The aircraft, a Douglas R4D-8, a Super DC-3, was originally in possession of the US Navy and considered to be a symbol of the golden age of air travel.
Originally utilised as a cargo aircraft, the US Navy was routinely flying over Iceland during the 1970s as a part of its unilateral defence agreement with the country. Iceland is a NATO member, and US forces had a permanent base on the island until 2005.
The aircraft crashed into Sólheimasandur on Wednesday, November 21st, 1973, at around 14:00 as reported by the Aviation Safety Network. It was flying from Höfn in Iceland's east coast and onboard were seven crew members.
No one is quite sure why the plane crashed, with several theories flying about. Some blame it on icing damaging the plane’s structure; others say that the thrusters were not working correctly. Some say that it was a mishap of the pilot who believed the thrusters were not working when they were.
Regardless, it little matters as no one was injured in the crash. The forced landing was made on an icy river by the coast, and though the ice broke, the plane didn't sink.
In the years since its rocky landing, the DC Plane Wreck has borne the brunt of Iceland’s tempestuous weather; heavy rainfall, freezing and powerful gales. Today, the aircraft’s wings are no longer attached, and it has only half a tail (rumours stipulate that a local farmer cashed in on the tail long ago.)
It is not expected that the plane wreck will be there forever. Sólheimasandur is a glacial outwash plain, meaning when there is an eruption underneath the glacier Mýrdalsjökull, there is a chance floodwater could wash it away.
It truly is a case of 'when there is an eruption’, not if, as Mýrdalsjökull covers Katla, one of the country’s most explosive and regular volcanoes.