100 year-old whiskey frozen in Antarctic being thawed out

Earlier this year we reported how the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust retrieved some whiskey left behind by explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and his team after on unsuccessful attempt to make it to the South Pole in 1907-1909. Now curators at Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand, are thawing out one of the crates.

The Nimrod Expedition ran low on supplies only 97 miles from the South Pole and had to beat a hasty retreat. They ditched much of their equipment, including several cases of whiskey that they left under a hut they had built. The subzero temperatures and ice preserved the whiskey.

At least that’s what the museum folks hope. They’re slowly raising the temperature of the crate day by day. The crate bears the label Mackinlay’s, a defunct brand owned by Whyte & Mackay, who are hoping to analyze the whiskey, reconstruct the recipe, and reissue it.

The museum has started a blog called The Great Whiskey Crate Thaw so you can follow their progress.

While the Nimrod Expedition didn’t make it to the South Pole, it did have some successes–mapping large stretches of previously unknown land, making it to the south magnetic pole, and being the first to test a car in the Antarctic. They were even the first to publish a book in the Antarctic, using a printing press they brought along and using candles to keep the ink from freezing! Check out the Trust’s excellent account of the Nimrod Expedition.

Photo courtesy New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust.