Posted May 3, 2017
By: Nick Evans
On May 6th 1937, disaster struck as an airship called the Hindenburg went up in flames and rapidly sank back to the ground in Lakehurst, New Jersey. This tragedy killed 36 people.
The Hindenburg, built in Nazi Germany from 1931-1936, was the largest rigid airship in the world. It was much faster than sea travel, reaching speeds up to 84mph, and operated using lift from hydrogen gas which is lighter than air. It could hold over 7 million cubic feet of hydrogen gas.
When the Hindenburg reached Lakehurst, it was nearing its destination after a 3-day voyage from Frankfurt, Germany. While it was supposed to land in the morning, weather conditions kept the rigid ship in the air. Awaiting landing for about 12 hours, the Hindenburg had to force a landing before a larger storm blew through. On the way down, an accidental spark ignited into a flame that caused the 7 million cubic feet of hydrogen to set fire. Sixty two of the people on board the Hindenburg survived, many leaping from an observation window to the ground below.
Because of the striking size and technological innovation the Hindenburg was, national news reporters with motion picture cameras were at the landing site. This caused the Hindenburg disaster to be the first substantial disaster to be filmed, and soon after the footage was released in movie theatres around the nation.
These rigid airship blimps were a popular option to travel for over three decades, without any safety concerns. The Hindenburg disaster ended the general traveler’s trust in voyage by airship.
Research Questions (9th-12th Gradeg):
In 1937, what were some main historical events going on in Germany?
If the Hindenburg disaster had never been filmed, how do you think the disaster would have been viewed by the American people?