Conservationists Find an Incredibly Well-Preserved 100-Year-Old Fruitcake

Fagjun | Published 2017-08-29 16:11

That fruitcake could have been bought yesterday

[Photo by Antarctic Heritage Trust]



Conservationists have discovered a 100-year-old fruitcake that's just about good enough to eat and may have belonged to explorer Robert Falcon Scott.


Robert Falcon Scott took off for the Terra Nova expedition, which turned out to be his last, in 1910. It was an expedition to Antarctica, and it had a lot of scientific and geographical goals. The expedition lasted up to 1912, until it tragically ended with the deaths of everyone in the team. Eventually, Scott's party was down to three men, including him. It is presumed that Scott died on March 29 or 30, 1912. A search party found the party's final camp and the bodies on November 12,1912.


Over a century of snow storms now covers the tent and the burial site. Scott has left quite a legacy, but he probably didn't expect that one of the most remarkable artifacts of his journeys would be a well-preserved fruitcake. Still, though, it's as good an artifact to leave as any.


The Origins of the 100-Year-Old Fruitcake

The cake still in its wrapping paper

[Photo by Antarctic Heritage Trust]



The cake dates back to the Terra Nova expedition, though it wasn't in the party's very last camp site. Conservationists found the cake in Antarctica's oldest building, which a Norwegian explorer built in 1899 in Cape Adare. Scott and his party used the building in 1911. It was then that they presumably left the cake behind.


By well-preserved, we mean well-preserved. The cake was still in its paper wrapping and was still in its tin container. The British company Huntley & Palmers manufactured the cake.


Conservationists uncovered the tin from under a century-old layer of ice—ice that undoubtedly help preserve the cake well. They had been collecting up to 1,500 artifacts from the site since May of last year. The 100-year-old fruitcake, a very well-preserved one at that, was quite the surprising find. It apparently still looked quite edible, though it had a slightly rancid, buttery smell to it. Conservationists found it in the last days of conserving the Cape Adare artifacts. The fruitcake tin was among the last to be found.


It's also the most surprising find. It's not everyday that conservationists come across food in sites that are a century or so old. The conservationists are in the process of saving the paper and tin, which are in bad condition, before returning the cake to its icy resting place.


A Well-Preserved Cake

The cake's tin hasn't fared as well

[Photo by Antarctic Heritage Trust]



What was a fruitcake doing in Antarctica, anyway? It's apparently a staple food when going to a cold, snowy place. It can also apparently serve as a high-energy snack that's good for conditions in Antarctica. It is high-fat and high-energy, which makes it an ideal source of energy in an icy location.


Early 1900s English society was also apparently quite fond of fruitcakes, and it made sense that someone on a trip to Antarctica would want to bring the cake on a trip.


The site from which conservationists took the cake and other artifacts is apparently an Antarctic Specially Protected Area. The 100-year-old fruitcake will eventually return there, as well as the other artifacts from the site.

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