Abandoned Iceland- DC-3 Plane Wreckage, Sólheimasandur


The ground was thick with snow, the entire landscape hews of white and grey, and the air minus 15°C, minus 20 with wind-chill. The loud roar of our quad bike competed with the waves crashing onto the black sand beach as we neared this remote plane wreckage.

Weather conditions were certainly no better for the American crew of the Super DC-3 plane back in November 1973, as they crash-landed not far from where the wreckage rests today.

The US Navy plane had left Hofn airport on the East of Iceland, delivered supplies to a radar station in Stokksnes, and was heading towards Keflavik air station in the West of the country. Carrying a crew of 7, the plane crashed onto the black sand of Sólheimasandur, reportedly due to severe weather causing freezing within the engines. Other sources suggest that the crash was due to pilot error during fuel tank switching.

All 7 of the crew survived and were assisted by locals, one of whom used his tractor to haul the plane to its final resting place, in order to reduce the risk of it contaminating the area.

Due to the remote location and damage caused by an inconveniently timed blizzard, the plane was not salvaged by the US military, though over the years parts have been scavenged by locals, including the tail which today apparently makes up part of the structure of one enterprising Icelandic man’s shed!

Alongside the locals, the extreme weather has taken its toll on the DC-3 over the years- its wings are no longer attached to the fusilage and the entire structure is crumbling. Since being featured in a Justin Bieber music video, alongside Iceland’s tourism boom, the wreckage sees a lot more visitors than it used to, so the speed of its decline is only increasing.

In January 2020, two Chinese tourists died of hypothermia near the wreckage after getting caught in a storm. Just a month later, several tourists had to be rescued after ignoring warnings not to trek to the site due to extreme weather. Whilst it was ridiculously cold when we visited, we were well dressed (7 layers in tota!l), were with an experienced guide and had quad bikes to save us the two hour trek.

Last Updated on 2 January 2024 by Michael

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