Real Hindenburg – A Revelation

Hindenburg is in news with expose on Adani.  The company is a short-seller that specialises in forensic financial research, founded in 2017 by Nathan Anderson.

The company’s website claims, ‘We view the Hindenburg as the epitome of a totally man-made, totally avoidable disaster.  We look for similar man-made disasters floating around in the market and aim to shed light on them before they lure in more unsuspecting victims.’

Where does this company get its name Hindenburg?

Let us peep into the history of the real Hindenburg.

Nazi Germany built the largest airship of that time. The airship used highly flammable hydrogen gas for lift off but was vulnerable to explosion.  In the 1930s, the Graf Zeppelin made an airship that pioneered the first transatlantic air service.  It was named Hindenburg after Paul Von Hindenburg (1847-1934,) a German World War I military commander and President. The airship measured 804 feet from stern to bow.

Why was Helium, a non-combustible gas not used in the German airship?

U.S. law of the time prevented the Hindenburg from using helium.   

Hindenburg’s designer – Hugo Eckener – wanted to use Helium, but the U.S., which had a monopoly on Helium and feared that other countries might use the gas for military purposes, banned its export.

After the Hindenburg disaster, owing to American public opinion, the law was amended to allow helium export for nonmilitary use.

Despite being filled with 7 million cubic feet of highly combustible hydrogen gas, the Hindenburg featured a smoking room. Passengers were unable to bring matches and personal lighters aboard the airship, but they could buy cigarettes and Cuban cigars on board and light up in a room pressurised to prevent any hydrogen from entering. A steward admitted passengers and crew through a double-door airlock into the smokers’ lounge, which had a single electric lighter, and made sure no one left with a lit cigarette or pipe.

On May 3, 1937, the Hindenburg left Frankfurt, Germany, on its flight across the Atlantic to Naval Air Station Lakehurst, in Manchester Township, New Jersey, just outside of New York City.  It was carrying 36 passengers and 61 crew and was captained by Captain Max Pruss.

1n 1936, Hindenburg had crossed the Atlantic, often to Brazil, 34 times.  While attempting to moor at Lakehurst, the airship suddenly burst into flames, probably after a spark ignited its hydrogen core. 13 passengers, 21 crew, and a ground crew lost their lives, and most of the survivors suffered serious injuries.

Hindenburg’s final flight across the Atlantic was relatively uneventful, other than some headwinds, that slowed it by an hour. When the aircraft flew over New York area, thunderstorms and bad weather thwarted the scheduled late-morning landing at Lakehurst.

To avoid the storm, Captain Pruss flew over Manhattan and out into the Atlantic, to wait until the storm subsided. People of New York ran out of their homes to watch the world’s largest airship overhead. It raised curiosity as it was roughly the size of the Titanic, but it flew overhead.

Around 6 PM, the storms passed, and Captain Pruss ordered his ship to Lakehurst, almost a half-day late. By 7 PM, the Hindenburg was on final approach to Lakehurst, which had mooring mast and a winch. In those days, large airships dropped its lines and cable to be run down through the mooring mast and into the winch, which pulled the airship to the ground.  This procedure was called Flying Moor.

When Hindenburg was at an altitude of 295 feet, the mooring lines were dropped to the ground as a light rain began to fall. The lines were connected through the mooring masts to the winch and as the Flying Moor operations commenced, Hindenburg caught fire.

As the Hindenburg’s flaming tail began to drift toward the earth, the flames moved forward through the different hydrogen-holding cells toward her bow. The ship began falling steeply. When the airship’s stern hit the ground, the fire burst through its nosecone. The entire disaster lasted less than 40 seconds.

Hindenburg disaster marked the end of an era of airships. Then began World War II and arrived speedy fighter aircraft which could easily shoot down the slow-moving airships, blew the death knell to the airship industry.

Radio announcer Herb Morrison, who was at Lakehurst to record a newsreel for NBC, immortalised the Hindenburg disaster in a famous statement, “Oh, the humanity!”

The U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Navy couldn’t come to any solid conclusion in their report and stated ‘the firey disaster was a result of the mixture of free hydrogen and air.’  The mystery Hindenburg disaster lives on, likely never to be definitively solved.

Such are the man-made disasters Hindenburg refers to and the company claims to shed light on them before they lure in more unsuspecting victims.

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