Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Hindenburg Over Wales

This footage of the Hindenburg catching fire and exploding at Lakehurst, New Jersey, in 1937, and its harrowing commentary never fails to horrify.

Almost exactly a year before the disaster the Hindenburg flew over Wales. Already world famous as an aerial marvel its appearance in the Welsh skies caused tremendous excitement. En route from Lakehurst to Frankfurt the airship was carrying 53 passengers. The first sighting was at Haverfordwest at 9.30pm where it cruised at low altitude. It was, by all accounts, a magnificent spectacle. Later the roar of its engines brought Carmarthen residents out of their houses as the dirigible sailed directly over them. Heading eastwards it appeared for a moment as if the airship might not clear Llangunnor Hill but at the last moment it elevated itself over the mound. In the Amman valley it was observed from Tycroes Hill near Ammanford. Next the drone could be heard approaching Brecon, but when it flew over the town itself some of the engines had been switched off. Quietly it proceeded towards Abergavenny. At Abergavenny hundreds of locals were out enjoying a fair. In the distance they spotted a searchlight beaming down from the sky. As the airship approached, its searchlight picked out the assembled throng. At 10.20pm the Hindenburg passed directly over the fairground as it headed towards the border. It was by now brilliantly lit-up and illuminated the night sky.

The tragic fate that would befall the Hindenburg a year later would destroy all public credibility in airships as a means of travel. This along with the emergence of international passenger air travel, and the arrival of Pan American Airlines meant the end of the line for Zeppelins.