Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Hindenburg Disaster

I came across some newsreel footage from the National Archives (via the Internet Archives) that show the disaster of the Hindenburg crash in Lakehurst, NJ on May 6, 1937.  This newsreel gives you some idea of what an 800 foot long airship looks like in flight. Ironically, the Hindenburg crashed exactly one year to the day following its maiden flight in 1936.

The interior of the airship was beautifully appointed as you can see in the photographs below.  At one point, it even carried an aluminum grand piano, although it was later removed to allow more room for passengers.

The Hindenburg had just completed its first Berlin - New York voyage of the 1937 season.  Due to bad weather, the airship had to idle for some hours before landing in Lakehurst, NJ (at the Naval Air Station which had mooring towers for large airships).  Everything was normal in the landing until the hydrogen-filled dirigible suddenly exploded near the tail section.  The entire craft was consumed in a minute and 35 of the 97 people on board were killed.  The images of the explosions shocked the world which had rarely witnessed a disaster unfolding in front of the cameras.  The cause of the explosion has never been determined.

Today, with video in our cellphones and with all our portable video cameras, capturing events as they happen is not nearly so rare an occurrence.  That doesn't mean that disaster is any easier to take now than it was on the Hindenburg's final day.

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