1966 Air India Crash: Indian Newspapers Recovered from Melting French Glacier

Newspapers referring to Indira Gandhi's election win in 1966 have been recovered from the melting French glacier of Bossons on the Mont Blanc mountain range, 54 years after the plane crashed.

London: Indian newspaper copies with headlines such as “India’s First Woman Prime Minister”, referring to Indira Gandhi’s election win in 1966, have been recovered from the melting French glacier of Bossons on the Mont Blanc mountain range in western Europe, 54 years after an Air India plane crashed there.

The newspapers belong to the residue of an Air India plane that crashed into Europe’s highest mountain on January 24, 1966. Timothe Mottin, the owner of the cafe-restaurant La Cabane du Cerro at an altitude of 1,350 metres above the French resort of Chamonix discovered the remains.

“They are drying now but they are in very good condition. You can read them,” Mottin, 33, told the local French daily Le Daupine Libere’, quoted by The Guardian newspaper and other agencies in the UK.

“It’s not unusual. Every time we walk on the glacier with friends, we find remains of the crash. With experience, you know where they are. They are being carried along by the glacier according to their size, he said.

The Air India Boeing 707 had crashed into the range after a verbal flight control miscommunication, The crash resulted in 177 fatalities including passengers and crew members.

The prominent passenger on board was Homi J. Bhabha, head of India’s atomic energy programme.

Copies of the National Herald and Economic Times are among a dozen newspapers discovered by Mottin, whose cafe is about 45 minutes by foot from the Bossons glacier, where the plane named after the Himalayan peak of Kangchenjunga mysteriously crashed over 54 years ago.

Mottin said that he was lucky to discover the papers when he did because the ice in which they had been encased for nearly six decades had probably only just melted. Once the papers have dried out, they will join a growing collection of items from the crash that Mottin has put on display at his cafe to share it with visitors.

Since 2012, a number of remains from the 1966 Air India crash have been discovered in the melting ice caps.

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In 2012, a bag of diplomatic mail, stamped on Indian Government Service, Diplomatic Mail, Ministry of External Affairs, was recovered, while a year later a French climber found a metal box containing the Air India logo containing emeralds, sapphires and rubies worth between GBP 117,000 and GBP 230,000.

Human remains found in the area in 2017 are also believed to belong either to the 1966 crash or that of another Indian plane, the Malabar Princess, that came down in the area in 1950.