The Associated Press reported January 19th that three bottles of Mackinlay 15-year scotch (bottled in 1898, the brand now owned by Whyte and Mackay) which had been found, preserved and still liquefied, beneath a hut used by Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1907 Nimrod Expedition in 2010 were returned to their resting place in that hut at Cape Royds, Antarctica. There are great pictures of the hut online, sniff around -77.552923°, +166.168368° (or just search for Shackleton’s Hut, Cape Royds).
Evidently, Whyte and Mackay chartered a plane to bring the bottles to Glasgow where they were examined and the lost recipe of the brand was recovered. The bottles were then sent back to Antarctica, unopened, for the enjoyment of local Emperor Penguins.
Sir Shackleton lived during the so-called Heroic Age of Arctic Exploration and first got his experience in this regard with Scott’s 1901 discovery expedition. Shackleton came as close as 97 geographic miles from the South Pole (88° 23′ S) and his death in the early 1920s marked the end of the age.
Sir Shackleton is a manifestation of a common trait among Geographers, the desire to explore. Sadly, there are precious few places on Earth for modern Geographers to explore, that haven’t been written about, argued over, and mapped decades before. Most of the time we must content ourselves with seeing for own eyes wondrous places, experiencing the power of place. Photographs don’t cut it.
But that’s this planet, I earnestly think that Geographers should be joining with the astrosciences in pushing the boundaries of mankind. After all, the most exciting periods of Geographic study has always been in the description and quantification of new places. Perhaps this is the one thing that most easily illustrates the necessity of both Fred Schaefer’s quantitative geography and Richard Hartshorne’s descriptive geography. Should we ever establish a colony on the Moon or Mars, assuming I’m alive of course, I shall be the first human geographer to volunteer to go.
And before I go I’m taking one Shackleton’s scotches with me, to keep the spirit alive, as it were.