Searching for the Hindenburg

Garrett Barry
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The Hindenburg floats past a schooner in Brigus

By Garrett Barry

Special to The Telegram

The Hindenburg may have crashed on May 6, 1937, but MUN archeology graduate student Lisa Daly has spent the last year gathering pictures and memories of its travels over Newfoundland.

Daly started collecting images of the famous aircraft when her thesis supervisor, Michael Deal, was writing a journal article about dirigible crossings over Newfoundland.

Dirigibles were a certain class of aircraft which floated by using gases which were lighter then the surrounding atmosphere, gases such as helium.

The LS 129 Hindenburg, one of the most famous, was used both as a passenger ship and a propaganda tool by the Nazi government. It infamously caught fire while landing in New Jersey in 1937.

The Hindenburg became a big part of the project, Daly explains, because so many people had memories or photographs of it.

“He has a paper written, and it’s been published, but when it comes to the Hindenburg, I’m still getting stories coming in. I’m still getting pictures coming in,” she says.

“If people are interested and they want this preserved, they want to share the pictures and they want them put somewhere where they are accessible, I’m happy to oblige.”

The pictures are mainly from old family albums, Daly explains. Most of the team’s submissions are related to a flight over the Island around the beginning of July, 1936.

“It kind of did this nice, leisurely flight across Newfoundland,” she said. “Down around the Burin Peninsula, went down over Conception Bay ... came down through St. John’s.”

The 800-foot aircraft crossed the Island of Newfoundland 13 times, and once over Labrador, according to Deal’s research.

According to his article published in the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, a German flag was raised to the top of the mast at Signal Hill during the July 1936 flight. The plane flew so low that many in the area were worried it would collide with the South Side Hills, he wrote.

Due to the altitude that the craft would fly, many of the pictures are quite striking.

“There’s one in the provincial archives, that you can see it over Brigus, and Brigus is very clear,” Daly said.

“I’ve gone out and looked at the same area. Brigus — there are a few features that haven’t changed much, like the church. And (in the photo) there’s the Hindenburg, over the church.”

She’s now working on creating a website where she will display the pictures she has collected. In the meantime, people can send their pictures or memories to historicaviation@gmail.com.

garrett.barry@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Hindenburg, Canadian Aviation Historical Society

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Brigus, New Jersey Conception Bay Signal Hill

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  • DON II
    June 16, 2013 - 11:49

    I am pleased that researchers are interested in the Hindenburg connection to Newfoundland and Labrador. However, I have discovered from my own research on various historical topics that the Government of Newfoundland propaganda over the decades required that the real facts regarding the history of Newfoundland and Labrador have been edited, lost, misplaced, altered, misinterpreted or suppressed. It appears that historians, students and researchers have never been able to get to the facts. It appears that they have been content to reissue and rehash the Government propagandized version of the history of Newfoundland and Labrador. Photographs of the Hindenburg in flight are very interesting. It appears that some of the photographs taken of the Hindenburg flying low and slow over Newfoundland still exist in private hands which have not been obtained, seized, suppressed, lost or destroyed by the Government. The real interesting historical question about the Hindenburg that has not been adequately investigated is that the German airship was probably equipped with aerial photographic capability. In 1936, Hitler's Germany was only 3 years away from invading Poland and starting Word War II. The Germans were very interested in knowing where military and civilian targets were located in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and along the eastern seaboard of North America. It appears that German military intelligence interests would account for the 13 or more "leisurely flight" tours that the Hindenburg made over Newfoundland and Labrador! It appears that starting in 1936, the German Luftwaffe (Air Force) started to obtain aerial photographs taken by German civilian aircraft of sites in Great Britain. It appears that the Hindenburg conveniently flew over Britain's two main Naval bases at Portsmouth and Plymouth and aerial photographs were taken by a German Intelligence Officer who was on board the Hindenburg! The Luftwaffe aerial photographs were taken by civilian aircraft at higher altitudes but the German intelligence officers preferred low level aerial photography which would more clearly reveal the locations and features of targets on the ground. The low and slow flying Hindenburg could take the required low altitude aerial photographs, apparently without raising any suspicions, about what it was actually doing! During World War II German U-Boat submarine Captains possessed information regarding the ports and sea routes in Newfoundland and they were easily able to find and sink Ferry boats, iron ore carrier ships and to launch torpedoes at the Trans Atlantic Cable station located on Water Street in Bay Roberts which did not hit their target. It would be most interesting to investigate the German Archives to determine if there are any surviving rolls of film or processed aerial photographs taken by the Hindenburg as it flew slowly at very low altitude on numerous trips over Newfoundland and Labrador! What was the Hindenburg really doing as it was flying slow and low over our countryside and communities besides leisurely sightseeing? Answering that question with historic photographic and documentary evidence would be the real historic story!