Natural Habitat Expeditions love of a good drink, we are very excited about this story coming straight from Antarctica. Members of the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust began excavating a very important find beneath Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic hut: five crates of whiskey and brandy. These crates had been frozen under the Cape Royds hut for more than 100 years as they were left behind on Shackleton’s failed Nimrod Expedition to the South Pole that started in 1907. The hut was built in 1908 where other artifacts have since been found, such as felt boots and grapeseed oil. In 1909 in a race against the impending winter and the formation of ice, Shackleton and his crew abandoned their trek to the South Pole from Cape Royds as they ran out of supplies and time. They were a mere 112 miles from the South Pole when they abandoned their expedition. Before sailing back to the United Kingdom, the crew had to leave behind supplies and equipment at the hut for their long voyage home. Thus the five crates of whiskey and brandy never made it back on-board.
At first it was thought that only two crates of whiskey were stashed in the ice, but once researchers started chiseling through the ice they found three crates of whiskey and two crates of brandy. What an unexpected discovery! There was a faint smell of whiskey in the ice as the crates were excavated suggesting that some of the bottles may have broken. But much to their surprise, some of the bottles were still intact as they could hear the liquid contents shift as they moved the boxes.
Mackinlay’s whiskey, who supplied the whiskey for Shackleton’s expedition, is eager to extract the liquid, which could prove to be quite the feat considering the fragility of the bottles. The original whiskey recipe no longer exists so the ability to safely extract the liquid from the bottles, analyze it and create the recipe once again would be like putting a piece of history back in place. One crate of brandy was labeled Chas Mackinlay & Co and the other was labeled The Hunter Valley Distillery Limited Allandale. This is a very exciting find for the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust who oversees Shackleton’s Cape Royds hut as well as a couple other huts in the area. Just a few weeks ago, two blocks of butter were found in another Antarctic hut on Cape Evans dating back to British explorer Robert Falcon Scott failed 1910-12 expedition.
After being kept in the ice for over a century one question remains: do you serve the whiskey straight up or on the rocks?