A CRATE of whisky that lay frozen and undiscovered for more than 100 years beneath the hut of one of the world's most famous Antarctic explorers is being thawed out live online to reveal its secrets.
The crate of Mackinlay's was found earlier this year after Sir Ernest Shackleton left it and four other crates of spirits beneath the floor of his hut during his 1908 British Antarctic Nimrod Expedition.
It was taken to the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand, where officials said it would be thawed in a controlled environment so the whisky could be analysed.
Richard Paterson, Glasgow-based Whyte & Mackay's master blender, has expressed his desire for a sample in a bid to recreate the blend.
A special glass-fronted cool room has been constructed to allow the public to see first-hand the thawing out process.
Conservators will firstly raise the temperature to above freezing point and then defrost the crate. They hope to see if a dram or two of one of the world's oldest whisky still remains.
Whyte & Mackay, McKinlay's parent company, hopes to recreate the whisky once the process is complete. Mr Paterson said: "I will be watching the website with interest and hope the whisky has been truly preserved.
"It would be the highlight of my career to date to be able to analyse and replicate this liquid gold."
The crates were first spotted in 2006 but were too deeply embedded in ice to be moved.
Nigel Watson, executive director of the Antarctic Heritage Trust, said the Nimrod expedition had made Shackleton a hero - and a knight - and cemented his reputation as one of the greatest explorers of all time.
The trust found the five crates, containing whisky and brandy, during a project to conserve Shackleton's hut, the base for his Nimrod Expedition. Four of the frozen crates were left in place but the one labelled Mackinlay's was taken to Christchurch.
Mr Watson said the find had generated huge public interest around the world and added the whisky might still be liquid - and therefore able to be analysed and recreated. He said: "When the guys were lifting it, they reported the sound of sloshing and there was a smell of whisky in the freezer, so it is all boding pretty well."
He said the whisky may or may not be drinkable, but it was highly unlikely it would be tasted. However, it could still be recreated if it was analysed by Whyte & Mackay.
Mr Watson said: "The original brand is now owned by Whyte & Mackay in Scotland. They have lost the recipe. It no longer exists. This was a blend, so they are hopeful if there is enough alcohol left and it is in good condition, they may be able to analyse and hopefully replicate the liquid so in fact everyone could partake in this."
He said the whisky might still be drinkable but it would depend on how intact the bottles were and the condition of the seals. "It has been put on ice for 100 years, so I don't think it is too unromantic a suggestion," he said. "The reality is that it is very limited quantities and our focus is on the conservation and not the drinking."
Canterbury Museum artefacts spokeswoman Lizzie Meek said while the crate and the bottles may have frozen, the whisky could have remained as a liquid. She said whisky probably froze at about minus 50C and it might be drinkable.
She added the crate and its contents would eventually be returned to Shackleton's hut in Antarctica.
l The thaw can be tracked in a blog to be found at http://whiskythaw.canterburymuseum.com