Science Art: Wellman’s Airship America (aviation anniversary tribute 1)

On October 18, 1910, a team of… well, what would we call them? They take machines and go through the air like birds, so let’s call them aviators. A team of aviators made the first serious attempt to fly across the Atlantic. Unfortunately, organizer Walter Wellman, designer and “acrobatic photographer” Melvin Vaniman, British navigator Murray Simon, mechanics Albert Louis Loud and John Aubert, Australian radioman Jack Irwin and their mascot Kiddo the cat* didn’t make it.

They had to abandon the Airship America when both of its engines failed. After drifting for 33 hours about 1,000 miles from Atlantic City, they bundled onto a lifeboat near Bermuda and returned home aboard the Royal Mail Steamship Trent. They’d already made history – a transmission from their Marconi rig was the first radio signal sent from the air to the land. And once back in New York City, they were lauded as heroes with a ticker-tape parade and a banquet. Their lifeboat later wound up aboard the Akron, an accident-prone flying aircraft carrier. That lifeboat (and a keen photograph of Vaniman and Kiddo) are on display at the Smithsonian.

* “You must never cross the Atlantic in an airship without a cat – more useful to us than any barometer.” – advice for the ages from Murray Simon.

Image from the Rosebud-WW1 Archive, via Wikimedia Commons.