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French glacier near Mont Blanc melts

Date: 16 July 2020 Tags: India & World


A melting glacier at Europe’s Mont Blanc mountain range recently revealed Indian newspapers buried there for 54 years – some of them carrying headlines referring to Indira Gandhi’s election win in 1966.



The newspapers are among the remains of Air India Flight 101, a Boeing 707 plane that on January 24, 1966, crashed into Mont Blanc. Among the 177 dead was Homi Bhabha, the founding leader of India’s nuclear programme.



  • Flight 101 is not the only Indian plane that met its end at Mont Blanc, Europe’s third-highest peak. Sixteen years before that, Air India Flight 245 had crashed at the same spot in November 1950, killing all 48 on board.

  • While the debris from the two catastrophes remained buried for decades in the high mountains, recent Alpine melting is causing the remains to surface, with many discoveries coming to the fore in the past decade.

  • The first, Air India Flight 245 – also called the ‘Malabar Princess’ – was on a Bombay-Istanbul-Geneva-London route. The flight hit Mont Blanc’s Rocher de la Tournette point at 15,344 feet. All 48 on board died.

  • Sixteen years after the first crash, Air India Flight 101, named ‘Kanchenjunga’ after the Himalayan peak, also met its end only 200 metres away from the previous crash site.

  • The flight, a Boeing 707, was flying from Bombay to London, with stops at Delhi, Beirut, and Geneva. A miscommunication between Captain and Geneva Air Traffic Control caused the plane to crash into Mont Blanc. This led to the loss of all 177 on board, including the top scientist Bhabha.

  • The Mont Blanc area, which has lost a quarter of its glacial ice due to climate change, has in recent years exposed remains of frozen hikers missing for decades. 

  • Since 2012, many finds related to both the Air India crashes have emerged from the melting ice caps. In 2017, some human remains believed to be from the two flights were discovered.

  • The flight was carrying classified documents containing Indian assessments of Chinese defences and nuclear weapons. The “Top Secret” documents were discovered in 2016 from the melting Bosse glacier near Mont Blanc.

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