moo for gold

Gold beaters skin is made from the intestine of cows. In Egyptian times, a small piece of gold ingot would be placed between two of these membranes and beaten to create gold leaf. They were also used in book restoration and to keep zeppelins afloat.

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The airship’s gasbags are made from a material called goldbeaters skin. It is a curious material that involves a long, mysterious and once secretive, process of manufacture.

Goldbeaters skin is made from the outer layer of the caecum, which is also called blind gut or even the appendix. The outer layers of the blind-gut are carefully stripped off into sheets, cleaned of fat, scraped with a blunt knife and then stretched over a frame. One quite remarkably quality of this material is that separate sheets can be joined or welded when wet by carefully rubbing the overlap of the two sheets. Several layers can be made this way as well, for example, airship gasbags usually consisted of up to seven layers of skin.

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The Hindenburg had a gas capacity of nearly 212,000 cubic meters. So it becomes clear that these sheets, each one being painstakingly prepared by hand and fused with each other and done so in many layers, were also required in unimaginable quantities though only two sheets could be obtained from the intestine of one cow. The American military airship Shenandoah used 750,000 separate sheets of goldbeaters skin for its gasbags. Incidentally the gas-bags of the Hindenburg were over three times the capacity of those of the Shenandoah.

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***The Hindenburg is perhaps the most famous zeppelin of all. Its many features included a special smoking room and of course a cocktail bar.

The smoking room was kept at higher than ambient pressure, so that no leaking hydrogen could enter the room, and the smoking room and its associated bar were separated from the rest of the ship by a double-door airlock. One electric lighter was provided, as no open flames were allowed aboard the ship.

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In reality, the pressurization of the smoking room may have been as much for public relations as for safety. The smoking room was located on B Deck, at the bottom of the ship, and since hydrogen is lighter than air any leaking gas would have escaped upward. (It would have been very unlikely that free hydrogen could have settled downward to the level of the smoking room, and only a leak at the very bottom of the cell adjoining the smoking room in Bay 12 would have posed any significant risk.)

The Hindenburg’s bar was a small ante-room between the smoking room and the air-lock door leading to the corridor on B-Deck. This is where Hindenburg bartender Max Schulze served up LZ-129 Frosted Cocktails (gin and orange juice) and Maybach 12 cocktails (recipe lost to history).

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The bar and smoking room were also the scene of a raucous party on the Hindenburg’s maiden voyage to America, where passenger Pauline Charteris (whose husband Leslie Charteris created “The Saint”) improvised a kirschwasser cocktail after the ship ran out of gin for martinis.

Ian Ogilvy as The Saint

***Taken from a fascinating site dedicated to airships, click here to read


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