Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Endings and beginnings

3rd March 2014. As I drove westwards, into the setting sun, it really hit that one chapter of my life had finished, and another was beginning. It seemed both a suitable ending and beginning, watching the golden sun sink below the horizon and fill the sky with a wonderful palette of changing colours as I drove away from one part of my life, towards the next adventure.

The last four and a half years have been some of the toughest moments of my life, the most testing, yet the time I have made some of the best friendships I will ever make, and had some life changing experiences. In October 2009, I started my PhD, living on my own for the first time in my life, in a new city, knowing no-one. Slowly settling in to the work, I made some friends who will always be part of my life, never to be replaced, no matter how far apart we are.

Svalbard adventures

In early 2010 I spent six weeks living on Svalbard in the Arctic, attending the University Centre in Svalbard for a glaciology course. Driving skidoos across sea ice and snow covered fjord edges, visiting the frozen-in calving faces of glaciers, walking inside glaciers in incredible ice caves, learning to cross country ski up and down glaciers, watching the northern lights in all their splendour, seeing a polar bear in the wild, making brilliant friends, and really just experiencing life in an altogether extreme environment. At the time I documented this in another blog which can still be seen at

The fjords of southeast Greenland
At the end of summer 2010, I made a field trip to southeast Greenland, visiting the most remote places I have ever been. Some of the fjords have only ever seen only a handful of people, out of helicopter range, with no settlements along their shores. This experience will never leave me, living in a rusty old fishing boat, conducting studies of the depth and structure of the water column. The light was ever changing, never the same twice, a photographers' paradise. The most amazing landscapes, lit in the most stunning ways, incredible sunrises and sunsets, northern lights, rolling fog, crackling sea-ice, icebergs crashing on the hull, incredible silence and stillness, rolling waves, sudden storms, amazingly sculpted icebergs, howling huskies, whales, dolphins, dead seals, abandoned villages, a helicopter over the glacier...colours, sounds, smells and experiences never to be forgotten. Definitely an experience that cannot have been had as a tourist.

Fast forward through data collection, analysis, conferences (including La Jolla, California), trips to Cambridge to look at old photo archives, trips to Oban for oceanographic analysis assistance, teaching, reading of many many papers, an infinitely long amount of time writing, submission, waiting, the viva, corrections, submission, final approval, printing and binding, and the final handing in of the bound thesis, and we arrive in March 2014, nearly four and a half years after this journey began.

Today I have started clearing up the computer. Deleting all the old permutations of my thesis, all the work-in-progress figures and keeping only the main files for the future. I have recycled endless old notes and papers, and we are finally gaining some much needed space in the house. Now as Dr., I go on to the new chapter, becoming a mother, and may it be just as amazing an experience, but with hopefully a little less stress!

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