Dr. Eckener's Dream Machine
The Great Zeppelin and the Dawn of Air Travel
By Douglas Botting
(Henry Holt and Co., Hardcover, 9780805064582, 352pp.)
Publication Date: October 2001
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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A richly detailed history of the opulent age of the zeppelin and the visionary builder behind the great airship, Dr. Hugo Eckener
It wasn't the airplane that first romanced the public's imagination at the dawn of the twentieth century , but the great airships known as dirigibles, or zeppelins. Championing this great leap into the technological future was a visionary German entrepreneur, Doctor Hugo Eckener.
For Eckener, the development of the airship, especially coming in the aftermath of the First World War, represented an opportunity to shrink the world through safe and speedy international travel. Botting's engrossing story vividly recaptures the spirit of the times, when new technologies in communication, transportation, manufacturing and other areas were revolutionizing society. The great airships were a source of wonder wherever they flew, and Eckener was likened to Christopher Columbus, hailed around the world as the great explorer of his day, not unlike the astronauts would be a few generations later.
From its utitlitarian beginnings in the Great War, the airship reached its apotheosis with the round-the-world flight of the Graf Zeppelin in 1929. Seventeen years after the voyage of the Titanic, this great airship- twice as big and three times as fast as that ill-fated liner-captured the world's attention and seemed to blaze a path to the future. That future, of course, was not to be, as Eckener's dream evaporated soon after, with the destruction of the Hindenburg and the impending success of the airplane.
Douglas Botting is a writer, journalist, and biographer whose interests include travel, exploration, wild places and conservation matters. His previous works include Gerald Durrell: The Authorized Biography, The Saga of Ring of Bright Water: The Enigma of Gavin Maxwell, as well as several travel guides. He lives near London.