On May 6, 1937, the hydrogen-filled German dirigible Hindenburg burned and crashed in Lakehurst, N.J., killing 36 of the 97 people on board. On the anniversary of the disaster, test your knowledge of the Hindenburg crash with these questions.
How Big was the Hindenburg?
The airship measured roughly the length of 2 ? football
fields: 804 feet from stern to bow. Just over 4 of today’s popular
Goodyear blimps could fit inside the Hindenburg nose-to-tail. It was the
largest airship ever constructed and included 72 beds, a dining room,
lounge with a specialty-made light-weight aluminum piano, two promenades
with large windows, a reading room and - believe it or not - a smoker’s
That’s right: an airship carrying 7 million cubic feet of hydrogen gas - one of the five most explosive elements on Earth - had a room for people to light up cigarettes and cigars. Seems crazy, but surprisingly, smoking had nothing to do with the Hindenburg’s crash. The airship’s devastating fate stood outside the control of the passengers, crew, or ground control.
What Caused the Hindenburg to Crash?
In the wake of the tragedy, both Germany and America
launched full-scale investigations into the cause of the disaster.
Theories ranged far and wide, from mechanical failure to political
sabotage (the Hindenburg was a Nazi airship, after all), but ultimately,
both countries landed on the same conclusion. The massive, 242-ton
behemoth fell victim to a single spark.
The atmosphere around the Lakehurst airfield was electrically charged from earlier storms in the area. A transfer of static electricity met a leak in the hydrogen tank which caused an immediate ignition beginning at the tail of the ship and quickly racing toward the nose where a massive explosion occurred. It took no more than 32 seconds for the entire ship to be engulfed in flames.
How Many People Survived?
When you watch the footage
of the Hindenburg disaster or recall Herbert Morrison’s infamous “Oh,
the humanity!” commentary, it seems impossible that any of the 97
passengers and crew aboard could have survived.
The truth, however, is that most people did survive. While 35 people aboard the airship and one member of the ground crew did lose their life on May 6, 1937, the majority of the Hindenburg’s human cargo lived. Though many suffered severe burns and injuries, 62 people made it out alive.
Did Another Zeppelin Ever Fly Again?
Though there had been several airship disasters prior to
the Hindenburg - including U.S. Navy-operated USS Akron, which crashed
at sea and killed 73 people - but the tragedy over Lakehurst was the
last straw for the public and marked the end of an era for airship
Whether it was because of the shocking live footage or the arrival of air travel by plane, the Hindenburg was the last Zeppelin.