A flight aboard a dirigible, as seen through the eyes of an eight year old girl
Alicia Momsen Miller
No one on board was allowed to smoke because of the flammable hydrogen gas which kept us afloat. The smokers chewed gum instead. For entertainment the adult passengers played cards and bridge. Dick and I played checkers and read when we weren't looking out the window.
I liked to look up at the sky and down at the water below when we were over the ocean.When we were over land and towns it was fun to look down at the roof tops. We went low enough to see through the open windows of some houses, and people in the streets and houses waved to us with their towels and cloths. Sometimes we waved towels out the window back at them. We could see dogs running away and chickens scattering as our shadow passed over them.
After our first day and night of travel we arrived at Recife, capital of the state of Pernambuco, at 5:30 a.m. It had rained earlier and, as we descended, we saw a completely circular rainbow in the sky. Our family was the last to leave the ship, but by 7 a.m. we too were ashore, and were driven to the Central Hotel.
We toured the city, spent some time at the beach, and by nighttime returned to the Graf Zeppelin.
Bands played and a big crowd saw us off that night. As we rose from the field, the band music became fainter as we cruised northward, leaving the twinkling lights of Recife behind.
During the night we passed aver the city of Natal, capital of the state of Rio Grande do Norte, on the coast of Brazil nearest Africa. We dropped a lighted wreath of flowers attached to a parachute in memory of Augusto Severo, a famous Brazilian balloonist whose airship Pax, built in France to his own design, exploded and burned at 1500 feet in a Paris flight in 1902. Both Severo and his French mechanic Sachs, died in the accident. Later we were told that the parachute had blown away and did not land where everyone was waiting for it, ready to receive the gift with music and ceremonial speeches.
Before leaving Brazil, Captain Eckener flew westward and inland to give us a good look at the Amazon. We went so low and slowly that we frightened flocks of egrets which flew up from their jungle perches in clouds of white feathers. Alligators basked in the sun on river banks as we passed the long, wide Amazon River. The rest of the jungle was an uninteresting solid green sea of tree tops.
That afternoon my mother, father, Dick, and I were invited to see the inside of the hull of the ship, and where the crew slept.