The most exclusive hair salon is in Antarctica | Polarjournal
McMurdo Station is the largest research and logistics station in Antarctica and is operated by the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) of the US government. The year-round facility was built in 1955/56 on Ross Island on the coast of McMurdo Sound for the International Geophysical Year and now consists of more than 85 buildings. (Photo: NSF)

The world’s most exclusive hair salon is located on the southern tip of Ross Island in Antarctica. To get a haircut on the spot is practically impossible for the ‘common man’. The facility furthest from civilization is reserved exclusively for the researchers and technicians of the American McMurdo station. The hairdressing salon is rather modest, without a shop window and in a good location for passers-by. Despite this, the hair salon is operating at full capacity due to a lack of competition.

It is not easy to recruit sufficient and above all suitable personnel for research stations far from civilization. While scientists are eager to get a place on an Antarctic station, it is more difficult for technicians and ‘support staff’.

Alicia Sutherland has 14 appointments a day, she also does 25 haircuts a day if she has to. (Photo: Gabe Bunch)

When a job was advertised for the hair salon on the American Antarctic station McMurdo, Alicia Sutherland immediately applied online. After completing an in-depth phone interview, Sutherland had to pass an assessment to prove she could withstand life “on the driest, coldest, toughest continent.” In the meantime, Alicia Sutherland has already completed several missions to Antarctica.

However, the atmosphere in the station is surprisingly warm. “I thought during the journey that it would be bleak and depressing so far away from civilization, but it’s just the opposite,” Sutherland says. “The relationships that form here are like no other. We’re all tied to this special place and there’s a special camaraderie that develops.” Sutherland says McMurdo isn’t just for scientists. You need different people to support the science to make the station work. One of those people is a barber.

The salon is a modest operation with one room and two chairs occupied by a single hairdresser. (Photo: Alicia Sutherland)

Sutherland often works six days a week and is very busy with 14 appointments a day. “Before holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s very crowded. Then I do more than 25 haircuts a day,” she says.

Regardless of the style, each of these haircuts costs just $10, which goes back into the U.S. Antarctic program. Sutherland is a permanent employee at the station and receives a salary regardless of how many haircuts she completes. The ward has 800 residents, 65 percent of whom are men.

One of the most unique experiences she has had in Antarctica is visiting a penguin colony where she saw hundreds of birds. It’s one of the memories she holds close to her heart until she can return to McMurdo, hopefully in October 2021. “I consider McMurdo my home 100 percent of the time.”

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal, Original text: Dianna Mazzone on

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