Historic Antarctic expedition’s biscuit fetches only £1,250 at auction

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 3rd October 2011

A biscuit found at the old Cape Royd Antarctica hut from the famous Nimrod Expedition of Ernest Shackleton, has been sold in a Christie’s auction for £1,250 (just over A$2,000).

Christie’s currently holds the world record price of £7,638 (A$12,292) for  biscuit crumbs from one of Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctica expeditions. This was achieved at a Christie’s London auction in September 2001.

The Nimrod Expedition was the first of three expeditions to Antarctica led by Ernest Shackleton. Its main target, aside from a range of geographical and scientific objectives, was to be first to the South Pole. The great Australian Antarctic explorer Douglas Mawson, whose image appeared from 1984–96 on the Australian one hundred dollar note, also participated in that expedition.

The latest biscuit was manufactured by the British multinational company Huntley and Palmers. The buyer was anonymous. The auction took place on Saturday 1 October 2011.

Interestingly, the Cape Royd Antarctica hut is also known as the first official post office in Antarctica. Shackelton and his men hoped to profit from sales of special postage stamps bearing the cancellation stamp of the Antarctica post office that Shackleton, appointed temporary postmaster by the New Zealand government,  established there. The Cape Royds hut was used as a conduit for the expedition’s mail.

Remarkably, this is not the first time that Huntley and Palmers biscuits found in Antarctica have come under the spotlight. In May 2003, it was reported that Australian author Tom Keneally (famous for his book ‘Schindler’s Ark’, which became the Hollywood movie ‘Schindler’s List’) “stole” a Huntley and Palmers biscuit that he found at a different expedition base hut back in 1968. According to newspaper reports at the time, the author took the biscuit from Scott’s Hut, which was erected in 1911 by the British Antarctic Expedition of 1910–1913. Keneally had been researching for a book and indicated that he had returned the biscuit back to the hut.

Additionally, in February 2010, three bottles of the Mackinlays whisky which accompanied Ernest Shackleton on one of his expeditions were found and returned to Scottish brand owner Whyte & Mackay for scientific analysis. This liquid was considered so rare and valuable that the Antarctic Heritage Trust, which found it, refused to let it travel unaccompanied or in the hold of any plane. Following its analysis, the bottle was to be returned to the hut in the Antarctic.