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HASTE – 2nd May 1937, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany

I was asked to visit the Hindenburg Zeppelin amid concerns over the safety of the hydrogen within the vast fabric of this large airship, just before it began its transatlantic journey to the United States of America. I met Captain Pruss on board the Hindenburg.

“Captain Pruss, do you have any concerns regarding the Hindenburg?”

“No, none whatsover, the ship recently made a round trip to Rio de Janeiro without any problems. We will be heading over to the USA tomorrow and returning with a full complement of passengers.”


“What are the dimensions of the Hindenburg?”

“Well, the length is 245 metres, the height is 45.41 metres and the diameter is 41.2 m. There is a capacity for 200,000 cubic metres of hydrogen.”

“And the power?”

“The cruising speed would be 125 km per hour at around 150 metres from the ground. We keep under the clouds so we can see the weather. We have 4 Daimler-Benz 16-cylinder LOF 6 Diesels.”

“And the capacity for passengers?”

“There is a crew of 40 flight officers and men, plus between 10 and 12 stewards and cooks. As for the passengers we have 72 sleeping berths.”

“Any thoughts on using helium instead of hydrogen. Helium would be so much safer, one spark and the hydrogen could be ignited if it was leaking into the air.”

“Hindenburg was originally designed to be operated with helium, but the United States had a monopoly on the non-flammable gas, and the Helium Control Act of 1927 prohibited American export of helium to any foreign nation. You can imagine that Nazi Germany is no exception to that rule.”

“Yes, because I can’t give you an air-worthiness rating due to the hydrogen, so I am not sure how people insure themselves for this trip.”

“We are very safe, even safer than the Graf Zeppelin – Hindenburg was built with triangular duralumin girders forming 15 main rings, connecting 36 longitudinal girders, with a triangular keel at the bottom of the hull. Hindenburg has an axial corridor at the centre of the ship and a cruciform tail for strength. Hindenburg is 30 feet longer than Graf Zeppelin, but carries about twice the volume of hydrogen, due to its larger diameter and “fatter” profile.  Hindenburg’s thicker shape also gives it greater structural strength against bending stresses, as compared to the thinner profile of Graf Zeppelin. I needn’t remind you that the Graf Zeppelin was the most successful zeppelin ever built, flying more than a million miles on 590 flights, carrying over 34,000 passengers without a single injury. During its nine year career, Graf Zeppelin made the first commercial passenger flight across the Atlantic, the first commercial passenger flight around the world, flew a scientific mission over the North Pole, made the first regularly scheduled transatlantic passenger crossings by air, and aroused intense public enthusiasm around the globe.”

“My concern is that you might make a turn that is too sharp and one of the stays might break, puncturing the lining of the hull, so allowing the hydrogen to mix with the air in the atmosphere. Just one spark could then cause a disaster.”

“Well, thank you, I will try not to make too sharp a turn. Lakehurst where we are heading next is a very fairly level area and so I should be able to approach the pylon gradually and effect a safe docking of the ship.”

Extract from the Diary of a Health and Safety Executive

This post first appeared on Julian Worker Writing, please read the originial post: here

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HASTE – 2nd May 1937, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany


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