CLOSE

6 More Lost and Found Airplanes

I once thought that it should be very hard to lose something as big as an airplane. When planes fly into deep water, high altitudes, ice, snow, jungle, or desert, it happens more often you'd think. Finding those planes many years later is a rare occurrence, but it happens. After the previous article 9 Lost and Found Airplanes, readers suggested other cases to look up, which led me to even more stories of planes recovered many years after they were lost.

1. Juliet Delta 321

The Lockheed LC-130 was a version of the C-130 Hercules cargo plane that was designed for Arctic conditions. It had skis in addition to wheels for landing gear. The Hercules named Juliet Delta 321 was put into service in Antarctica in 1960. On December 4th, 1971, the plane's solid rocket fuel bottles dislodged during takeoff and damaged two propellers and one engine. Pilot Ed Gabriel crash landed the plane, and the crew and passengers all survived with no injuries. The ten people lived in survival huts for three days before the weather was safe enough for rescue. The plane was left to be buried in the snow. In 1982, pictures were taken showing just the tail of the Hercules sticking out of the snow. A recovery effort brought the plane up in 1986, fifteen years after the crash. Parts of the plane were sold for more than enough money to pay for the recovery effort. Juliet Delta 321 was refurbished and put back into service in 1993, and was retired to Arizona in 1998.

2. Lake Mead's Bomber

500_mead

On July 21, 1948, an Army Air Forces B-29A Superfortress bomber crashed into Lake Mead while on a scientific mission to study solar radiation. The pilot was told to fly as low as possible. Flying down to 300 feet above the lake, the inexperienced pilot with a malfunctioning altimeter dipped too low and bounced the plane across the water's surface. All four engines were damaged. The crew of five escaped in lifeboats, and the plane sunk to the bottom. It was not seen again for 53 years. Divers from In-Depth Consulting found the plane in 2001 using a side-scan sonar device. They announced the find in August of 2002. The plane remains at the bottom of the lake.

3. Kookaburra

550kookaburra

Daredevil pilot Charles Kingsford-Smith flew his plane named the Southern Cross on an attempt to set a speed record for flying from Australia to England in 1929. "Smithy" and his crew of two set off on March 30. Bad weather and bad navigation caused them to miss their planned stop at Wyndham and they set down near the Glenlg River. But this story is not about the Southern Cross. A search was launched to find Smithy and his crew. One of those looking for them was Keith Anderson, piloting the plane called the Kookaburra. It left Alice Springs had to land in the Tanami Desert due to malfunctions. The plane never took off again. The crew of the Southern Cross was found by another search plane. Meanwhile, back at the Kookaburra, Anderson and co-pilot Bobby Hitchcock died of dehydration before they were found  two weeks later. The plane was abandoned in the desert for 49 years until it was recovered by Dick Smith. The Kookaburra's remains were taken to Alice Springs where they have been on display at the Central Australian Aviation Museum in Alice Springs since 1982.  Image by Flickr user amandabhslater.

4. Operation Auca

550natesaint

In 1955, five Christian missionaries from the United States approached the Huaorani tribe living in the rain forest of Ecuador. The Huaorani were a violent tribe, sometimes called Auca (the enemies) by other tribes. The missionaries first dropped gifts from their plane, then contacted the tribe on the Curaray River. On January 8, 1956, all five missionaries were killed by Huaorani warriors with spears. Nate Saint was the pilot of the group. He owned a Piper aircraft the he used to ferry supplies to missions before he joined the four other missionaries. After he died, his plane sat in the sand of Palm Beach and became half buried for 38 years. The murders spurred others into volunteering as missionaries, and many the Huaorani were converted over the next few years, including some of those involved in the killings. In 1994, Bill Clapp of the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) identified the remains of a plane found in the sand as Nate Saint's. More airplane parts were then discovered in the surrounding area. The frame of the plane was reconstructed and is now on display at the MAF headquarters in Idaho.

5. The Maid of Harlech

550_maid

On on September 27, 1942 Second Lieutenant Robert F. Elliott was piloting his US P-38 Lightning fighter plane on a training mission in Britain when low fuel forced him to land on a beach in Wales. The water landing damaged the plane's wing, but Elliot was unhurt. However, he was later shot down in combat and died only weeks after the ditching incident. According to official records, the fighter plane was salvaged, but that turned out to be not quite so. Beaches were closed to the public during wartime and sand gradually buried the plane. In July of 2007, a family spotted the plane, 65 years after it was left on the beach. The plane is now called the Maid of Harlech, and TIGHAR is raising money to fund the plane's recovery.

6. Star Dust

550stardust

British South American Airways flight CS 59 took off from Buenos Aires, Argentina en route to Santiago, Chile on August 2nd, 1947 with three crew members and six passengers. The plane was called the Star Dust. The crew kept in contact with the ground via Morse code as the plane flew over the Andes mountains. The last three messages were the letters STENDEC, (which no one on the ground understood) and the plane was not heard from again. The armies of both Chile and Argentina scoured the mountains, but found no trace of the Star Dust. Over the next 50 years, many theories about the cryptic letters STENDEC and tall tales about the illustrious passengers of the Star Dust grew. In 1998, two mountain climbers found a Rolls-Royce airplane engine and some fabric in a glacier 15,000 up Mount Tupungato. In 2000, an expedition confirmed the crash site as that of the Star Dust.

See also: 9 Lost and Found Airplanes and 7 Horrifying Aircraft Landings.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Scientific Reports, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi
arrow
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Humans Might Have Practiced Brain Surgery on Cows 5000 Years Ago
Scientific Reports, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi
Scientific Reports, Fernando Ramirez Rozzi

In the 1970s, archaeologists discovered a site in France containing hundreds of cow skeletons dating back 5000 to 5400 years. The sheer number wasn't surprising—human agriculture in that part of the world was booming by 3000 BCE. What perplexed scientists was something uncovered there a few decades later: a cow skull bearing a thoughtfully drilled hole. Now, a team of researchers has released evidence that suggests the hole is an early example of animal brain surgery.

Fernando Ramírez Rozzi, a paleontologist with the French National Center for Scientific Research, and Alain Froment, an anthropologist at the Museum of Mankind in Paris, published their findings in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. After comparing the opening to the holes chiseled into the skulls of humans from the same era, they found the bones bore some striking similarities. They didn't show any signs of fracturing from blunt force trauma; rather, the hole in the cow skull, like those in the human skulls, seemed to have been carved out carefully using a tool made for exactly that purpose. That suggests that the hole is evidence of the earliest known veterinary surgery performed by humans.

Trepanation, or the practice of boring holes into human skulls, is one of the oldest forms of surgery. Experts are still unsure why ancient humans did this, but the level of care that went into the procedures suggests that the surgery was likely used to treat sick patients while they were still alive. Why a person would perform this same surgery on a cow, however, is harder to explain.

The authors present a few theories, the first being that these ancient brain surgeons were treating a sick cow the same way they might treat a sick human. If a cow was suffering from a neural disease like epilepsy, perhaps they though that cutting a hole in its head would relieve whatever was agitating the brain. The cow would have needed to be pretty special to warrant such an effort when there were hundreds of healthy cows living on the same plot of land, as evidenced by the skeletons it was found with.

Another possible explanation was that whoever operated on the cow did so as practice to prepare them for drilling into the heads of live humans one day. "Cranial surgery requires great manual dexterity and a complete knowledge of the anatomy of the brain and vessel distribution," the authors write in the study. "It is possible that the mastery of techniques in cranial surgery shown in the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods was acquired through experimentation on animals."

Either way, the bovine patient didn't live to see the results of the procedure: The bone around the hole hadn't healed at all, which suggests the cow either died during surgery or wasn't alive to begin with.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
History
How the Log Cabin Became an American Symbol
iStock
iStock

Many Americans have a special fondness for the log cabin, viewing it as the home of heroic pioneers, or at least a great weekend escape. But it wasn’t always this way. The log cabin was originally disdained here in America—and it took decades of pop culture and political shifts to elevate the structure to the vaunted status it holds today.

THANK THE SWEDES

While there’s plenty of imagery portraying log cabins in the English colonies of Plymouth and Jamestown (established in Massachusetts and Virginia, respectively), these depictions couldn’t be further from the truth. The English had no history of log cabins—they preferred more “refined” frame houses, and would sometimes squat in subterranean dugouts until they could be built. In fact, the log cabin was first constructed in the New World in the short-lived colony of New Sweden, established in the Delaware River Valley in 1638. Such structures had been around continental Europe for centuries, and the Swedish colonists were simply using a skill that had been passed down through generations.

Log cabins might have remained a Swedish anomaly in the New World had it not been for the German and Scots-Irish who adopted them after arriving in the mid-1700s. But none of these log cabins looked much like the quaint, cozy structures we revere today. They often had dirt floors, were crawling with lice and other pests, and were prone to drafts; as one traveler remarked around 1802, the gaps between logs were "filled up with clay, but so very carelessly, that the light may be seen through in every part." Yet as uncomfortable as these cabins were, they offered impoverished immigrants an invaluable slice of freedom. Cheaper and far easier to construct than finer homes, the log cabin thus became the go-to home for newcomers to the New World, helping millions of desperate refugees turn their dreams of settling in America into a reality.

But the practicality of the structure did nothing for the log cabin's public image, or that of its inhabitants. Benjamin Franklin wrote that there were only two sorts of people, "those who are well dress'd and live comfortably in good houses," and those who "are poor, and dirty, and ragged and ignorant, and vicious and live in miserable cabins or garrets." Dr. Benjamin Rush, Surgeon General of the Middle Department of the Continental Army and a signatory to the Declaration of Independence, said the cabin dweller was “generally a man who has out-lived his credit or fortune in the cultivated parts."

As for cabins themselves, they were generally seen as “rude” and “miserable,” and no self-respecting American would deign to live in one. Not permanently, at least. Cabins back then were temporary stepping stones meant to be abandoned once something better could be afforded; barring that good fortune, they were to be covered with clapboard and added to as the cornerstone for a finer home.

LOG CABIN PRIDE

But the log cabin and its inhabitants’ public image got a makeover after the War of 1812. The nation had just defeated the British for a second time, and Americans were feeling good, forging their own identity and distinguishing themselves from the old world. Log cabins—ubiquitous and appropriately rustic—started taking on an all-American sheen.

Soon enough, writers and artists were portraying them in a positive light. One notable example is James Fenimore Cooper’s 1823 novel The Pioneers, where the house of protagonist Natty Bumppo is described as being “a rough cabin of logs.” That scene in turn is thought to have inspired artist Thomas Cole’s 1826 painting, Daniel Boone Sitting at the Door of His Cabin on the Great Osage Lake. Together, these works helped spark an entire movement that saw the pioneer as a hero. Log cabin dwellers were no longer disdained for their rough edges; these same edges were what made them romantic and distinctly American.

A "Harrison & Tyler" woodcut used in the 1840 campaign
A "Harrison & Tyler" woodcut used in the 1840 campaign
Library of Congress // Public Domain

Similar shifts occurred in the political realm during the 1840 election. President Martin van Buren faced an uphill battle for reelection that year, and a politically aligned newspaper thought it could give him a leg up by launching a classist attack against rival William Henry Harrison: “Give [Harrison] a barrel of Hard Cider, and settle a pension of $2000 a year on him, and my word for it, he will sit the remainder of his days in his Log Cabin.” In other words: Harrison was an ignorant hick.

It was a lie—the wealthy Harrison actually lived in a mansion—but most of the public didn’t know it, and his rivals assumed voters would scorn Harrison’s poverty. They were wrong: Millions of Americans still lived in log cabins, struggling day-in-and-day-out, and they were not impressed. (“No sneer could have been more galling,” John McMaster wrote in his 1883 A History of the People of the United States from the Revolution to the Civil War.)

In no time at all, Americans rich and poor were displaying their Harrison love and log cabin pride by holding cabin raisings and patronizing specially-constructed log cabin bars, marching in massive parades with log cabins pulled by teams of horses, and purchasing heaps of Harrison-themed, log cabin-stamped merchandise, including tea sets, hair brushes, and hope chests. With his eye on the prize, Harrison gamely played into this fib, telling frenzied crowds that he’d rather relax in his log cabin than run for president, but that he had heeded their call to run for the White House. That fall, he won handily.

Though Harrison died 32 days into his term, his log cabin campaign became a reliable template for candidates in the years ahead. Franklin Pierce downplayed his family’s wealth in 1852, instead focusing on a brief time spent in a log cabin as a baby. James Buchanan did the same in 1856, and Lincoln’s log cabin youth was brought up consistently come 1860. “Like President Harrison, Mr. Lincoln has spent about one third part of his life in a log cabin,” one biography read.

"Across the Continent: Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way" by Frances Flora Palmer
"Across the Continent: Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way"
Frances Flora Palmer, Library of Congress

Log cabins became an even more persistent presence in the arts, culture, and commerce in the decades ahead, making cameos in iconic images like Frances Flora Bond Palmer’s 1868 painting Across the Continent: Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way, in which the cabin is the symbol of an ever-expanding American empire. The log cabin also figured into tales high and low, such as The Log-Cabin Lady—a prescriptive memoir about escaping low-class drudgery—and The Log-Cabin Bishop, an uplifting account of a man who brought religion to the frontier. The Log Cabin Library dime novels even peddled swashbuckling adventures to young boys.

FALSE MEMORIES

Most powerful in terms of ingraining log cabin adoration in young Americans, though, were the scores of false histories that projected the log cabin back onto Plymouth and Jamestown. Historians of the late-19th century had heard so much about the log cabin that they just assumed it was key to American growth and expansion, leading to assertions like John G. Palfrey’s 1860 claim, “[Settlers] made themselves comfortable in log-houses,” and images like W.L. Williams 1890s painting, Plymouth in 1622. The latter shows the colony as a smattering of log cabins and was widely distributed to elementary school classrooms, cementing the image of a cabin-laden Plymouth.

A set of 1970s Lincoln Logs
A set of 1970s Lincoln Logs
Tinker*Tailor loves Lalka, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

From then on, the log cabin was portrayed as the ultimate proverbial rag from which the rich nation of the U.S. had emerged, as when historian Warder Stevens declared in 1916, “The story of America is written in log cabins.” It’s this tradition of myth-making and believing that inspired subsequent outpourings of log cabin nostalgia: Lincoln Logs in the interwar years, log cabin chic of the 1990s, and today’s reality programs showing urbanites fleeing to the woods.

These days, the log cabin is emblazoned on money and sewn onto flags; it fascinates modern artists like Will Ryman (who created a gold-resin-covered log cabin at the New Orleans Museum of Art); and it appears in music of all genres, from country crooner Porter Wagoner’s 1965 track “An Old Log Cabin for Sale” to T-Pain and Lil Wayne’s 2008 romantic rap “Can’t Believe It.” That said, perhaps the log cabin itself is the nation’s greatest rags-to-riches story; it went from being sneered at as a poor immigrants’ hovel to being revered as an American icon. Not bad for something that writer John Filson, discussing Boone’s home circa 1784, described as “not extraordinary.”

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios