Courtesy of Antarctic Heritage Trust

The dessert was almost perfectly preserved. 

Elisabeth Sherman
August 11, 2017

Conservators at the New Zealand-based Antarctic Heritage Trust found a 100-year-old fruitcake among artifacts hidden inside the continent’s oldest building, a hut on Cape Adare. Wrapped in paper and the remains of a tin, the dessert, made by the biscuit company Huntley & Palmers, was most likely left there by British explorer Robert Falcon Scott during his Terra Nova expedition from 1910-1913. The conservators had been excavating the hut in search of artifacts for a year when they turned up the fruitcake.

The Antarctic Heritage Trust says that the cake was in “excellent condition,” and that it “looked and [smelled] (almost) edible.”

Fruit cake was a popular treat in Britain at the time that Scott and his team were exploring the region, and he even documented that he had packed this particular brand with him. It may have been an indulgence for the crew, but eating fruitcake served a practical purpose, too: Such cold temperatures lead to dietary changes that the cake would have easily satisfied.

“Living and working in Antarctica tends to lead to a craving for high-fat, high-sugar food, and fruitcake fits the bill nicely, not to mention going very well with a cup of tea,” Lizzie Meeks, the conservation manager for the Trust told National Geographic

Although the fruitcake is an interesting find for the team, the history behind it is slightly more tragic: Scott and his four person crew managed to reach the South Pole in 1912, but none of them survived the journey back to their base camp at Cape Evans.

After restoring the hut—which was originally built by another explorer in 1899—and all the artifacts inside, the conservators returned everything to its original place, in order to preserve the historical accuracy of the site, which means that they didn’t get a chance to try any of the fruitcake in question. At least they didn't re-gift it.