Everyone knows that the Bonzer brand name is synonymous with quality, efficiency and above all durability, but even we were a little surprised to hear that one of our signature Bonzer Can Opener products had spent the last 70 years stranded in the Antarctic!
The story of this castaway can opener first came to our attention when we received a phone call from a former Antarctic Scientific Research Base worker named Alan Carroll. Mr Carroll had been stationed at a British base on the western side of the Antarctic peninsula from 1954 to 1957. The base had originally been established in 1944 to confirm territorial claims and to watch for German armed raider ships. Scientific work continued from 1945 until 1962 when the base was abandoned and the scientific equipment was moved to a more modern base further south.
In 1994, the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust commissioned a survey of derelict British Bases and in 1996, the Port Lockroy conservation team of four experienced British workers and an Architect began restoring the base back to its former condition with a view to it becoming a replica museum and visitor centre. Alan Carroll returned to Port Lockroy in 2006 as Historical Advisor to the UKAHT to work on artefacts.
The derelict base at Port Lockroy as it was found in the late 1980’s.
When the team arrived at the deserted building in 1996 and began to sift through its cluttered and messy remains, they soon noticed the original Bonzer Can Opener, along with many old canned food supplies. Antarctic wartime bases were usually stocked with plenty of tinned and dried food, due to rationing, infrequent ship visits and lack of access to fresh produce, so having a reliable can opener was a real lifesaver. The team found many old unopened cans, but most had corroded over the decades. The better preserved canned food specimens, along with the Bonzer Can Opener were set aside to be kept for display in the restored ‘living museum’ as a record of the diet and kitchen equipment of the time.
The duty chef posing proudly with bread and rolls baked to a ‘rich golden black!’
Before it was placed in the museum however, Mr. Carroll thought it would be a good idea to restore the can opener completely back to its original condition and so he decided to contact Bonzer. When we heard his story, we excitedly agreed to welcome back the can opener that first left us in the 1940s and travelled over 9,000 miles from the UK to Antarctica, from Antarctica to the UK and finally back again aboard the cruise ship, ‘Fram’, to arrive at the Port Lockroy base, now in its restored original state, 70 years later.
The fully restored original Bonzer Can Opener – still going strong 70 years on.
To honour this courageous can opener that survived eons at the end of the earth and works as well now as it ever did, we have created this infographic which takes a look at other quintessential products which had their heyday decades ago, but are still widely used to this day.
If you’re feeling adventurous, why not take a virtual tour of the restored Port Lockroy British Base, with 360° videos which make you feel like you are actually there yourself, if a little less cold! Can you spot the Bonzer that made it back to base? The ‘living museum’ received over 18,000 visitors last year.
Perhaps this story of extreme survival has inspired you to clean up your old can opener, or maybe you think your Bonzer can opener is even older or more well-travelled. Why not share your story with us or send us a photo of your vintage can opener in celebration of Bonzer’s 87th year in business!
We still make the Bonzer Can Opener in the UK to this day, so if your family catering business needs a reliable gadget that your grandchildren will be able to use in decades to come, email or call today to find out more about this classic product that time and tide seem happy to wait for.