Around the World with the Graf Zeppelin (Nov, 1929) (Nov, 1929)

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Around the World with the Graf Zeppelin

Circumnavigating the globe in 21 days, the Graf Zeppelin has broken all records for speed in traveling around the world. Little known facts concerning the giant airship, its commander, and the world flight are presented below.

IN 1519 it required three years to circumnavigate the globe. This was the record set by Ferdinand Magellan, using three ships, only one of which succeeded in returning to the home port. Today, using a ship of a different type, a ship which sails in air instead- of water, the time required for circling the globe has been reduced to 21 days. This is the record set by the Graf Zeppelin on its recent round-the-world flight which culminated at Lakehurst last Aug. 30.

The route, shown in green on the map at the right, carried the Graf across the Atlantic from Lakehurst, N. J., to Friederichslhafen, Germany, and thence across Siberia to Tokyo and so across the Pacific to Los Angeles and back to Lakehurst. The most dangerous part of the flight was from Frie-,derichshafen to Tokyo on account of the length of this leg and the barren and uncharted country crossed. Only one mishap occurred during the flight, when a gondola of the ship was damaged when the tail struck the ground unexpectedly as it was about to leave its Japanese hangar. On taking off from Los Angeles the tail of the Graf came within a few feet of striking a line of high power electric wires which could have ignited the hydrogen gas in the big bag and blown the ship to atoms.

Success of the round-the-world trip lends color to the plans of the Zeppelin Airship Works to inaugurate a fortnightly airship service between Europe and the Atlantic coast of North America.

Dr. Hugo Eckener, commander of the Graf Zeppelin, began his aerial career as a newspaper editor denouncing Count Zeppelin for what Eckener conceived to be the idiotic idea of constructing a balloon which could be steered to a definite point. Dr. Eckener’s attacks on Zeppelin were so violent that the Count decided he was a man he had better have in his own camp, and Zeppelin persuaded him to come to Friederichshafen where he eventually became the Count’s most ardent supporter. The Graf Zeppelin and Eckener’s captaincy of the ship stand as a monument to the friendship between the two men.

Contrary to general belief, the motors of the Graf were not changed following its disastrous flight last May when the power plants gave way. The cause of these failures was breakdown of the couplings due to inflexibility in the fittings. With the installation of more elastic couplings, the motors functioned perfectly, and have now run about 1000 hours.

A gas rather than a liquid fuel is used in the Graf Zeppelin. This gas is familiarly known as blaugas, more commonly called Ethane by chemists. This gas has the advantage of weighing practically the same as air, and consequently the weight of the airship is not affected by the quantity of fuel carried. Hydrogen is used to inflate the lifting cells of the dirigible, the non-inflammable helium gas being used only in American ships.

10 comments
  1. Buddy says: January 24, 201110:55 am

    A significant portion of the route is north of 45. Kind of a cheat to hug the pole like that and declare it an around-the-world record. Still, Zeppelins are way cool, wish we still had them.

  2. Stephen Edwards says: January 24, 201112:55 pm

    Yep, Zeppelins are all fun and games, until someone lights a cigarette.

  3. Andrew L. Ayers says: January 24, 20113:19 pm

    @Stephen Edwards: I know you’re being humorous, but you are aware the Zeppelins had on-board smoking lounges, right?

  4. Firebrand38 says: January 24, 20113:57 pm

    Andrew L. Ayers: Very good. here is the one on the Hindenburg

  5. Andrew L. Ayers says: January 24, 201110:36 pm

    FB38: The Hindenburg was really something; very sumptuous in its appointments. Somewhere I have a book about the Hindenburg – it really turned air-travel into something resembling an ocean liner experience. I suppose that’s part of the reason I have a soft spot for airships.

  6. carlm says: January 25, 201112:24 am

    Even if the airships did persist and the Hindenburg disaster didn’t happen, I doubt that they would be around today. The jet replaced the ocean liner and it would have replaced the airship too. We still have the blimp but that is used more for a floating billboard than transportation.

  7. Stephen Edwards says: January 25, 20116:14 am

    @Andrew I didn’t know that, although it doesn’t surprise me, given when it flew.

    In light of the leading hypothesis about the Hindenburg, perhaps my comment should have been

    “Zeppelins are all fun and games until someone rubs a balloon on their hair then touches something.”

  8. Andrew L. Ayers says: January 25, 20114:29 pm

    @Stephen Edwards: If I remember right, they didn’t allow open flames in the smoking lounge, but instead there was an electric lighter available for passenger use…

  9. Toronto says: January 25, 20116:26 pm

    The Hindenburg’s smoking room is described here: http://www.ciderpresspo…

    I seem to recall the R101 had looser rules, but still required one to use the electric wall-mounted lighters (and to not leave the designated room.)

  10. Ken says: January 26, 20118:29 am

    The concept of a lighter than air ship that can carry supplement or replace the helicopter in many applications is under study and development in many parts of the world.
    In 1982 my father built an airship shaped in a lifting body, so in the same manner as a glider, which translates/transforms height into forward motion, his ship could move against the wind in long arcs by varying the amount of lift.
    While his concept ship flew successfully, he was unable to get investors interested and had to close down when he ran out of money.
    I recommend looking up the Aereon and a book entitled “The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed”

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