Hindenburg mystery solved: Researchers said that static electricity caused the Hindenburg disaster in 1937.
A team of researchers said the cause of Hindenburg’s fiery explosion 76 years ago was due to static electricity.
The Hindenburg disaster killed 35 of the airship’s 97 passengers on May 6, 1937, but the accident’s cause has evaded scientists for decades, prompting a large number of theories. As the hydrogen-filled ship was flying over Lakehurst, New Jersey, it suddenly exploded into flames and collapsed to the ground, shocking witnesses who saw it. The disaster was photographed and was subjected to news reel recordings.
The ship was charged with static electricity due to an thunderstorm, causing a spark that ignited leaking hydrogen gas, a research team with Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio told The Independent newspaper.
A broken wire or sticking gas valve leaked hydrogen into the ship’s ventilation shafts, and after crew members grabbed the landing ropes, they “earthed” the airship, the paper said. As a result, an ensuing fire started at the tail of the ship and ignited the leaking hydrogen, causing the explosion.
“I think the most likely mechanism for providing the spark is electrostatic,” Jem Stansfield, who headed the research team, told the Independent. “That starts at the top, then the flames from our experiments would’ve probably tracked down to the center. With an explosive mixture of gas, that gave the whoomph when it got to the bottom.”
Over the years, conspiracy theories posited that the Hindenburg was destroyed by a bomb or that it was shot down by someone from below.
Stansfield’s team recreated different scenarios with replicas of the ship, examined archive footage, and looked into eyewitness accounts to dispel such theories.
There was also speculation that one of the crew members or a passenger sabotaged the ship while on board.
And for a time, it was even speculated that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler ordered the destruction of the Hindenburg.
There were also theories that the ship’s explosion was caused after it was struck by lightning.
The disaster was the subject of heavy newsreel coverage and photographs at the time. There was also a recorded radio broadcast of the incident.
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