Till snowboarding at Rothera

Till will perhaps be the only one from our science cruise who will go down the JCR Book of Records. There is now a new verb in the JCR dictionary in his honor; “To do a full-Till”. Many can attempt to do a “Full-Till” but in my opinion only a few will ever succeed at it. Doing a “Full Till” requires a great deal of mind-body interaction, a strong ability to focus on the challenge ahead and not letting any of the lesser people around you interfere with your concentration. If I were to put in words what doing a “Full-Till” encompassed, not that the experience can be described easily, this is what I would say using the fewest number of words: Eating every item on the menu, including the vegetarian alternatives; and at the end having both the dessert and the cheese plate. Before you start to imagine the grandness of this endeavor, here is a bit more about Till that you might find helpful:

DA: Where do you come from and what did you study?
TW: I am from a little village called Poettmes, 60 km north of Munich, on the Bavarian countryside. I did my undergrad degree in Bristol which was 4 years, but graduated with a master of science integrated in physics and philosophy. Then I got a master’s in applied mathematics at Cambridge University, UK. That was one year, I went then straight on to my PhD, to do sea ice physics.
DA: How did you get interested in sea ice?
TW: I did quantum information and quantum physics for my masters. For both of my masters, it was very theoretical. I was mostly interested in fundamentals of the quantum theory, last 2 years of undergrad I specialized on that; the interpretation of quantum theory, then I got bored. At Cambridge I did a course on polar oceans and climate change as a “fun class”. I found it very interesting, talked to the professor, he was looking for a phd student, so I started a phd with him.
DA: Then this is your first year of PhD?
TW: Yes, just finished my first year, into the second year now. This is my first polar trip, not to mention first time on a ship longer than 1.5 days.
DA: For this cruise,  can you explain what you did when you went on the ice?
TW: I measured the snow depths, with “maggie” the magnaprobe– a stick you stick into the snow to see how deep the snow is. I took roughly 10,000 readings in total for this cruise! It has datalogger and a gps, logs x and y coordinates of the point I am measuring, and the snow depth, with a timestamp.
DA: How will this relate to  you PhD when you go back?
TW: My phd is on deformations/mechanics of sea ice.This is important because it tells you how the ice pack is built up, what it consists of, how thick it is, how thick it can grow; gives you the sea ice as a whole picture. There are two sources of growing ice thickness, thermodynamical: growth by freezing, or growth by being pushed together. We saw a lot of that on this cruise, blocks of ice put together by wind forces, but the frozen ice was never thicker than 50-60 centimeters. And then there is how ice sheets break up and how the broken up blocks are stacked; how ridges are formed.
Ridges are piles of ice blocks, but not rubble. Classical ridges are intact sheets and get compressed. But we mostly saw ridges formed of rubble ice. Part of the project is to see how the mechanisms are different between the Arctic and the Antarctic, or how different ice regimes deform differently (i.e. thicker ice); how ice deforms with a massive snow layer on top.
DA: You’ve been in the UK many years now, then?
TW: 6 years now. My family is still in Germany. I have little sister working on malaria in Gabon. She’s doing her phD there.
DA: What do you do when you’re not working on sea ice?
TW: In my normal life, i do a lot of triathlons; swim, run and cycle. I do 3-4 a year, if I can, short ones mostly. For holiday times I go snowboarding and surfing, been to France, Portugal….
DA: Ok, now I want to ask you about the Full-Till. What did you eat when you ate the whole menu on November 16, 2010?
TW:I had cereal, a full English breakfast, consisting of bacon, beans, eggs and toast. At lunch, we ate on ice remember, I had the soup that came in a thermos, chicken teriyaki, and then the veggie option for that which was veggie teriyaki + pasta. For dinner, I had the soup again, I had the full size main course, and a full size vegetarian main course, which was risotto, some mousse-like dessert and big chunks of cheese from the cheese plate.
DA: How did that feel afterwards?
TW: I did not regret that. I am glad that I did it. It felt fairly bad and I didn’t eat much for the next few days and I don’t think I’d do it again.

Till (on the left) with Eric, photo by Mike Lewis

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1 Comment on Till Wagner – scientist

  1. Silvia Eckert-Wagner says:

    Thanks Derya for the funny and interesting article on our son. Have a good and save flight back home. Many greetings from Pöttmes.
    Silvia

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