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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • SUMMER IN ITALY, 1951

America: 1910

America: 1910

Oct. 15, 1910. "Wellman airship seen from Trent." Walter Wellman's hydrogen dirigible America just before being abandoned by its crew near Bermuda, 1,370 miles into an attempt to cross the Atlantic from New Jersey. Its engines having failed, the America drifted out of sight, never to be seen again. View full size.

 

Airship history

Thaddeus Lowe was the first to make a huge balloon in an attempt to cross the Atlantic from west to east in about 1859. He failed mainly because he couldn't get enough gas to fill it in a timely manner and also ran out of subscription money. Prevailing winds are favorable for this direction at these latitudes, and with a great deal of luck he might have pulled it off .

Even with an engine out, if this machine could maintain that altitude by scooping enough water ballast to compensate for thermal changes day and night without having to vent hydrogen, perhaps it too might have made the full crossing. Both aeronauts, I see now, were backing up their plans with lifeboats as the crew space.

Gone forever

All I can think of is the Bermuda Triangle. This is one strangely unsettling shot.

Airship Equilibrator

If my airship history serves me correctly, what you see hanging below the airship in the water is a device Wellman called an "equilibrator" ... This was a set of metal cylinders tied together and hung beneath the crew cabin, designed to keep the airship at a constant altitude (around 200 ft) and act as ballast. Unfortunately, neither the equilibrator nor the ship itself worked very well, resulting in the crew having to abandon the airship as seen here. Fascinating photo!

[Click here for more on Walter Wellman and his flying kitten. - Dave]

Line in the water

What is that line of waves that seems to be going from the ship to the dirigible? Some sort of tether or anchor to allow the passengers to evacuate?

[I'd say it's a dirigible anchor. If there is such a thing. - Dave]

Eerie

This seems like one of those once in a lifetime images. having never seen a dirigible in my lifetime, i'd always seen them as elements of science fiction stories.

Otherworldly

An eerie sight. Great composition with the ship's railing, horizon line, and airship profile forming a series of parallel lines.

Flying Boat

Wow, nothing more than a boat attached to a balloon!

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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