Thursday, 6 September 2012

Saved from the dustbin (11)

When KLM Royal Dutch Airlines decided to fly to Tokyo via the North Pole, it must have been considered as quite an adventure. For the passengers that is, and possibly also for the crew. I mean, the prospect of an emergency landing may have been nice for members of the KLM Ski club, the average business passenger possibly had to convince his wife and children that flying via the Pole was so much quicker than the traditional route via the south. So on November 1, 1958 the PH-DSC "Yellow Sea" left for Tokyo via Anchorage. The aircraft was the reliable Douglas DC7C capable of carrying some 100 passengers. A crew of ten took care of their well being.
Left to right: Capt. Snitslaar, Rijpstra, Bik, Groothoff, Welscher, Germann, Ten Hoopen, Galama, Buren and Jansen.
It was obvious that KLM had to take certain precautionary measures adapted to flying over hitherto unknown, uninhabited, snow covered and deep frozen territory.  So in the unlikely event of an emergency landing there was a survival kit containing among others a gas burner, cups and straws, sunglasses against snow blindness, an ice saw, a shovel, an ax, rubber gloves, kleenex, rope, candles, a box with the text  'emergency ...' on it and a hunting knife. The picture also shows a couple of articles I do not recognize. For the long polar nights there was this booklet with the promising title "Life in the arctic". And then, last but not least, a rifle! 
On Polar flights KLM carried this survival kit. Some of the items on this table I do not recognize. And where is the ammo?
The picture below suggests that stewardesses were trained in the use of this weapon. However, pulling the trigger with those gloves does not look easy. But on the other hand, everything becomes possible when a polar bear comes charging at you!
Polar bears may be a serious risk there, the chance that you meet one is limited. But the extreme low temperatures and freezing winds create a greater hazard for stranded passengers and crew. So KLM experts must have thought "if you can't heat them, join them!" and invented the 4-person sleeping bag demonstrated below. I don't think this very social piece of camping gear has ever been used in practice but I bet that reading a user report would have made my day!
Sleeping bag for four persons.
Being on the subject of auxiliary equipment, on certain routes KLM frequently carried missionaries. To enable these clergymen to celebrate mass during stopovers, there was a small suitcase with all requisites.
Frequent readers know where all these old KLM pictures come from. For those who don't, they have been saved by Aris Zwart from a former KLM office in Copenhagen. Colleague Bert Besseling sorted all these pictures and made them accessible for us.
Aircraft data have been obtained from the impressive site of Herman Dekker.

Update Sept. 26, 2012: For further information about the ammo and comments about this blog, please see It's fun to see that one of my posts attracts so much attention!
Update Oct. 15, 2012: I discovered a KLM letter providing a little more information about the AR-10 rifles. It was addressed to a collector of these rifles in Normal, IL.
KLM letter dated January 9, 1984
Please click to enlarge.


  1. Remind me to never fly over the North Pole, will you?!? That sleeping bag sounds like a nightmare to me... I don't like sharing my space....

  2. If it is any consolation to you and if my memory serves me correctly, KLM is now flying via Siberia...
    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Hardly......................
    Gulags are not THAT attractive to me.

  4. That sleeping bag indeed looks very tight, to say the least. And yes, subject to nightmares.
    Can't remember the year, but my mother flew from A'dam to Tokyo via Anchorage probably about 25 years ago. It was very fast she said and very interesting. Lovely blog Peter.
    Well shortest routes are of course crossing the shortest parallels.


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