Saturday, April 12, 2014

Flight 571

It was the 23rd of October 1972, eleven days since the flight left Montevideo, Uruguay, and the survivors had just learned there would be no rescue.  The word had actually gone out five days earlier but the lone transistor radio worked only intermittently.  At that point there were twenty-seven survivors left alive out of the original forty-five passengers and crew and they all now knew their survival depended on someone leaving their plane fusillage shelter to hike down the mountain.  Since it would be seven weeks until any Spring warming may occur, they also realized their only potential food would be the bodies of those killed in the crash.

On October 12th, the plane, carrying a rugby team with family and friends, had set down in Mendoza, Argentina due to the hazardous weather but the pilot soon decided to continue on to Santiago, Chile.  "Dead reckoning" is the practice of estimating distance using the usual time for a plane to get to a  destination.  In this case the navigator did not take into account the headwinds into which the plane flew.  Consequently, the pass through the Andes was missed by 100km with the plane clipping mountainsides, first tearing off the right wing, then the left, and finally, the tail section, leaving the survivors very much exposed in the battered fusillage at close to 12,000ft altitude in frigid temperatures.

On December 23rd the sixteen remaining survivors were rescued, seventy-two days after leaving Uruguay.  Books, feature films, and documentaries, including one on PBS, are available for a full accounting of the horrors and heroics of what has become known as the "Miracle of the Andes".

This post originally was to be about Concha y Toro Serie Riberas Gran Reserva Malbec, a wine we thought to be remarkable for its quality/price and for being Chilean, and not Argentine.  The back label of the bottle mentions the vineyards on the Tinguiririca River which flows down from the very active Tinguiririca Volcano which is the peak next to the mountainside where Flight 571 came to rest.  Santiago lay seventy-five miles to the northwest, the same direction the river flows.

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