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April, 2017 |

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An Artist’s Meditation on Color Reveals a Secret History of Film



“Rose Gold,” (still) 2017. SARA CWYNAR, COURTESY FOXY PRODUCTION

Why does harvest gold connote “sad old appliance” but rose gold say “sexy new iPhone”? That’s one question posed in the centerpiece of Sara Cwynar’s captivating new show at Foxy Production, a seven-minute film collage, with voice-over, whose subjects include, but aren’t limited to: consumerism, obsolescence, sexism, Melamine dinnerware, brightly plumed parrots, and, for reasons that I’ve yet to grok, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The tone of Cwynar’s movie mimics mid-twentieth-century educational films—if they had been peppered with quotes from Wittgenstein and Merleau-Ponty—but none of the footage is found. Cwynar shot it herself, on 16-mm. stock, not digital video—a crucial detail, given that one of her central subjects is film itself. (The exceptions to the rule are the scenes in which Cwynar appears onscreen, a pretty blond woman identifiable by her telltale earrings, a tiny gold “S” and “C,” which were shot by somebody else.)  Cwynar belongs to the same lineage of camera-minded conceptualists as Tacita Dean, who filmed the production of Kodak’s last rolls of 16-mm. film on obsolete stock, and Christopher Williams, whose beautiful, if recondite, pictures make hay of commercial photo-studio conventions.

Above all, Cwynar’s film, which is titled “Rose Gold,” is a meditation on color. Cwynar is intimately acquainted with the vagaries of palettes: prior to earning her M.F.A. in photography at Yale, the Vancouver-born artist worked as a graphic designer, notably for the Times Magazine. (Full disclosure: The New Yorker commissioned Cwynar to take the photographs for our 2015 Fiction Issue.)  As her gimlet-eyed show, which also includes three series of photographs, makes vividly clear, color is a cultural construct. Consider an old box of crayons: in 1961, Crayola retired “flesh” and replaced it with the less Caucasian-centric “peach.” As absorbing as her short movie is, the strongest part of Cwynar’s exhibition is a group of still pictures that pull back the veil on an obscure episode in the history of color film as it relates to capturing skin tones.

The six pictures in question are portraits of the artist’s friend, Tracy, a beautiful young woman of Asian heritage, who poses in pink, red, and yellow outfits against backdrops of deep blue and green, wearing expressions that range from side-eyed disinterest to direct-at-the-lens gaze. In four of the pictures, Tracy’s image is partially hidden by arrangements of found snapshots, clippings from dictionaries, and nostalgic objects—an empty ring box, perfume bottles, women’s nylons in a jumble of hues.  The last detail is a clue to the secret history that’s hinted at more directly in two other pictures, in which Tracy lounges against giant colorful grids, in lieu of cloth backdrops. They suggest the CMYK standard (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) used in “match prints,” which insure that the colors in a reproduced photograph are correct before it goes to press.

But from the mid-nineteen-fifties to the early seventies, Kodak supplied commercial photographers who bought its film with so-called Shirley cards, images of women—always Caucasian—that were printed on card stock and used as the standard for lighting in studios. (Apocrypha has it that that the first woman whose image was used on the cards was a Kodak employee named Shirley.) The protocol was eventually updated to include black, Latina, and Asian models—but not for the same reasons that made Crayola retire its “flesh” crayon.  Rather, it was complaints from furniture manufacturers, frustrated that blond and dark woods were indistinguishable in advertisements, as well as from the candy industry, irate that milk- and dark-chocolate bars looked just the same. (For a deep dive into the subject, consult the Colour Balance Project of the Canadian scholar Lorna Roth.) In her portraits of Tracy, Cwynar performs a sly bit of color correction herself.


“Flower,” 2017
. SARA CWYNAR, COURTESY FOXY PRODUCTION

Sara Cwynar’s exhibition “Rose Gold” is on view at Foxy Production through May 14th.

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Hindenburg at 80

A drizzle fell as the 36 passengers stepped off the bus at the city’s international airport from the Frankfurter Hof Hotel. Looming before them was the largest airship ever built: LZ129 — the Hindenburg.

In the midst of the Great Depression, the Hindenburg’s passengers were the 1 percenters of their day. A one-way ticket on the Zeppelin airship between Nazi Germany and the United States in 1937 cost $450 – the equivalent of $7,619 today.

Its 63rd and final flight had one destination: Lakehurst, New Jersey.

Beginning in the 1920s, this small town in the scrub pines of South Jersey sat adjacent to Naval Air Station Lakehurst, home of the Navy’s lighter-than-air program. Its immense Hangar One was built after World War I to shelter Zeppelins that Germany had been required to surrender as part of its war reparations.

The Navy base was one of the few places in the United States that had the facilities, equipment and trained personnel necessary to accommodate and service Hindenburg, as well as its sister ship, Graf Zeppelin. That made the Lakehurst station the first international airport in America.

The passengers who climbed up the gangway stairs in Frankfurt into Hindenburg’s 803.8-foot-long superstructure included business executive Hermann Doehner, 50. The manager of a pharmaceutical company in Mexico City, Doehner was returning to North America with his wife, Matilde, 41, and three of their children – Irene, Walter and Werner, ages 14, 10 and 8, respectively — after a spring vacation to their native fatherland.

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In newsreel footage from 1937, the majestic airship Hindenburg glides over New York City on its way to Lakehurst and its moment in history.
Archival footage

Others preparing to embark that day included writers, exporters and importers, a tea merchant, a fashion designer, an heiress, senior Reich military officers, and one celebrity German-American acrobat and stage performer — Joseph Späh, 32, who was making the transatlantic crossing home with his German shepherd, Ulla.

It would become the final voyage of the Hindenburg. Three days later after flying 4,000 miles, the ship burst into flames as it tried to dock in Lakehurst.

Thirteen of the 36 passengers and 22 of the 61 flight crew would not survive. The May 6 inferno that would devour the Hindenburg in 32 seconds became the first disaster ever captured on film and the first motion picture to go viral: the footage was distributed in newsreels and played in movie theaters across the globe.

The tragedy, soon to be remembered this May 6 in 80th-anniversary observances on both sides of the Atlantic, became seared into our history.

Hindenburg’s ill-fated journey marked the end of the age of airships and one of the last times that Americans would gaze up into the sky and see Nazi swastikas flying over their cities and farms.

This was the eve of World War II and the Hindenburg, a floating Titanic in both size and hubris, was about to foreshadow that greater human catastrophe in the years ahead.

The embers of the First World War were about to set fire again to the world.

For some time, Germany had been brazenly rebuilding its war machine despite strict prohibitions against it in the 17-year-old Versailles Treaty. Within a year, Germany would invade and annex Austria.

Two weeks before the Hindenburg disaster, in Berlin, U.S. Ambassador William E. Dodd met with Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath to protest increasing anti-American animus in the state-controlled German press.

In the United States, anti-Nazi sentiment was also on the rise. In March 1937, two months before the disaster, about 25,000 people filled Madison Square Garden in New York to demand a U.S. boycott of Germany.

New York City Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia had previously drawn protests from Washington and Berlin after he told an organization of Jewish women that when the 1939 World’s Fair came to the city in two years, Hitler ought to be included in “a chamber of horrors.”

Speaking before the rally at Madison Square Garden, LaGuardia doubled down. He called Hitler “a brown-shirted fanatic” and promised to continue saying so.

Security for the Hindenburg was beefed up after the Zeppelin offices in Germany received threats against the airship ahead of its first flight of the 1937 season – the one from Frankfurt to Lakehurst.

“There were Gestapo agents at Lakehurst,” Carl S. Jablonski, president of the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society, told the Asbury Park Press in a recent interview, as he recounted the historical context. “There had been threats to blow up the Hindenburg.”

Colossal, beautiful and extraordinarily expensive to build, operate and maintain, Hindenburg had its silver tail fins festooned with the red, white and black swastika flag — which since 1935 was the single national flag of Germany.

The Hitler regime had heavily subsidized the $3 million construction cost of Hindenburg, its value to the Nazis immeasurable as a propaganda tool. Yet no one but the most dedicated airship enthusiasts thought that the future of commercial aviation was in dirigibles or blimps.

“The historical truth about the Hindenburg was that it was obsolete before it ever flew,” said Dan Grossman, co-author of the book, “Zeppelin Hindenburg: An Illustrated History of LZ-129,” which is scheduled for release on Monday by The History Press in the United Kingdom.

“The first Pan Am ‘clipper’ had already flown in 1935 and it was a lot cheaper,” Grossman said.

That transpacific flight, made between San Francisco and Manila – while Hindenburg was still under construction in Germany – was operated by a fixed-wing, four-engine M-130, which had a cruising speed 83 percent faster than the Zeppelins and could operate 10,000 feet higher.

Grossman, who is also the publisher of the website airships.net, which has served as a source for many of the technical details about Hindenburg in this article, said commercial airship travel would have been eclipsed by the airplane even if the Hindenburg had not gone up in flames 80 years ago.

The tragedy in Lakehurst and World War II simply hastened its demise.

As the passengers arrived at the Frankfurt airport, the flight crew under the command of Capt. Max Pruss, was already aboard or outside inspecting the exterior of the ship, readying Hindenburg for departure.

Click for a full-screen interactive 360-degree photosphere inside the control car of the Hindenburg replica at Lakehurst, created by Universal Studios. (360-degree image by Thomas P. Costello)

Owing to the 7 million cubic feet of flammable hydrogen in 16 cells above the two passenger decks within the rocket-shaped, rigid dirigible, everyone was instructed to surrender any lighters or matches before boarding.

Smoking was permitted in flight, but only inside an airtight, pressurized lounge accessed through an airlock and equipped with an electric lighter. It was one of the most popular places on the ship, where cocktails could also be ordered with one’s smoke, according to Grossman.

There are only two gases that weigh less than air used in airships 80 years ago: one was hydrogen and the other was helium. Hydrogen was highly combustible. The slightest spark would cause it to violently combine with oxygen to create water. Helium was inert and could not be ignited.

In the 1930s, the United States had a monopoly on the world’s supply of helium and was using it in its own airships operated by the Navy. In 1927, the U.S. passed the Helium Control Act, which generally banned the exportation of helium.

Contrary to popular belief, the statute was not adopted because America feared another war with Germany. The federal government had simply concluded there was not enough helium to share, the author Grossman said.

“The German attitude about hydrogen in airships was the same as our attitude about gasoline in our cars,” Grossman said. “When you go to work, you’ve got 10 to 12 gallons of gasoline in your fuel tank, which is far more explosive than hydrogen. You don’t think about it because everything is operating as it is supposed to.”

Interactive photosphere inside the control car of the Hindenburg replica at Lakehurst, created by Universal Studios. (360-degree image by Thomas P. Costello)

“The Zeppelin Co. had an excellent safety record,” Jablonski said. “In 1936, the Hindenburg had made 10 flights to Lakehurst successfully without any incidents.”

On May 3, 1937, the Hindenburg was a little more than a year old when – about a quarter after 7 p.m. – the 242-ton floating ocean liner, with its Nazi swastika flags emblazoned to its tail, lifted off from Frankfurt with 97 souls aboard to the command of “Up ship!”

A band performed the German national anthem as passengers waved from the windows of the observation lounge to a sea of onlookers and loved ones on the ground below.

NEW YORK, UNITED STATES:  Image dated of the 30's showingPicture dated April 1936 of the dining room of theAn Asbury Park Press photographer snapped this picture as the Hindenburg glided over Cookman Avenue, Asbury Park, two hours before she burst into flames at Lakehurst. (1937)WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17:  A postcard dropped fromThe Hindenburg glides over Asbury Park hours before it explodes over Lakehurst. (1937).A mural of the Hindenburg hangs at McDonald's Restaurant in 1987 in Lakehurst just down the street from where the zeppelin exploded. (4/1987).Picture dated 21 May 1936 of German giant zeppelinPicture dated May 1936 of German giant zeppelin Hindenburg,A ticket for a 1936 flight of the Hindenburg airshipPicture dated May 1936 of German giant zeppelin Hindenburg,A piece of the Hindenburg's tail section is shown in front of a model of the airship before a presentation at the Ocean County Library in Toms River. The part belongs to John Iannaccone, Lakewood, who was a ground crew worker at Lakehurst when the zeppelin crashed. Tom Costello/Staff Photographer (4/1987).With her mooring lines already down for landing, the giant Hindenburg burst into flames at Lakehurst, May 6, 1937. Aboard were 36 passengers and a crew of 61.NEW YORK, UNITED STATES:  German giant airship ZeppelinThe German dirigible Hindenburg crashes to earth, tailThe blazing inferno that was the German airship HindenburgPicture dated 07 May 1937 of the framework of the GermanPeople pay tribute to the victims of the accident ofPeople pay tribute to the victims of the accident of the German giant zeppelin “Hindenburg” during a ceremony, in May 1937, in Lakehurst, USA. Pride of the German Third Reich, the Hindenburg, the largest aircraft ever built, burst into flames 06 May 1937, 200 feet over its intended landing spot at New Jersey’s Lakehurst Naval Air Station, killing 35 of its 97 passengers, along with one crewman on the ground. (Photo: AFP, AFP/Getty Images)1964 PHOTO Klaus F. Pruss (center) of West Germany2001 Lakehurst, NJ 2 of 3L-R Bob Puttock and Keith2002 Ocean County Historical Museum - Hindenburg collection--2004 Cup and saucer that was used on Hindenburg2002  Ocean County Historical Museum - Hindenburg collectionLakehurst, NJ 9/14/2004. The site where the Hindenburg went down at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in 1937, as seen from the Spirit of Goodyear.-2004 Crew uniform from the Hindenburg on display2007 5/3//07 Lakehurst: Carl Jablonski, Beachwood,2011 Color guard team member HT2 Casey Klein holds2011 A marker is shown at the site where the Hindenburg2012 A piece of wreckage from the Hindenburg and a2013 This plaque was placed to honor the 50th anniversary2015 Guest Speaker Dr. Horst Schirmer whose father2015 Hindenburg Memorial Ceremony on the 78th anniversaryLocated a mile from Hangar One and part of the tourWASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17:  A sheet of stationary withWASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 17:  A piece of a salvaged portion

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Passengers on the Hindenburg received assurance after another that the technology upon which their lives depended was safe, sound and predictable.

“To all our passengers, the safety, comfort, freedom from sickness, and tranquility in motion are a revelation, and these features no doubt are the reason for the increasing popularity of travel by Airship. The one regret expressed by our passengers – with which we are familiar – is that the voyage is over so soon.”
—  “Airship Voyages Made Easy,” a passenger manual printed by the Deutche Zeppelin-Reedere airline for its airship passengers on the Hindenburg.

Passenger life aboard the Hindenburg was mostly spent gazing out at the landscape or seascape, looking for icebergs to awe over and steamships to wave at. A few people brought their home movie cameras.

There was a writing room — a quiet area where passengers could pen letters or postcards to loved ones and friends. Mail could be posted aboard with a Hindenburg postmark. Additionally, the radio room in the aft compartment of the control car beneath the ship could send a telegram to anyone in the world.

Tours could be arranged by crew members to show passengers the parts of the Zeppelin that were otherwise off limits to all but authorized personnel, such as the bowels of the rigid airship, which unlike an ocean liner were located above the passenger decks, not below.

Lewis P. Lochner, an Associated Press reporter who flew on Hindenburg’s first voyage to Lakehurst, one year earlier, described the experience to readers in 1936:

“It was hard sometimes to realize during the trip that one was not on an ocean liner but instead high in the air,” Lochner wrote. “The spacious social hall, dining hall, writing saloon, and even the diminutive bar and smoking room – all conveyed the illusion of a seafaring craft. This illusion was heightened by the fact that the passenger space was distributed over two decks, an upper and a lower.”

Breakfast was served from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and was typically light fare; mostly rolls, hard-boiled and soft-boiled eggs, sausage and ham, with coffee, tea and milk. Dinner was served mid-day and full-course meals — from Rhine salmon and brook trout, roast gosling and venison  — were prepared and cooked on board.

A bar was well-stocked and the Hindenburg even boasted its own inventory of fine wines and champagne, which could be delivered to individual compartments at the press of a button.

The cabins, however, were not exactly luxurious. They were narrow and windowless, with bunk beds. There were folding wash basins in each compartment with running hot and cold water, and a small closet. Lavatories and showers were communal.

Slanted windows ran along promenades in the dining room and observation lounge, which were located on opposite sides of the upper deck, which was “A Deck.”

“What a magnificent view!” Lochner wrote. “At times, these clouds looked like an endless stretch of glaciers, then again like fluffy bales of wool spread out as far as the eye could see.”

After leaving Frankfurt airport, the Hindenburg’s flight path had taken it over the Netherlands and the English Channel, before sailing west-southwest after 1 a.m. on May 4 over the North Atlantic at a cruising speed of 76 mph and at an altitude of 650 feet.

At that height, passengers could wave to the passengers on the ocean liners below them. Their ships steamed at less than half the Zeppelin’s speed.

Hindenburg could get from Frankfurt to Lakehurst in about two and half days, whereas the R.M.S. Queen Mary took about four days to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

On this trip, however, the Hindenburg was encountering strong headwinds at sea that had reduced its velocity to 37 mph. Its four Daimler-Benz engines were fighting the jet stream, but none of the passengers aboard Hindenburg would have noticed – there was no turbulence on the Zeppelin.

Passengers heard only “the distant quiet murmur” of the engines, according to the passenger manual.

The only time there would have been any shudder is if the airship hit a squall line, which happened on occasion over the sea. Although the weather-forecasting of the period obviously lacked the satellite technology of the late 20th century, oceans were far more crowded with merchant marine traffic back then than they are today, Grossman said.

A network of ships reported in observations at various locations, keeping the Zeppelin Co. apprised of any meteorological issues that might be problematic for Hindenburg and its sister ship, the Graf Zeppelin, he said.

Hindenburg’s outer hull fabric had been designed to absorb rainwater, which would be conveyed into the ship’s ballast tanks.

“The Hindenburg had frequently been struck by lightning, it even burned chunks of fabric,” Grossman said. “They were very strict that you never valved or released hydrogen in a thunderstorm. … So long as the hydrogen is in its gas cells, it is contained.”

Lightning posed the greatest danger to hydrogen-filled airships when in physical contact with the ground. Zeppelin flight manuals were emphatic about this point: its airships should not attempt landings in the presence of thunderstorms, Grossman said.

The admonition would echo for the next 80 years.

 

“Hindenburg Is 12 Hours Late; Fighting Winds. Dirigible Won’t Land At Lakehurst Until 6 P.M. – Starts Return Trip At Once. Zeppelin To Make Profit This Year.”
—  Asbury Park Press front page headline; May 6, 1937

The Hindenburg had been scheduled to arrive at Naval Air Station Lakehurst at about 6 a.m. on May 6.  Strong headwinds over the Atlantic had reduced its velocity by half.

“The Hindenburg was over Nova Scotia when it was supposed to be landing at Lakehurst,” Grossman said.

Moreover, conditions in New Jersey were not helping.

Thunderstorms were expected over the Pine Barrens later in the day, just as Hindenburg would be arriving. There had been four major forest fires that emergency crews in Ocean County had been battling all week that had for a brief time seemed to threaten the naval air station itself.

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The Hindenburg circles its landing area in Lakehurst as an uneasy tension builds on the ground.
Archival footage

At the Biltmore Hotel in New York, there was a full complement of passengers waiting to be bused to Newark Airport where they would be ushered onto an American Airlines Douglas DC-3 for the 15-minute flight to the Navy base. The DC-3 would leave Newark when the crew of the Hindenburg was ready to receive the new passengers.

There was an exceedingly tight timeline.

Some of the German-bound passengers had plans to attend the coronation of Great Britain’s King George VI on May 12 in London.

Capt. Max Pruss planned to have his ship ready for the return trip to Frankfurt by midnight in what would be the fastest turnaround for a passenger Zeppelin.

In 1936, the Hindenburg had made a total of 34 trips across the Atlantic Ocean and the Graf Zeppelin had made a total of 590 flights since its maiden voyage in 1928, logging more than a million miles and carrying a total of 34,000 passengers without a single injury, Grossman said.

Although Pruss was in command of Hindenburg on this trip, Capt. Ernst A. Lehmann was the senior officer aboard and had been criticized in the past by his own bosses for cutting corners when it came to safety protocols.

“Captain Lehmann crashed the tail (of the Hindenburg) in March 1936,” Grossman said. “He was a risky, ham-handed pilot who was over-accommodating to the Nazis and allowed those concerns to outweigh his sense of caution.”

By noon May 6, the Hindenburg was over Boston. By 3:10 p.m., the Zeppelin was over Manhattan, where it circled the Empire State Building.

Over Brooklyn, the Hindenburg cast its long shadow over a game at Ebbets Field between the Dodgers and the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was briefly halted so the players and fans could look up and watch the airship sail over the stadium.

From New York, the Hindenburg flew south over the Raritan Bay, passing what is now Aberdeen by 3:30 p.m., over Freehold at 3:45 p.m., and Lakehurst at 4:20 p.m.

The station’s weather logs showed that a thunderstorm had started 3:43 p.m. and ended at 4:45 p.m.

At that time, Pruss, who was in the control car, could see flashes of lightning on the horizon over the Pinelands. He sent a message to the station that he would cruise for two hours and return at about 6 p.m.

Turning east, the Zeppelin flew over the Toms River and Seaside Heights, and then north over the coastline. At 5 p.m., the Hindenburg was over Asbury Park.

Libby Magness Weisberg, 89, Cherry Hill, lived in South Philadelphia as a child and remembered when the Hindenburg appeared over her neighborhood on a cloudless day. At some point or another between 1936 and 1937, the Hindenburg had cruised over every region of the Tri-State area.

“I was 9-years-old and I remember it as if it happened yesterday,” Weisberg said. “I happened to be in the house and was called outside to look up in the sky. … It was very, very low and we could almost see inside. We were able to see how beautiful it was, absolutely gorgeous against the blue sky.”

Then the Hindenburg turned at such an angle so that its swastikas came into full view, which filled Weisberg with a sense of dread.

“I lived in a mixed neighborhood – there was a lot of Italian and Jewish – and when we saw these great big swastikas on the tail of the Hindenburg, it was a sort of a contradictory thing,” she said. “How could something so beautiful be so ugly?”

Weisberg recalled that some of her Italian neighbors made an insult — the sign of the horns – as they gazed up at the airship’s tail, while her fellow Jewish neighbors made what she called “a hex” at the Hindenburg.

“We knew the Germans were our enemies, we knew about Hitler’s politics, but we were not aware of the death camps at that point,” she said.

Over Asbury Park, the Hindenburg made a 360-degree turn. In Press Plaza, an Asbury Park Press photographer rushed outside of the newspaper’s office to take photos of the Zeppelin as it adjusted course on a southerly heading over Cookman Avenue.

Supervising flight operations in the control car or gondola, Pruss ordered the Hindenburg back down the Jersey Shore coastline – to near the southern end of Long Beach Island.

Just before 6 p.m., Hindenburg was soaring above Beach Haven where it made a starboard turn over Barnegat Bay and into the sky above Tuckerton. The ship then made another starboard turn, essentially following Route 9 north to the Forked River section of Lacey by 6:55 p.m.

From there, Pruss turned the Hindenburg northwest toward the outline of Naval Lakehurst Station’s Hangar One, an unmistakable landmark from the air over the Pine Barrens of Ocean County.

Hindenburg was 20 minutes out. Its gauges in the control car below the massive gray vessel would have indicated there was a problem. Hydrogen was leaking, Grossman said.

“They should not have landed,” Grossman said. “You do have to valve (release) hydrogen to land, and when you release hydrogen it mixes with the air.”

The flight operations manual did not permit landings during thunderstorms, he said.

“Most likely, but not necessarily, it could have been a stuck valve,” Grossman said. “Most likely, one of the cells was breached in some way.”

Yet, there was pressure to get Hindenburg on the ground, get the current passengers to their next destination, and board the new passengers as quickly as possible.

“There were political pressures and financial pressures,” Grossman said. “They were worried about the return flight.”

Pruss performed a slow approach and circled the landing site at Lakehurst, reducing and reversing the engines, Grossman said.

The airship was heavy in the tail and when it was not correcting through normal procedures, six crewmen were ordered to the bow, or front, of the ship to add their weight.

As the Hindenburg approached the mooring mast some distance from the front of Hangar One, the forward landing line was dropped and the water ballast was released.

It was about 7:25 p.m. and it was the moment that all hell broke loose.

John Syarto, 84, Jackson, was just 4 years old and living in Linden when his parents took him to Lakehurst in the family car to see the Hindenburg arrive that night.

A guard at the main gate would not let the family get too close, but suggested an unobstructed view from a wooden fence a few hundred feet away from the landing site.

“The ship comes in parallel to us and I said to my father, ‘what are those strings coming down from the ship?’ And he said, ‘that’s how they’re going to pull it down.’ … Then there was the fire and the same guy who told us where to stand ran over to us and told us to leave because he didn’t know how bad the fire was going to get and of course we got into the car and left.”

Syarto paused, his voice cracking with emotion.

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The mighty Hindenburg bursts into flames and crashes to the ground in a horrific sight as survivors run from the wreckage while many others are encased in a fiery tomb.
Archival footage

“No one said anything on the way home,” he said. “I think my parents were praying for the people on the Hindenburg.”

What seemed to be instantaneous was the creation of a spark and then a fireball near the tail that within seconds would reach all 7 million cubic feet of hydrogen. It turned the giant Zeppelin into a raging inferno.

The ship lurched forward, its tail pitching skyward and going near vertical before structural failure occurred and the Hindenburg began to break into multiple sections. The control car slammed into the earth and anything that was not secure, including people, were tossed about the interior of the ship.

Werner Franz, the 14-year-old cabin boy, was securing dishes and silverware in the crew mess when the nose began to tilt upwards and fire appeared over him. A water tank above him burst, dousing him so that it jolted him out of a shock.

Franz kicked open a service hatch that was used to load materials into the mess and managed to escape the burning wreckage unscathed, running as fast as he could.

In half a minute, the disintegration of the Hindenburg would be complete. The charred remains of its warped duralumin girders would be all that would remain in the days ahead.

“We felt a shock through the ship and we assumed it was a landing cable that had parted,” German Zettel, the chief mechanic, told the Asbury Park Press in an interview for the 50th anniversary of the disaster in 1987.

“Then we looked forward and found out that was not the case. When we looked the other way, to the rear, to the stern of the ship, we saw that the stern was already burning. We were ordered to stop engines which we did at once, and in the meantime, in very short order, our motor gondola hit the ground, enabling us to jump out and run. All this only took seconds,” Zettel said.

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The once proud Hindenburg is reduced to a smoldering skeleton as its remains burn on the ground in Lakehurst.
Archival footage

“As the large gas cells caught fire, it created a wind storm, sucking the air to the gas cells, without which, of course, the hydrogen could not burn. In a very short time, rescue personnel appeared on the scene with doctors and ambulances. The lift gas was rapidly consumed but the diesel fuel continued to burn fiercely. It was only about 30 seconds for the hydrogen to burn off but the engine operating fuel continued to burn for quite a long time,” he said.

Most experts believe that the cause of the tragedy was innocent enough: a rope line from Hindenburg reached the field, soaked from rainstorms earlier in the day, and grounded the airship; it produced a static electrical discharge that raced up the line and made contact with the leaking hydrogen.

Although it may be an issue of semantics, the ship did not explode, there was no shockwave. The hydrogen simply ignited, like a candle being lit.

“A small flame became a big flame, went through the 16 cells and 7 million cubic feet of hydrogen and in 34 seconds it was on the ground,” Jablonski said.

Like most of the other passengers, young Walter and Werner Doehner  jumped to safety from the portside promenade windows with the help of their mother, Matilde Doehner. She then followed her sons over. But when it was daughter Irene’s turn to jump, either in panic or shock, she fled into the interior of the burning ship to ostensibly go look for her father. Hermann Doehner, the pharmaceutical magnate, was in the family’s compartment when the disaster struck and would have been unable to escape in time.

Matilde and sons Walter and Werner survived, but Irene died that night from burns while being treated at an area hospital. Hermann’s body was recovered from the wreckage.

Passenger Joseph Späh used his acrobatic skills to leap from one of the windows in the observation lounge, breaking his ankle in the process. Ulla, his German shepherd, was in the cargo hold of the ship and perished in the disaster.

Click for a full-screen interactive 360-degree photosphere of the Hindenburg crash site and memorial. (360-degree image by Thomas P. Costello)

In 1967, for the 30th anniversary of the disaster, the Asbury Park Press interviewed three civilian ground crewmen who shared their recollections from that night.

“The sight of people burning inside (Hindenburg), … you could see them, but you couldn’t get at them,” said James Thomas of Lakehurst who was still employed at the base as an electrician. “You could hear them screaming.”

“We were right under the ship,” said Frank Wilsey of Toms River, who also still worked at the base as an electrician. “I’d say it was about 100 feet off the ground. You would never forget it.”

William A. Wiseman of Ocean Township, who went onto to become a real estate agent, said he did not dwell on the disaster, but he remembered that he believed he was about as close to death as one could be.

“It was perhaps, the most frightening experience I’ve ever been through; when I looked up, I thought, well, this is the end, I just won’t make it,” Wiseman said.

When it was over, 36 people were dead, including Allen Hagaman, a 51-year-old ground crew member, who was underneath Hindenburg at the time of the crash. He was from Lakehurst.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt had been vacationing on the Gulf of Mexico in Texas when he was briefed about what had happened in Lakehurst.

Roosevelt immediately sent a telegram to Hitler who was at Berchtesgaden, his mountaintop retreat in the Bavarian Alps, with an expression of sympathy.

“I thank your excellency sincerely for the words of sympathy you express to me and the German people on the occasion of the disaster of which the airship Hindenburg was the victim,” Hitler replied.

Although static electricity was immediately reported in newspapers as the likely cause of the disaster, sabotage as a credible theory gained traction when Hugo Eckener, the airship pioneer and principal figure in the Zeppelin Company, raised the suggestion to reporters.

“I cannot grasp that flames have turned ‘our pride’ into a smashed skeleton,” Eckener said. “It might have been sabotage.”

Realizing the weight his words would carry, Eckener offered an addendum to his remarks.

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With the Hindenburg’s legacy forever burned into history, the treatment of survivors and quest for answers rages on in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.
Archival footage

“Mind, I did not say sabotage was responsible but that it must be considered as a possibility, especially in view of many threatening letters received by our firm,” he said.

Navy Vice Admiral Charles E. Rosendahl, who commanded Navy Air Station Lakehurst at the time of the disaster, went to his grave in 1977 absolutely convinced that the Hindenburg had been brought down by sabotage.

Rosendahl claimed he had evidence that snipers on the base fired rounds into the airship as it was making its landing. He was planning to write a book about it when he died at the age of 85.

The notion of sabotage would become the plot  of the 1976 film, “The Hindenburg,” starring George C. Scott and Anne Bancroft, which is set on the Hindenburg during its final, three-day trip to Lakehurst. After the movie was filmed, Universal Studios donated one of the life-sized control car replicas it built for the movie to the Navy Lakehurst Historical Society and is a permanent exhibit at its museum in Hangar No. 1, where the Hindenburg was once berthed.

Interactive photosphere inside Hangar One at the Lakehurst base. (360-degree image by Thomas P. Costello)

The sabotage theory did not gain wide acceptance.

The U.S. Department of Commerce – empowered to conduct a formal inquiry into the fire and crash – concluded in August 1937 that the cause of the accident was the ignition of a mixture of free hydrogen and air, probably as the result of a brush discharge.

Grossman said regardless of the what caused the leak that led to the massive conflagration, the captain bears responsibility for losing the ship.

“Fatal mistake,” he said. “They landed an airship in a thunderstorm.”

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THE HINDENBURG DISASTERThe Hindenburg Disaster Part 1: Sailing Serenely | 1:47

In newsreel footage from 1937, the majestic airship Hindenburg glides over New York City on its way to Lakehurst and its moment in history.
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THE HINDENBURG DISASTERThe Hindenburg Disaster Part 2: Impending Tragedy | 1:24

The Hindenburg circles its landing area in Lakehurst as an uneasy tension builds on the ground.
Archival footage

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THE HINDENBURG DISASTERThe Hindenburg Disaster Part 3: The Humanity | 1:41

The mighty Hindenburg bursts into flames and crashes to the ground in a horrific sight as survivors run from the wreckage while many others are encased in a fiery tomb.
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THE HINDENBURG DISASTERThe Hindenburg Disaster Part 4: Blazing Aftermath | 1:46

The once proud Hindenburg is reduced to a smoldering skeleton as its remains burn on the ground in Lakehurst.
Archival footage

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THE HINDENBURG DISASTERThe Hindenburg Disaster Part 5: Twisted Tangled Mass | 2:24

With the Hindenburg’s legacy forever burned into history, the treatment of survivors and quest for answers rages on in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.
Archival footage

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THE HINDENBURG DISASTERThe Hindenburg Disaster: The View from the Ground | 2:49

In a 2005 interview, sailor and Hindenburg ground crew member John Iannaccone recounts the horror of the ship’s burning and the frantic search for survivors.
Thomas P. Costello and Ryan Ross

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THE HINDENBURG DISASTERThe Hindenburg Disaster, 80 Years Later | 1:15

Carl Jablonski, president of Navy Lakehurst Historical Society, talks about the tragedy that occurred nearly 80 years ago.
Doug Hood

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THE HINDENBURG DISASTERThe Hindenburg Disaster: How it was reported | 10:34

From the National Archives and Records Administration. Watch newsreel reports from 1937 covering the epic disaster and tragic loss of life that took place when the Hindenburg burned and crashed to the ground in Lakehurst.
National Archives

  • The Hindenburg Disaster Part 1: Sailing Serenely
  • The Hindenburg Disaster Part 2: Impending Tragedy
  • The Hindenburg Disaster Part 3: The Humanity
  • The Hindenburg Disaster Part 4: Blazing Aftermath
  • The Hindenburg Disaster Part 5: Twisted Tangled Mass
  • The Hindenburg Disaster: The View from the Ground
  • The Hindenburg Disaster, 80 Years Later
  • The Hindenburg Disaster: How it was reported
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A small, turn-of-the-century co-op gets a big dose of girly glam

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Making kitchens safer with mandatory testing of gas stoves – Nation …

PETALING JAYA: The Energy Commission is out to make Malaysian kitchens safer by making it mandatory for gas cookers to be tested.

And, gas detectors will also be a must in commercial premises where gas is used.

Stressing that consumer safety was the commission’s priority, its gas development and regulation director Roslee Esman said the feasibility of making it compulsory for gas cooking appliances to be tested by Sirim before these were allowed on the shelves, was being studied.

“Discussions with the relevant authorities, including Sirim, have started,” he told Sunday Star.

Currently, under the domestic gas cooking appliances for use with liquefied petroleum gases standards (MS 1535), gas cookers are only voluntarily tested by manufacturers and importers.

From 2016 until April 25 this year, a whopping 736 fires caused by gas and oil stoves, broke out nationwide, said Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department assistant director-general of the fire and rescue operations division Datuk Zurkarnain Mohd Kassim.

And, some 5% of kitchen fires resulted in explosions, he said, adding that of the 3,828 house fires investigated last year, kitchen fires, electrical equipment and wiring, candles and lighters, were the culprits.

“In developed countries like Singapore and Japan, all appliances with risk factors must meet specific, international standards,” he said. “And, enforcement is strong.”

In February, a worker suffered burns when a gas leak caused an explosion at a chicken stall in Batu Lanchang Market, Penang.

Last year, a woman died and her husband was severely burned in Meru, Klang, while a lawyer in Penang, suffered 80% burns in similar explosions.

Roslee said the code of practice for installation of fuel gas piping systems and appliances (MS 930:2017) was revised to improve the safety of gas piping installations nationwide.

To avoid accidents caused by gas leaks, gas detectors must be fixed in all areas where gas is used.

“For commercial installations, the gas detection system must automatically send a signal to shut the automatic valve when a gas leak is detected.

“This applies to the installation of fuel gas piping systems, appliances, equipment, and related accessories,” he said.

He said besides revising the Malaysian Standards, the commission also conducts regular checks of gas piping systems and talks and seminars at learning institutions, hotels, shopping complexes and hospitals around the country to improve awareness on the importance of gas safety.

The Institution of Engineers Malaysia president Tan Yean Chin is worried about gas leakages and explosions as “almost every Malaysian household has at least one stove”.

Sirim QAS International Sdn Bhd product certification and inspection department senior general manager Basori Selamat said it could test and certify gas cookers but it could not mandate products for compulsory testing and certification.

 

Related stories:

It’s not a ‘GAS’ing game

A survivor’s story

Proper checks crucial

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KFC is opening kitchens to quash rumours it doesn’t use real chicken — or makes it with mutant birds

KFC is opening  its kitchens to customers to quash rumours it does not use real chicken — or makes it with mutant birds.

Conspiracy theorists  claim the firm  was forced to rebrand from its original  Kentucky Fried Chicken name because it does not use the poultry favourite.

KFC is opening its kitchens to customers to quash rumours it does not use real chicken — or makes it with mutant birds

But in a first, suspicious diners will be able to apply for tickets for an open kitchen event on May 6 to see the process for themselves.

Bosses say they will be shown how the chicken is delivered fresh, prepared by staff and have a go at making a burger.

Paula MacKenzie, head of KFC in the UK, said: “Our chicken is fresh, natural and delicious. Our only secret is the Colonel’s recipe.

Conspiracy theorists claim the firm was forced to rebrand from its original Kentucky Fried Chicken name because it does not use the poultry favourite.

KFC came to Britain in 1965 with its first branch in Preston, Lancs. It now has almost 900 outlets across the UK


“We are opening our kitchens so our fans and cynics can see and taste it for themselves. This is your chance to ask anything you’ve ever wondered about KFC.”

KFC came to Britain in 1965 with its first branch in Preston, Lancs. It now has almost 900 outlets across the UK, employing 24,000 people. The nation’s favourite order is chicken and the top-selling side is  gravy.

Suspicious diners will be able to apply for tickets for an open kitchen event on May 6 to see the process for themselves

MYTH 1: KFC uses mutant chickens.
KFC: They say it’s natural, fresh chicken. KFC is part of the Red Tractor scheme, guaranteeing high welfare standards.
MYTH 2: Deep fried rat found in KFC meal.
KFC: They say: fake! We only use 100 per cent fresh chicken.
MYTH 3: KFC cannot be called Kentucky Fried Chicken as it doesn’t use real chicken.
KFC: KFC chicken is Red Tractor standard, British and the same as supermarket chicken.
MYTH 4: KFC chicken is cooked from frozen.
KFC: It’s delivered fresh more than three times a week.

Man finds a ‘child’s TOOTH’ inside his KFC chip
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Hints from Heloise, Wednesday, April 19 | Food | wacotrib.com – Waco Tribune

DEAR HELOISE: My two “loves” are gardening and baking. Every year, I seem to grow an overabundance of zucchini. I don’t want to let it go to waste, so I shred it in my food processor and freeze it in freezer bags. When I get in the mood to bake zucchini bread, I just thaw out a freezer bag of zucchini and start baking! — Violet C., Ponca City, Oklahoma

No waste and no wanting. Let the zucchini thaw and put it in a fresh green salad. — Heloise

DEAR HELOISE: If you want to improve the flavor of homemade bread and give it a nice, crisp, crunchy top, brush the top of the loaf with vinegar just before baking. I use apple-cider vinegar or sometimes balsamic for a little different taste. — Beth W., Martinsville, Ind.

Beth, what a great hint! And vinegar has so many wonderful uses! I make sure to never run out. If you’d like to know more about vinegar’s many uses in my pamphlet Heloise’s Fantabulous Vinegar Hints and More, visit my website, www. Heloise.com, to order.

DEAR HELOISE: We love to barbecue in the hot summer months, but it’s important to never place cooked meats, fish or chicken on the same plate you used to carry the raw meat. Bacteria from the raw, uncooked food can easily contaminate the plate and new utensils. — Casey G., Emmaus, Pennsylvania

DEAR HELOISE: I’m looking at new dinnerware for 12 to use when we entertain. Since this will be a considerable expense, I want to select the right type, something that will last for years. Which is a better investment, porcelain china or bone china? — April T., Cranston, Rhode Island

April, both porcelain and bone chinas are known for their strength and chip-resistance. Quality porcelain dinnerware is as durable as bone china. The main differences are:

  • Porcelain china often is thicker than bone china.
  • S
  • ome porcelain china brands can go from oven to table, whereas bone china cannot be used in the oven.
  • Bone china must contain 25 percent bone ash, except in England, where it is required to contain 50 percent bone ash. This typically strengthens china.
  • Bone china is considered a stronger material, but both porcelain and bone chinas will hold up well over time if proper care is given.

They both are excellent choices. Dinnerware can be handed down for generations if well cared for and protected. — Heloise

P.S. I still use some of my grandmother’s Blue Willow china.

Dear Readers: The old saying is to plant rosemary by the doorstep to keep evil away, and plant sage in your garden if you would have peace and order in your home. Sounds good to me! — Heloise

©2017 King Features

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Making kitchens safer with mandatory testing of gas stoves

PETALING JAYA: The Energy Commission is out to make Malaysian kitchens safer by making it mandatory for gas cookers to be tested.

And, gas detectors will also be a must in commercial premises where gas is used.

Stressing that consumer safety was the commission’s priority, its gas development and regulation director Roslee Esman said the feasibility of making it compulsory for gas cooking appliances to be tested by Sirim before these were allowed on the shelves, was being studied.

“Discussions with the relevant authorities, including Sirim, have started,” he told Sunday Star.

Currently, under the domestic gas cooking appliances for use with liquefied petroleum gases standards (MS 1535), gas cookers are only voluntarily tested by manufacturers and importers.

From 2016 until April 25 this year, a whopping 736 fires caused by gas and oil stoves, broke out nationwide, said Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department assistant director-general of the fire and rescue operations division Datuk Zurkarnain Mohd Kassim.

And, some 5% of kitchen fires resulted in explosions, he said, adding that of the 3,828 house fires investigated last year, kitchen fires, electrical equipment and wiring, candles and lighters, were the culprits.

“In developed countries like Singapore and Japan, all appliances with risk factors must meet specific, international standards,” he said. “And, enforcement is strong.”

In February, a worker suffered burns when a gas leak caused an explosion at a chicken stall in Batu Lanchang Market, Penang.

Last year, a woman died and her husband was severely burned in Meru, Klang, while a lawyer in Penang, suffered 80% burns in similar explosions.

Roslee said the code of practice for installation of fuel gas piping systems and appliances (MS 930:2017) was revised to improve the safety of gas piping installations nationwide.

To avoid accidents caused by gas leaks, gas detectors must be fixed in all areas where gas is used.

“For commercial installations, the gas detection system must automatically send a signal to shut the automatic valve when a gas leak is detected.

“This applies to the installation of fuel gas piping systems, appliances, equipment, and related accessories,” he said.

He said besides revising the Malaysian Standards, the commission also conducts regular checks of gas piping systems and talks and seminars at learning institutions, hotels, shopping complexes and hospitals around the country to improve awareness on the importance of gas safety.

The Institution of Engineers Malaysia president Tan Yean Chin is worried about gas leakages and explosions as “almost every Malaysian household has at least one stove”.

Sirim QAS International Sdn Bhd product certification and inspection department senior general manager Basori Selamat said it could test and certify gas cookers but it could not mandate products for compulsory testing and certification.

 

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