WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Five crates of whisky and brandy belonging to polar explorer Ernest Shackleton have been recovered after being buried for more than 100 years under the Antarctic ice, explorers said Friday.
The spirits were excavated from beneath Shackleton's Antarctic hut which was built in 1908.
"To our amazement we found five crates, three labelled as containing whisky and two labelled as containing brandy," said Al Fastier of the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust, who previously believed there were only two crates.
"The unexpected find of the brandy crates, one labelled Chas Mackinlay & Co and the other labelled The Hunter Valley Distillery Limited Allandale are a real bonus."
Some of the crates have cracked and ice has formed inside which will make the job of extracting the contents delicate.
However, Fastier said the trust was confident the crates contained intact alcohol, given that liquid could be heard when the crates were moved.
The smell of whisky in the surrounding ice also indicated full bottles of spirits were inside, albeit that one or more might have broken.
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," he said.
"Given the original recipe no longer exists this may open a door into history."
Fastier said the Trust would determine in the coming weeks how best to handle the "delicate conservation task".
Shackleton's expedition ran short of supplies on their long trek to the South Pole from Cape Royds in 1907-1909 and they eventually fell about 100 miles (160 kilometres) short of their goal.
No lives were lost, vindicating Shackleton's decision to turn back from the pole, first reached in 1911 by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.
Shackleton's expedition sailed from Cape Royds hurriedly in 1909 as winter ice began forming in the sea, forcing them to leave some equipment and supplies -- including the whisky -- behind.
The excavation of the whisky follows the discovery last month of two blocks of butter in an Antarctic hut used by British explorer Robert Falcon Scott on his doomed 1910-12 expedition.
The butter had been stored in stables attached to the expedition hut at Cape Evans in Antarctica.
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