The mysterious wreck of the DC-3

Written by Sandrine Published on 13/11/2016
8 km Round trip

Somewhere on the immense black sand beach of Sólheimasandur, just 500 meters from the ocean, is a strange device. It just seems to rest on the sand, alone and abandoned for years, at the mercy of the bad weather and the elements that are raging in Iceland.

The scene in which he rests gives him a sinister atmosphere, especially on the days of threatening skies. A decor worthy of a post-apocalyptic film!

A plane wreckage that fascinates

The wreck, commonly known as the DC-3, is more exactly a C-117, a militarized version of the DC-3. The plane belonged to the U. S. Army, the U. S. Navy. Today, the fuselage is the only remaining part of the aircraft, with the other main parts having been recovered by the US Navy following the 1973 accident. A few wires still hang strangely. The interior of the aircraft is empty and it is possible to enter it. The cabin, riddled with bullets during an improvised shooting session by a neighboring farmer, fades and rusts slowly.

For years, the wreck was left alone on the beach, forgotten by all. But recently, the DC-3's photo has begun to be publicized and many curious people have come to photograph it. The problem is that the wreckage is located 4 km from the road, in a very dangerous area, subject to strong and many bad weather conditions. The beach where it lies is immense, and in case of bad weather, we quickly get lost.
A dangerous wreck...

As a result of numerous tourist accidents, Icelandic rescue teams decided to prevent access to the site in order to avoid further accidents. In 2016, access to the vehicles was closed and barriers were put in place to prevent cars from reaching the site and getting lost on the beach.

But this precaution does not discourage tourists who come to photograph the wreck in large numbers. Nevertheless, we understand this eager curiosity, being more than motivated to reach the carcass during our passage.

Above all, don't try the adventure without being sure of your ability to travel the 8 km round trip, and above all make sure that the weather conditions won't deteriorate.

... and far too popular

In July 2016, we were struck by the number of cars parked along Highway 1. More than 50! There were so many of them that we gave up on our first visit to the site. What's the point of coming to collect around a carcass without being able to take a picture without another tourist on it?

We came back later on the 7:00 p. m. shot. This time, there were far fewer vehicles parked on board. We're trying our luck.

How to reach the DC3 carcass

The endless walk on foot

Not having been warned of the access closure, we follow the tracks on foot without suspecting the distance that separates us from the plane.

The track is a long straight line of 4 km. The landscape is immense, flat, black, desert. There is no vegetation, just sand and some small rocks.

After 20 minutes, still no sign of wreckage while the landscape is flat. Let's turn around. The cars seem far away already. We decide to speed up the pace. The minutes go by and seem endless. The landscape does not change and we continue to walk without feeling that we are moving forward.

Every time you turn around, the cars get smaller and smaller. Soon they'll be gone. It's getting cold, and still no sign of the plane. Around us, there's nothing. Just sand and a few people several hundred meters in front of us and behind us, who like us also have to question themselves. Are we heading in the right direction? After 45 minutes walking at a brisk pace, the runway turns and we finally see the top of the plane, which is only revealed at the very last moment.

An ill-treated cabin

At last we are there! After this long walk, we are looking forward to finally discovering the plane. Indeed, the site keeps all its promises. The plane proudly sits proudly, albeit largely stripped. The cockpit, electrical wires and hydraulic circuits are clearly visible from the inside. But the condition of the plane is very deteriorated.

Since he became so famous, dozens to hundreds of people visit him every day. Tourists climb on the wings, enter the plane, jump on the cabin without worrying about the damage done to the aircraft. Others engrave inscriptions on the cabin or take small bits of metal with them as a souvenir.

When we came here, an American family had even decided to take up residence for more than 30 minutes on the plane, without any consideration for the other people present. A little tired, we went to see them asking them to get off the camera and let us at least take a picture without them! As soon as they did, they went back on the plane.

Our opinion

In the end, after making beautiful shots of the camera, we left again, a little disappointed to have walked so long for just a few pictures and a good dose of disrespect. Despite the fantastic scenery, the time and energy devoted seems disproportionate compared to what Iceland can offer.

Fortunately, as we had a "europe"phone plan, we were able to take advantage of the long return trip to call the family and give news about our beautiful trip. Remember that it takes at least 2 hours to get to and from the campsite and 8 km of walking (flat).

Concerning our rating, the place is unusual and we give it 3 stars. It's not every day that we have the opportunity to discover a plane wreckage, and then the scenery with the Eyafallajökull at the bottom remains superb!

Our tips

Be careful

When we were there, we were not aware of the danger this wreck represents. It's really far away and in 2 hours, the weather can radically change in Iceland. A sunny day can turn into a real flood or even a storm in a few minutes.

In the event of wind, in a sandy desert, the conditions must be terrible, and with fog, without any reference, we now understand that it can be easy to get lost.

So be very careful if you decide to visit the site. Make sure the weather doesn't turn sour. It would be a shame to turn this fun ride into a nightmare.

In summer, come early in the morning or late at night

The number of visitors is so high that we advise you to avoid peak periods if you want to take the time to photograph the camera. At our expense we tried to fly by drone but it is not exploitable because there is always someone on the plane.

Come to the first lights of the day or late at night to enjoy a little solitude and the beautiful colors of the sky that will give a special atmosphere.

Learn more about the crash and the history of the wreckage

During the preparation of this article, I came across a very well written and complete article which gives all the details about the real history of the aircraft, what happened on the day of the crash, the arrival of the rescue and the treatment of the wreckage... Moreover, I also realized that some of the information I had in my possession was not accurate. So I can only advise you to read this very beautiful article (in french) which will also warn you against the dangers of the sector, not to be taken lightly.

Le mystère du cimetière d'avions islandais enfin révélé au grand jour - By ELIOT STEIN

The translation may not be accurate. If you detect any errors, please let us know , and we will correct them immediately. Thank you and sorry for this inconvenience. Sandrine & Flo

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