Tag Airship

Site 6: Flute Mask

FLUTE MASK was identified by the compilation of Matuyama detector maps at the Naval Observatory in 1925. The attached photographs document the state of the artifact at the arrival of FORTUNE BLACK IDOL in 1933.

Site 6: Approach Chamber

The ruins are of Cyclopean construction and primarily composed of steel-reinforced vibrated concrete. The primary artifact is a box-shaped structure roughly a mile on each side. Resonance measurement and visual inspection records indicate an unknown number of interior chambers of varying dimensions.

Site 6: Collapsed Megalithic Structures

FORTUNE BLACK IDOL was unable to enter any of the accessible interior chambers due to navigation hazards near the chamber entrances. The chambers appeared to ‘breathe’. Updrafts and downdrafts near the entrances varied wildly in force and timing — possibly the result of hydraulic communication between the interior and the sea. Additionally, the exposed reinforcing skeleton of the macro structure endangered lines, rigging, and envelope integrity.

Site 6: Entrance to Valve Chamber

Photographs of SITE 6 show a pattern of damage we now associate with all CHINESE ROOM devices. Time and weather have furthered the artifact’s deterioration. Based on the estimated thickness of the supporting walls and the condition of exposed material, we anticipate the complete collapse of the upper chambers within the next five decades.

Collapse may result in complete loss of the beacon. Immediate remediation is recommended.

Site 11: Tumble Home

Surviving illustration of USS Macon (ZRS-5) approaching canyon entrance somewhere near Site 11.

Stern view of the USS Macon (ZRS-5) becalmed before another canyon opening near Site 11 or Site 12 sometime in 1933. As previously stated, many documents related to the FORTUNE BLACK IDOL program are missing, encrypted using ciphers for which no decryption keys remain, or are misfiled. Most documents related to Site 11 fall into that category — perhaps purposefully, given the sensitive nature of the program. Fragmentary logs indicate Site 11 was given the code name TUMBLE HOME. We believe this reflects the extreme environmental conditions encountered there.

Site 12: Kalopsian Abyss

Illustration depicting the ZRS-5 tethered within the cavern at Site 12.

The second illustration related to the FORTUNE BLACK IDOL expedition’s discoveries at Site 12 (abbreviated record). The image is labeled ‘Kalopsian Abyss’ and depicts the interior of a vast cavern from a perspective high on one wall. A complex structure is suspended in the approximate center of the cavern. The expedition airship is tethered near the middle of the construct and provides a convenient measure of the construct’s immense scale.

There is enough evidence present in this image to tentatively classify the central construct a ‘gated key’ device as defined in TABLET RUBY DOOR. Given the scale of the artifact—and our conjectures regarding the origin and purpose of the other anomalies identified during FORTUNE BLACK IDOL —we strongly recommend the immediate quarantine (or demolition) of this construct.

Site 12: The Vacant Preception

A view into the cavern of 'The Vacant Preception'. Ancient structures and curious light are visible within the cavern.

This is the first of two illustrations documenting the FORTUNE BLACK IDOL expedition’s discovery of Site 12. The first illustration is labelled ‘The Vacant Preception’ and appears to concern the interior of a cavern. The walls of the cavern are lined with structures. The design of the structures appears to be similar to those depicted in illustrations of other sites—most notably Sites 1, 2, and 16.

The airship of the expedition is not visible in the illustration. Given this, our historians believe this work was based on the view from the observation platform at the bow of the airship on its approach to the anomaly.

Signaling The Airship

Pilot of a scout monoplane signals an airship regarding the location, size, and composition of an enemy fleet below.

I’ve been on a bit of an airship kick lately. Or perhaps, an early 1930s aeronautical sketching streak. There’s something about that time which stokes my imagination and these recent efforts serve, more or less, as a self-tutorial in the aesthetics of the period.

Richard K. Smith’s The Airships Akron and Macon arrived on Monday. The book is a fascinating read and an incredible treat for the eyes. Smith must have gone to some astounding lengths to collect and distill the information he provides in his book — I’m continually astonished at his insights into the design of the airships as well as the political issues which surrounded their construction and employment.

More on that in future posts, perhaps. I’ll close this with a poor copy of one of the most beautiful, poignant photographs contained in Smith’s book: the USS Akron (ZRS-4) emerging from a bank of clouds. As you look at it, just imagine the smell of rain in the air, and the music of her engines against the wind in the distance.

U.S. Air Force file photo of USS Akron emerging from clouds. Photographed from Richard K. Smith's book entitled 'The Airships Akron & Macon'

Crew Of The Norge

Crewmen of the Norge airship regard plans for handling the deflation of the airship after landing at Teller, Alaska.

After landing at Teller, Alaska on May 14, 1926, the airship Norge was deflated and disassembled for shipping back to Europe. Here, the crewmen regard papers related to the operation. (In retrospect, this might be more realistic if the gentleman in the foreground were holding a pipe or crowbar rather than paper.)

Due diligence for this kind of illustration demands I study a lot of old outerwear and photographs of the period (even if it doesn’t yet show in the resulting sketches). I recently came across an excellent site for that purpose entitled Archival Clothing, maintained and composed by Leslie Larson. Highly recommended for those with more than a passing interest in vintage clothing styles.

Landing The Norge

A deck rate leans from the control car of the Umberto Nobile-constructed airship Norge as it makes to land. In his right hand, he grips one of the lines used to tether the ship to the ground, ready to assist with ground operations.

A great deal of my time in recent days has focused on the research of airships of the late 1920s and early 1930s. One such airship — the Norge — is famous for being the transportation of the first verified expedition to reach the North Pole (on May 12, 1926 — 83 years ago). The expedition was composed of Umberto Nobile (the designer of Norge), Roald Amundsen (expedition leader), and Lincoln Ellsworth (polar explorer and source of funding), among 13 others.

In this illustration, we see an unidentified explorer leaning from the control car on the ship’s arrival at Teller, Alaska on May 14, 1926, ready to assist with landing operations.

Ranger Over Ruins

This image depicts a Consolidated P2Y-1 Ranger (Flying Boat) screaming into the sky at full power just over the tops of some unidentified jungle ruins. Beyond the P2Y-1, a great airship -- ZRS-5 -- hangs suspended in mid-air.

A Consolidated P2Y-1 seaplane and ZRS-5 overfly ruins at a location code-named “Site 10” by the Navy.

As with many of these documents, the exact date of recording is redacted. However, at least six P2Y-1s were in service with the VP-10F squadron at NAS Coco Solo by 1 April 1933.

On The Trapeze

In this image, the pilot of an F9C biplane -- the type usually carried by the airships ZRS-4 and ZRS-5 -- sits just out of the cockpit. His left arm is raised as he adjusts the strap of his flying helmet, his right arm is held just in front of him, palm down. His expression is slightly amused, or possibly tired.

An F9C pilot — apparently having just returned from patrol — signals the flight operations officer aboard ZRS-5.

Upon Two Seas

In the upper-left side of this image, we see the airship ZRS-5 hanging suspended in mid-air just above the low swells of a calm ocean. Stretching across the middle of the image, a Lapwing-class destroyer -- a U.S. Navy ship used as a seaplane tender in the early 1930s -- is holding station as its crew sends fuel oil to the airship via long supply lines hanging from the airship's keel. A lone F9C biplane races past on the far right.

ZRS-5 takes on provisions and fuel from an unidentified Lapwing-class destroyer as an F9C flies past.

Provisioning operations of this type were inherently dangerous due to the tendency of large airships to ‘weathervane’ with the wind. This could be offset to some degree by deploying tethered, sinkable sea anchors around the periphery of the ship prior to beginning resupply operations or anchoring the ship’s nose to a masted barge.