This past long weekend I took the opportunity to hike to one of the North Islands most intriguing places, the Dakota 576 plane crash site.
It was a place I wanted to explore ever since I found out about it, so with the sunny weekend weather and an open schedule, I jumped at the chance to do the hike.
While the hike is steep and there is a lot of up-and-down sections along the trail, including ropes to help you climb or descend the steeper parts of the trail, it’s fairly short and manageable compared to a longer hike like the Tex Lyon.
The view from the top of the hill overlooking Bear Cove is also incredibly stunning and makes the hike even more enjoyable.
I was surprised because it feels like the hike is going to go on forever, and then all the sudden there is the wreckage of the plane, just lying there in the forest.
It feels almost like walking through time because you can actually see a piece of history with your own eyes. At the same time, it’s a somber place being the site where two young men lost their lives.
The Dakota 576, crashed in April in 1944 while on a navigation mission from Pat Bay, which was the Royal Air Force No 32 Operational Training Unit based at the Patricia Bay Air Station, now Victoria International Airport (YYJ).
Pilot Officer J.M. Talbot and Pilot Officer I.S. Wardlow died in the crash and were buried in Victoria.
The North Island 101 Squadron, who aim to preserve the military history of the North Island, has written about the story of the Dakota Crash on their website.
“Due to the poor weather the pilot, Pilot Officer JM Talbot, missed the first approach and went around for another try. He was on the centre line about five miles from touch down when he ran out of fuel and crash landed in some scrub trees. Unfortunately, the nose of the aircraft hit a large boulder and killed the pilot and the navigator, Pilot Officer TS Wardlow,” reads their passage on the subject.
Sargent TR Moss, a Wireless Air Gunner, was the lone survivor and was found by a search party several hours after the crash. He was dazed but not injured.
The 101 squadron decided to get a plaque made which was installed at the site in September 2001 and marked with a special dedication ceremony. It was the first time the pilots had been honoured for their service.
While the trail is a little off the beaten path, it’s a piece of local history I’m glad to have had the opportunity to explore.
It made me feel a little closer to history, and a little closer to the North Island.