Devilled whitebait and mock turtle soup on menu for mock Shackleton centenary meal

Recreation of last Christmas dinner on board ‘Endurance’ takes place in Dún Laoghaire

Explorer Ernest Shackleton made three expeditions to the Antarctic, but is best known for the ‘Endurance’ expedition of 1914-1916 when the ship became trapped in the ice and Shackleton and five colleagues made an epic journey to South Georgia to seek rescue. Photograph: Print Collector/Getty Images)

Explorer Ernest Shackleton made three expeditions to the Antarctic, but is best known for the ‘Endurance’ expedition of 1914-1916 when the ship became trapped in the ice and Shackleton and five colleagues made an epic journey to South Georgia to seek rescue. Photograph: Print Collector/Getty Images)

 

Eugene Furlong hasn’t trimmed his beard in months and has tried not to wash too much, in preparation for a special night out. Dressing “down” rather than “up” is de rigueur for a re-creation of the last Christmas dinner shared by Sir Ernest Shackleton and 27 crew on board Endurance before the ship was crushed in Antarctic pack ice 100 years ago.

Furlong, a full-time carer from Cork, shares a lifelong interest in Shackleton with the 27 other guests attending tonight’s occasion at the Royal St George Yacht Club in Dún Laoghaire. He knows almost every detail of the role played by Shackleton and company on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, the failed attempt to cross the Antarctic peninsula and subsequent survival of all involved.

That last “Christmas” dinner – photographed by expedition photographer Frank Hurley with the New Zealand flag hanging over the long ship’s table – actually took place on June 22nd, 1915.

“Our midsummer is the Antarctic midwinter, and Shackleton wanted to keep their spirits up as they had been stuck in ice for six months at that point,” master of ceremonies John O’Reilly explains.

Devilled whitebait and “mock” turtle soup are on the menu for starters. Main course is not “hoosh” – Shackleton’s nickname for the dehydrated meat protein that subsequently became an expedition survival ration – but slow-roasted pork with apple and cranberry sauce.

“The Endurance had picked up two pigs in South Georgia en route south, and so they actually had pork at that last festive meal on the ship,” O’Reilly says. There were also supplies of Christmas pudding and mince pies.

“We will have wine – they didn’t – but they did have rum and beer,” he says.

O’Reilly, owner of the highly successful Shackleton exhibition which has just finished a three-year run in Dún Laoghaire, has a woolly jumper and braces at the ready for his turn as “the Boss”, alias Shackleton. A special guest of honour is Brendan O’Brien, grandson of Kerry adventurer Tom Crean, who served with both Scott and Shackleton in polar expeditions.

Appropriately enough, the place setting for Able Seaman Timothy McCarthy from Cork has been assigned to Furlong. Seven years ago, on a visit to Norway, Furlong tracked down the ship’s cabin in which Shackleton died in 1922. He struck up a relationship with the owner, Ulf Bakke, which led to the cabin or “sea bedroom” being donated several months ago to the Athy Heritage Centre Museum in Co Kildare.

The Shackleton exhibition, which O’Reilly purchased from the American Museum of Natural History, travels to Detroit Zoo in the US for a seven-month run.