Thursday 26 April 2018

Whisky on the rocks Polar explorer's stash recovered

Grainne Cunningham

The Irish-born adventurer left the whisky and two crates of brandy and other supplies when he sailed away with his companions from Cape Royds in 1909, barely escaping being trapped by the winter ice.

And while the same seasonal ice has cracked some of the bottles, restorers believe some bottles are intact "given liquid can be heard when the crates are moved".

New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust team leader Al Fastier said the team thought there were two crates and were amazed to find five when they used special tools during what is currently the Antarctic summer to retrieve the crates.

The whisky, bearing the label of Chas MacKinlay and Co, was first discovered under the hut's floorboards in 2006, but was too deeply embedded in ice to be dislodged.

Current distillery owner, drinks group Whyte & Mackay, launched the bid to recover the Scotch whisky for samples to test and decide whether to relaunch the defunct spirit made by distiller MacKinlay and Co.

Richard Paterson, master blender at Whyte and Mackay, whose company supplied the Mackinlay's whisky for Shackleton, described the find as "a gift from the heavens for whisky lovers".

"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," he said.

Shackleton's expedition ran short of supplies on its long ski trek to the South Pole from the northern Antarctic coast from 1907 to1909 and turned back about160km short of its goal.

However, they did reach magnetic South Pole and carried out valuable scientific work. No lives were lost, vindicating the Athy-born man's decision to turn back from the pole which was first reached two years later by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.

Shackleton later said to his wife: "A live donkey is better than a dead lion."

The team barely made it back to the ship in time in March 1909 to set sail before the winter ice began forming in the sea.

Shackleton, whose gra for a glass of whisky is well known, died of a heart attack on another expedition in January 1922, just short of his 48th birthday.

He spent the first 10 years of his life in Athy, Co Kildare where there is a museum and exhibition honouring his explorations.

Irish Independent

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