by Kraig Becker
In a story that sounds like something straight out of a Hollywood movie plot, a French mountaineer was surprised to discover a lost treasure chest half buried in a glacier while climbing in the Alps earlier this week. That surprise turned to astonishment however when he actually opened the box and found that it contained thousands of dollars worth of gems including emeralds, rubies and sapphires.
The climber, who has chosen to remain anonymous, was making an ascent of Mont Blanc along the Bossons Glacier near the mountain town of Chamonix when he spotted the metal box sticking out of the snow. Curious as to how such a box could have gotten there, he opened the lid and found several small bags labeled “Made in India” inside. Each of those bags contained the precious gems which are estimated to be worth approximately $332,000.
Upon descending from the glacier, the young man turned the gems over to the local authorities who believe that they are probably debris left over from the crash of two Indian airliners in the Alps a half century ago. The first of those planes went down in November of 1950, killing 58 people while the other crashed in January of 1966 while en route from Mumbai to New York killing all 117 passengers on board. It seems likely that the gems were part of the cargo that one of those planes was carrying at the time of the accident.
French authorities will now attempt to locate possible owners of the lost treasures. They have already reached out to officials in India to see if they can assist in finding anyone who might have a claim to the missing cargo. If no one can be identified, the gems will become the property of the anonymous mountaineer who was honest enough to turn them over to the local police in the first place.
This hasn’t been the only discovery in this area that seems to be related to the crash of the two Indian aircraft. In August of 2012, a bag marked “Diplomatic Mail” was also discovered on the glacier. It was turned over to the Indian embassy in Paris, which was the rightful recipient, even if the mail was delivered more than 50 years too late.
Considering the circumstance with this latest find and the honesty displayed by the climber, I’d personally like to see him rewarded for the discovery and subsequent turn over of the gems. How many of us would have done the same thing if we were in his boots?