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Hindenburg disaster


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Author Topic: Hindenburg disaster  (Read 983 times)
Jason Vorhees
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« Reply #30 on: November 23, 2009, 02:42:31 pm »

The mighty Hindenburg began commercial flights in 1936 and successfully completed 17 round trips that year. Its journeys covered 191,583 miles (308,323 km) while carrying 2,798 passengers and 160 tons of cargo. This success led the Zeppelin company to begin construction of a twin vessel, the Graf Zeppelin II, and expand the flight schedule. Hindenburg's first flight of 1937 was a round trip to Brazil while the second was a round trip to Lakehurst, New Jersey, in the US. This flight departed Germany on 3 May 1937 carrying a smaller than normal load of just 36 passengers. In command of the vessel was Captain Max Pruss who steered Hindenburg on a smooth and uneventful journey across the Atlantic. The only difficulty encountered was strong headwinds that delayed the airship's arrival time from 6 AM to 4 PM on 6 May.
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Jason Vorhees
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« Reply #31 on: November 23, 2009, 02:42:49 pm »

Steady rains had been falling on Lakehurst overnight and throughout the day, and thunderstorms with strong winds continued to worsen as the Hindenburg approached the area. Commander Charles Rosendahl, who was in charge of the Naval Air Station at Lakehurst, transmitted messages to Captain Pruss advising the Hindenburg to delay landing and remain in a circular flight pattern beyond the edge of the storm until the winds subsided. By 5 PM, 92 Navy and 139 civilian ground crew members were called into position for the landing attempt, but rain intensified until after 6 PM. At 6:12, the skies had cleared enough for Commander Rosendahl to inform Hindenburg, "Conditions now considered suitable for landing." Yet it was not until 7:10 that the airship was able to make its way back to the station and Commander Rosendahl again replied, "Conditions definitely improved recommend earliest possible landing."
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Jason Vorhees
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« Reply #32 on: November 23, 2009, 02:43:01 pm »

The great Hindenburg circled over the field as Captain Pruss slowed the vessel and descended through the stormy cloud deck at 600 ft (180 m). As he moved his ship towards the mooring mast, Pruss made a sharp left turn and began dropping water ballast from the stern to lighten the tail. By 7:21, the Hindenburg was still some 300 ft (90 m) high and about 1,000 ft (305 m) away as the ship slowly closed in on the mooring mast.
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Jason Vorhees
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« Reply #33 on: November 23, 2009, 02:43:27 pm »



Massive explosion rising from Hindenburg's tail
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Jason Vorhees
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« Reply #34 on: November 23, 2009, 02:43:45 pm »

The first hint of impending disaster came just a few minutes later when Hindenburg crewman dropped their mooring lines from an altitude of 200 ft (60 m). At that moment of 7:25 PM, witnesses on the ground reported seeing a small flame rising from just in front of the top tail fin of the ship. Two crewman stationed near the lower tail fin both happened to be looking towards Gas Cell 4 when they noticed a sudden bright flash of light near the catwalk. The two also indicated they heard a small explosion, the sound reminding them of the burner on a stove being turned on. Almost immediately, the men were surrounded by an inferno as the airship ignited.
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Jason Vorhees
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« Reply #35 on: November 23, 2009, 02:43:56 pm »

An explosive ball of fire quickly leapt into the sky and the entire tail was engulfed in flames within just five seconds. As the hydrogen from the aft cells was released, the Hindenburg's tail soon began plummeting and struck the ground as the fire rapidly spread forward consuming the center of the airship. Hindenburg was almost vertical as the fire raced forward along its outer skin to engulf the remainder of the ship. It took just 34 seconds for the entire vessel to be consumed by flames, leaving nothing behind but a collapsed and charred steel framework.
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Jason Vorhees
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« Reply #36 on: November 23, 2009, 02:44:30 pm »



Internal framework of Hindenburg appearing as the outer skin is consumed by flame
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Jason Vorhees
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« Reply #37 on: November 23, 2009, 02:44:43 pm »

Amazingly, 62 of the 97 people aboard survived. The fatalities included 13 passengers and 22 crew plus one death among the Navy ground crew. The majority of the deaths were not from fire but were incurred by jumping from the ship while it was still several stories high. Since the fire occurred above most of the passengers and crew, those who remained aboard the ship during its relatively gentle descent to the ground escaped with minor injuries, for the most part. Among the survivors were Captain Pruss and both of the crewmen from the tail who had first observed the fire.
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Jason Vorhees
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« Reply #38 on: November 23, 2009, 02:44:58 pm »

It was not long after the glowing hot metal had cooled when theories about the cause of the disaster began to emerge. Both the United States and Germany conducted investigations into the crash, and both concluded sabotage was a distinct possibility. One of the reasons favoring sabotage was that the Hindenburg was a powerful symbol of Nazi Germany and its destruction would damage Nazi prestige. Eric Spehl, a crewman aboard the vessel who died in the crash, was even named as the most likely saboteur. Spehl served as a rigger who was stationed near Gas Cell 4 where the fire that destroyed the ship is believed to have begun. Further evidence used against Spehl includes that his girlfriend was a suspected communist with anti-Nazi connections and the discovery of a dry-cell battery in the wreckage. Spehl was an amateur photographer acquainted with flashbulbs, and some theorize he used one of these bulbs powered by the battery as an ignition source to start the catastrophic fire.
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Jason Vorhees
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« Reply #39 on: November 23, 2009, 02:46:00 pm »



Hindenburg pitching over as the tail plummets towards the ground
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« Reply #40 on: November 23, 2009, 02:46:10 pm »

Nevertheless, the sabotage theory has been largely discounted given the lack of any firm evidence to support it. Most of the arguments favoring sabotage are based on conjecture and coincidence. For example, the testimony of the two crewmen who spotted the flash of light near Gas Cell 4 just prior to the fire has been used against Spehl since his duty station was along the catwalk near where the flash occurred. Furthermore, it is rumored Spehl was relieved of duty about an hour and a half before the explosion by the airship's chief rigger Ludwig Knorr. Knorr casually mentioned this news to a fellow crewman in passing, but the reason why he did so will never be known since Knorr was killed in the crash. Those who suspect sabotage conjecture Knorr may have noticed suspicious activity on Spehl's part, but this is pure speculation. Opponents counter that Spehl is merely an opportune scapegoat since he did not survive to defend his reputation. Indeed, the most ardent supporters of the sabotage theory were Captain Pruss and his family who may have been trying to deflect blame from the Captain's own actions in those final moments before disaster struck.
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« Reply #41 on: November 23, 2009, 02:46:26 pm »

An alternate explanation, still considered the most likely, is called the static spark theory. This theory states static electricity built up on the outer skin of the Hindenburg and could not be dissipated. The accumulation caused a difference in charge to form between the airship and the ground. As the airship passed through the rainy weather over New Jersey, the mooring ropes dangling from it became wet and conductive. Once these wet mooring lines touched land, they grounded the airship's aluminum frame and may have allowed the excess electrical charge on the outer skin to jump to the internal framework. Evidence supporting this theory includes eyewitnesses who reported observing a bright glow along the tail section of the airship consistent with the ionization of air caused by a strong electrical field.
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Jason Vorhees
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« Reply #42 on: November 23, 2009, 02:46:57 pm »



Great mushroom cloud rising from the collapsing Hindenburg
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« Reply #43 on: November 23, 2009, 02:47:15 pm »

Dr. Hugo Eckener, meanwhile, believed a hydrogen leak was responsible for the crash. Although releasing hydrogen in inclement weather was prohibited because of extreme fire danger, this safety rule may have been violated on purpose or on accident as Captain Pruss rushed to make a landing. One specific possibility is called the puncture theory. Eckener speculated the Hindenburg's sharp turn shortly before landing could have produced high tension in the aft structure of the airship. This tension strained the wires holding the tail fins in place and could have been large enough to cause one or more of those wires to break. The snapping wire might have then punctured one of the gas cells and caused leaking hydrogen to escape. Any small spark, like the grounding discharge mentioned earlier, ignited the gas and started the great conflagration that doomed Hindenburg. The only solid evidence supporting this theory is gauges found in the wreckage indicating tension in wires at the rear of the airship was far higher than normal, but these high tensions may have been a result of the crash rather than the cause of it.
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Jason Vorhees
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« Reply #44 on: November 23, 2009, 02:47:25 pm »

A related theory stated a structural or mechanical failure might have caused the disaster, but this explanation was ruled out after engineers found no evidence to support it. Also eliminated was suspicion of a problem with Hindenburg's electrical system since no electrical faults were observed throughout the journey across the Atlantic. A final possibility was a lightning strike, but Captain Pruss stated the airship had traveled through many thunderstorms before and been struck by lightning several times without incident.
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