Page last updated at 09:49 GMT, Monday, 16 November 2009

Shackleton's whisky to be dug up

Hut used by Shackleton
The crates of whisky were found under a hut built and used by Shackleton

Two crates of Scotch whisky which belonged to the polar explorer Ernest Shackleton are to be recovered after a century buried in the Antarctic ice.

The McKinlay and Co whisky was found buried under a hut built and used during Shackleton's unsuccessful South Pole expedition between 1907 and 1909.

The crates, which are encased in ice, were first found three years ago.

New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust plans to use special cutting tools to remove the crates from the ice.

The crates and bottles are expected to undergo conservation work in New Zealand before being returned to the remote hut at Cape Royds, which the trust is trying to restore to the same condition as when Shackleton's team left it.

I personally think they must have been left there by mistake, because it's hard to believe two crates would have been left under the hut without drinking them
Al Fastier
Trust spokesman

Trust spokesman Al Fastier said he would not be tempted to sample the Scotch, saying he preferred to allow the century-old spirits to retain their mystique.

"It would be terrible to sample it and find that it was off," he told Radio New Zealand.

Distillers Whyte and Mackay, which owns the McKinlay brand, are keen to get hold of a bottle, or at least a sample of the now-extinct blend.

The company's master blender Richard Paterson said: "We might even get enough to be able to take a stab at recreating it."

Shackleton's expedition ran short of supplies on its long trek to the South Pole from Cape Royds.

Ernest Shackleton. Copyright Shackleton Foundation
Shackleton's expedition to reach the South Pole was unsuccesful

They eventually fell about 100 miles (160 kilometres) short of their goal, although one team did reach the magnetic South Pole and the expedition carried out valuable scientific work.

No lives were lost, vindicating Shackleton's decision to turn back from the pole, which was first reached in 1911 by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.

Shackleton later said to his wife: "A live donkey is better than a dead lion, isn't it?"

The expedition's ship left Cape Royds hurriedly in March 1909 as winter ice began forming in the sea, with some equipment and supplies, including the whisky, left behind.

"I personally think they must have been left there by mistake, because it's hard to believe two crates would have been left under the hut without drinking them," Mr Fastier said.

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