Seventy five years after an ill-fated cow-feeding mission, the mummified corpses of a couple have been found in Switzerland. As the glacier retreats further, more bodies could be uncovered.
The perfectly-preserved bodies of a couple who disappeared 75 years ago were spat out by a retreating glacier in Switzerland, police announced on Tuesday.
Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin, a 40-year-old shoemaker and his 37-year-old schoolteacher wife Francine, had left for an overnight hike to feed their cattle in a meadow above Chandolin in the Valais canton on August 15, 1942, but never returned.
Cantonal police said two bodies bearing their identity papers were discovered last week by a worker on Tsanfleuron glacier near a ski lift above Les Diablerets resort at an altitude of 2,615 meters (8,600 feet). The remains were partly submerged in a hole in the ice.
"The bodies were lying near each other. It was a man and a woman wearing clothing dating from the period of World War II," Bernhard Tschannen, director of Glacier 3000, told Lausanne daily Le Matin.
"They were perfectly preserved in the glacier and their belongings were intact."
The bodies were reportedly found along with backpacks, a bottle, a book and a watch.
"We think they may have fallen into a crevasse where they stayed for decades. As the glacier receded, it gave up their bodies," he told the daily Tribune de Geneve.
Search called off after weeks
Daughter, Monique Dumoulin, told the news agency AFP it was the first time her mother had joined her father for that type of excursion. She had previously always stayed home, either because she was pregnant, or to look after her young children.
Monique Dumoulin said that the sky had been clear when her parents set out, but that clouds later darkened the area, likely making it difficult to ensure solid footing on the glacier's surface.
"My uncle had time to see my parents one last time with his binoculars", she said in a phone interview.
Marceline Udry-Dumoulin, who was four when her parents went missing, told Le Matin that she climbed the glacier three times after their disappearance, "constantly wondering what had happened to them."
The search was called off after several weeks and the Dumoulin children were sent to live with relatives and in foster homes.
"We spent our whole lives looking for them, without stopping. We thought that we could give them the funeral they deserved one day," Marceline Udry-Dumoulin told Le Matin.
"I can say that after 75 years of waiting this news gives me a deep sense of calm," added the 79-year-old.
The pair were among 280 people listed as missing in the Alps or rivers of the Valais since 1925, officials said.
Bettina Schrag, cantonal head of forensic medicine, told Swiss public radio RTS: "Given the current shrinking of glaciers, we have to expect more and more such findings."
aw/rt (Reuters, AP, AFP)