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Rare jewels and CIA plots on the slopes of Mont Blanc

Rare jewels and CIA plots on the slopes of Mont Blanc - Super Alpine

On the 24th January 1966 Air India flight 101 destined for London, took off from Bombay (Mumbai) making two scheduled stops in Delhi and Beirut. It never made its third stop in Geneva, crashing into the Rocher de la Tournette on the southwest face of Mont Blanc, killing all 117 people on board.

It's common for airlines to retire flight numbers after a crash but flight 101 still flies today, currently to New York.

'The Kanchenjunga', a Boeing 707 crashed at 4750m, below the summit of Mont Blanc (4808m), above the French Alpine town of Chamonix. A faulty navigation system and misunderstood instructions about when to descend to Geneva airport had disastrous consequences.

The plane crashed at 8 am French time and rescuers searched in vain until the weather stopped them the next day. In a grisly turn, 15 dead monkeys were discovered though.

The border of France and Italian runs through Mont Blanc massif and is still disputed to this day. An Italian pilot claimed to see dark clouds at the time of the crash and some of the wreckage was found on the Italian side, although they never participated in the rescue or investigation.

Of those 117 that lost their lives, one was India's atomic energy tsar - Dr Homi Jehangir Bhabha. Some conspiracy theorists believe the CIA had an involvement with the crash. They believe eliminating Dr Bhabha would have derailed India's nuclear capability, which of course didn't turn out to be true.

In a twist that goes some way to disproving this theory, a plane had already crashed into the same spot, on the same route.

The Malabar Princess crashed in the same spot on Mont Blanc in 1950, killing all 45 people on board. Bizarrely it was another Air India flight, this time a Lockheed 749 Constellation on a charter flight.

Since these terrible events, the glacier ice around Mont Blanc has melted at an ever-increasing rate, giving up random pieces of both flights. Everything from plane parts to top-secret papers have emerged and rumours abound that Chamoniards have a stash of souvenirs lining their shelves. You can find wheels and engine parts proudly displayed at mountain cafes in a worryingly inappropriate trend that suggests all manner of other things may have been secreted away.

One item that did find it's way to the authorities was a box of emeralds, rubies and sapphires worth hundreds of thousands of euros. A climber handed it into the local police but today those jewels still sit in a bank vault in Chamonix, even though papers have been seen identifying its intended recipient.

What might seem like normal cargo on an international flight, now seems like the treasure from the wreck of the unbelievable.

Read more about Chamonix in the Super Alpine magazine