art, Markets, Business, and Combining It All
  • Connect with Sue Flood:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


  • From where is this episode being recorded? [06:51]
  • The origin of the word “penguin.” [07:44]
  • If we’re so remote, why might you hear the sound of machinery in the background? [08:55]
  • What kind of structure is keeping us safe from the southernmost continent’s most punishing elements? [09:47]
  • How Sue emerged from childhood with the ability to walk even after her parents were told she’d be wheelchair-bound for life. [11:43]
  • Inspired from a young age by the work of David Attenborough to become a wildlife filmmaker, how did Sue begin the path that would lead her to work with him? What set her apart from probably tens of thousands of other youths in pursuit of the same career? [15:35]
  • Sue’s first television gigs. [24:02]
  • What it was like to finally work with David Attenborough — a job opportunity she still describes as “better than winning the lottery.” [28:03]
  • For anyone somehow not in the know by now, who is David Attenborough? What does he bring to the table apart from being one of the most charismatic television presenters of all time? [30:28]
  • One of Sue’s top life experiences: reading the acknowledgments from her book Emperor: The Perfect Penguin to David Attenborough in person. [34:10]
  • What is tobogganing, and why do emperor penguins do it? [35:46]
  • Why emperor penguins leave such distinctive tracks, how the males incubate eggs, and how much of a toll this takes on their bodies every season. [36:55]
  • A couple of “firsts” Sue captured on camera: polar bears hunting beluga whales, and orcas attacking grey whale calves. How did she succeed in situations where even National Geographic had failed? [41:20]
  • Evidence of orcas learning to become better predators and teaching tactics to their offspring. [49:55]
  • How dangerous is it for humans to swim with orcas — aka “killer whales” for a reason? [55:50]
  • The divorce whale. [58:35]
  • Common mistakes Sue has witnessed aspiring wildlife photographers making in the field. [1:01:47]
  • How Sue and her husband Chris keep their relationship intact while she spends so much time away from home. Does she think it’s easier than being married to someone who’s working in close proximity for months at a time? [1:02:58]
  • What prompted Sue to hang up her production hat after over a decade at the BBC and focus on photography? [1:07:11]
  • On Nuclear icebreakers and hybrid electric ships (with an aside explaining why people experienced with spending time in Antarctica often refer to emperor penguins as “the inspectors”). [1:10:17]
  • Observations even experienced people often miss when camping in Antarctica. [1:13:53]
  • Books gifted most often. [1:17:29]
  • How do polar bears sustain their gigantic mass in a landscape so seemingly barren? What makes their size a benefit rather than a hindrance? [1:19:29]
  • What are the Pinatubo bears, and how was a volcanic eruption in the Philippines directly responsible for their success? [1:22:30]
  • Why are you likely to sleep a lot better in a tent on the sea ice in the Antarctic than in the Arctic? [1:24:32]
  • Sue could be anywhere in the world at any time, but here’s how to find her online every time. [1:26:46]
  • Why is Sue so patient with animals and not with people? [1:27:52]
  • Embarrassing Sue, meeting the Queen, plans to podcast from the other pole, Russian banya hats, and other parting thoughts. [1:29:23]


“We are sitting in the Weddell 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, we can see a Twin Otter and some emperor penguins. So it’s cool in every sense of the word.”

— Sue Flood

“As a child, I would watch David Attenborough on all these wildlife documentaries. … I remember seeing him crawling around in the Rwandan jungle with mountain gorillas and thinking, ‘Wow, that’s a cool job.'”

— Sue Flood

“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.”

— Sue Flood

“You can never get bored of emperor penguins.”

— Sue Flood

“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 sad to witness.”

— Sue Flood

“You sleep a lot better in a tent on the sea ice in the Antarctic than you do in the Arctic.”

— Sue Flood

“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.”

— Sue Flood

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Amazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform.


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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8 Replies to “A Rare Podcast at 30 Below Zero — Sue Flood on Antarctica, Making Your Own Luck, Chasing David Attenborough, and Reinventing Yourself (#567)”

  1. Hi there Tim – regarding the CBD article that you referred to today – def interesting research – I think one would need to take about 1g of CBD (depends on formulation and there is a lot of variability patient to patient) to get blood levels in the right concentration for this to potentially have an effect…Happy to send the human PK data if you are interested. This is one of the biggest issues with papers that examine the effects of supplements or nutraceuticals on cells in a laboratory – often the concentrations required to have the effect in humans are 10-1000x greater than what exists in the actual supplements…


  2. When Sue underlined the big generous heart of the guy she wrote the letter to . I pondered that sometimes it is not only the right content of the letter that counts but sending it to the right recipient !!

  3. Hi Tim Ferriss,
    I was reading your book 4 Hour Work Week and I’m at a the chapter “Step IV: L is for liberation” and I’m at a standstill, I’m only 19 and the job I have is a cashier. I was wondering how can I take action. In the grocery store I work at, every job in the store cannot be remote, I have to physically be there in order to make my wage. Do I have to find another job that can be remote? Or do I propose a remote job I can do?

  4. This comment is in response to the passage by Terry Tempest Williams in your last 5 Bullet Friday – a poem by Mark Nepo that gets to the same thing:

    “Adrift” by Mark Nepo

    Everything is beautiful and I am so sad.
    This is how the heart makes a duet of
    wonder and grief. The light spraying
    through the lace of the fern is as delicate
    as the fibers of memory forming their web
    around the knot in my throat. The breeze
    makes the birds move from branch to branch
    as this ache makes me look for those I’ve lost
    in the next room, in the next song, in the laugh
    of the next stranger. In the very center, under
    it all, what we have that no one can take
    away and all that we’ve lost face each other.
    It is there that I’m adrift, feeling punctured
    by a holiness that exists inside everything.
    I am so sad and everything is beautiful.

  5. Dear Tim, as climate change and conservation seems more and more prominent on your mind lately, I highly recommend Bjorn Lomborg, former director of the Danish government’s Environmental Assessment Institute (EAI). He now presides over the Copenhagen Consensus Center. In short, is entire carrier and research is focused on maximizing impact in regards to conservation effort. He is simply brilliant!

  6. Tim, grateful for all you do. I’m a long time listener and reader. I also am on the Board of Directors for Veterans Yoga Project. [Moderator: Apple Podcast link to The Great Conversation podcast, Ep. titled “What Leaders can Learn from PTSD,” removed per link policy.]

    If you ever want Dr. Libby on your show I’m happy to arrange it.

    Stay safe, Be Well,
    Brian Cooke