Thursday, October 18, 2012
Radio NZ National review with Kathryn Ryan – 18 October 2012 - Shackleton's Whisky
Neville Peat – Longacre - $39.99
Neville Peat is a widely published, award-winning Dunedin-based author with more than 30 books to his credit. He has spent two summers at Scott Base, NZ’s Antarctic Station on Ross Island and this is his 5th book with Antarctic themes.
Let’s start with the whisky. In January 2006 during a restoration project in Shackleton’s Nimrod Hut at Cape Royds on Ross Island a member of the five man carpentry team was assigned to removing ice from under the floor. He had removed about 40% of the basement ice when he found a couple of wooden crates within the ice. The words Rare and Old were just discernible on the crates. It turned out to be Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky. It was dubbed the whsiky find of the century and what followed, some while later, was a discussion with the Scottish whisky company that had acquired the Mackinlay label through a series of mergers and takeovers – Whyte & Mackay of Glasgow. They expressed strong interest in obtaining samples of the whisky for chemical analysis. This all happens in the latter part of the book and is an absolutely fascinating story in its own right.
Going back to the beginning though we make three trips to Antarctica with Ernest Shackleton. Once in 1901 on an expedition led by Robert Falcon Scott when Shackleton was third lieutenant on the Discovery and on that unsuccessful attempt to reach the South Pole Shackleton caught the Antarctic bug you might say and he subsequently made two further major expeditions to the ice one in 1907-09 when they got as close as 97 miles from the South Pole before having to turn back, the closest anyone had ever got to that point. He returned home to England a hero and was knighted by the King. Then in 1914-17 he led his trans-Antarctic expedition for which he is most famous. It is regarded as an epic feat of stamina and survival. His attempt to cross the Antarctic was foiled when his ship was crushed in pack ice. His subsequent 16 day, 1500 km journey to South Georgia to seek rescue for the main expedition group is rated as one of the greatest small-boat voyages ever accomplished.
In addition to all the epic adventures, and I use that word epic advisedly, there is also a significant amount of memoir about the man himself during these years. He was clearly a complex man, grew up in a teetotaller household, drank very little himself having been involved in the temperance movement in his teenage days, he was an adventurer through and through, he was a great leader, a fair man who never asked of his men anything he wouldn’t do himself, he liked poetry, and was happily married.
There is also quite a lot in the book about NZ’s involvement in the region since the late 1950’s and through to the present day. We have been heavily involved in the preservation of Shackleton’s hut and thus it was NZ’ers who found the whisky that had been there for over a hundred years.
The book is generously illustrated with both grainy black & white photographs from those long ago expeditions as well as beautiful full colour contemporary photos.
All in all a cracking good yarn that I think most would enjoy and particularly those with an interest in Antarctica and especially Scotch whisky.
I could have talked to Kathryn about this book for half an hour ! Never mind even 8-10 minutes fabout a book on the wonderful Radio New Zealand National is a bonus.
Below a few shots from the many in the book.