Adventures & Expeditions

Fortnum’s has been around, you know

Once upon a century, our Expeditions Department equipped an Empire with everything from the first mosquito net to (with any luck) the last folding motorboat. The Department may be missing, presumed closed, but to this day we continue our tradition of supporting the bold, the curious and the brave. Here are a few of the most memorable.

1845 - Sir John Franklin

In 1845, Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin failed to return from his mission to find the Northwest Passage. Sadly he was never found, but in 1944 Canadian Mounties found evidence of the expedition; several crates from Fortnum’s which, when opened, were 'found to be perfectly packed, and without any sign of putrefaction'.

1869 - Henry Morton StanleyIn 1869, journalist Henry Morton Stanley was sent to Africa by The New York Herald to find the missing Scottish missionary David Livingstone – naturally taking with him luxurious edibles from Fortnum’s. The pair eventually met at Lake Tanganyika in October 1871, where Stanley is reported to have said: 'Dr Livingstone, I presume?” but given his cargo may just as easily have said “Dr Livingstone; a preserve?'

1922 - George Finch

In 1922 Fortnum’s supplied the first British expedition to the summit of Everest with a banquet to be carried up the mountain by hungry sherpas. It included four dozen bottles of (what else?) Montebello champagne. George Finch, one of a handful to made it to 27,300 feet before near starvation, frostbite and exhaustion took their toll, described the feast that awaited them at Camp III: 'Four whole quail truffled in pate de foie gras, followed by nine sausages left me asking for more.'

1924 - George Mallory

The tragic 1924 British Everest expedition, which led to the disappearance of Mallory and Irvine, required an array of items, including carving knives and steels, soup plates, Fortmason water bottles and clockwork lamps. Leader Edward Norton reported that the Fortnum’s goods 'were a great success in every way, compact, durable, and complete'. So at least one element went well.

1923 - Howard Carter

The world was gripped by the uncovering of the 3,000-year-old tomb of Ancient Egypt’s boy king Tutankhamen. Fortnum’s, which had supplied provisions for the excavations, unwittingly became embroiled in a scandal.

When the Earl of Carnarvon died in 1923, archaeologist Howard Carter was temporarily locked out o the tomb, and returned to England. Pierre Lacau, the French director of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, discovered an unlabelled sculpture, carefully wrapped up and protected in an empty Fortnum's wine box and a controversy broke out about Carter’s intentions with such a beautiful and priceless find. Some attribute the Mummy’s Curse to such shenanegans. We couldn’t possibly comment.

1933 – Everest AGAIN

Between the great wars we couldn’t keep our tucker off the Himalayas’ highest hill. The 1933 expedition was supplied with a staggering quantity of treats, including tinned ham, lobster, biscuits, preserves and toffee, plus 'Christmas boxes.' Well, it’s hungry work.

2005 - McGrigor, McLeay and MacIntyre

In 2005, Fortnum’s was part of an expedition to complete Livingstone’s mission to find the source of the Nile. Explorers McGrigor, McLeay and MacIntyre took part in a difficult and tragic but eventually successful mission, fortified by Fortnum’s hampers containing energy-boosting provisions such as sardines and thick-cut marmalade. Serving suggestion; separate plates.

2014 - Khayat & Co

In 2014 two four young British rowers including Hamish Khayat, son of Fortnum's director Jana Khayat, rowed from Western Australia to the Seychelles, some 3,140 nautical miles – breaking the record for the fastest-ever Indian Ocean row. The Fortnum-sponsored row raised money for the Enham Trust, and sent the rowers off with – what else? - hampers, containing their favoured Breakfast Blend Coffee, Lucifer’s Marmalade and Handmade Fudge; the very thing for tired arms.

2019 - The Last Overland Expedition

Who knew how useful a tin of Fortnum’s biscuits were in a crisis? In the middle of a historic expedition, The Last Overland's Alex Bescoby confirmed that they’re very useful indeed.

Alex and his team of adventurers set out to re-trace the steps of The First Overland Expedition that travelled from London to Singapore in 1955. Driving the very same Landrover that was used during the first expedition, the team traversed across many miles all with a little help from a Fortnum's Globetrotter Hamper, of which they shared with villagers in Nagaland, North-East India and the remote town of Athar in Nepal.

Read their story here.