What a Zeppelin is really like (1915)

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What a Zeppelin really is like

Few military instruments in the war have come in for so much discussion as the Zeppelin airships, yet few persons really know just what these formidable machines are like.

In appearance, the Zeppelin resembles a long, narrow pencil with, sixteen sides, its exact measurements being 400 feet long and 50 feet in diameter. If a Zeppelin was placed vertically next to St Paul’s cathedral in London, it would prove to be over 100 feet taller than this historic building.

The body of a Zeppelin is constructed of aluminum, and is so built on the girder principle that, despite its extreme lightness, it can withstand immense strain. Over this frame, specially-prepared rubberized silk is stretched.

The interior of the Zeppelin envelope is not filled entirely with gas, as is the case with the balloon. It is divided up into sixteen compartments, each of which contains its portion of hydrogen gas. These “balloonets,” as they are termed, look like sixteen sacks lined up inside the sausage-shaped “parent” balloon envelope. By means of this constructional system, the Zeppelin cannot be sunk unless half of its “balloonets” are robbed of their gas. Also, these sections prevent the body of the airship being forced out of shape, through the wind resistance set up when the machine is forcing its way through the air at fifty miles an hour.

There are two cars to the Zeppelin, placed close under the main body, and each has a petrol-driven engine, driving propellers mounted on the sides of the main envelope. Engines developing 500 horse power are required to force these machines through the air when loaded with a crew of twenty-five men and some five tons of explosive and other equipment.

A Zeppelin is a costly production, and $200,000 is required to build such a military weapon and equip it for destructive purposes. The expense connected with these airships does not end here. Great sheds must be erected and gas-producing plants laid down, so that the Zeppelin may have its daily feed of hydrogen.

The speed of this type of airship does not exceed fifty miles an hour, but an ordinary headwind can tremendously reduce the rate of travel of the machine.

As for its climbing powers, the Zeppelin, unless its captain adopts the desperate expedient of throwing overboard all his armament at once, seldom reaches a greater altitude than 10,000 feet, and then its upward progress is slow. An aeroplane can climb 1,000 feet in two minutes and reach an altitude of 19,000 feet, hence it can quickly rise above a Zeppelin for bomb-dropping purposes.

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Top photo: Zeppelin passenger ship, c1910-1915

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