FORGET your fig rolls, your jaffa cakes or your custard creams. When it comes to biscuits, arctic explorer and Kilkea native, Ernest Shackleton’s biscuits top the lot. It may not have a chocolate topping, figs or orange filling, but this 104 year-old biscuit fetched a whopping E1,250 at a Christies auction in London last week.
However, this is not the most valuable biscuit Shackleton had in his rations. A partially eaten morsel, which was the last biscuit he ate on his journey to the South Pole sits on display at the Athy Heritage Centre. In fact this was the biscuit that was found in his pocket. That tasty ration was bought for 7,637 pounds in 2001.
Seamus Taafe, Director of the Shackleton School in Athy, which is based at the Heritage Centre explained: “Even though the one that was sold at Christies was more intact, the one we have is of more historical significance. That biscuit was one of many thousand they brought on their trip. The one in Athy is the one that he had left in his pocket. It was towards the end of his journey and they were crossing the mountains of South Georgia. It was the last biscuit he ate and it ended up in his pocket,” he explains.
The half eaten biscuit was kept in a cigarette box and was passed down through the generations of the family before it came up for auction.
“At the time we were very lucky to have a very generous supporter so we were able to buy it,” added Mr Taafe.
The biscuit, which was sold last week, was passed from Shackleton to a starving fellow traveller on the same expedition as the Athy biscuit - Shackleton’s 1907-1909 Nimrod expedition.
The biscuits were made especially for the expedition by British biscuit company Huntley and Palmers. The rations were fortified with milk protein to help the group on their arduous journey. The explorers came to within around 100 miles (160 kilometres) of the pole but were forced to turn back and their return journey became a race against starvation, with the group surviving on half rations.
The Shackleton School runs in Athy from October 28 to 31.