All day the giant airship butted strong headwinds. Major Scott, the ship’s captain, ran only three engines in order to economize on fuel and to avoid the worst of the winds, flew at 800 feet.
With great reluctance, Scott radioed for US Navy destroyers to stand by off Cape Cod so the airship could refuel at sea or be taken in tow. He also presented the possibility of refueling at the Naval Air Station at Chatham, Massachusetts or at Montauk, on the eastern tip of Long Island.
During the afternoon, the situation grew more desperate. The compass card began spinning like a top and that meant only one thing: an electrical storm was approaching. And then the squall hit. The winds pushed the ship up and down at alarming angles. The gravity fed engines couldn’t operate properly at the steep inclines and would cut out and then cut in again. Dangerous tongues of flame spurted out of the exhaust pipes.
The girders creaked like the timbers of an old sailing ship. During one violent lurch, the chief engineer was almost thrown through an open hatch into the sea. He saved himself by hooking a foot around a girder.
Violent updrafts and downdrafts tossed the ship up hundreds of feet and then let it drop hundreds more. The tail flexed alarmingly with the strain.
During the night, the crew wore parachutes and kept lifebelts close at hand.
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