A French climber was left stunned when he stumbled across a metal box on a Mont Blanc glacier that was filled with emeralds, rubies and sapphires worth hundreds of thousands of euros, it was reported on Thursday.
The mountaineer, who wants to remain anonymous, discovered the box of treasures when climbing the famous Bossons Glacier, near Chamonix.
According to reports in local newspaper Le Dauphiné Liberé the climber saw the box lying in the ice and when he opened it found several little bags marked with the words “Made in India”.
To his astonishment inside the bags were gems, saphires, rubies and emeralds that had an estimated value of up to €246,000 ($332,000).
The climber since handed the treasure over to police.
French authorities have paid tribute to the young man.
“He is an honest man who quickly realised this belonged to someone else,” the head of the gendarmerie in Albertville. “He could have kept it to himself but opted to hand it over to the police.
The buried booty is believed to be linked to two mysterious plane crashes involving in an Indian airliners in the middle of the last century.
On November 3, 1950 the Malabar Princess, an Air India plane, crashed on Mont Blanc killing 58 people on board. And 16 years later, on 24 January 1966, a Boeing 707 Air India plane en route from Mumbai to New York, came down at the same location. All 117 passengers on board were killed.
French authorities say they will contact their Indian counterparts to try to trace the owner of the treasure. Under French law, the jewellery could be handed over to the mountaineer if these are not identified.
Although the climber's find maybe the most precious so far, mountaineers on Mont Blanc have routinely come across debris, baggage and human remains from the crashes over the years.
In August last year a diplomatic post bag was discovered in the same area on the mountain
The bag stamped "Diplomatic mail" and "Ministry of External Affairs", was found by mountain rescue workers. The Indian embassy in Paris said it was looking forward to receiving the "very late mail".
Earlier this year The Local France reported on another apparently freak find hundreds of miles away in Paris, when a homeless man discovered an arsenal of "weapons of war" in a waste bin.
He too decided to turn them over to police rather than keep them for himself.
And perhaps the biggest shock discovery came in May when a French couple returned from their holiday to Ecuador, to find 20 kg of cocaine in a suitcase.
They too decided against keeping the drugs and handed them over to local police.