There is much jubilation on board today as the first of the moorings has been recovered. I’ve just started my 2 pm to 2 am shift and have been told the CTD won’t return to the surface for another 3 hours.

Clearly we are off the shelf and are now sampling from several thousand metres below the surface. The stuff of myth and legend I tell you. And like an old sea dog I am sitting here watching the churning sea from the nearest porthole having my epiphany. Every now and then we disappear underwater momentarily as the waves crash against the side of the ship. Walking around is a little trickier, with the surge either making it incredibly easy, or near impossible, to move in a forward direction. I’m back to keeping my survival bag stuffed at the bottom of my bed to stop me sliding around and anything not placed on a grip mat ends up on the floor. And I love it.

Life on a ship is very easy….except for the long hours and freezing seawater down your boots. There is very little news, no Internet, no bills, no grocery shopping, no cooking and no dishes. I had my bed linen over once a week and am given a clean pile. I only need to wash my own clothes. The science was decided long ago and while strategies might change, the research plan does not. It’s like living in a bubble. A bubble with waves crashing against the side. Sounds dangerous. I should put my life jacket on. And it’s been a chance to get excited about my own research again.

EVERYONE tells you that a PhD is hard going, and that there will be times when you don’t particularly want to go on, but you don’t REALLY believe it until you are sitting in the middle of it. I was having a discussion with Dr Donna today and she described the first year: you either don’t achieve anything, or you think you do and then have to repeat a lot of it because you didn’t do it properly. Tick, did that.

Then she described your midterm: you bust your chops to produce something that everyone apparently agreed to, but once you finish you realise no one read the proposal you submitted six months before so you need to rethink your direction. Tick, did that too. Then after the midterm: you fall in a bit of a heap and think “I just don’t think I can do this”. Tick, right on schedule. Then she describes the moment that you realise that no one can REALLY help you because they don’t actually know what you are doing. You are becoming the expert on the topic, so dust yourself off and head for the finish line.

Tick, that was today’s epiphany by the porthole.

It’s interesting that we all think the PhD experience is so unique, yet we all go through the same ups and downs at around the same time.

So I am taking inspiration from my surroundings and shall take the approach of the icebreaker, I’m just going to keep ramming at this thing till I get through to the other side. But first I need to tip some more seawater down my boots.