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28 October 2008

In May 1931 two crew and six passengers lost their lives in one of Australia's greatest aviation mysteries — the disappearance of the Southern Cloud. Despite a comprehensive air search, the wreck lay undiscovered in the Snowy Mountains for 27 years.

The Southern Cloud was operated by Australian National Airways which was founded by aviation pioneers Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm. The plane disappeared during a flight from Sydney to Melbourne in the early years of Australian commercial aviation and completely vanished in cyclonic conditions.

On 26 October 1956 Tom Sonter, a worker on the Snowy Hydro-Electric Scheme stumbled upon the wreck of the Avro X aircraft while bushwalking above the rugged Tooma River Gorge near Cabramurra.

Fifty years on from his remarkable discovery, Tom Sonter visited the National Museum of Australia to view a display which tells the story of one of Australia's great aviation mysteries and features two objects from the Southern Cloud.

'The disappearance of the Southern Cloud was followed by one of the biggest air searches to that time in Australia,' said Matthew Higgins, Senior Curator at the National Museum of Australia.

'The resulting official inquiry recommended the installation of radio in scheduled passenger flights so that weather forecasts could be transmitted. Southern Cloud's legacy was safer air travel for all Australians,' Matthew said.

The Southern Cloud display is on view at the National Museum of Australia until Sunday 30 November, 2008. For more information about the display visit

For interviews, images and more information please contact Dennis Grant on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481; Caroline Vero on 02 6208 5338, 0438 620 710 or

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