Podcast Episode 18: The Mystery of the Disappearing Airmen


In 1942 Navy lieutenant Ernest Cody and ensign Charles Adams piloted a blimp out of San Francisco into the Pacific, looking for Japanese subs. A few hours later the blimp drifted back to land, empty. The parachutes and life raft were in their proper places and the radio was in working order, but there was no trace of Cody or Adams.

In this episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll follow the events of that strange day and delve into the inquest that followed. We’ll also sample some unpublished items from Greg’s trove of Futility Closet research and puzzle over a drink of water that kills hundreds of people.

Sources for our segment on the L-8 blimp mystery:

Mark J. Price, “60 Years Later, Pilots’ Fate Still a Mystery — 2 Men Aboard Navy Blimp Vanished,” Seattle Times, Aug. 18, 2002.

Darold Fredricks, “Airships and Moffett Field,” San Mateo Daily Journal, July 22, 2013.

United Press International, “Goodyear Blimp Retires,” July 9, 1982.

Some inquest records are available online here.

Links mentioned in listener mail:

Thad Gillespie explains how George Washington came to have two different birth dates in this blog post.

This Gizmodo page, sent by Brian Drake, includes artists’ renditions of Pyke’s envisioned aircraft carrier and the Sagrada Familia made of pykrete; photos of students and professors from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands using pykrete to make the world’s largest ice dome, with a 98-foot span; and a link to a video of the making of the dome.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset. The show notes are on the blog. Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!