The Flight to Fetch a Fish – coelacanth C-47 6832

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The Flight to Fetch a Fish – coelacanth C-47 6832

 

On December 21st, 1938, a strange fish was caught off the East London coast. Professor J. L. B. Smith was fascinated by this fish, identified as a coelacanth. This fish was thought to have been extinct for over two hundred million years.

(NOTE: Travel here for a full version of this story…)

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Excited at the possibility of obtaining a second specimen, he printed hundred’s of notices requesting information on the coelacanth. Almost 14 years later he received a telegram informing him of the capture of another coelacanth in the Comores Islands. As it was December 24th, he found difficulty in arranging transport. In desperation he contacted the Prime Minister and persuaded him of the importance of the find. The Prime Minister instructed the Chief of the Air Force to assist. In due course, a signal was received by the O.C. Natal to send an aircraft to Durban to collect Prof. Smith, and then to travel to the Comores ‘to fetch a fish.’

(l to r) Director of Fisheries, Mayotte, Mr E. Breton; Capt. Eric Hunt; Prof. JLB Smith;Commandant Blaauw; Captain Letley; Lt. Ralston; Cpl. van Niekerk; Lt. Bergh; Cpl. Brink.

At the time the paint scheme was silver, with dark blue anti-dazzle on the nose and engine cowlings. Her squadron code, strangely enough. was K-OD. The Air Force insignia at the time was an orange roundel with Springbok.

Dakota 6832 on arrival in Grahamstown (l to r) Lt. Bergh; Cpl. Brink; Cpl. van Niekerk; Mrs Margaret Smith; Commandant Blaau; Prof. JLB Smith; Capt. Letley; Lt. Ralston; William Smith. The coelacanth is in the box in the foreground. Prof Smith’s son, William Smith, well known for his participation in the TV show “A Word or Two” and his educational program.

Dakota MkII (C47A-10-K) was built in Oklahoma City and allocated Serial Number 42-108863 by the U.S.A.A.F. In February 1944 she was placed on charge by the R.A.F. under Serial Number KG 4434. In March 1944 she was transferred to the S.A.A.F. and received Serial Number 6832. On being transferred to 28 Squadron she received the codes K-OD. 6832 is currently being restored.


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