Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Ernest Shackleton's whisky stash recovered in Antarctica

A stash of whisky which lay buried under Antarctic ice for more than 100 years has been recovered by a team restoring explorer Ernest Shackleton's hut. The spirit, five crates in total, was made by McKinlay and Co, and drinks group Whyte & Mackay has asked for a sample to carry out tests with a view to re-launching the brand.

New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust team leader Al Fastier said the team thought there were two whisky and brandy crates and were amazed to find five. Mr Fastier said restoration workers found the crates under the hut's floorboards in 2006, but they were too deeply embedded in ice to be dislodged.

The New Zealanders agreed to drill the ice to try to retrieve some bottles, although the rest must stay under conservation guidelines agreed to by 12 Antarctic Treaty nations.

Ice has cracked some of the crates and formed inside them. Mr Fastier said that would make extracting the contents delicate, but the trust would decide how to do so in the coming weeks.

Richard Paterson, master blender at Whyte & Mackay, whose company supplied the Mackinlay's whisky for Shackleton, described the find as "a gift from the heavens for whisky lovers". He added: "If the contents can be confirmed, safely extracted and analysed, the original blend may be able to be replicated. Given the original recipe no longer exists, this may open a door into history."

Shackleton's expedition ran short of supplies on its long ski trek to the South Pole from the northern Antarctic coast in 1907/09 and turned back about 100 miles short of its goal. The expedition sailed away in 1909 as winter ice formed, leaving behind supplies, including the whisky and brandy.

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