quinta-feira, 25 de agosto de 2011

The Cap Arcona Tragedy

Leia este artigo em Português

After writing “L’Homme Mecanique” (end of 1928) Santos=Dumont was very excited at the prospect of arriving in Brazil with some new inventions (The “Martian” and the “Icarus” see http://santosdumontlife.blogspot.com/2011/06/lhomme-mecanique.html) and a new book (“L’Homme Mecanique” in the same article), he knew that Brazilian people would never abandon him, and were quite optimistic about the travel outcome, but things were about to change.

Santos=Dumont, Yolanda Penteado, Antonio Prado Junior, José Augusto, Eduardo Ramos, Cesar Vergueiro e os irmãos Marques Lisboa.

Santos decided to come to Brazil on board of a recently christened German luxury ocean liner, named after Cape Arkona, on the island of Rügen in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

The Cap Arcona was launched on May 14th 1927, she left on October 29th 1927 the port of Hamburg on her maiden trip to Argentina, transported passengers between Germany and South America up until 1940 when it was taken over by the German Navy. She was considered one of the most beautiful ships of the time, was the largest German ship on the South American run, and carried upper-class travelers and steerage-class emigrants.

The Cap Arcona exuded luxury in their various environments, the outstanding swimming pool, the exuberant ball room, a magnificent tennis course, among others.

The dining room had as principal feature the ten pairs of large windows, arranged five per side, which allowed natural light into the room and gave it a less confined feel was achieved in the enclosed dining rooms aboard North Atlantic liners. The dining room measured 114.6' x 59' x 18'. It was finished in candlewood and jacaranda, with green silk material stretched over it as wall covering. There were three large Gobelin tapestries, and a patterned carpet rather than the more commonly used linoleum floor covering.

The chambers in the interiors managed to convey the same feeling of procession that the Normandy’s famed promenade deck suite did. Dividing walls between the public rooms where reduced to a bare minimum, with only enough retained to give definition to each space. The result was both aesthetically pleasing and practical; in pre-air-conditioned times this configuration allowed for maximum airflow while in the Equatorial zone. The furniture, although of high quality, was broadly spaced.

Cap Arcona had eight suites deluxe on D Deck. These suites consisted of sitting room, bedroom, bathroom, water closet, and trunk room. The suites were finished in cherry wood, walnut, birch, mahogany, East Indian satinwood, cedar and jacaranda. With their three large windows, and lack of clutter, they appear considerably more spacious and airy than their North Atlantic counterparts.

Santos=Dumont had been invited by Antonio Prado Junior, mayor of the city of Rio de Janeiro, to attend a ceremony in which he would inaugurate an avenue named "Avenida Santos Dumont". Santos was accompanied by his nephew, Jorge and they were carrying a large amount of luggage, including the “Martian” and the “Icarus”, (he probably assembly the “Icarus” on the main deck to perform it in front of the public).

The news of the arrival of Santos Dumont in Brazil ever caused alarm, authorities were waiting for him, and them then came the day when the nice and comfortable trip back to Brazil exposed Santos=Dumont to the most shocking moment of his life.

It is a well-known fact that Santos=Dumont had some nervous problems, on January 1910 Santos=Dumont announced that he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was no more able to fly, and during the middle 20’s he interned himself in some private clinics in Switzerland to rest from stress, friends and family always tried to save him from being teased.

On December 3rd 1928 some Brazilian intellectuals decided to pay him homage by dropping flowers and small parachutes carrying a letter with a welcome message to S=D. Those parachutes would be launched by a Dorner Wal seaplane named “Santos Dumont” of the Condor Syndicate at “Bahia da Ganabara”, moments before CapArcona reach her final destination in Rio de Janeiro.

Two planes where performing the acrobatics, the “Guanabara” (P-BAIA) and the “Santos Dumont” (P-BACA). This last one, piloted by German pilot Wilhelm August Paschen, the “gaucho” co-pilot Enet Rodolpho, German onboard mechanic Walter Hasseldorf, dispatcher William Auth, an employee of Condor named Gustavo Butzke, professor Fernando Laboriaux Filho , Dr. Paul Grace Maya, Brazilian Air Force Major Eduardo Valle (Austrian), journalist Abel Araujo (Jornal do Brazil) and wife, Amoroso Costa, Amaury de Medeiros, Tobias Moscoso and the engineer Frederico de Oliveira Coutinho.

From the deck of the ship Santos was watching the airplanes doing acrobatics, he knew that in moments of euphoria people tended to make mistakes. Santos noted that the Dornier Wal called “Santos Dumont” had exaggerated the curve and then it disappears from the field of vision.

Yolanda Penteado, present at the Deck of Cap Arcona reported what she saw:
“Before the ship dock, the so called “health boat” came with Antonio Prado, very sad. He came aboard and told the tragedy. All people abord died in the accident. Santos Dumont was taken by a dreadful nervousness.
That evening we went to six funerals, one after the other. It caused a terrible pain to him who had, long ago, shattered nerves”.

Historians use to say that this episode was the “trigger” to a big depressive period that ended with the tragic suicide of the “Father of Flight” in July 23rd 1932.

Even the ship itself had a tragic end; contrary to general belief the world’s greatest ship disaster did not occur in the Atlantic Ocean and the ship was not the RMS Titanic. The greatest ship disaster occurred on 3 May 1945 in Lübeck Bay in the Baltic Sea and the ship was the Cap Arcona.

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