Huntley Palmer Biscuits

Shackleton’s Biscuits: A Case for Not Eating Artifacts on Mount Everest

The tattered remains of the 1933 Camp VI at 27,600 feet in the Yellow Band on the north face of Mount Everest, Tibet, on April 29, 2001. In 2001, high on Everest, I scoured through the tattered remains of the 1933 expedition’s Camp VI in the Yellow Band. I had discovered it, thanks to a discarded porter’s pack frame, in 1999, and was eager to see what treasures lay inside. As it turned out, it was a literal trove.

Within the shredded flaps of the tent, scattered amidst pebbles and down, were piles of canned goods: Heinz Baked Beans, Ovaltine, Nestles, Kendal Mint Cakes, and a beautiful box of Huntley & Palmers Superior Reading Biscuits.

By this time, Brent Okita and I had been out in the weather of Everest for a long time, fixing line to the First Step and looking for artifacts. It was our third day well above 8,000 meters, the weather was deteriorating rapidly…and I was hungry.

So, I ate an artifact. I ate a 68 year old biscuit – well, actually, I ate a couple of them. Honestly, I couldn’t resist; afterall, the last person to eat out of this same tin might have been Frank Smythe or Eric Shipton some 68 years before.

My snack concluded, I packed up the 30 pounds or so of artifacts from the camp, and headed down to our high camp.

  • Hienz copy
  • Ovaltine copy
  • SS92
SS92

 

I never regretted my gastronomic experiment until yesterday when the latest edition of Expedition News arrived in my inbox. In it is an article about the recent sale of one of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s biscuits from his 1907-1909 Antarctic Expedition…for nearly $2,000!

So, the bad news? In 2001, I ate perhaps $6,000 worth of historic biscuits.

The good news? Sitting in storage in Tacoma, Washington, are another $12,000 or so of biscuits I brought down, but never consumed.

Auction, anyone?

If you’d like to read more about my adventures with the 1933 Camp VI, read my 2007 blog post Everest gear, circa 1933. Or, watch the video below from the American Mountaineering Museum – scroll to the end for the bit about the biscuits. 


Jake Norton is an Everest climber, guide, photographer, writer, and motivational speaker from Colorado.

 

  1. Mount Everest
    Mount EverestOctober 8,11

    That was a couple of expensive biscuits you ate then! Hope you enjoyed them.

    Colin

    Mount Everest The British Story
    http://www.everest1953.co.uk

  2. Pete Poston
    Pete PostonOctober 9,11

    Hello Jake,
    The excellent condition of those biscuits at 8300m (and other artifacts) is clear evidence that the camera film has also been preserved high in the cold thin air, despite recent claims to the contrary.
    Best always,
    Pete

  3. Jake Norton
    Jake NortonOctober 9,11

    Thanks Colin. Expensive biscuits for sure!

  4. Jake Norton
    Jake NortonOctober 9,11

    Hi Pete,

    Definitely well preserved! Same as all the other items I found in that camp, and the others (1924 camp 6, 1938 high camp, etc.). From my experience, everything above 8000 meters stays pretty well preserved. I wasn’t aware that people are speculating about the condition of the camera. My hunch is that it’d be in good shape, with big question being, as always, if it was broken or not in a fall.

    Hope you are well!

  5. Philip Summers
    Philip SummersOctober 10,11

    Always the ideological and personal attack dog aren’t you Poston!.
    You never change!.

    Poston is referring to my paper published about a year ago now that ‘hit for six’ the long absurd notion that Holzel and his ‘posse of gunslingers’ have been peddling vis a’ vis the viable vestpocket film still up there presumably on Irvine.

    I’ve long been uneasy about this notion, but had more important things to look at, until I got fed up with Holzel’s increasingly arrogant claims and tendentious ‘trophy hunting’ too and looked into the matter objectively (you know, that which Holzel claims to do but is really just a guise for the propagation of his own opinions masquerading as ‘reason’).

    After consulting with a respected Antarctic photographer and scientist here in Australia who still likes to use film and discussing the claims and conditions with him, I found that the entire premise is clearly absurd as I long feared with the preponderous about of rust on much of Mallory’s artefacts (metal mainly), clearly indicating oxidation by the elements over time (with even tiny amounts of condensation acting as an agent for oxidation) with concomitant effects on any of the old volatile film composed of reactive compounds on old substrates prone to react unfavourably to moisture laden air seeming into any interstities of the old camera which is unlikely sealed to the outside.
    The Antarctic is certainly ‘drier’ than over 8000m on Everest and photographers still have to be careful there when using film photography lest moisture seep inside, even with humidity down to a few percent down there!.
    Thus the many rusted metal artefacts on Mallory bear testiment to the implicit state of any camera on Irvine and its even more fragile film within.
    Thus prospects for the film are essentially nil.
    You can read my article on Colin Wallace’s worthy website still for any interested parties on this issue.

    Old biscuits are rather different to volatile camera film so its important not to confuse the issue.

    A friend of mine observed that this camera viability issue is now a reflection of almost a religious belief (seeking shortcuts) of some people in this area, as Everest is like a mirror to the interlocutor.
    Too true.
    God only knows what old Poston’s depiction is for his mirror projection, at best the image may be the first time in years his girth has reduced to reasonable levels, like in some carnival hall of mirrors.

  6. Pete Poston
    Pete PostonOctober 10,11

    Hi Jake,

    It’s amazing how well preserved everything is up there. I’m sure many groups will keep searching for the camera and the film.

    I was hiking my butt off in Colorado this summer, and thought about dropping by Boulder but I reckon you weren’t there.

    Have you ever hiked in the La Plata mountains outside of Durango? It doesn’t get much prettier than that! And there’s even some technical stuff, but the rock tends to be very loose.

    Cheers,
    Pete

    The Mystery of Mallory and Irvine’s Fate
    http://www.wou.edu/poston/everest

  7. True Religion Outlet
    True Religion OutletOctober 10,11

    Our daughter and son-in-law are conscientious about offering three full meals each day with snacks. It is amazing to witness the change in behavior if/when we’re a bit late with snacks, especially for our grandson: less helpful behaviors begin to ramp up. Within minutes of consuming the needed snack (cheese, nuts, cooked grains–brown rice, couscous, etc) his jovial, playful self returns.

  8. Philip Summers
    Philip SummersOctober 11,11

    I and most people in this field have long thought Poston that not only are you a thuggish bigot and cowardly bully and as helpful in this Everest research area as a chocolate radiator cap on a car engine, but it seems you’re stubborn too.

    The recoverable camera film ‘notion’ promoted by Holzel and any other fools, stupid enough to believe in this claptrap are simply deluding themselves.

    http://www.everest1953.co.uk/MallorysCamera.php

    Proffers a detailed technical counter argument that demonstrates that the entire notion of the camera is and always has been a canard.
    Only those simpletons like bigotted simpletons like Poston who suffer from persistant cognitive dissonance, still ‘believe’ in this camera film notion as an article of faith.
    The truth is the entire notion was always flawed from the very beginning, perpetuated by the blind who will not see and those entangled in their own belief system unable to face reality properly.

  9. Pete Poston
    Pete PostonOctober 12,11

    Jake – I’m really sorry about Phil’s crazy remarks appearing on your blog. I don’t care what he says about me, but his posts are disrespectful to you and it’s my fault. With tremendous respect and my best wishes always,
    Pete

  10. Ralph Wondraschek
    Ralph WondraschekNovember 15,11

    Phil,

    regarding the possibility of the Mallory/Irvine film emulsion having been preserved intact: why not look at another historical occurance similar to this:

    the succesfull retrieval, and developement procedure of the film emulsion of the Andrée, Strindberg and Fraenkel expedition.
    The film was stored in arctic weather conditions (with a relative high percentage of moisture) from 1897 to 1933 (when the three dead bodies were discovered on Kvitö Island), yet still delivered perfect pictures after it’s succesful developement after such a long time.

    Would you care to explain why the case of the mallory/irvine film would be different ?

    And no, this old emulsion is NOT sensitive to cosmic radiation, so no problem with that.

  11. Jake Norton
    Jake NortonNovember 15,11

    Ralph, thanks for your comment and the interesting post. I had heard about an old camera and film being discovered in the Arctic, but did not know the details.

    Thanks for sharing – it’s always been my thought that, if found, the camera would hold many answers.

    Thanks again, and have a great day!

    -Jake

  12. Ralph Wondraschek
    Ralph WondraschekNovember 16,11

    Jake,

    thanks for your kind comments.

    Please refer to http://www.biad.bcu.ac.uk/research/rti/riadm/issue6/issue%206.pdf
    for more information of the recovery and developement of the Andrée/Strindberg/Fraenkel film rolls.

    Regards,

    Ralph

  13. Ralph Wondraschek
    Ralph WondraschekNovember 16,11

    and also here: http://www.biad.bcu.ac.uk/research/rti/riadm/issue6/abstract.htm

  14. Pete Poston
    Pete PostonNovember 24,11

    Ralph,
    Your last link doesn’t allow access.
    Regards,
    Pete

    http://www.wou.edu/poston/everest

  15. Ralph Wondraschek
    Ralph WondraschekNovember 30,11

    http://www.biad.bcu.ac.uk/research/rti/riadm/issue6/abstract.htm

    works for me here, Pete…

    Best,

    Ralph

  16. Pete Poston
    Pete PostonNovember 30,11

    Got it! Thanks. -Pete

  17. identity theft protection
    identity theft protectionDecember 5,11

    You know, let’s let some people make big fortunes because that provides spice in life and some adventure, something to look forward to– that you might get this.

  18. UGGs On Sale
    UGGs On SaleDecember 8,11

    do you know thanksgiving day? do you know why human thank god?

  19. Larry Dunnagan
    Larry DunnaganDecember 25,16

    Jake Norton; it’s Christmas day, 2016 in Murrell’s Inlet, S.C., about 10 miles south of Myrtle Beach. My name is Larry. I want to thank you for the excellent and purposeful photos, and the lucid and thoughtful text and ideas that you’ve put up about Mallory and Irvine and their attempt at climbing Everest. Speaking as an “armchair” mountaineer, your writing and your photography are endlessly exciting. I felt like I was on the Northeast Ridge, pushing for the summit, with “alacrity”. Across the miles, and the years, let me ask you to please, please, post any updates that you know of, on the resolution of the question of what happened to them.

    God knows, there’s little enough of magic and mystery left to us, these days. Heartfelt thanks to you for sharing your goodly and well-earned portion of them, with the rest of us.

    Happy holidays and a great New Year, Larry Dunnagan.

    • Jake Norton
      Jake NortonFebruary 26,17

      Hi Larry,

      Thanks for your comment, and apologies for taking so long to reply! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed my postings on Mallory & Irvine – it’s a story which is never far from my mind, and a mystery which still inspires in myriad ways. I will keep sharing news and info as I come across it.

      Thanks again, keep in touch, and be well!

      All my best,

      Jake

Leave a Reply