This British Fruitcake Is Over 100 Years Old. It’s ‘Almost’ Edible.
There is documentation showing that Scott took this particular brand of cake with him on his explorations, said the trust, a nonprofit that is in the business of “inspiring explorers.”
Lizzie Meek, conservation manager for artifacts at the trust, said in a statement that the cake was well preserved.
“There was a very, very slight rancid butter smell to it, but other than that, the cake looked and smelled edible. There is no doubt the extreme cold in Antarctica has assisted its preservation.”
Almost 1,500 artifacts were found by a team of four conservationists that had been working at the hut since May 2016. Ms. Meek said “Finding such a perfectly preserved fruitcake among the was quite a surprise.”
But why a fruitcake?
“It’s an ideal high-energy food for Antarctic conditions,” she added, “and is still a favorite item on modern-day trips to the ice.”
Ms. Meek further explained to National Geographic: “Fruitcake was a popular item in English society at the time, and it remains popular today. Living and working in Antarctica tends to lead to a craving for high-fat, high-sugar food, and fruitcake fits the bill nicely, not to mention going very well with a cup of tea.”
The team finished part of the conservation project in July, the trust said. Some of the other artifacts found: tools, clothing and what Ms. Meek described as “badly deteriorated” meat and fish and “rather nice-looking” jams.
The next phase will be conservation work on the buildings at Cape Adare, the first in Antarctica and the only examples left of humanity’s first building on any continent, the trust says.
Everything found will be restored and returned to its original resting place, in accordance with the site’s status as an Antarctic Specially Protected Area.
In an emailed statement from the trust on Sunday, Jo Scott said: “Because the cake was one of nearly 1,500 artifacts removed from Antarctica’s first building, there are very strict rules around its handling, and it is now being stored carefully before it is returned to the hut (once the building is restored).”
The recipe for preserving fruitcake’s container, according to the trust, involves rust removal, chemical stabilization, coating of the tin remnants, deacidification of the tin label and repairing of the paper wrapper and tin label.
The cake was left untouched.
Scott’s last trip to the South Pole, in 1912, was ill fated. He and his companions made the arduous trek, only to find a Norwegian team had beaten them to it by 33 days. The British explorers all perished on their way back to base.
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