Tuesday, August 5, 2008

~ the dreams of charles dellchau

With the inexorable rise of fuel prices, airlines have been doing all they can to survive – shearing baggage allowances, reducing in-flight services, ramping fuel levies - now, according The Age, there is talk of aircraft ‘flying in geese-like formation’.

There is so much to look forward to on a Post Carbon Earth.

Recently, I read of an upswing in the blimp industry. And, at last, Germany is once more manufacturing Zeppelins.

I’m not getting too excited yet, but this could be a marvellous thing. Brute subsonic flight releases staggering amounts of CO2, it makes intuitive sense that the slow, leisurely, meandering ways of the dirigible would be cleaner, better for the planet and for our souls. They can be whimsical and bumbling. They can be smooth, sleek and romantic

One thing in the way of an airship comeback is, of course, the Hindenburg disaster. That graphic news footage has permeated into the racial subconscious making us leery of airship travel, [not forgetting the perceived Nazi underpinnings of the Zeppelin]. But, needless to say, airships these days are pretty safe; what’s more, they use non-inflammable helium.

In the future, when we look up, we will not see speeding bullets of raw function, but beautiful near-silent bubbles sedately following the winds. Airship design is limited only by the imagination. Streamlining and general airworthiness naturally play a part, but perhaps we will say goodbye to wind-tunnels and no nonsense aerodynamics.

There have been some lovely airships portrayed in film. Off the top of my head, I think of Nausicaa: Valley of The Winds, The Golden Compass and a very peculiar piece of tokusatu entitled Casshern, which incorporated a universe of marvellous gas filled invention.

I should also mention Blade Runner, but that famous blimp was primarily an advertising platform and I wouldn’t want my beatific vision ruined by a sky crammed with commercial speech bubbles.

A new life awaits you in the off-world colonies … Oh, if it were but true …

Some creative, forward thinking souls are already at work. Consider the Strato Cruiser by Tino Schaedler ...

The Aeroscraft

And some Russian designs with a pleasingly soviet edge

Once I started searching for bizarre airships on the web, as with most things, I couldn't find an end to it. The Steampunk genre delivers an embarrassment of beautiful fantastical lighter than air craft. Click for more.

As is to be expected, the emphasis in functional airship design is still on smoothness and economy of form. The airship has many rivers to cross before it can achieve a true renaissance. But later, when there’s room to move, might we see a realisation of the wilder designs, perhaps even the visions of that absolute master, the enigmatic Charles Dellschau of the putative Sonora Aero Club, [which probably existed only in his own mind,] who produced 13 notebooks full of whimsical airships between the years 1899 and 1922.

His notebooks were rescued from the bin after his death and became an early example of outsider art. I, for one, find something cheering about them; they speak of innocent boyish dreams and an unalloyed romance of the air – as well as being more than satisfactorily outlandish. [Prior to powered air travel, UFOs commonly took the form of airships and some of Dellschau’s works include pasted on newspaper references to this.]

One day soon, let us all hope, such things shall be seen shambling through the sky outside our triple-glazed windows.

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Matt said...

Ah, the majesty of the airship. Here's hoping they make a comeback.

And welcome back, Sam. We missed you.

Ann O'Dyne said...

Carbon hoofprints: every time anybody rants about plastic bags I respond with my rant about wanton jet travel.
Thousands of planeloads daily retching into our air, full of idiots going on mindless expeditions (eg: worshipping Disney, Olympic competition to bolster their endorsements income, to Indonesian Bali)

but yes, the graceful airship, floating across the Great Australian Bight with views of happy remote whales ... so much nicer than airbussing to Sydders for 'business'

A wonderful and beautiful post dear Sam.

Sam Sejavka said...

Thanks, Matt [I'm always saying thanks to you guys] And, AOD, it seems that you tie yourself in as much of a knot as I when considering the tragedy of our world. For our own sakes, it's best to keep a cool head. We can be more effective when we're not screaming ...

lily was here said...

Safer than Qantas

Loved all the accompanying pics Sam.

S x