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Antarctica 2012: The Great Shave and Other Distractions

Everyone looked pretty different the next morning

The great shave has come! The crew of the Aurora Australis has supported Camp Quality for many years. Camp Quality’s purpose is to “create a better life for every child living with cancer in Australia.” It focuses on children from birth to 13 years of age who have cancer, or have a sibling or parent with cancer. I’ve taken a few photos of the various signs and posters around the ship promoting the connection between the Aurora Australis and Camp Quality.

Last night we had a special occasion to raise funds for Camp Quality. The ship has thus far had three events to raise money, the first of which was a raffle called the, “SIPEX II Millionaire MEGADRAW.” The first prize was a dinner for two. This dinner will be presented by the Aurora Australis Master Murray Doyle in full dress uniform.

I was disappointed to learn I didn’t win this one, as I am quite fond of the ship’s master, and would have loved the honor of being served for charity. The second prize was an icebreaker boat and trailer, with the caveat that delivery would occur at an unspecified time, and was not guaranteed to occur. . . Apparently I didn’t win this prize either, but I decided it was for the best when I factored in lifetime ownership costs. The 1.6 million liters of fuel aboard now must have cost a pretty penny. I’ve uploaded a copy of the raffle tickets we have been buying up over the last week.

The second approach to raising funds was an auction themed, “Keep your hair on.” Participant’s head of hair was auctioned off to be shaved by the other members aboard the ship. Each participant was allowed to set a reserve price on their hair–which if met, would be shaved. Some participants specified how their hair or beard would be shaved, but others, including myself, left the decision up to the crowd.

I think most people carry a fear. I remain unaffected by the common ones: snakes, spiders, dentists, sharks, dogs, doctors, enclosed spaces, clowns, birds, psycho killers, etc. I am cool as a cucumber–except when it comes to haircuts. It may sound silly, but the thought of a haircut seizes something up inside of me. I am often seen sporting a shaggy do, going much longer between trims than I should. I do what I can to mitigate this anxiety, after which I try to face it head on.

In this spirit I put my head up for sale. I spent most of the auction listening to Chopin, and making small talk. Some people did know about my anxiety, so my head fetched a decent price.

It was determined that my head should be shaved into a Mohawk, and I should be left with half a mustache.

This haircut was easily among the most enjoyable I have had, in part due to the cheering audience and the knowledge that it was for charity. I wound down from the cut with some tea, and rejoined the party feeling free to participate in the revel.

Watching the other head shaves I realized there were braver souls than I who participated.

In some cultures having no hair is a sign of shame or penitence, and I believe most cultures expect women to retain their hair.

No regrets. It was all for charity!

Eleven people had their heads shaved, two of whom were women. Although I lost the half-mustache, I have decided to carry the Mohawk until I return to the states. I have been telling people and my family is excited to see it;, but this is also a convenient way to push off the next haircut experience. Hopefully I won’t encounter any trouble in customs; I certainly look a bit more extreme than I used to.

It was interesting to see which people woke up with next morning regretting their new haircuts. Most of those that received a strange haircut have now completely shaved their head, or modified it to be a little more normal. A few of us still get giggles when we turn corners, and all the participants seem to grin when their eyes meet.

My kingdom for a warm hat.

I have noticed that I need more clothing out on the ice. Christian has also complained about being cold around the ship. He said he believed he had a very warm hat, but it turns out he had very warm hair under a moderately warm hat. It is amazing how much insulation hair adds. I spent most of the day with my balaclava and my hat on, in spite of the warm weather. I suppose it is a small price to pay for charity.

Bad behavior is encouraged and fined–proceeds going to Camp Quality.

Our third charity event took the form of a trivia night. I have never seen a trivia event so populated by strange haircuts. Ken was given the honor of moderating the trivia session. In addition to the typical duties of a moderator, he was allowed to fine individuals a penalty for a wide array of unacceptable behaviors. These included things like talking out of turn, cheating, heckling, bribing, or questioning the moderator.

Moderator Ken wearing his official hat.

People were encouraged to play a bit dirty, because all fines were donated to Camp Quality. I must say, more than a few aboard were more outspoken than normal, adding to both the fun and funds.

These events have been a fantastic way to pass time while stuck in the ice. They have given us all a chance to socialize and take a break from work.

There has been a heavy emphasis on lab work around the ship, as we once again have been a few days without ice. At the moment morale is high, even if we are not making as much progress through the heavy ice pack as originally hoped.

Thus far the crew and expeditioners have tallied over $6000 for donation to Camp Quality. You can visit the following addresses for more information on this charity: and

  • shiskey

    Thank you, David, for sharing this bit of humor. I love this article. This is absolutely hilarious. I worked with Ken Golden and Christian last year in the math department, and to see what y’all have been up to while in Antarctica has been so fun and informative. I have looked forward to your updates so I could read what experiences you’ve had. I have to say, this blog is the best one yet, and I can just picture the whole group getting their heads and faces shaved in such funny ways. It made me laugh. The main picture of you, Christian, and Ken sitting on the ice is absolutely priceless. So thank you for the laugh, for sharing, and for keeping us informed of what you’ve been doing and seeing on your adventures. Keep up the good work.
    Sandy Hiskey