Dieselpunks

Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Sky Cruise: A flight on the Hindenburg

The Sky’s our ocean. If you doubt it, take a transatlantic dirigible ride. You’ll be reminded of an ocean voyage - with the rolling and pitching left out and the time cut in half. It’s punctual and methodical, but don’t think it’s not exciting - and it’s a foretaste of the future as well.

This article was published in the May 8th issue of Collier’s Magazine. Let's listen to the author, W. B. Courtney, who crossed the Atlantic on board of LZ129 Hindenburg:
...here is the huge Zeppelin dock, blotting out the horizon of the autumnal night. Its black mass is suddenly transfigured into a vision of brilliance and imagination, as the great doors are rolled apart, exposing the Hindenburg like some captured fantastic whale of outer space. You are herded through a side door, lined up for a final passport stamping; then shooed out upon a cool floor. You think, what a queer ceiling, how much like the ribbed hide of a starved horse. Then you realize you are walking under the belly of the ship in which you are to fly from Europe to America.
You elbow to the airship’s equivalent of a rail and hang from the windows, shouting to friends lined up below. Many of them run alongside as the ship is “walked out.” They wave handkerchiefs, scream, gape, stumble: this is the last point of resemblance to ocean sailings. There is not a quiver to the ship, but now you are outside in the gusty night - good lord, is no one paying attention to the weather- and you are a nervous fellow!
The observation windows, lining both sides of the airship, are slanted towards the keel, giving you a view downwards. They are open, and everyone hangs out to watch the spotlight pencil a radiant track; it comes to be a game to see what will be captured next in its brief moment of illumination - a barn, house, tree, wagon. At nine o’clock there is the thrilling view of Cologne, with its magnificent cathedral, and from your altitude of only 500 feet a clear view of folks pausing in the street or leaning out of apartment and street tram windows; and you can hear their halloos. Over Holland, your gondola light paints circular rainbows on dark canals and swamps, and you can hear dogs barking in the farmyards; it is the last sound of Europe that comes to you. for soon you pass Vlissengen- being duly scrutinized by the searchlights of the Dutch fortifications there - and out over the North Sea.
Snug upon a mattress of air cushions, warm under a German “feather bed,” you wake to your first day in the oversea air. If you anticipated sensations of motion, you might as well have stayed in your own little trundle at home. You lay there in the gloom and find it difficult to convince yourself that at this very moment you are really flying above the Atlantic Ocean. There is no jolting, or sound, from the distant motors. None of the “handgrips” of ships; none of the stomach-curdling vibration of a fast liner’s propeller shafts. Indeed, you will have to watch vigilantly - using the horizon or a cloud for a reference point - if you are to detect the slightest rolling or pitching in even the bumpiest weather.
The motors are Diesel; they require no ignition, and they use crude-oil fuel that won’t burn even if you touch a match to it. The storage tanks are arranged on either side of this bottom catwalk; whereas any hydrogen gas that might leak from a cell would collect at the top of the shell,146 feet- or as high as a 15 story skyscraper-above. The Germans use hydrogen because it has greater lifting power than helium and makes the Hindenburg more profitable; moreover, the United States, owning all the practical supplies of helium in the world, although they do not use it themselves, won’t let anybody else use it, either. The Germans are experimenting with a secret compound- some other gas added to hydrogen, which does not diminish the buoyancy value of the latter but does render it noninflammable. It is hoped this may be available soon. If so, the greatest risk of Zeppelin travel will be licked; and the United States can have its helium, for all the rest of the world cares.
Read the full story, re-published by Jim Kalafus @ Encyclopedia Titanica

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Comment by lord_k on November 11, 2009 at 1:56pm
Yes, I did. It was quite rare in the 30s too. I doubt that helium deal with Germany (vetoed by FDR) could really bring the goods - US Navy had enough helium only for its own airship.
Comment by Tome Wilson on November 11, 2009 at 1:45pm
Love it!

Speaking of helium, did you hear that we're just about out of it? It's more rare than oil these days.
Comment by lord_k on November 11, 2009 at 1:02pm
No, the pictures are from different source. But there are some photographs from the original publication at the same website.
Comment by Ottens on November 11, 2009 at 12:43pm
And great pictures too! Are they all from the Collier's article too?
Comment by Don Gates on November 11, 2009 at 10:51am
WOW!!! Great article.

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