February 5, 2010
Shackleton’s Booze Found In The Antarctic
An expedition to the Antarctic ice shelf to restore explorer Ernest Shackleton's century old expedition site has turned up five crates of whiskey and brandy that have been preserved in the ice for more than 100 years.
"To our amazement we found five crates, three labeled as containing whiskey and two labeled as containing brandy," Al Fastier, of the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust, told AFP. The real bonus was the unexpected discovery of the contents of the brandy crates, one labeled Chas McKinlay & Co and the other labeled The Hunter Valley Distillery Limited Allandale, he added.The team found that some of the crates were cracked and ice formed inside them which make extraction of the contents a delicate procedure. However, Fastier said they are confident there is intact alcohol inside, given that liquid could be heard when the crates were moved. The smell of whiskey in the ice was another indicator that full bottles of alcohol were inside, with the exception of a few bottle that may have been broken.
Fastier told reporters that the spirits were originally discovered under the floor boards of the Shackleton hut in 2006, but the crates were too deeply frozen in ice to be extracted at that time.
White & Mackay, the drinks group that owns McKinlay & Co distillery, have launched a bid to recover the Scotch whiskey for samples to test and decide rather or not to bring back the defunct alcohol. They have agreed to drill the ice to retrieve some of the bottles, although the rest would have to stay under conservation guidelines agreed by the 12 Antarctic Treaty nations.
This is "a gift from the heavens for whisky lovers," said Richard Paterson, Whyte and Mackay's master blender. "If the contents can be confirmed, safely extracted and analyzed, the original blend may be able to be replicated. Given the original recipe no longer exists, this may open a door into history," he added.
The Shackleton expedition was cut short in 1909 as their supplies drew close to an end. Their long ski trek to reach the South Pole form the northern Antarctic coast was never completed as they turned back 100 miles short of the goal. No lives were lost in the expedition, but Shackleton lost his bid to be the first to reach the South Pole in 1909.
The Shackleton crew sailed from Cape Royds quickly in 1909 as winter ice began to form on the sea. They left equipment and supplies behind, including the whiskey and brandy.
The excavation of the whiskey follows the discovery last month of two blocks of butter in an Antarctic hut used by British explorer Robert Falcon Scott on his doomed 1910-12 expedition.
Image 1: The crates of Mackinlay's whisky. Credit: nzaht.org
Image 2: The crates of brandy. Credit: nzaht.org
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