Today marks the 71st anniversary of the Hindenburg disaster, in which a giant symbol of man’s futile struggle against the natural elements exploded over New Jersey.
Here are three things about the Hindenburg I didn’t know, as gleaned from Wired:
- The 804-foot ship, and its sister ship the Graf Zeppelin II, are the largest vehicles ever to take flight.
- The Hindenburg was built by a strident anti-Nazi businessman who refused to name it after Hitler.
- The thing should never have been so flammable:
Hindenburg, designated LZ-129 by its builder and named for Field Marshal (and Weimar President) Paul von Hindenburg, was designed to be filled with nonflammable helium as the lifting agent. But when the United States, which possessed all the world’s natural helium sources, imposed an embargo on selling the gas to Nazi Germany, the company turned to the far-more-combustible hydrogen.
Think of how great it would have been if the Hindenburg had been filled with helium instead of hydrogen. Instead of exploding in flames, it would have just slowly sank and everyone around would have sounded like smurfs for a day and a half.