At a glance
- Remnants of a clock from the wrecked Southern Cloud aeroplane
- Airline operated by Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm
- Crashed in the Snowy Mountains in 1931, but not discovered until 1958
- Disaster helped to establish guidelines for safer air travel
Remnant from the wreckage of a major air disaster
A five-shilling school yard sale resulted in the National Museum of Australia acquiring a wrecked clock from Australia's first major civil air disaster.
The clock was salvaged from the wreck of the Southern Cloud, which crashed in the Snowy Mountains during bad weather on a Sydney to Melbourne flight in 1931.
An initial search for the Southern Cloud failed to find the plane. Its mysterious disappearance and the loss of the eight people on board captured the nation's attention.
Southern Cloud was one of five Avro X aircraft operated by Australian National Airways. The company was founded in 1929 by aviation pioneers Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm.
The aircraft wreckage was found by accident more than 20 years later.
A worker on the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme discovered the plane near Deep Creek in 1958. Within days hundreds of people visited the site, many collecting souvenirs.
John Boddington, of Dalton, near Goulburn, bought the battered clock components in 1958 from a classmate at Canberra Grammar School, Alan Reid.
Alan's father was the former Canberra political journalist Alan Reid. Alan junior visited the site with his father and souvenired the clock from the aircraft's instrument panel.
More than 75 years after the plane went down, John donated the clock to the National Museum in Canberra.
Air travel safer for all
National Museum senior curator Matthew Higgins visited the crash site in the 1980s and again in 2008. He has an enduring interest in the disaster. Mr Higgins said the Southern Cloud tragedy played an important part in making air travel safer for Australians.
After the Southern Cloud crash, it was recommended that radios be installed in all regular passenger planes, so weather forecasts could be conveyed to pilots while they were in the air.
Remembering Southern Cloud
The Southern Cloud story was remembered by many people on the occasion of the 50th anniversary in October 2008. At events organised by the Tumbarumba Historical Society and Tumbarumba Shire Council, over 100 people, including large numbers of descendants of the people killed in the crash, attended various events in Tumbarumba and at the newly opened memorial lookout south of the town.
Then, with added assistance from Snowy Hydro and the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, a large contingent visited the crash site in the rugged and wild upper reaches of the Tooma River valley. At the centre of the activities was Tom Sonter, the Snowy Scheme worker who had chanced upon the wreckage exactly 50 years before.
The National Museum marked the anniversary by displaying the clock in its Hall.
'Joy flights, feats and disasters: A journey through 1920s and 1930s aviation in the National Historical Collection', audio and transcript of talk by Jennifer Wilson, 18 July 2013
'Another piece of Southern Cloud laid to rest' (PDF 327k) - Friends magazine, vol. 17, no. 6, Sept 2006