Bob Ingrassia

Hindenburg Crash – How It Really Sounded

May 5, 2008 · 1 Comment

Reporter Herbert Morrison’s description of the Hindenburg crash on May 6, 1937, is about as famous as the disaster itself. His urgency and obvious emotion ("Oh, the humanity!") chill listeners even today, 71 years after the airship crashed in Lakehurst, N.J.

But that recognizable high-pitched voice is not what Morrison sounded like. His sound engineer’s recorder was running slow that day, so on playback, Morrison’s voice sounds higher that it should. (The landing was not broadcast live. Morrison was recording the event for broadcast later.)

The video has two versions of the original recording. The first is what you normally hear. The second one is adjusted to lower Morrison’s voice to compensate for the faulty recording equipment. I used audio editing software that allows the pitch of a sound clip to be lowered without changing the playback speed. The adjusted version gives Morrison the deeper voice for which he was known.

Here’s another take on the Hindenburg crash, including both versions of the Morrison recording set to a song called "Que Sera" by Stereo Type.

Minnesota trivia buffs may be interested to note that dirigible maker Ferdinand von Zeppelin spent time as a young man in St. Paul during the Civil War years. The German cavalry officer, in the United States as a foreign Civil War observer, took a tethered balloon ride near the International Hotel and loved it. Much later in life, he’d become a Count — and a builder of dirigibles.

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