Three crates of Scotch whisky and two crates of brandy buried under Antarctic ice for more than 100 years have been recovered by a heritage team restoring Irish-born explorer Ernest Shackleton’s hut.
New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust team leader Al Fastier says he believes some bottles, abandoned by Shackleton at Cape Royds when he was forced to abort his Nimrod expedition to the South Pole in 1909, are still intact.
The whisky was made by MacKinlay & Co and drinks group Whyte & Mackay has asked for a sample to carry out tests with a view to possibly re-launching the defunct brand.
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. It was originally thought the haul consisted only of three crates of Scotch.
“The unexpected find of the brandy crates - one labelled Chas MacKinlay & Co and the other labelled The Hunter Valley Distillery Limited Allandale - is a real bonus,” Mr Fastier said.
Ice has cracked some of the bottles, but the restorers are confident the five crates contain intact bottles “given liquid can be heard when the crates are moved”.
“The smell of whisky in the surrounding ice before excavation commenced also indicated full bottles of spirits were inside, albeit that one or more might have broken," he added.
Mr Fastier said ice had cracked some of the crates and formed inside them. This would make extracting the contents delicate, but the trust would decide how to do so in 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.