Classic History Books


William J. Claxton - The Mastery of the Air

Perseverance, however, was the dominant feature of Count Zeppelin's character; he refused to be beaten.
His difficulties were formidable. In the first place, he had to master the whole science of aeronautics,

which implies some knowledge of mechanics, meteorology, and electricity. This in itself was no small

task for a man of over fifty years of age, for it was not until Count Zeppelin had retired from the army

that he began to study these subjects at all deeply.

The next step was to construct a large shed for the housing of his air-ship, and also for the purpose of
carrying out numerous costly experiments. The Count selected Friedrichshafen, on the shores of Lake

Constance, as his head-quarters. He decided to conduct his experiments over the calm waters of the lake,

in order to lessen the effects of a fall. The original shed was constructed on pontoons, and it could be

turned round as desired, so that the air-ship could be brought out in the lee of any wind from whatsoever

quarter it came.

It is said that the Count's private fortune of about L25,000 was soon expended in the cost of these works
and the necessary experiments. To continue his work he had to appeal for funds to all his friends, and

also to all patriotic Germans, from the Kaiser downwards.

At length, in 1908, there came a turning-point in his fortunes. The German Government, which had
watched the Count's progress with great interest, offered to buy his invention outright if he succeeded in

remaining aloft in one of his dirigibles for twenty-four hours. The Count did not quite succeed in his task,

but he aroused the great interest of the whole German nation, and a Zeppelin fund was established, under

the patronage of the Kaiser, in every town and city in the Fatherland. In about a month the fund

amounted to over L300,000. With this sum the veteran inventor was able to extend his works, and

produce air-ship after air-ship with remarkable rapidity.

When, war broke out it is probable that Germany possessed at least thirteen air-ships which had fulfilled
very difficult tests. One had flown 1800 miles in a single journey. Thus the East Coast of England,

representing a return journey of less than 600 miles was well within their range of action.

 

CHAPTER X. A Zeppelin Air-ship and its Construction

After the Zeppelin fund had brought in a sum of money which probably exceeded all expectations, a
company was formed for the construction of dirigibles in the Zeppelin works on Lake Constance, and in

1909 an enormous air-ship was produced.

In shape a Zeppelin dirigible resembled a gigantic cigar, pointed at both ends. If placed with one end on
the ground in Trafalgar Square, London, its other end would be nearly three times the height of the

Nelson Column, which, as you may know, is 166 feet.

From the diagram here given, which shows a sectional view of a typical Zeppelin air-ship, we may obtain
a clear idea of the main features of the craft. From time to time, during the last dozen years or so, the

inventor has added certain details, but the main features as shown in the illustration are common to all

air-craft of this type.

Zeppelin L1 was 525 feet in length, with a diameter of 50 feet. Some idea of the size may be obtained
through the knowledge that she was longer than a modern Dreadnought. The framework was made of

specially light metal, aluminium alloy, and wood. This framework, which was stayed with steel wire,

maintained the shape and rigidity of her gas-bags; hence vessels of this type are known as RIGID

air-ships. Externally the hull was covered with a waterproof fabric.

 

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