Mountain rescue worker Arnaud Christmann and his neighbor Jules Berger made quite a discovery after tourists said they’d spotted “something shining” on the Bossons glacier on Mount Blanc in the French Alps.
“A couple on vacation came to us and told us they had seen something below them on the glacier,” Christmann told ABC News.
After a two-hour hike up the tallest mountain in Western Europe, the men reached a wreckage site on the glacier that included pieces of a plane cabin, chairs, electrical cables, a wheel, a shoe. Then, just as they were descending, Christmann and Berger came across a 50-pound brown jute bag labeled “Diplomatic Mail” and “Ministry of External Affairs.”
“On our way down, after about 100 feet, Jules and I saw almost at the same time a pouch lying on the glacier,” said Christmann. “It was a big surprise. We did not know what it was until we read on it ‘Diplomatic Mail.’ We could not believe it. What a great discovery, we thought.”
The pouch had been on a 1966 Boeing 707 flight from Mumbai to New York, which crashed on the mountain’s southwest face while preparing for a stopover landing in Geneva. All 117 passengers onboard were killed, including the Indian director of the Atomic Energy Commission.
The pouch contained mainly English and Indian newspapers from 1966, among other documents. “We looked inside the pouch, which was open. We only saw documents, nothing shiny, no treasure,” Christmann said, laughing. “The documents were wet and frozen. We did not want to damage them after 46 years under the ice in case there was historical value to them,” he said.
Police in the French town of Chamonix, at the base of Mont Blanc, are expected to turn over the pouch and its contents to Indian authorities, and the Indian Embassy in Paris said it looked forward to receiving the diplomatic mail, even more than four decades late.
Christmann, who will spend the winter in Snowbird, Utah, on an exchange program, said he did not expect anything extraordinary for his diplomatic discovery. “I haven’t heard from the Indian authorities. … A handshake would be nice, but I did not do this to receive a medal.”