Shackleton's Whisky Is Returning From Antarctic

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A team of New Zealand conservators is planning to unearth two crates of Scotch whisky belonging to polar explorer Ernest Shackleton. The crates have been trapped under the Antarctic ice for a century. Host Liane Hansen speaks with Alistair Fastier, of the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust, who will be leading the expedition.


Care for some whisky on the rocks? A team of New Zealand conservators is planning to unearth two crates of Scotch whisky belonging to polar explorer Ernest Shackleton. The crates have been trapped under the Antarctic ice for a century.

Alistair Fastier of New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust will lead the expedition. He joins us on the phone from Christchurch, New Zealand. Welcome to the program.

Mr. ALISTAIR FASTIER (New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust): And good morning.

HANSEN: So, you were on the team that discovered, what, 100-year-old whisky in 2006. Were you looking for it?

Mr. FASTIER: No, we weren't looking for it. There was a great surprise to the team. What we were doing was part of a conservation work to conserve Shackleton's hut. We were removing the ice under the floorboards. And while we were under the hut chipping the ice, we came across the whisky. So, we were very pleasantly surprised and excited.

HANSEN: Wow. So, what did you have to do to get the whisky out of the ice?

Mr. FASTIER: We haven't yet. Basically, the crates of whisky are still under the hut. And we have to go back under the hut and separate the crates from the frozen permafrost and to remove the rest of the ice from around them and then slide them out.

HANSEN: How long do you think it's going to take?

Mr. FASTIER: If we're really lucky and all the stars are aligned, I might say it would take about two days. But, yeah, it could take up to a week. And the safety of the whisky is paramount. So, we won't rush the operation.

HANSEN: Now, you want to preserve the whisky. Will you be able to taste any of it?

Mr. FASTIER: It'd be nice to think that we could, but with sort of heritage protocols, no, we can't. But the first step will be to remove the whisky from under the hut and then we've got a team of professional conservators on hand. And they will assess the crates and the bottles. And then we'll make an informed decision where to go from there, and where we will store and locate it.

HANSEN: Now, I understand that Whyte and Mackay, a drinks group that now owns McKinlay and Company, they're interested in this whisky.

Mr. FASTIER: Yeah, they're also very excited about it. And my understanding is they're very keen to get a sample back and also potentially blend a similar type of whisky in the future. So, there's lots of potential.

HANSEN: I understand, I mean, I can tell your passion for the conservation, but your eyes must've opened pretty wide when you discovered that there was booze under there.

Mr. FASTIER: Very much so. It wasn't a good task to actually go under the hut to remove the ice, so when we found the whisky, everybody was just so keen to get under the hut. So, yeah, no, we're...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FASTIER: We're very excited. And I must say I'm looking forward to going down and completing the task this year.

HANSEN: Alistair Fastier is with the conservation group the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust and he joined us on the phone. Thank you very much. Good luck.

Mr. FASTIER: Thank you. It was a pleasure. Cheers.

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