Finders, keepers. No, unfortunately not. The propeller of the Dakota can not be taken home. It belongs to the Gauli Glacier . The drama comes back to life with each finding.
Passengers and crew were rescued, but where is their plane? It's lying around, sunning itself. The propeller of the Dakota.
The media hype surrounding the crash of the Dakota C-53 exceeds anything seen before: journalists from all over the world come, reports are made on the hour, all hotels in Meiringen are fully-booked. It's the largest rescue mission in the Alps and the first high mountain rescue mission from the air – a world sensation, reported in the papers, on the radio and weekly news shows all over the world.
Today, the Americans luckily «only» appear with their luggage in the Jungfrau Region. They leave their camouflaged caterpillars at home. These vehicles haven't profited 1946 much really.
While it's the tourists from around the world who influence the appearance of Meiringen today, in those fateful days in 1946 the journalists and an American rescue convoy with white-camouflaged caterpillars cause amazement. They parade through the streets, the Americans. It's quite a sensation for the locals.
But how can a glacier be conquered with caterpillars? A certain amount of head-shaking can definitely be seen among the locals.
Newspaper articles and black and white photos from back then crop up time and again on a Beizen tour through Meiringen.
There's really something to report on there. The Gauli drama finds worthy interest. Media representatives from all around the world are on location.
One headline follows the next. The largest rescue mission in the Alps keeps the world on the edge of its seat for several days.
Author of «Haslital – the fateful year 1946»
Around 70 years later, the crew of the Dakota would probably be bombarded with American relief packages like this. The question is whether the cheeseburger would survive the crash from such heights? Although, these would definitely be too delicious to fall in a crevice.
Swiss pilots throw relief supplies from the air down to the crash location: bread, warm tea, cheese, condensed milk, chocolate, cooking equipment. Not to mention warm clothes, wool blankets, first aid materials and medicine – everything is reliably delivered.
Later, American, English and French planes also drop relief supplies from the air. From great heights, a random bombardment of useful and useless items rained down... most of it gets lost, finding its way directly into the crevices of the glacier. The only thing left to say is: it's the thought that counts.
Watch out and keep looking up. If not before, then at least when a 60-kilo sack of coal hits the Dakota. Being hit by a relief package like that is not much fun at all. In order to stop the uncontrolled bombardment, the crew simply writes four letters in the snow: «F I N I» – or, to put it another way: will you stop that!
Anyway, in order to rescue the crew and protect them from the supplies, someone dares to do the impossible. Rescue by sledge is impossible, the American caterpillar idea is useless. So, runners were mounted onto two planes, so-called «Fieseler-Störche» (Fieseler storks). Who came up with the idea? The Swiss of course.
The Swiss pilots land with their runners on the glacier and fly the injured passengers and crew to the Unterbrach airport. All crash victims can be safely transported in eight flights. What an achievement. The Alpine air rescue is born.
There it is. At the end of the original and idyllic Urbachtal. The Gauli cabin. The perfect destination for those who would like to take a (guided) tour to the Gauli Glacier.
The hike to the Gauli cabin is not just full of landscape surprises. Now, as the Dakota is slowly but surely emerging, it could be that a dropped whisky bottle is soon washed away by the glacier water. It would be well-aged.
Gauli cabin warden and passionate storyteller
There are probably enough crevices. How many relief packages are still lying hidden down there?
Findings are handed in at the Gauli cabin these days, until a museum is built.
It's not always clear on first glance what was found...
In this case though, it's easier to recognise what it could be about.
Watch out, glacier crevice. Oh, there's really a wing in the glacier. No problem. The local mountaineers know the way – just trot behind them nicely. We definitely don't want to fall here.
Stay nicely roped up and in single file. WIth the Rosenlaui mountaineering school, the tour goes under and past the Bärglistock peak.
Let's dance. An eternal dance between the glacier crevices. The experts know where you can dance.
Are there some more relief packages to be found down here?
Shoes off and to the next stream. After a hike like this, those feet definitely won't be saying «no» to a cool dip.
It's easier going up the mountain – with the helicopter of course. A two-day tour with helicopter flight to Rosenegg and hike over the Gauli Glacier to the Dakota findings sounds attractive doesn't it?
Refreshments on the Gauli cabin patio have been well-earned. Just enjoy.
At the nostalgia flight day in Haslital, you can fly with aunt JU over the mountains of the Jungfrau Region. In the company of a Froissair. The ideal opportunity to catapult yourself back to 1946 – without the crash of course.
The landscape around the Gauli Glacier creates a lasting impression even without the findings. Particularly with a picnic outside. Enjoy your meal, cheers!
Photos: Jungfrau Region, Bergsteigerschule Rosenlaui
Story: André Wellig
Tourist Center Meiringen
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