STENDEC Solved (Mystery message from 1947 Andes plane crash)
The “STENDEC mystery,” referring to the cryptic message sent by a Lancastrian airliner before it vanished in the Andes, is a staple of the UFO culture. See link for the answer to this 63 year old question.
by John L. SchererLancastrian G-AGWN “Stardust”
On August 2, 1947, the “Stardust,” a Lancastrian III passenger plane with eleven people on board, was almost four hours into its flight from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Santiago, Chile. At 17.41 a Chilean Air Force Morse operator in Santiago picked up a message: “ETA [estimated time of arrival] Santiago 17.45 hrs. STENDEC.” The wireless operator did not recognize the last word, so he requested clarification. The message was repeated-STENDEC, then transmitted a third time. Then nothing. The “Stardust” could not be raised and no wreckage could be found.
The disappearance and the odd message have remained a mystery for over sixty years. The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable even has an entry for “STENDEC.” Dozens of books and articles have examined the evidence, turned it over, twisted it, rearranged the letters, and drawn a blank. Its meaning, however, is astonishingly simple.
People all over the world had reported hundreds of “flying saucer” sightings during the last two weeks of June 1947. On July 3, a rancher at Roswell, New Mexico, claimed to have found a UFO crash site with four alien bodies. Imaginative souls speculated that aliens had snatched the large Lancastrian along with its passengers and crew. A Spanish magazine about UFOs appropriated STENDEK as its title, and at least one U.S. comic book illustrated the disappearance of the “Stardust,” pondering the meaning of STENDEC for its fascinated readers.
Adding to the mystery, two Avro 691 Lancastrian aircraft had crashed during the previous seventeen months. British Overseas Airways G-AGLX (the registration number) went down on March 23, 1946, and British Overseas Airways G-AGMF crashed on August 20. The “Stardust” incident involved British South American Airways G-AGWH. Was there a connection?
Pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place in 1998, when mountain climbers in the Andes found the plane’s Rolls-Royce engine. In January 2000, a 100-man search party from the Argentine Army clambered 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) up Tupungato Mountain, a 6,552-meter (21,490-foot) volcano, where it located parts of the plane, as well as human bones, at the base of a glacier. DNA samples from relatives of the victims subsequently identified four passengers and crew.
A WGBH-Boston “NOVA: Vanished” (2001) program about the crash commented: “Some of the six passengers on board seemed to have stepped straight out of an Agatha Christie novel.” They included a Palestinian businessman with a sizable diamond sewn into the lining of his jacket; a German émigré, Marta Limpert, returning to Chile with the ashes of her dead husband; and a British courier carrying diplomatic correspondence.
Christie could have made something of this, but the passengers were quite unwilling and unwitting victims. They had nothing to do with the crash, other than being present. With a diplomat on board, the press freely speculated that a bomb had exploded in mid-flight. This would have explained the suddenness of its disappearance, and the fact that large pieces of wreckage had not been spotted during a wide air and land search.
In 2000 the Argentine Army detachment found the debris scattered over one square kilometer, a relatively small area, so the bomb theory was discarded. The Army unit also discovered that the wheels on the plane were in an upward position, so the crew had not attempted an emergency landing. One of the two main landing wheels was still fully inflated after a half century!
The searchers discovered one propeller, its tips scarred and bent backward, indicating that the prop had been revolving when the Lancastrian plowed into the Tupungato glacier. The investigators concluded that the aircraft had not stalled.
The unit had to finish quickly. The site had been difficult to reach. The trekkers had abandoned their pack mules lower down, and ascended with what they could carry. It was hard work at this elevation, and the Army had supplies for only thirty-six hours.