February 21, 2020
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So Who Caught The Whale?

High adventure and skulduggery on the 'aluminium trail'

So Who Caught The Whale?
So Who Caught The Whale?
When I first heard about CNAC 58, a Dakota that crashed in the Eastern Himalayas in 1943, my head was swirling with dreams of picturesque adventure. Still on the cusp of 40, I nursed fantasies of striding ruggedly through a storyboard that was part Lost Horizon, part Tintin in Tibet. By the time I actually huffed my way up to the wreck on a remote mountainside in Arunachal Pradesh in October 2005, my sprightly companions were calling me Captain Haddock.

More like Captain Ahab! In the months after I limped home, the aeroplane remained a consuming obsession. The problem was that although we found two engines, a tail, a wing and even newspapers from 1943, we didn't find anything that said 'CNAC 58'. Two months later, after reading my account of the trip in Outlook, and asking me for directions, an American adventurer named Clayton Kuhles went up to the same site and came back maintaining that this wasn't CNAC 58 but some other aircraft entirely.

Why did this matter? Because the two pilots of CNAC 58 had survived the crash and lived to tell an epic tale. One of them, Joe Rosbert, was still alive and I had met him. All right, it's not Moby Dick, but CNAC 58 is a good story.

And so began another tortuous odyssey of research on Internet aviation databases and discussion forums, until I was able to establish with credible certainty that the registration number 42-15890, faintly visible on the tail we had found, was indeed the original serial number of CNAC 58.

So it is with considerable surprise that I now learn from Clayton Kuhles' website that he discovered CNAC 58 a.k.a. 42-15890 in December 2005! Clayton reports that he is unaware of anyone else having visited the site before him. Grrr. Perhaps he means he's the first white man to locate the crash. I'll grant him that.
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