Interesting quote re Airships from 1912

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Airship

Now considered an obsolete and even archaic technology (ha!) was once considered one of the greatest technological advances.

Fred T Jane's book The British Battle Fleet, has the following interesting quote:

The possibilities of the dirigible, on the other hand, no man can foresee. the gasbag that can be brought to the ground by a single bullet hole in it, is a very different thing from the possibility of airships of the future which may be a mile or two long, divided into innumerable compartments, filled with non-explosive gas such as is sure to be discovered sooner rather than later. Two miles seems an extraordinary length today, but a ship ten miles long would only be something like the ration of the early dirigible to the future ones compared to the ratio of the Dreadnaughts bear to the first ships built by men.

On the water, bulk is limited by the depth and size of harbours, but in the vast regions of the air there are practically no limitations whatever, and there is practically nothing to limit size, save the building of land docks on open plains into which airships could descend for repair and so forth. Consequently those who hastily assume from a few accidents that the "lighter than air " craft has no future are probably making a great mistake; at any rate, so far as naval work is concerned.  certain definite uses are apparent even now to those who think and ignore commercial rivalries.
--Fred T. Jane, The British Battle Fleet, 1912
What I find most fascinating about this quote, coming as it does at the very end of that amazing history of the warships of the Royal Navy, is the broad simplicity and breathtaking scale of his vision. All through the book he describes the times when new developments were rejected by conservative naval authorities, and ridiculed by pundits and the public, yet ultimately taken up and developed further. And here, at the end, he makes the logical jump to include the airship as one of the next developments that might be in the same boat so to speak. That it ultimately did not become "the next big thing" makes it look a little odd to us, but that is hindsight.

Writing of the incredible technological changes and scale of the advances in naval technology that had occurred in the previous century, much of it during his lifetime, Jane was well aware of the dangers of making predictions. Yet here he does just that.

A man after my own heart I think.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.


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