'Perfectly preserved' century-old fruitcake found in Antarctic hut
If keeping a slice of your wedding cake in the freezer isn't enough of a memento, taking the whole thing to Antarctica may be another option.
Conservators from the Antarctic Heritage Trust in Christchurch have found a "perfectly preserved" 106-year-old fruitcake in a remote Antarctic hut.
The cake, found on a shelf in a Cape Adare hut, is believed to have been taken there by Robert Falcon Scott's northern party in 1911. It had been protected by the icy conditions since.
The Huntley and Palmers delicacy still had remnants of the brand's paper label stuck to the side, and a 'H&P' logo on it, the trust's artefacts manager, Lizzie Meek, said.
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It was found amongst a stash of historical food supplies abandoned by explorers, including sardines, "badly deteriorated" meat and fish, and some "rather nice looking" jams. A variety of other treats had been found in a "variety of conditions", but the fruitcake was the jackpot, she said.
It was unethical for the researchers to give the cake the "taste test", but a quick sniff revealed it might not be the sweet treat they hoped for.
"It didn't smell that flash but it looked edible, it certainly smelt off . . . a bit like rancid butter," Meek said. It was the first discovery of its kind – for "obvious reasons".
"Most people don't carry a whole fruitcake to Antarctica and not eat it."
The cake had been protected by the freezing conditions, but the tin had "almost entirely disintegrated". They were found among about 1500 artefacts the trust was conserving from the continent's huts at Cape Adare, which were built in 1899.
Everything salvageable would be returned from Canterbury Museum to the ice for the next explorers to find and enjoy, Meek said. Cape Adare was regularly visited by cruise ships touring the Ross Sea region.
"The goal is to leave objects as found; it could very well last another hundred years."
The discovery comes after a 118-year-old painting was found among penguin excrement, dust and mould-covered papers from a hut in Cape Adare in June.
Dr Edward Wilson's painting was thought to have remained in such good condition due being tightly packed between other sheets of paper in complete darkness and cold.