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Eerie plane wrecks contain forgotten stories of survival

U.S. Air Force C-47 wreckage from a 1950 crash near Haines Junction, Yukon, Canada. According to the Aviation Safety Network, the plane was participating in a search for a missing plane when it was caught in a downdraft and flew into the side of the mountain. All ten people aboard survived.

According to Eckell, the wreck seen above is called 'Swamp Ghost" by the locals in Papua New Guinea. It's a massive American B24D heavy bomber that force-landed in 1943. All nine airmen survived. It's over 16 feet high and the swamp grass is 6 feet high.

At first glance, "Happy End" may not seem like the most natural title for pictures of wrecked planes in forbidding landscapes, but German photographer Dietmar Eckell has a very positive outlook on what these photos represent. As described by Eckell, these pictures document 'miracles' in aviation history: forced landings where everyone on board survived and was rescued from the remote locations.  Where some might see technological failure, Eckell sees these images as testament to the ingenuity and skill of the pilots, "heroes" who managed to narrowly avert disaster.

In the last few years Eckell has traveled to 15 abandoned planes on four continents, from Papua New Guinea to the Arctic Circle. The sites are from 10-70 years old and some of the planes seem almost to be melting into the landscape or slowly consumed by the surrounding vegetation.

Curtiss C-46 Commando near Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. Reportedly, this aircraft was overloaded when it was forced to land in 1979 a half-mile short of a nearby airport. All the passengers survived.

Grumman Albatross near Puerto Escondido, Mexico. According to local news reports, the plane was suspected of involvement in drug trafficking and was forced to land in 2004 when it was intercepted by two government planes. All aboard survived. It is unclear whether the occupants of the plane were found to be involved in the drug trade.

Curtiss C-46 Commando near Thompson, Manitoba, Canada. This cargo lost height due to engine problems and was force-landed in trees in 1977 while trying to return to the airport. The two crew members survived.

Cessna 310 that crashed in Australia in 1993. To achieve aerial views of the wrecks, such as this one, Eckell sometimes mounts his camera on a radio-controlled Oktopkopter and triggers the shutter remotely.

Douglas R4D8 near Vik, Iceland. This U.S. Navy plane was forced to land near the coast in 1973. All aboard survived.

Alaska, 1965 crash

Corsair near Honolulu, Hawaii. The pilot of this plane (who is still alive) swam safely to the island of Oahu in 1948 after ditching the small fighter plane.

After a successful online crowdfunding campaign, Eckell has published "Happy End," a 53-image volume of the planes. For more information about the book click here.

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