Back in 2002, I started running posts here focused on lighter-than-air aviation. Originally, I had intended to run a post a day on the topic for a week, so I called it Blimp Week.
The topic overfilled the week, and while I haven’t been posting tons on the topic of late, every now and then something comes into my email that merits a new post.
When I started posting on the topic, I tracked down illustrator Kent Leech, who (with his father) created a magnificent cutaway illustration of the US Navy dirigible the USS Macon for the National Geographic Society. The image can be purchased within the National Geographic volume Inside Out, as the frontispiece. I had looked and looked for the picture online but simply had no luck.
Mr. Leech kindly responded to my questions about the image, but was not able to come up with a link to the drawing either. Years later, in May 2010, he followed up with a link to the drawing, hosted on his own site. Instead of embedding the image here, I’ll just pass that link along, and urge you to go check it out. He has some other interesting drawings on the site, too, such as the Turtle, the MG-TC (attention Eric!) and a vacuum tube.
Here’s some of what he had to say about the image creation process for the Macon illo back in 2002:
My father and I did that illustration back in late 1991. It took appx 6 weeks from start to finish.
I am afraid I have no posters of our illustration, and at present there is no image available on-line.
It was great project to work on! We went to moss landing and saw the parts they caught in the fishing nets (small chunks of the structure). Mark Holms was the art director at Nat Geo at the time. He was able to find old photos of the Macon (in a dumpster!!) that helped us do the illo. We even built a model to photograph (for the perspective). It is pretty crude, but it did the job.
Right after I hit post on this, I found a promo site for a National Geographic documentary on the Macon, which includes a very simple, but kind of amusing, in-browser interactive Sparrowhawk skyhook landing sim!
Further poking about revealed the raison d’etre for the documentary: in 2005 and 2006, the Macon’s resting place, 1500 feet down within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, was exhaustively surveyed and documented by an archeological team. On February 11, 2010, the 75th anniversary of the wreck, the site was added to the National Register.
Above is an image found on the NOAA press release site. It shows the wing of one of the Sparrowhawks lost when the ship went down; the planes were in place inside the dirigible when she went down.