Shackleton’s Antarctic whisky raided. Not by me, honest!

A quick update here, by way of test posting simultaneously to thenightjar.posterous.com and www.antarcticodyssey.wordpress.com.

I wrote a while ago on the Antarctica blog, about discovery of the Antarctic explorer Shackleton’s whisky stash from the British Antarctic Expedition of 1907. Now the crate has been carefully thawed out, it seems one of the bottles is missing. It wasn’t me; we weren’t in that part of Antarctica. However, the labels are fairly well preserved, and reveal the whisky to be a Chas. Mackinlay & Co. bottling called Rare Old Highland Malt.

White and Mackay, the present owners of the Chas. Mackinlay brand, plan to take small samples from the century-old bottles and reproduce the whisky. Richard Paterson (aka The Nose), who is master blender at W&M, on his blog says, once conservation is complete and samples taken, the crate of eleven bottles will be returned to Antarctica.

I would love to get my hands on the new bottling and take it down there to sample.

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Tactical Nuclear Penguin: The World’s Strongest Beer and The Ultimate Antarctic Beverage?

We interrupt our usual broadcasts to bring you news of something that actually involves Antarctica. Well, penguins anyway. Oh alright, two Scots dressed as penguins. But hey! It’s a world record claim involving a malt-based beverage, and as long-term Antarctic Odyssey readers will know, I claim the record for the world’s southernmost whisky tasting.

The fabulously hip Scottish brewery BrewDog has this week announced a new limited edition beer: Tactical Nuclear Penguin, which they claim is the world’s strongest beer at a whopping 32% ABV. As well as being so hip they have difficulty seeing over their pelvis, they do make exceedingly good beer. I’m a fan, and even at an eye-popping £30 for a bottle, I couldn’t resist.

BrewDog James and Tactical Nuclear Penguin

BrewDog James and friend unveil world's strongest beer: Tactical Nuclear Penguin

So, why talk about beer in a week that brought us an in-depth look from Radio 4 at the problems of the lack of organs for transplants? I’m not going to; I’ll leave the beer talk this time to the BrewDog guys. Go to their blog and watch the video, it gives the lowdown on Tactical Nuclear Penguin. And it’s very funny.

So, no beer tasting notes from me, there is another reason for this post, inspired by the thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to drink Tactical Nuclear Penguin to Antarctica?” You see, there’s a reason BrewDog has risen meteorically: they think big and they market themselves fantastically. If our Antarctic Odyssey has taught me anything it’s Dare Big And Dare Sooner. Whether I’ve learnt that lesson is another matter.

Which leads me to think it’s time for a new adventure. There is another trip down south organised by Australian explorer Peter Bland, with whom we travelled before. It’s in February, which is big dare but perhaps too long a shot in too short a time. How about taking the Penguin to the Arctic? We’ve talked about doing a North Pole trip with our Transplant friends, again for The Transplant Trust. One said it needn’t just be kidneys, it could be a mixed grill. I still fancy Antarctica, but we could at least go for the wolrd’s most northerly beer tasting. Who’s up for it?

Tactical Nuclear Penguin from BrewDog on Vimeo.

Curb Travel to Antarctica?

The BBC ran an article yesterday about curbing tourist travel to Antarctica in ships not designed for the harsh conditions.

“Campaigners say the sinking of the M/S Explorer last year was a wake-up call.” We travelled in The Professor Mutanovsky” an ex-research vessel from the Arctic and Antarctic Institute in St. Petersburg, and was designed as an ice-strenghtened ship. According to Oceanwide Expeditions who were responsible for our expedition. And I have no reason to doubt them. She is a mere 71.6 meters long – a mere tug compared to some of the cruise liners we saw docked in Ushuaia, and most of those were real luxury jobs.

Of more concern is the impending collapse of the Wilkens ice sheet, but that ain’t nuthin to do with dodgy ships running aground. Ask Al Gore.

Penguin Web Footage (!)

One of the most endearing sites in the Antarctic is the penguins. The most common penguins on the Antarctic peninsula are Gentoos, although I saw a few Adelie penguins and others saw Chinstraps. However, none of us saw anything like this amazing footage released today by the BBC of a previously-unknown colony of Adelies.

(You need BBC’s iPlayer enabled)

BBC penguin footage

Antarctic Rescue!

You can bet that our friends have been asking what ship we are going on in March, following the sinking of the Antarctic tourist liner M/S Explorer on 24 November. Well, there are no worries on that front, we’re going on the Aleksey Maryshev, a modern and comfortable research ship of the Hydrographic Institute of St. Petersburg, Russia. Built in 1990 in Finland. The M/S Explorer was considerably older, and not at all of the same construction.

Our vessel, which has an extreme ice-strengthened hull, built of strong steel, has a range of 70 days independent operation, is ISM certified and a perfect ice-breaker for the polar seas. It is manned by an enthusiastic Russian crew of around 20, all highly experienced in ice navigation and are recognised as experts in polar navigation. So, is that all right then? This is a not just a tourist joint – we’re doing things to the highest possible standard!

ms-explorer.jpg Our ship

The Stricken M/S Explorer and Our Ship

Joking aside, the whole episode just emphasises that this is not a walk in the park; or rather it’s not a common cruise. The Antarctic seas are remote and can be treacherous. The difficulties the passengers on the M/S Explorer experienced were potentially life-threatening. Everything turned out fine, thankfully, but it could have been nasty. All adds to the excitement, though, doesn’t it?

Antarctica in the news

Recently, there have been reports in the press about Britain “claiming” vast areas of Antarctica with the aim of securing mineral rights. This from the Guardian newspaper.

As is often the case with the media the headline misleads you into reading the report; the supposed claim is for areas of the seabed off the Antarctic continent. Whatever the truth, Antarctica is a hop topic, and one of the reasons why we have chosen this expedition as a focal point for our campaign. We know it will attract attention.

Right now, we are gearing up in more ways than one. First, we have the double task of finding sponsors and co-ordinating with our cause organisers. We hope to have some news of this shortly.We also have to get word out there and we are working closely with fund raiser extraordinaire, Peter Bland, who has raised millions of dollars for various cause through his polar expeditions. We could hardly have a better mentor.

Meanwhile, please have a look at our initial introductory video, taken with Peter Bland and Nik Halik in London recently. It’s perhaps lacking a little polish as we did it off-the-cuff, seizing an opportunity.