Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Credit: Scott Polar Research Institute

By Ciaran Lavelle

Close your eyes and imagine what a typical explorer would look like. Now imagine your explorer traveling through an Arctic or Antarctic region.  What image have you drawn in your mind’s eye?

For me I always imagine a well-padded, shaggy-haired, bearded man. The first image shows Northern Party from Scott’s 1910-13 Terra Nova expedition after their arduous journey back to Cape Evans from Cape Adare and the unruly hair and bushy beards tick all the boxes for an explorer, and I can only imagine that an extra layer of hair was a welcome insulation against the cold.

The Northern Party during their journey back to Cape Evans.

Although this image was not always the norm. The men of these early Antarctic expeditions to Cape Adare were learned men, and from the Naval tradition. Their appearance would have reflected their social stations; just look at the second photograph of the well-groomed, dapper men of Scott’s Northern Party sitting outside the hut at Cape Adare.    

The Northern Party during their stay at Cape Adare.

We see evidence of these grooming routines in the artefacts from the hut, with the bone hair comb and a hair brush (it is possible this could also be a clothes brush) seen in these images. The hair brush was particularly interesting object to conserve as it still retained hair within its bristles and also required a great deal of reconstruction as the bristles were loose and falling out.

Bone hair comb after conservation

Hair or clothes brush after conservation


Subscribe to our quarterly Antarctic Heritage Trust newsletter.