In the 1920’s and 1930’s a new era of air travel had gripped the world, and airships became the last word in luxury flight. These giant zeppelin balloon ships were fully equipped with dining rooms, smoking lounges where today, a good game of pokies online wouldn’t go amiss, and comfortable cabins, and they were faster than travelling by ship.
The Hindenburg was the last passenger air ship built by the world’s first airline, and it flew passengers from Europe to North and South America in half the time the fastest ocean liner could.
Commercial zeppelins had been transporting people across the skies for close on 30 years, and the Hindenburg was the most ambitious passenger craft ever built. But the era of rigid airships came to an end in a blaze of glory on the 6th of May, 1937 when the Hindenburg disaster took place.
An Ill Fated Aircraft
The Hindenburg had completed more than 100 trips with no injuries or fatalities, but on the 6th of May this all changed when the zeppelin all but exploded in a ball of flames, mid flight. 35 people on board were killed, and 1 ground crew member died, but miraculously 62 of 97 passengers survived.
The incident occurred in Lakehurst, New Jersey when the ship was coming in to land. It suddenly burst in to flames and appeared to almost explode, crumpling in on itself and crashing to the ground.
After lengthily investigations it turned out that the cause of the fire was due to a hydrostatic electric charge causing a spark, and igniting leaking hydrogen. The result was a fireball that lit up the sky, and left bystanders reeling in horror, as there was nothing they could do.
Shooting from the Hip
For the time, there are a surprisingly large amount of photographs of the Hindenburg disaster, and there is even video footage of the giant zeppelin succumbing to a fiery end.
But there is one photographer who captured the incident literally as it append and his photographs have been seen around the world, been on the front of Time magazine and have been reprinted and reproduced thousands of times over.
Sam Shere was on assignment in New Jersey and was on location when the zeppelin burst in to flames. He said that he didn’t even have time to lift his camera up, everything happened so fast, so he literally shot from the hip.
He had 2 shots left in his Speed Graphic camera and he captured this shocking moment in history as it unfolded, without giving any thought to setting the shot up or focusing it.
Sam was a news photographer and was used to acting fast, but he said that the ship turned into a fireball in a split second and he was lucky to have caught it on film.
His photograph has become one of the moments in time that have defined modern history and it signaled the end of an era in travel and a turning point for the aviation world.