Melting Swiss Glacier Reveals Abandoned Aircraft and Its Incredible Story

Sep 20, 2018

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A famous aircraft’s final resting place has been disturbed.

An American Dakota C-53 was forced to make an emergency landing on the side of a Swiss glacier 71 years ago because of severe weather. The aircraft was filled with American soldiers and their families, some of whom were injured in the crash.

Crash survivors lived for five days off of melted snow, a dozen chocolate bars and burning parts of the plane to keep warm before a massive rescue operation was carried out.

The Swiss Air Force made multiple high-risk attempts at landing light reconnaissance planes equipped with skis onto Gauli Glacier in the Bernese Oberland, ferrying just two stranded passengers out at time when they successfully touched down. The rescue was a significant moment in Swiss aviation history and for mountain rescue operations.

However, because of the inaccessibility of the C-53’s wreckage and the lack of technology in 1946, what was left of the aircraft stayed on the glacier and became buried under snow and ice — eventually morphing into a bit of a tourist destination.

“The wreck is a great folk tale,” an owner of a nearby mountain hut told The Telegraph. “We have many visitors coming to us solely for the sake of the Dakota.”

Due to rising temperatures, the ice that covered the Dakota receded and the Swiss government has started removing the exposed parts from the mountain. Switzerland has experienced one of its hottest summer on record, which is putting many of the Alp’s glacier’s in danger.

“We found an engine block with the propeller, some parts of the wing and a lot of small pieces, bits of sheet metal, wooden parts and also some blankets,” said Fritz Teuscher, head of the Swiss recovery team.

About two tons of material are being airlifted out of the valley, although key parts still remain under the ice, like the C-53’s cockpit.

Teuscher said the US has given the remains to Switzerland, which plans to put them on display in the nearby village of Innertkirchen.

Featured image by Sean Gallup / Getty Images.

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