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The Hindenburg Disaster
Count Ferdinand Von Zeppelin and his crew operated their first airship nearly one
hundred years ago. Airships are big controllable balloons, also known as dirigibles. There
are three classes of airships, rigid, nonrigid and semirigid. Rigid airships (zeppelins) use
framework in the interior to keep their shape. Semirigid airships are a combination of
framework and gas pressure to maintain their shape. Nonrigid airships (blimps) rely solely
on air pressure to keep their form. They are all propelled with engines, use rudders and
elevator flaps for steering and have a gondola where passengers travel. The pride of the
zeppelin works was a rigid airship which was one of the more than one hundred airships
and she was the most efficient. She had returned a profit to her operators her first season
of eighteen round trip Atlantic Crossings. Her name was the ?Hindenburg?. It was the
largest airship ever built, it was 245 meters(804 feet) long and a gas capacity of 190, 000,
000 liters(6, 710, 000 cu. ft.).
Its is Thursday, May 6, 1937, the Hindenburg was ten hours behind schedule.
Winds over the Atlantic caused her to slow down. In the afternoon after a low flight over
Manhattan and Newark the Hindenburg reached Lakehurst. But the weather again caused
more delays for the airship. The captains set course for Asbury Park. When it reached the
seaside it turned again southward and cruised along the shore waiting for weather that was
appropriate to land in. At 5:00pm the whistle sounded for the ground crew at the air
station. At 7:00pm the Hindenburg was ten minutes away from landing at Lakehurst.
was 200 ft. up and her forward line where in the hands of the crew. A crew member,
Navy Airshipman Vincent Sheridan noticed something wrong with the Hindenburg.
The Hindenburg passed through the western boundary, gas was valved from the
rear of the ship. It seemed light due to runoff of rain water and drying of the fabric. All
the people waiting for the ship to arrive including photographers and reporters were all
glad the wait was over. Between 7:12 and 7:20 the Hindenburg moved eastward
weighting off slightly. Gas had been released from her nose to correct this imbalance and
the engines where placed on idle. As she was being brought down she still drifted forward
because of winds even though the propellers were still in reverse. The wind shifted
suddenly southwest at about 8 knots. The rudders where turned so the nose went into the
wind and the ground crew followed the ships every move trying to stay with it. The
spectators on the ground noticed the ships change in direction. The crew fastened the
lines to what where called guy lines these made for stronger and better control. At 7:21
PM the ship almost brought into the mooring mast, everything seemed fine. Then at
7:23pm the stern of the ship caught fire and two very large explosions enveloped the ship.
She burst into flames and dropped to the ground. Witnesses said it blew apart as if it had
been paper. They also stated that the fabric burned away in just a few second. One
witness said he didn't see any life on the ship from the minute. There had been thirty or
more ambulances prior to the disaster. People desperately tried to save the people after
the ship hit ground. There where many notable people aboard this ship, people like
merchants, students and professional men.
Experts said that the explosion was caused by the use of hydrogen and not a
structural problem. Major General Oscar Westover, Chief of the Army Air Corps pointed
out that the United States had begun using hydrogen in place of helium. Helium is
produced in large amounts in the United States. They also planned to build two helium

ships. In doing this they are trying to influence the Germans to discard hydrogen for
helium in their airships. Sabotage by anti-nazi citizens was also thought of, but later ruled
out.
Present day people are still asking about what actually happened to the
Hindenburg. The destruction if this ship affects the way people look at hydrogen and the
use of the gas as a power source. Hydrogen has taken the blame for the disaster since it
happened over sixty years ago. NASA has been conducting extensive research on the
accident. They analyzed original wreckage from the Hindenburg and talked to the few
remaining survivors. Observations of the Hindenburg disaster show evidence that doesn't
match what would have happened if it had been a