The Hindenburg: Inimical (episode twenty-eight)
For we cannot understand of God what He is, but only what He is not, therefore we cannot see how God is, but only much more how He is not.
May 6, 1937. The drenching rains and thunderstorms had barely cleared by 6:00 p.m. Finally, the winds fell away. The Hindenburg, advised against landing during the late afternoon’s threatening weather, approached Lakehurst for the second time, receiving her latest radio message from the station commander: “Conditions definitely improved recommend earliest possible landing.” This was at 6:08 p.m.
But while the Hindenburg’s crew held her forward momentum in check at the mooring mast, a cold breeze from the south shot up. She had dropped ballast at intervals; she had finished valving gas—the ship was in the best possible trim, yet not the most satisfactory. She had a heaviness astern, a deviation from ordinary expectations, troubling but not alarming. At 6:10 p.m., the landing crew, a greater number of whom were civilians than naval personnel, heard the landing station signal, and stood ready.
A process took place before the bow trail ropes would be dropped to the ground crew. The engines were reduced to idling speed, thrown ahead and astern. The Hindenburg was positioned, with a final burst of power. The starboard rope came down, the port rope followed. Newsreel cameras: Paramount, Fox, Universal, Pathé, swung from the airship to record the activity on the ground. The port bow trail rope was coupled, winched; a southeast gust made the rope spring taut. This was at 6:21 p.m.
Along her route, observers with field glasses had watched her. She was a great attraction―filmed, photographed, talked about. Some observers, mixing unobtrusively among the interested public, were charting her course, recording positions within a synchronized timeframe.
The Hindenburg was in the crosshairs of two beams, one from a distance of no more than twenty miles, the other nearly eighty miles away, at an elevation of 500 feet, north-northwest of Lakehurst.
The older radio detection system had been tested and proved accurate at this lesser distance; the experimental system was to be measured against it. The observers posted along the Hindenburg’s charted course, falling within the sweep of the beam, reckoned real positions by sight.
(2014, 2018, Stephanie Foster)