What Destroyed The Hindenburg? premieres Sunday, Dec. 16 at 9 PM E/P on Discovery Channel’s Curiosity series
By Gabrielle Pantera
Hollywood, CA (Gosh!TV) 2012/12/13 – “We’re examining and testing every hypothesis in the lab, selecting those that are scientifically possible and taking them outside to test on our huge scale models,” says lead Discovery Channel Curiosity investigator Steve Wolf, “Testing on this scale has never been attempted.”
What Destroyed the Hindenburg?
The first air disaster caught on film, the Hindenburg fire and crash took place on May 6th 1937 at 7:25pm. It was the largest object to ever fly. At 804 feet long, it’s many times longer than Howard Hugh’s Spruce Goose, the largest airplane to ever fly (219 feet long). At 882 feet, the luxury liner Titanic was only slightly longer than the Hindenburg. The Hindenburg was the size of a battleship.
Eight minutes prior to landing in New Jersey in a thunderstorm, the Hindenburg’s tail was heavy. Was there a leak? Was the Hindenburg shot down by a sniper? Struck by lightening? Both? Was there a bomb? Was the destruction of the Nazi airship an accident or deliberate?
Some witnesses reported seeing blue lights moments before the fire on top and in the back of the ship. Other eyewitness testimonies suggest that the first flame appeared on the port side just ahead of the port fin, and was followed by flames which burned on top. On board, people heard a muffled explosion and those in the front of the ship felt a shock as the port trail rope over tightened. The Hindenburg was quickly engulfed in flames.
That the airship disaster, which took 36 lives (35 passengers), was captured on camera contributes to how well the incident is remembered decades later. While a spectacular fire, it’s often forgotten that most of the 99 passengers survived. And, those who were burned were mainly killed by falling diesel fuel from the engine tanks, not the hydrogen gas that exploded upwards and away from the passenger compartment on the bottom of the ship.
One of the images of the burning craft was further immortalized by gracing the cover of the band Led Zeppelin’s debut album. But to this day, the cause of the fire is still unknown. But there are theories, and Discovery’s Curiosity is using science to determine better today than in 1937 which theories make sense.
How long it took the airship to be totally destroyed has been disputed. Some observers believe it took 34 seconds, others say it took 32 or 37 seconds. None of the newsreel cameras were filming the airship when the fire started, the time of the start can not be verified.
Since there was newsreel footage and photographs, as well as Herbert Morrison’s eyewitness radio report for station WLS in Chicago, there is much evidence that can be used to help solve this mystery.
Dozens of theories exist about how the Hindenburg went down during the night of May 6, 1937. Yet three quarters of a century later, there is still no clear answer. Curiosity hopes to find the answer by recreating the disaster.
What Destroyed The Hindenburg?, airing Sunday, Dec. 16 at 9 PM E/P on Discovery Channel’s CURIOSITY series, conducts experiments never attempted before by building three replicas of the airship and putting the leading theories to the test. This is the most ambitious testing program ever undertaken.
What Destroyed The Hindenburg? is produced by Blink Films for Discovery Channel. CURIOSITY is overseen by Vice President, Development and Production Howard Swartz and Senior Vice President, Development and Production Simon Andreae. To learn more, go to www.discovery.com on Facebook at Facebook.com/discovery and on Twitter @Discovery. Intel is a presenting sponsor of What Destroyed The Hindenburg?
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