The Tale of a Steampunk ExpeditionThe first tale of LZ-X1 Württemberg is told elsewhere.
After the successful trial cruise to Point Nemo, LZ-X1 Württemberg returned first to Friedrichshafen and than traveled on to Berlin to receive a hero's welcome. Captain and crew took a week's leave.
On June 22nd the Kapitän von Kober and Kapitänleutnant Vogel were summoned to the headquarters of the Kaiserliches Zeppelinkorps to be briefed about their next mission.
The second Expedition of LZ-X1 Württemberg
From the Diary of Kapitän Albrecht von Kober, commanding officer LZ-X1 Württemberg:June 22nd
So this is it, our next assignement and expedition. Tomorrow the Württemberg will be transfered to the Kaiserliche Zeppelinwerft Berlin Tempelhof for further modifications and upgrades.
It will be at least two weeks until the insulation is installed, the auxiliary generators are upgraded and all the other thing only Gruson and his men understand are finished. For the rest of us this means two more weeks more or less off duty.
I shall go to the Kaiserliches Telegraphenamt tomorrow and try sending a telegraph to Calcutta. Gwendolen and her parents should still be there, if not, then there should be someone who knows where they are.
Afterwards I shall ask Viceadmiral von Grewe if I can take a week's leave to visit my family.
It was good to see my family again after almost 15 months. I was rather surprised that the mayor of Friedrichshafen invited me for a grand dinner as soon as he learned I visited my family. Graf von Zeppelin also personally congratulated me and my crew on our achivements and was not only a little inquisitive about our next cruise but of course I am not at liberty to tell him anything.
Unfortunately there has so far been no reply from India. Perhaps they are at some godforsaken outpost of the Empire and the telegraph has not reached Gwendolen yet; but I shall concentrate on other things for now. Tomorrow I meet with Vogel and Gruson and we will talk some more with Viceadmiral von Grewe. Perhaps we learn a few more details about our mission and we will also inspect the progress of the work on our beloved LZ-X1 Württemberg.
Today was a really nice, warm summer's day, also, the Flottenkommando has assigned a Fähnrich Wegener to be my aide for the time while the work on the LZ-X1 Württemberg is completed.
His first day he made quite an impression. I sent him to check at the Telegraphenamt wether a message had arrived and it had. It was only from Doktor Wentworth but it was good news still. The Wentworths are, just as I presumed, out there among the natives and it takes about a week for them to get to Calcutta. Gwendolen and her mother a at a mission station while Doktor Wentworth has been assigned to the staff of Captain MacAllister o the 3rd Stirling Rifles. All are well and the good Doktor has assured me of passing my message on. I gave Fähnrich Wegener a cigar after I read the telegraph.
The meeting between Vogel, Gruson and me and the Flottenkommando was most intersting. We are to confirm some calculations regarding a short and very direct trade route between us and the Japanese Empire. For this reason the Württemberg will be equipped with very precise instruments to measure the exact time and distance traveled. Also, we are to investigate the validity of certain theories and test some more special equipment for that purpose.
Inspected the works on the Württemberg with Gruson today. Everything is well within schedule. Sent Wegener to send another message to Doktor Wentworth, also I shall go the the Flottenkommando tomorrow to discuss a few options for the time after our voyage to Japan. I hope they will accept my suggestions.
The meeting with the Flottenkommando did not quite go as planned but they had some very intersting suggestions of their own. After the voyage to Japan and the fulfillment of our duties and obligations in Japan I shall have 10 days leave to do as I please with the Zeppelin, than I am to contact the nearest base or the Flottenkommando and wait for further instructions.
10 days is not much but it is better than nothing.
Met with Gruson and Vogel today. The LZ-X1 Württemberg will be operational and fully equipped in two days. I shall get my gear together, send a telegraph to Friedrichshafen and Calcutta and then make ready for the voyage. This expedition will be very different and although it is much shorter, there are far more dangers waiting for us.
Shadow of LZ-X1 Württemberg north of Berlin, 7th July, heading north-north-west.
We left Berlin yesterday just before sunrise and are currently heading north along the coast of Norway towards Harstad, where we will turn straight north, fly past Svalbard, over the geographical North Pole and on to the northern point of inaccessability at . Then we will turn southeast with a course set for Hokkaidō.
If all goes well and the equipment performs according to our expectations we shall be in Sapporo in less than a week.
Encountered some nasty weather towards noon. Gave order to climb over the clouds and continue north. We should see Svalbard early tomorrow.
Also, we are already noticing the effects of our geographical position. The nights are getting ever shorter and soon we shall be within the realm of the midnight sun.
Passed over Svalbard.
Interestingly, there we passed a rather large factory which seems to be completely out of place in this part of the world.
There was little going on when we passed and even more intersting there were not any boats or ships nearby to take or deliver goods and we did not see any buildings which looked like workers could be accomodated there. I have sent a message to the Flottenkommando informing them about our discovery. A factory so far north has to be there for a very specific reason, it would make no sense otherwise. It's too far of the regular trade routes and it does not look like a whaling station at all.
Matrose Spitz reported some movement below in the water this morning. He said it looked like one of the U-boats the Kaiserliche Marine is testing right now, only slightly larger. Perhaps this has something to do with the factoy we spotted or it belongs to the Royal, Russian or even Swedish Navy.
I have informed headquarters, just to be sure.
Later yesterday we passed a large-ish herd of whales. We have no zoologist on board to tell the exact species, but, and this may only be suspicion without base, a U-boat could hide in such a herd. Later today we shall reach the pole if all goes well. Below the never-melting ice sheet.
Due to the nature of the ice below us we can fly at near sea level, which makes for a excellent clear view. We can even see seals and the occasional polar bear.
July 12th, 16:46
Hurra! We have reached the pole!
After reaching the pole I ordered our Flag to be raised on a patch of ice and we all had a glass of cognac, but our goal is the northern point of inaccessability so we are pressing on, we should get there tomorrow.
July 13th 14:32
Maat Lederer just reported seeing a small turret emerge between the sheets of floating ice. I have ordered everyone to watch the sea beneath us very closely, I feel it in my bones, something strange is going on down there.
It is early morning. Hardly slept last night. It is constant dailight outside during the arctic summer anyway but we did it! There is an U-boat operating in these waters and we have evidence.
I have æthergraphed our discovery to the Flottenkommando and am waiting for further instructions.
No sign of the U-boot has been seen since. We have received orders from the Flottenkommando to wait and patrol the area, which is easy enough given in the perpetual daylight during the arctic summer. The Flottenkommando is sending two Zeppelins to investigate and they have also informed the Royal Navy, perhaps they will send some of their dirgibles, too.
We shall see what the next days will bring.
Was unable to sleep. The dailight outside and the tension kept me awake. So far still no sighting of the U-boat. The crew is just as high-strung as I am.
The U-boat has not resurfaced yet and we have been circling in the area constantly. Nothing to be seen, not even a periscope anywhere. Granted, it would be difficult to spot one between the floating sheets of ice, but we keep watch. My eyes are sore. I have been keeping watch for the last four hours and hardly blinked for fear of missing something while scanning the ocean beneath with my binoculars. The LZs Leipzig and Heidelberg should be here tomorrow. They are better equipped for this sort of duty than we are.
Vogel is convinced he saw something about 20 paces off starboard this morning but when we investigated we found nothing. The whole situation makes everyone on board pretty tense. Leipzig and Heidelberg have arrived and are patrSoling. They also brought news that HMD Stalwart and HMD Fearless are on the way, too.
We have been relieved from patroling and are now once again en route to Hokkaidō.
We are making good progress and the wind ins helping as well. We should see the coast of Hokkaidō early tomorrow morning and hopefully land in or near Sapporo by tomorrow evening. Right now there's nothing underneath us save the endless tundra of Siberia, grassland gives way to pine forest which gives way to grassland in an endless circle.
How can anyone live down there without going mad of boredom?
We arrived in Sapporo and have moored the Württemberg just outside the city proper. A battleship in the Harbor, the Yashima, has send news of our arrival south. Protocol demands we wait here for permission to proceed south.
Two days have passed and no message from Tenno Haika or officials of his government. We might have to wait a little while longer. Never mind. We are in a beautiful spot, the weather is very fine and warm and the locals are friendly. We have some severe difficulties with conversations, I ardly speak a handful of words, just enough to say Guten Tag and Danke Schön. But there's a physician in Sapporo, one Amakasu Masao, who studied in Paris for a while and speaks passable French. His presence helps a lot, most of my officers have some knowledge of French, so we can talk to him, although it still takes a while to get the conversation going. I shall improve my mastery of Japanese in due time and I have made an effort to write down some useful phrases as good as I can.
A very interesting cloud formed in the evening. Just northeast of the field where we landed:
I guess its formation has something to do with warm winds being generated by the volcanoes. There are likely quite a few different temperature layers in the atmosphere involved and I have never seen something like this at home.
Still no answer from the court of Emperor Mutsuhito. But we do not mind. We are still comfortably accomodated within our Zeppelin, we still have supplies and the locals bring local delicacies and drink in exchange for tales of Germany and Europe. The folks here have heard of lands beyond Asia, but they know just as little about us than most of my men now of Japan.
But one thing really strikes me: The Japanese are a small people. Most of my men are taller by a head and shoulders.
Finally! An officer from HIJMS Yashima came this morning and told us we are allowed to proceed. We were given coordinates for Tokyo, where we are to land. The Emperor Mutushito has expressed his interest in our Zeppelin. We should be in Tokyo in a mere two more days.
Ah! The splendor of the Japanese countryside! Those mountains!
We have arrived in Tokio and are awaiting further orders. The ambassador of the German Empire to the court of Emperor Mutsuhito, Freiherr Maximilian von Stauffen, paid us a visit this morning, being informed about our landing site in advance. Freiherr von Stauffen has asured us that we may not hear from the court for another few days since his majesty is engaged with other matters of state; so he has taken me and Kapitänleutnant Vogel for a short trip into Japans capital city. I am amazed of the buzz and turmoil I witnessed. I always imagined the cities of the Far East to be islands of peace and tranquility, rather backward and quaint. Not so! Tokyo is a city well on its way to modern times.
A pleasant surprise came via æthergraph today. The crew of HMD Fearless took a photograph of us when we left the pole. They send their warmest regards.
Also, they have informed us that the U-Boat was sighted another time but then dived away under the ice. If this U-Boat belongs to any major power, it shall be interesting to find out which. This is a most intriguing mystery. What could a U-Boat want in the area of the North Pole?
Still no news from the imperial court. Vogel, Gruson and me are working on some modifications for the æthergraph in the meantime. Right now it is really difficult to send messages over very large distances and Fearless only managed to reach us because the signals are amplified by the magnetic waves of the pole. If we could somehow get rid of long-range atmospherical interference we might be able to send messages to India and I could get in touch with Doktor Wentworth and find out how Gwendolen is doing.
Finally! A messenger arrived this morning with news from the court of Emperor Mutushito. Some officials want to meet us but it is unlikely we are going to meet the Emperor himself. We have also been informed that Captain Saito will also be present at th meeting. I am delighted.
We had a very interesting, if rather formal and stiff meeting with three court officials, Captain Saito and a number of minor officials and clerks. The Japanese seem to be even more obsessed with rules an proper etiquette than us Germans, how very interesting.
Well, the officials were rather interested in the technical details of the Württemberg, especially the Kruppsche Multibrenner and the range of our Zeppelin. Apparently they want to order a Zeppelin from the Kaiserliche Zeppelinwerft for trials. Before that we are to take a delegation of Japanese engineers, officers, Captain Saito and an aide, and officials back with us to Germany, should the Kaiser agree. We have to wait until he responds to the official request the court sent this morning. In the meantime, we are honored guests and right now, supplies are arriving to keep us happy.
Captain Saito will visit us this evening.
If all goes well I should also be able to send a message to India rather soon. Vogel has informed me he may have found a way to compensate for interferences.
The answer from Berlin came faster than expected. The Kaiser is delighted to welcome a delegation from Japan. Perhaps he thinks it is a good thing to be on good terms with the realm on the far side of Russia, just in case. Details for the visit are being formulated in Berlin and we are awaiting further instructions.
We have received instructions from Berlin. We are to take a delegation of no more than a dozen officials and officers back to Berlin with us. We have already informed the court officials here at our landing site and should be able to leave with the delegation in a few days.
I am also happy that Vogel has in deed managed to compensate for the interferences of æthergraph transmissions over long distances. I was able to contact the British æthergraph station in Bombay and kindly asked them to send my regards to Doctor Wentworth and his family. If all goes well I shall take the LZ-X1 Württemberg to India soon.
Tomorrow the delegation will arrive. I have already been informed that Emperor Mutushito does not desire us flying back over the pole. One of his officials is carrying a message for the Emperor Nicholas II of Russia which he is to deliver directly. I wonder if Emperor Mutsuhito wants to send another message too: Japan is going to have Zeppelins soon.
I sincerely hope no ill will spring from that.
We have just left the ground and are heading west. The Russians have already been informed. We will pass over Chinese territory for a while before entering Russian air en route to Omsk.
Ah, the beauty of the land below. This is once again one of the moments when I see how privileged we are, flying this Zeppelin, this marvel of the age of steam. The majestic view on the mountains below us is something I would not want to exchange for anything else.
We are making good progress and should reach the Russian borders soon. As much as I love the landscape, the land below is wild and untamed. The imperial government in Beijing holds little sway here and instead warlords and bands of robbers rule by force. Gruson has assured me that this situation will not change until proper roads and a railway reach this remote part of China.
We have just crossed over into Russia and are heading towards Omsk. We should reach the city tomorrow.
We shall soon reach Omsk. Although this is a harsh place, bitter cold in winter, fly infeted in the summer, from the viewd from the bridge of a Zeppelin, it is a beautiful land.
We reached Omsk in the late afternoon of the 14th and it has been very interesting since. We were greated cordially but not particularily friendly by Colonel Golubets, the local govenor. He is almost hostile to our Japanese guests and we are not to enter the city until further orders arrive from St. Petersburg. We have already informed Berlin via æthergraph and were instructed to be polite and patient. The Kaiser obviously does not want his alliance and friendship with the Russian Empire to suffer.
A much more friendly Colonel Golubets just payed us a visit. We were informed of a meeting between German and Russian officials in Königsberg yesterday evening. Apparently Czar Nikolaus was rather displeased with our friendliness towards the Japanese but intervention by the Kaiser has defused the situation. Kaiser Friedrich III has apparently something to offer to the Czar as well and we will be involved in it. I have a suspicion what this involvent shall look like.
My suspicion was correct. We are to take our Zeppelin to St. Petersbug and pick up a delegation of Russian diplomats and engineers and bring them to Berlin, too.
After taking on supplies we have set course for St. Petersburg. We are going full throttle and the hull is vibrating in the rythm of our steam engines.
Got into a really nasty thunderstorm last night and found out the hard way our Japanese guests do not have the equipment for the cold temperature found at high altitudes. Luckily, we had spare clothing we could give them.
We should arrive in St. Petersburg by tomorrow.
Again we have to wait. At least we were greeted by a delegation of German diplomats and officials from the Czar's court. We are also free to stroll through St. Petersburg.
The city seems remarkably quaint for the capital of the largest country in the world.
I am deeply troubled. Yesterday went by pleasently enough and today our Japanese guests, my command crew and me were invited for dinner with the British ambassador. To my dismay he mentioned in passing there was trouble brewing in India. I am deeply concerned about the wellbeing of the Wentworth family and Gwendolen especially. Unfortunately, Lord Higginbottom could not give me any more details.
The Russian delegation arrived and we are en route to Berlin, we should arrive there by tomorrow afternoon. I have æthergraphed to fleet headquarters and asked for immidiate 10 days leave with the Zeppelin after we restocked. I hope they agree.
Fleet Headquarter has granted my request. I have informed officers and crew about my plans to fly to India. Every singel one of them has volunteered to go to India with me. "Furchtlos und Trew", like true Württemberg men, although they are from all over the German Empire.
Actually, Maat Lederer will not be joining us, he is getting married, he is in two minds about this, I can see he would like to come along. I gave him a cigar and we all promised to bring him trophies.
I can hardly wait to leave.
We have restocked supplies and have just lifted of from the Zeppelin field. I have set a south easterly course which will take us to India via the Balkans, the Black Sea and Persia. A message has already been dispatched to St. Petersburg, Istanbul and Bombay.
We shall see the coast of India in three days.
Continued in the next episode of the continuing expeditions, travels and missions of LZ-X1 Württemberg: