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Hindenburg Mystery Solved

Photo by New York Daily News via Getty Images

A group of scientists say they have solved the mystery of why the Hindenburg burst into flames just before mooring in Lakehurst, New Jersey. They believe they have found the cause of the explosion, and it wasn’t espionage or foul play. It was static electricity.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Hindenburg, which was considered the Concorde of its day. My Dad had recordings of old radio shows and the famous commentator’s account of that fateful day was one of them. My interest in radio started pretty early and I was moved by the emotion in that announcer’s voice.

Now, The Independent reports that a team of experts at the South West Research Institute in the U.S. has been working with scale models of the airship, setting it on fire and blowing it up, trying to rule out possible causes. Speculation over the past 76 years has ranged from a bomb to flammable paint used to coat the vessel.

Lead engineer Jem Stansfield told The Independent, “I think the most likely mechanism for providing the spark is electrostatic. That starts at the top, then the flames from our experiments would’ve probably tracked down to the centre. With an explosive mixture of gas, that gave the whoomph when it got to the bottom.”

As a radio announcer and now a news person, I can’t imagine witnessing this tragic event. Herbert Morrison did a wonderful job of relaying what he was seeing, even as he was dealing with the horror of what was unfolding. Here’s the footage…

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