Metal Fatigue Hindenburg on the Discovery Channel

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I know this is an AIRship and not a proper ship but you must try to catch the Hindenburg program running this month. I thought I had heard it ALL but new technologies are unravelling new bits every day which makes me wonder about what is yet to come for TITANIC. Last night showed acoustics experiments using the original disks cut at the time of the disaster (you can see the GROOVE damage from the blast force right on the disk!)-calculating the distance from the machine and the blast level, analysis is being done on the source and original location of the explosion. But even MORE exciting was what was offered by way of evidence of metal fatigue-which was a fairly unknown quantity before WWII. Hindenburg had suffered a sharp blow to her tail fin understructure during a propaganda run just before the disaster- Germany had seized all photos and film of this accident except ONE roll shot by a photographer who was somehow immune from inspection. The feeling was that this may have put a terrible strain on the rings and guywires which were not visible when the 16 gas cells were inflated. Had also no idea that a safety cell of helium was designed to insulate the hydrogen cell bags. When the US refused to sell helium, the whole Hindenburg cell structure had to use all-hydrogen. One of the Braintrust guys from the program showed some bits of girder from other airships which showed very apparent cracking and metal stress. Analysis of the skin paint also revealed highly flammable elements in the metallic sun-reflective skin paint. Interviews with survivors reveal some remembering a snapping sound -like a wire breaking-much like Titanic's funnelwires- prior to the explosion. Hindenburg was low in the stern when landing too- just in the area where that accident had occured. So low, in fact that 6 men had to trim her by running to the front (bow? on a zeppelin??)- the rigidity of the zeppelin construction was also a factor, downdrafts, possible static after a storm and other factors. Got me to pondering about the "inferior steel" theory of Titanic- ain't science exciting?!
There was a kinship between the early airmen of the dirigibles (generic for Zeppelin) and sailors. On the U.S. airSHIPS the men who tended the gas bags called themselves "sailmakers."

The last high-speed ferry that I operated had two ZF brand gears. ZF is the same company that produced the Hindenburg. They build top quality marine hydraulic marine gears that are just about bullet-proof.

It is my understanding that ZF has just launched their first Zeppelin since Graff II at the outbreak of World War II.

-- David G. Brown
Dear Zeppelin watchers...

I don't know if another thread on ET has already addressed this, but my airship discussion group gave me a heads-up about the wonderful new item on the "Hindenburg" by Jim Kalafus at This article, written for Collier's, best captures the flavor of a zeppelin crossing. New for me was the description of the gathering at the Frankfurterhof and the arrival at the shed. Great stuff.

Thanks to Jim.

Doug Willingham
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