A biscuit which polar explorer Ernest Shackleton handed to a starving fellow traveller on an expedition more than 100 years ago sold at the British auction house Christie’s on Thursday for US $2,000 The biscuit, one of thousands which formed the staple diet for Shackleton and his companions on the 1907-1909 Nimrod expedition.
Made especially for the expedition by British company Huntley and Palmers, the biscuits were fortified with milk protein to help the group on their arduous journey.
The explorers were forced to turn back after battling to within 100 miles of the pole. Their return journey became a race against starvation, with the group surviving on half rations.
At one point Shackleton handed fellow explorer Frank Wild one of his own biscuits, prompting Wild to record in his diary: “Thousands of pounds would not have bought that biscuit.”
The biscuit was left at the hut at Cape Royds in the Antarctic where Shackleton was based during the expedition and is perfectly preserved. Nicholas Lambourn, a director at Christie’s, said ahead of the auction that the biscuits were designed to provide the explorers with maximum stamina but they lacked a crucial ingredient.
“They had a special recipe in an attempt to produce the right amounts of protein and carbohydrate,” he said.
“But they didn’t understand the importance of vitamin C, they weren’t perfect.”