The Hindenburg Disaster in Color

The Hindenburg disaster was an event that took place on the 6th May 1937 in Manchester Town, New Jersey, United States. A passenger airship, the LZ 129 Hindenburg, caught fire while attempting to dock at the end of the journey which began in Germany, and rapidly destroyed the airship, killing 35 of the 97 on board and 1 person who was working on the ground.

It is not 100% confirmed what caused the Hindenburg to catch fire, but it is widely believed that it was a spark that ignited the hydrogen which allowed the airship to float. It took a total for about 90 seconds for the hydrogen to burn out. The LZ 129 Hindenburg had only had its first flight in March 1936, with the disaster taking place on the 63rd flight. The event is believed to have ended the era of airships with planes becoming the sole form of air travel.

A black and white photograph of the LZ 129 Hindenburg flying over Manhattan, New York City, United States on the 6 May 1937, just hours before it would be destroyed in a fire while trying to dock in New Jersey.
A black and white photograph of the Hindenburg on fire before it has hit the ground.

Thanks to modern photo editing software such as Photoshop and expert colorizers, we now have the fantastic opportunity to see what the incredibly powerful black and white photographs would look like in color. Since the photos of Sam Shere, Murray Becker, and others were all in black and white, you are not able to truly grasp the scale of the fire that was taking place in the sky. The color that has been added to the photos through the process of colorization just enables us see what it would have looked like if we were able to go back in time and take color images. Nothing can beat the original, but when they have been colored it gives another way of viewing the photo.

A color photograph of the LZ 129 Hindenburg airship just a few seconds after the fire began. The fire and smoke almost completely covers the sky. Colorization by Marina Amaral
A colorized photograph of the Hindenburg disaster on the 6 May 1937 at the point where it hit the ground. With the color you can see just how large of an area of the sky is covered by smoke and fire. Colorization by Dana R. Keller

The disaster was also caught on camera and was broadcast around the world almost immediately after it happened. The news coverage of the event, especially that of Herbert Morrison, only adds to how catastrophic it was. Herbert Morrison was assigned by WLS Chicago to cover the arrival of the airship into New Jersey and worked with engineer Charlie Nehlsen (which is why in the broadcast you can hear him shouting Charlie). The broadcast of the event is possibly best known for when Morrison shouted “Oh, the humanity!”.

Below you can watch footage of the disaster along with Herbert Morrison’s commentary over it.

Here you can also watch a short 10 second colorized version of some of the footage shown in black and white in the previous video. Colorization of the footage by Jecinci

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