A Patch of Nothing in the Mountains of Nanzhuang

The crash site, now effectively anonymised
The crash site, now effectively anonymised

In this unremarkable forest clearing near Xiàngtiān Lake 向天湖 in Miaoli I had expected to find the carcass of an old ROC military aircraft, yet instead was greeted with precious little when I arrived at the co-ordinates I’d been given for the location of the wreckage.

The de Havilland U-6A that should have been here was apparently downed in 1978 during a routine training exercise, killing Observation Squadron vice captain Liú Chuánjí 劉傳集, and severely injuring the other occupant Chén Gāocái 陳高才who was subsequently hospitalised, but from what I can tell went on to make a full recovery. The military then stripped the plane of any important equipment and left it to decay, presumably determining the effort and cost of salvaging it to not be worth the while. Often referred to as ‘The Beaver Sleeping in the Mountains 沈睡於山中的海狸’ on account of the U-6A’s ‘Beaver’ model designation, it has lain in there ever since, unknown to the population at large until July 2018 when a hiker took photos that he then published on Facebook, and were subsequently picked up by the nation’s media outlets.

Since coming under the spotlight, the military had apparently expressed interest in recovering the wreckage, whereas many of the locals felt that it was more appropriate for it to remain in situ as a memorial to the deceased. Obviously now we know which side won out, and if I’d been more thorough in my research I’d have found this blog that mentions the removal of the aircraft, although given the timeframe for when I’d seen images and blog entries of the plane published, it can’t have been salvaged more than 2 months prior to my arrival. A monument is apparently planned for the site in the future, which at the moment, aside from some broken glass and a few pieces of metal that for-whatever-reason weren’t taken, now contains no evidence of what once transpired there.

The largest piece now left on-site. Part of what I assume was the aircraft's external paneling.
The largest piece now left on-site. Part of what I assume was the aircraft's external paneling.
A few scant remnants of twisted metal
A few scant remnants of twisted metal

Being my primary motivation for visiting Nanzhuang, it was a little disappointing to journey so far with no payoff, but sometimes that’s just how it goes. I did console myself with some other sites in the area destined for future posts, but I thought I’d first broadcast one of my many failures, for those of you who think that this sort of thing always works out!

By the way, I highly recommend checking out this article which contains some excellent photos of the scene I’d hoped to find, along with directions on how to get there should you wish to see the aircraft’s total absence for yourself!

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