Searching for the Hindenburg

Published on June 16, 2013
The Hindenburg floats past a schooner in Brigus
Image courtesy of Provincial Archives/Stanley Brooks

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