100-year-old Fruit Cake Among Artifacts from Cape Adare

Leslie Hanson
August 14, 2017

Conservators from Antarctic Heritage Trust have discovered a 100-year-old fruit cake on Cape Adare in Antarctica.

The cake is among several artifacts recovered from the remote Cape Adar hut in East Antartica, which was built in 1899 by Norwegian explorer Carsten Borchgrevink and his team. British explorer Robert Falcon Scott likely brought the cake with him to Antarctica, where it's stayed in "excellent condition".

Long maligned for its questionable taste, its ubiquity (stubbornly appearing at any or every celebratory event) and its toughness (the fridge gives it life), the dessert may have further cemented itself in food lore after a discovery in Antarctica. "There is no doubt the extreme cold in Antarctica has assisted its preservation". Meek said, "Finding such a perfectly preserved fruitcake among them was quite a surprise".

Scott and his team arrived at the South Pole in 1912, but all the members died on their way back to Cape Evans's Terra Nova Lodge. However, surprisingly, they said the cake is actually edible.

"Fruitcake was a popular item in English society at the time, and it remains popular today", Lizzie Meek, conservation manager for artefacts at the Trust, told National Geographic. "It's an ideal high-energy food for Antarctic conditions, and is still a favorite item on modern trips to the Ice". The team recently finished the large project in July this year, conserving nearly 1500 artefacts. Meek described as "badly deteriorated" meat and fish and "rather nice-looking" jams.

Since May 2016, a team of four conservators have been working in the Canterbury Museum lab on the conservation of Antarctic artefacts from Cape Adare.

Huts at Cape Adare are said to be the first building's in Antarctica, and "are the only examples left of humanity's first building on any continent".

Everything found will be returned to its original resting place, in accordance with the site's status as an Antarctic Specially Protected Area.

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