When Switzerland found itself in the middle of an unusual heatwave, the Gauli Glacier melted enough to uncover the wreckage debris of an American World War II plane that crash-landed in the Bernese Alps 72 years ago. Now, when you hear about the crash of a plane, especially into a mountain or in this case, a glacier, you expect to find fatalities. Of course, this plane crashed a long time ago, and the authorities already knew the outcome of that crash. The people who found the plane in the ice, however, might not have. This plane, a C-53 Skytrooper Dakota had been traveling from Austria to Italy when it collided with the Gauli Glacier at an altitude of 10,990 feet on that fateful day.
It was November 19, 1946, and the plane carrying four crew members and eight passengers were enjoying their trip, when something went terribly wrong. When they hit the glacier, several people were injured, amazingly, there were no fatalities. Among the passengers were high-ranking United States service members traveling with relatives…four women and one 11-year-old girl. Now, they found themselves high up on a glacier, and it was likely very cold. They were stuck at the crash site for six days before rescuers found them and could get to them. They were forced to drink snow water and ration chocolate bars to survive, but survive they did. Many times, survival at a crash site, if you survived the initial crash, is all about using common sense and keeping your wits about you. You have to take stock of your supplies and be willing to ration what you have. You can’t let anyone get out of control, because a panic could waste vital supplies. Water is the most vital of the supplies, because while the human body can go weeks without food, it can only live a few days without water. While it would seem that water on a glacier would be plentiful, it may not be so. You would have to chip away at the ice, and then melt it to drink. In addition, you have to get it warm, or you will risk the water causing Hypothermia. This particular group managed to do things right, or at least enough right to survive the six days while they waited for rescue. Once rescued, they went on with their lives feeling very blessed to be alive.
The snow, and later, ice covered the plane as the years went by, and it was very likely forgotten…until 2012 anyway, when three young people discovered the plane’s propeller on the glacier. They continued to observe the emerging plane and as the glacier continued to melt, the scene unfolded. Today, it reportedly looks like a field covered in plane debris, and many people probably wonder how anyone managed to live through the initial crash…much less everyone. As the glacier melted, the plane slid down the mountainside and was expected to finally emerge at the bottom. In fact, much of the debris field might actually be caused by the melting ice.