Curious Fact of the Week: Shackleton’s Whiskey Cache
Ernest Shackleton’s stash of hundred-year-old booze was discovered buried in the ice under the explorer’s Antarctic base camp.
In January 2010 workers from the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust successfully extracted the cases from the ice and now one of them is being slowly thawed to see if the whisky can be saved.
The hut served as the base of operations for the British 1907-1909 Nimrod Expedition, an early attempt in the race to the geographic South Pole led by a young Ernest Shackleton.
Upon leaving Antarctica to go back home, Shackleton wrote:
"We all turned out to give three cheers and to take a last look at the place where we had spent so many happy days. The hut was not exactly a palatial residence … but, on the other hand, it had been our home for a year that would always live in our memories…. We watched the little hut fade away in the distance with feelings almost of sadness, and there were few men aboard who did not cherish a hope that some day they would once more live strenuous days under the shadow of mighty Erebus."
Shackleton was knighted upon his return to England. Five years later he made his most famous attempt at the pole. The Endurance Expedition, in which his ship became trapped and sunk in ice, was another technical failure, but an epic success story of survival against all odds.
This week is Polar Week at Atlas Obscura! We’ll be celebrating all things Arctic and Antarctic, from the North to South Pole, through curious stories and fascinating locales. If you are in certain parts of the world you may already feel like you’re in an ice kingdom, so grab a warm drink and join us for tales of two of the frigid extremes of our planet.
Left to right: Frank Wild, Ernest Shackleton, Eric Marshall, and Jameson Adams, aboard the Nimrod after reaching the Furthest Point South, 1909. [photo probably by James Murray, printed in Shackleton’s Heart of the Antarctic, via, and via.]
When Neil Armstrong and Edmund Hillary Took a Trip to the North Pole
It sounds like the plot of a comic book — Sir Edmund Hillary and Neil Armstrong at the North Pole — but in fact it was one of those spectacular crossroads of history. In the lonely, desolate arctic, these two great explorers — who had never met before — got in a tiny bush plane and took off for the top of the Earth in 1985. Here’s how it happened.
One morning in the mid–1980s, professional expedition leader Mike Dunn decided he wanted to take the day’s greatest explorers to the North Pole. According to Sir Edmund Hillary’s son Peter, himself an accomplished mountaineer who came on the trip, Dunn was a colorful character, the kind of man who didn’t mind ringing up people like first man on the moon Neil Armstrong and saying, “How about this?”
Hillary, legendary for being the first to scale Mount Everest with teammate Tenzing Norgay, was on board, and Armstrong was, too, saying he was curious to see what the North Pole looked like from ground level, as he’d only seen it from the moon. Astronaut problems.
The party also included Steve Fosset — the first man to fly a balloon around the world — and Patrick Morrow — the first person to climb the highest peaks of all seven continents.