Zeppelin Guts

This ponder could well be old news to many; for me it was an astonishing tidbit  – something to learn more about. My knowledge of the first world war is limited to sobs as I tried  making it to the end of the movie Gallipoli. I knew of German air raids on Britain; I had no idea Zeppelins were involved.

Characterized by their rigid, cylindrical shape, Zeppelins relied on light weight frames encased in layers of fabric “skin” coated with protective resins. “Lift” was possible when lighter than air hydrogen gas filled numerous cells within the structure. Mounted below these behemoths – up to 600 feet long – was a gondola. Gondolas held engines for thrust – captain and crew, passengers and later on – bombs.

Hydrogen molecules are tiny. Gas cells had to be strong and “fine” enough stop leakage and maintain pressure. The answer – cow intestines – lots and lots of intestines. It took roughly a quarter million cows to make a single Zeppelin. Intestines were cleaned, cut and pieced together with nothing more than water as glue. As fibres dried, they literally curled around each other forming incredibly strong bonds.

The German army and navy saw potential in Zeppelin reconnaissance; at the start of the war, the army had six and  navy one – that’s 1,750,000 cows! During the war, Germany is estimated to have had 115 Zeppelins. Do the math; even rounding down to a conservative 175,000 cows per ship – taking into account wartime Zeppelins were smaller – that’s over 20 million cows.

Clearly the reason Germany banned sausages during the war.

Able to reach altitudes of 25,000 feet while travelling nearly as fast as an airplane. Inclement weather mattered little when flying above clouds; a crew member lowered in a wicker basket, dangling up to a thousand feet below the ship, reporting to the captain by telephone line. Imagine being assigned that duty.

Zeppelin raids over Britain accounted for roughly 1,500 deaths. Not the success Germany hoped for despite a terrifying psychological impact. Cow fact digested – I’m off to learn more about WW1.

Image – Maggie Jones – flickr.com

13 thoughts on “Zeppelin Guts

  1. I imagine all those folk that didn’t end up in the Houses of the Holy after climbing the Stairway to Heaven after those Zeppelin raids were left rather Dazed and Confused, especially as most bombs were dropped, In the Evening, and many fleeing residents would have been Trampled Underfoot.
    Still, the poms, being a stubborn lot gave No Quarter and no bit more than Ten years Gone war loomed on the horizon and they were all soon at it again. Just goes to show that even without Zeppelin The Song Remains The Same.

    This is dreadful and Nobody’s Fault But Mine.
    The Ark.

      • Even when there was a Whole Lotta Love on offer, it went unrequited, and because of the distance between us it will likely to remain thus.
        Maybe if you cry your Immigrant Song long enough the dept of home affairs will show compassion?
        Anyway, Hats off to Roy or whatever the blog host’s name is for providing us with a bit of fun. It is amazing what one can come up with when the Black Dog is not sitting on one’s shoulder.

        I doubt there’s any Rock n’ Roll in the foreseeable future, but if The Levee Breaks, well who knows? And for what it’s worth you will always be my Living Loving Maid.


  2. That really is fascinating! I’ve always been confused and amazed by zeppelins – they’re like some sort of historical science fiction fantasy that I can scarcely believe existed. But I didn’t even know about the millions of cows and the man hanging thousands of feet below in a little basket. Honestly, the mind boggles. I seem to recall the high death toll is another reason they were abandoned, but I guess if they were made of some modern material stronger that cow guts glued together with water (choke) some of the safety issues would be resolved.

    • Remarkably, cow guts glued with water were incredibly strong. Problems stemmed more from navigational issues and material shortages. One Zeppelin managed to break a speed/distance record when it left Germany for north Africa and back in a ridiculously short period of time. Still researching the subject 🙂

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  4. Absolutely fascinating! I never knew how those zeppelins were constructed. Now, I’m sorry I learned. Yuck.
    Worse, how awful to lose that many cows. I would assume they used the rest of the cow for other purposes.

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