Incredible Footage Shows The Hindenberg Disaster Colorized And Upscaled Using AI

The Hindenburg disaster. Image credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

A YouTuber has used neural network artificial intelligence (AI) to upscale, colorize and restore footage of the Hindenberg airship flying above New York City, as well as the disaster that followed.

The LZ 129 Hindenburg was originally designed to be filled with non-flammable gas helium. The US had a monopoly on the gas and planned to keep it that way, banning the export of it in the Helium Control Act of 1927. Nevertheless, the designers of the Hindenburg believed that they could convince the US to export the gas, and pressed ahead with their designs.

One idea was to have cells of hydrogen form the inner cells of larger helium cells. This would mean that when the crew needed to vent off gas in order to compensate for the fuel that had been burned during the trip (essentially to stop them floating away like a child's balloon), they could let the inexpensive hydrogen out, rather than the far rarer helium. As an added bonus, the inert helium surrounding the hydrogen would protect it from burning up in a big, horrible ball of flame.

Eventually, it became apparent that the US was not going to begin exporting helium anytime soon, forcing the engineers to redesign it for use with hydrogen gas only. On the bright side, this gave the ship more lift, meaning it could take more passenger cabins. Given the flammability of the gas, this was also a tremendous downside, as the disaster 14 months after the launch would prove. 

Before the infamous disaster in 1937, the Hindenburg made 62 successful flights, including 10 round flights between the US and Germany. Footage of these flights can be seen in the above restored video, including a video of the ship above New York. Further footage can be seen below, created by Upscaled Studio.

It's unclear what caused the Hindenberg disaster, seen at the end of the footage, as the ship came into land at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey, though several hypotheses have been proposed, from sabotage to St Elmo's Fire. The most likely explanation we have is that it was caused by a spark of static electricity. In 2013, a team of engineers at the South West Research Institute in the US destroyed scale models of the Hindenberg in order to try and figure out what could have caused the disaster, matching the staged miniature disasters to footage and eyewitness testimony.

They concluded that the airship had become charged with static electricity during an electrical storm. When crew took the ropes to bring the ship down to the ground, they effectively earthed the ship, and a spark at the rear of the ship ignited the hydrogen.

"I think the most likely mechanism for providing the spark is electrostatic," said British aeronautical engineer, Jem Stansfield, said at the time. "That starts at the top, then the flames from our experiments would've probably tracked down to the center. With an explosive mixture of gas, that gave the whoomph when it got to the bottom."

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