Zeppelin moored to gigantic steamer with buzzing biplanes

From the April, 1923 ish of Popular Science, a ZOMG-worthy proposal to moor stately airships to the masts of titanic, biplane-sporting steamships on transoceanic journeys as a means of preparing for the next Great War.

CONVINCED that battle fleets of the future will require the aid of rigid airships as long range scouts, aeronautic experts recently have suggested an ingenious method of mooring rigids to the mast of a moving depot ship at sea, as pictured above.

The depot ship, preferably a converted cruiser, has a hangar forward for small fighting planes, with a launching deck from which the planes are seen taking off to protect the rigid as it returns from a trip.

Topping a raised tripod mast is a mooring device to which the airship is anchored, while projecting from each side of the vessel are other tripods carrying guide ropes that hold the airship’s bow in position as its nose cone is hauled down to the mooring device.



  1. That sooo needs to be steampunked. You could write an entire script from that one image. Well someone could.

  2. What’s to keep the ship from capsizing if there’s a big gust of wind?

    This just has “bad idea” written all over it, as cool as it may look on paper.

  3. It wouldn’t have been a steamship, not in 1923. The world’s navies had been switching over to oil engines for some time before that.

  4. #2: Ballast…and how could it capsize with an inflatable dirigible attached at the top?

    #3: Hence the idea of it being steampunked

    #4: The net. Biplanes flew extremely slow.

  5. You can’t see it in this image, but the biplanes would’ve had pontoon floats instead of wheels and would land next to the ship to be hoisted aboard via winch.

  6. Or they would have speed matched the zep, and been lowered down to the ship after it docked.

    They didn’t have RADAR in ’23..hence the need for spotting planes.

  7. Also, the concept of Naval aviation and air craft carriers were still quite controversial in 1923–this was still the era of the “Battleship Admirals”.

    The reigning wisdom of the Battleship Admirals was put to bed for good in December of 1941, of course.

  8. And this idea would later be called an “Aircraft Carrier” – although the high winds at sea would make a dirigible rather impractical. You can’t just stow it below decks like a plane or helicopter.

    Perhaps that’s why they didn’t do it –

  9. Actually, the US Navy experimented with having the biplanes carried by the dirigible. They would “land” by matching speed and hooking onto a bar lowered from the dirigible.

  10. Airships have a knack for enhancing photographs by virtue of their presence. This reminds me of some photos I saw a while back of a blimp that had been brought down during an atomic test … I was able to find the photos online after a quick search:


    Click on the photos for high-res versions.

  11. @12

    an amazing image, I’m surprised I haven’t seen it before, it could be used to evoke so many things

  12. To followup on Eevee@11’s comment

    The navy experimented with a trapeze arrangement (pioneered aboard U. S. S. Los Angeles) that caught aircraft in mid-flight, and hauled them into the airships cavernous interior. Navy N2Y and F9C bi-planes, equipped with hooks, were flown into position, snagging the arm suspended below the ships belly. Once in position, the biplane was lifted through an opening in the ships hull.


  13. Oh that is sweet!

    I just finished watching Frank Capra’s classic 1931 adventure: Dirigible and this is like icing on the cake.


  14. Pukebazooka @12: Holy cats–check the enlarged versions of the photos and you can see that the blimp’s ground crew was out in the open during the tests…ah well, they were only enlisted men.

  15. It amazes me that they didn’t see the writing on the wall with regard to lighter-than-air-vehicles, at least in war. Here we have airships and biplanes side by side– couldn’t they see that the airplane would become preeminent? The zeppelin was just a huge, slow target, and full of gas (and whether that gas was flammable or not was moot– you can’t armor plate the thing, so a few shots and bye-bye gas, hello earth).

  16. Navy blimps (NOT rigid airships) saw extensive duty during WWII and into the mid-1960’s as escorts for naval convoys. They were used primarily as sub spotters. No convoy accompanied by blimps was ever successfully attacked by an enemy submarine.

  17. Pauldrye: “It wouldn’t have been a steamship, not in 1923. The world’s navies had been switching over to oil engines for some time before that.”

    Do steam turbines not count as steamships (serious question, genre)? Oil fired steam warships have been built at least into the 1980’s. Nuclear quite recently.

    Gas turbines are more popular now.

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