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´╗┐Title: The Dominion of the Air; the story of aerial navigation
Author: Bacon, John Mackenzie, 1846-1904
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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The Story of Aerial Navigation

by Rev. J. M. Bacon


"He that would learn to fly must be brought up to the constant practice
of it from his youth, trying first only to use his wings as a tame goose
will do, so by degrees learning to rise higher till he attain unto skill
and confidence."

So wrote Wilkins, Bishop of Chester, who was reckoned a man of genius
and learning in the days of the Commonwealth. But so soon as we come to
inquire into the matter we find that this good Bishop was borrowing from
the ideas of others who had gone before him; and, look back as far as
we will, mankind is discovered to have entertained persistent and often
plausible ideas of human flight. And those ideas had in some sort of
way, for good or ill, taken practical shape. Thus, as long ago as the
days when Xenophon was leading back his warriors to the shores of
the Black Sea, and ere the Gauls had first burned Rome, there was a
philosopher, Archytas, who invented a pigeon which could fly, partly by
means of mechanism, and partly also, it is said, by aid of an aura or
spirit. And here arises a question. Was this aura a gas, or did men use
it as spiritualists do today, as merely a word to conjure with?

Four centuries later, in the days of Nero, there was a man in Rome who
flew so well and high as to lose his life thereby. Here, at any rate,
was an honest man, or the story would not have ended thus; but of the
rest--and there are many who in early ages aspired to the attainment
of flight--we have no more reason to credit their claims than those of
charlatans who flourish in every age.

In medieval times we are seriously told by a saintly writer (St.
Remigius) of folks who created clouds which rose to heaven by means of
"an earthen pot in which a little imp had been enclosed." We need no
more. That was an age of flying saints, as also of flying dragons.
Flying in those days of yore may have been real enough to the multitude,
but it was at best delusion. In the good old times it did not need the
genius of a Maskelyne to do a "levitation" trick. We can picture the
scene at a "flying seance." On the one side the decidedly professional
showman possessed of sufficient low cunning; on the other the ignorant
and highly superstitious audience, eager to hear or see some new
thing--the same audience that, deceived by a simple trick of schoolboy
science, would listen to supernatural voices in their groves, or
oracular utterances in their temples, or watch the urns of Bacchus fill
themselves with wine. Surely for their eyes it would need no more than
the simplest phantasmagoria, or maybe only a little black thread, to
make a pigeon rise and fly.

It is interesting to note, however, that in the case last cited there is
unquestionably an allusion to some crude form of firework, and what more
likely or better calculated to impress the ignorant! Our firework makers
still manufacture a "little Devil." Pyrotechnic is as old as history
itself; we have an excellent description of a rocket in a document at
least as ancient as the ninth century. And that a species of pyrotechny
was resorted to by those who sought to imitate flight we have proof in
the following recipe for a flying body given by a Doctor, eke a Friar,
in Paris in the days of our King John:--

"Take one pound of sulphur, two pounds of willowcarbon, six pounds of
rock salt ground very fine in a marble mortar. Place, when you please,
in a covering made of flying papyrus to produce thunder. The covering
in order to ascend and float away should be long, graceful, well filled
with this fine powder; but to produce thunder the covering should be
short, thick, and half full."

Nor does this recipe stand alone. Take another sample, of which chapter
and verse are to be found in the MSS. of a Jesuit, Gaspard Schott, of
Palermo and Rome, born three hundred years ago:--

"The shells of hen-eggs, if properly filled and well secured against the
penetration of the air, and exposed to solar rays, will ascend to the
skies and sometimes suffer a natural change. And if the eggs of the
larger description of swans, or leather balls stitched with fine
thongs, be filled with nitre, the purest sulphur quicksilver, or kindred
materials which rarify by their caloric energy, and if they externally
resemble pigeons, they will easily be mistaken for flying animals."

Thus it would seem that, hunting back in history, there were three main
ideas on which would-be aeronauts of old exercised their ingenuity.
There was the last-mentioned method, which, by the way, Jules Verne
partly relies on when he takes his heroes to the moon, and which in
its highest practical development may be seen annually on the night
of "Brock's Benefit" at the Crystal Palace. There is, again, the "tame
goose" method, to which we must return presently; and, lastly, there is
a third method, to which, as also to the brilliant genius who conceived
it, we must without further delay be introduced. This may be called the
method of "a hollow globe."

Roger Bacon, Melchisedeck-fashion, came into existence at Ilchester
in 1214 of parentage that is hard to trace. He was, however, a born
philosopher, and possessed of intellect and penetration that placed him
incalculably ahead of his generation. A man of marvellous insight and
research, he grasped, and as far as possible carried out, ideas which
dawned on other men only after centuries. Thus, many of his utterances
have been prophetic. It is probable that among his chemical discoveries
he re-invented gunpowder. It is certain that he divined the properties
of a lens, and diving deep into experimental and mechanical sciences,
actually foresaw the time when, in his own words, "men would construct
engines to traverse land and water with great speed and carry with them
persons and merchandise." Clearly in his dreams Bacon saw the Atlantic
not merely explored, but on its bosom the White Star liners breaking
records, contemptuous of its angriest seas. He saw, too, a future Dumont
circling in the air, and not only in a dead calm, but holding his own
with the feathered race. He tells his dream thus: "There may be made
some flying instrument so that a man sitting in the middle of the
instrument and turning some mechanism may put in motion some artificial
wings which may beat the air like a bird flying."

But he lived too long before his time. His ruin lay not only in his
superior genius, but also in his fearless outspokenness. He presently
fell under the ban of the Church, through which he lost alike his
liberty and the means of pursuing investigation. Had it been otherwise
we may fairly believe that the "admirable Doctor," as he was called,
would have been the first to show mankind how to navigate the air. His
ideas are perfectly easy to grasp. He conceived that the air was a true
fluid, and as such must have an upper limit, and it would be on this
upper surface, he supposed, as on the bosom of the ocean, that man would
sail his air-ship. A fine, bold guess truly. He would watch the cirrus
clouds sailing grandly ten miles above him on some stream that never
approached nearer. Up there, in his imagination, would be tossing the
waves of our ocean of air. Wait for some little better cylinders of
oxygen and an improved foot-warmer, and a future Coxwell will go aloft
and see; but as to an upper sea, it is truly there, and we may visit and
view its sun-lit tossing billows stretching out to a limitless horizon
at such times as the nether world is shrouded in densest gloom. Bacon's
method of reaching such an upper sea as he postulated was, as we have
said, by a hollow globe.

"The machine must be a large hollow globe, of copper or other suitable
metal, wrought extremely thin so as to have it as light as possible,"
and "it must be filled with ethereal air or liquid fire." This was
written in the thirteenth century, and it is scarcely edifying to find
four hundred years after this the Jesuit Father Lana, who contrived to
make his name live in history as a theoriser in aeronautics, arrogating
to himself the bold conception of the English Friar, with certain
unfortunate differences, however, which in fairness we must here clearly
point out. Lana proclaimed his speculations standing on a giant's
shoulders. Torricelli, with his closed bent tube, had just shown
the world how heavily the air lies above us. It then required little
mathematical skill to calculate what would be the lifting power of
any vessel void of air on the earth's surface. Thus Lana proposed
the construction of an air ship which possibly because of its
picturesquesness has won him notoriety. But it was a fraud. We have
but to conceive a dainty boat in which the aeronaut would sit at ease
handling a little rudder and a simple sail. These, though a schoolboy
would have known better, he thought would guide his vessel when in the

So much has been claimed for Father Lana and his mathematical and other
attainments that it seems only right to insist on the weakness of his
reasoning. An air ship simply drifting with the wind is incapable of
altering its course in the slightest degree by either sail or rudder. It
is simply like a log borne along in a torrent; but to compare such a log
properly with the air ship we must conceive it WHOLLY submerged in the
water and having no sail or other appendage projecting into the air,
which would, of course, introduce other conditions. If, however, a man
were to sit astride of the log and begin to propel it so that it travels
either faster or slower than the stream, then in that case, either by
paddle or rudder, the log could be guided, and the same might be said of
Lana's air boat if only he had thought of some adequate paddle, fan, or
other propeller. But he did not. One further explanatory sentence may
here be needed; for we hear of balloons which are capable of being
guided to a small extent by sail and rudder. In these cases, however,
the rudder is a guide rope trailing on earth or sea, so introducing a
fresh element and fresh conditions which are easy to explain.

Suppose a free balloon drifting down the wind to have a sail suddenly
hoisted on one side, what happens? The balloon will simply swing till
this sail is in front, and thus continue its straightforward course.
Suppose, however, that as soon as the side sail is hoisted a trail rope
is also dropped aft from a spar in the rigging. The tendency of the sail
to fly round in front is now checked by the dragging rope, and it is
constrained to remain slanting at an angle on one side; at the same
time the rate of the balloon is reduced by the dragging rope, so that
it travels slower than the wind, which, now acting on its slant sail,
imparts a certain sidelong motion much as it does in the case of a
sailing boat.

Lana having in imagination built his ship, proceeds to make it float
up into space, for which purpose he proposes four thin copper globes
exhausted of air. Had this last been his own idea we might have pardoned
him. We have, however, pointed out that it was not, and we must further
point out that in copying his great predecessor he fails to see that he
would lose enormous advantage by using four globes instead of one.
But, beyond all, he failed to see what the master genius of Bacon saw
clearly--that his thin globes when exhausted must infallibly collapse by
virtue of that very pressure of the air which he sought to make use of.

It cannot be too strongly insisted on that if the too much belauded
speculations of Lana have any value at all it is that they throw into
stronger contrast the wonderful insight of the philosopher who so long
preceded him. By sheer genius Bacon had foreseen that the emptied
globe must be filled with SOMETHING, and for this something he suggests
"ethereal air" or "liquid fire," neither of which, we contend, were
empty terms. With Bacon's knowledge of experimental chemistry it is a
question, and a most interesting one, whether he had not in his mind
those two actual principles respectively of gas and air rarefied by heat
on which we launch our balloons into space to-day.

Early progress in any art or science is commonly intermittent. It was so
in the story of aeronautics. Advance was like that of the incoming tide,
throwing an occasional wave far in front of its rising flood. It was
a phenomenal wave that bore Roger Bacon and left his mark on the sand
where none other approached for centuries. In those centuries men were
either too priest-ridden to lend an ear to Science, or, like children,
followed only the Will-o'-the-Wisp floating above the quagmire which
held them fast. They ran after the stone that was to turn all to gold,
or the elixir that should conquer death, or the signs in the heavens
that should foretell their destinies; and the taint of this may be
traced even when the dark period that followed was clearing away. Four
hundred years after Roger's death, his illustrious namesake, Francis
Bacon, was formulating his Inductive Philosophy, and with complete
cock-sureness was teaching mankind all about everything. Let us look
at some of his utterances which may help to throw light on the way he
regarded the problem we are dealing with.

"It is reported," Francis Bacon writes, "that the Leucacians in ancient
time did use to precipitate a man from a high cliffe into the sea; tying
about him, with strings, at some distance, many great fowles; and fixing
unto his body divers feathers, spread, to breake the fall. Certainly
many birds of good wing (as Kites and the like) would beare up a good
weight as they flie. And spreading of feathers, thin and close, and in
great breadth, will likewise beare up a great weight, being even laid
without tilting upon the sides. The further extension of this experiment
of flying may be thought upon."

To say the least, this is hardly mechanical. But let us next follow
the philosopher into the domain of Physics. Referring to a strange
assertion, that "salt water will dissolve salt put into it in less
time than fresh water will dissolve it," he is at once ready with an
explanation to fit the case. "The salt," he says, "in the precedent
water doth by similitude of substance draw the salt new put in unto it."
Again, in his finding, well water is warmer in winter than summer, and
"the cause is the subterranean heat which shut close in (as in winter)
is the more, but if it perspire (as it doth in summer) it is the less."
This was Bacon the Lord. What a falling off--from the experimentalist's
point of view--from Bacon the Friar! We can fancy him watching a falcon
poised motionless in the sky, and reflecting on that problem which to
this day fairly puzzles our ablest scientists, settling the matter in a
sentence: "The cause is that feathers doe possess upward attractions."
During four hundred years preceding Lord Verulam philosophers would have
flown by aid of a broomstick. Bacon himself would have merely parried
the problem with a platitude!

At any rate, physicists, even in the brilliant seventeenth century,
made no material progress towards the navigation of the air, and thus
presently let the simple mechanic step in before them. Ere that century
had closed something in the nature of flight had been accomplished. It
is exceedingly hard to arrive at actual fact, but it seems pretty clear
that more than one individual, by starting from some eminence, could
let himself fall into space and waft himself away for some distance with
fair success and safety, It is stated that an English Monk, Elmerus,
flew the space of a furlong from a tower in Spain, a feat of the same
kind having been accomplished by another adventurer from the top of St.
Mark's at Venice.

In these attempts it would seem that the principle of the parachute
was to some extent at least brought into play. If also circumstantial
accounts can be credited, it would appear that a working model of a
flying machine was publicly exhibited by one John Muller before the
Emperor Charles V. at Nuremberg. Whatever exaggeration or embellishment
history may be guilty of it is pretty clear that some genuine attempts
of a practical and not unsuccessful nature had been made here and there,
and these prompted the flowery and visionary Bishop Wilkins already
quoted to predict confidently that the day was approaching when it
"would be as common for a man to call for his wings as for boots and

We have now to return to the "tame goose" method, which found its best
and boldest exponent in a humble craftsman, by name Besnier, living
at Sable, about the year 1678. This mechanical genius was by trade a
locksmith, and must have been possessed of sufficient skill to construct
an efficient apparatus out of such materials as came to his hand, of
the simplest possible design. It may be compared to the earliest type of
bicycle, the ancient "bone shaker," now almost forgotten save by those
who, like the writer, had experience of it on its first appearance.
Besnier's wings, as it would appear, were essentially a pair of
double-bladed paddles and nothing more, roughly resembling the
double-paddle of an old-fashioned canoe, only the blades were large,
roughly rectangular, and curved or hollowed. The operator would commence
by standing erect and balancing these paddles, one on each shoulder, so
that the hollows of the blades should be towards the ground. The forward
part of each paddle was then grasped by the hands, while the hinder part
of each was connected to the corresponding leg. This, presumably,
would be effected after the arms had been raised vertically, the leg
attachment being contrived in some way which experience would dictate.

The flyer was now fully equipped, and nothing remained for him save
to mount some eminence and, throwing himself forward into space and
assuming the position of a flying bird, to commence flapping and
beating the air with a reciprocal motion. First, he would buffet the
air downwards with the left arm and right leg simultaneously, and while
these recovered their position would strike with the right hand and
left leg, and so on alternately. With this crude method the enterprising
inventor succeeded in raising himself by short stages from one height
to another, reaching thus the top of a house, whence he could pass over
others, or cross a river or the like.

The perfecting of his system became then simply a question of practice
and experience, and had young athletes only been trained from early
years to the new art it seems reasonable to suppose that some crude
approach to human flight would have been effected. Modifications and
improvements in construction would soon have suggested themselves, as
was the case with the bicycle, which in its latest developments can
scarcely be recognised as springing from the primitive "bone-shaker"
of thirty-three years ago. We would suggest the idea to the modern
inventor. He will in these days, of course, find lighter materials
to hand. Then he will adopt some link motion for the legs in place of
leather thongs, and will hinge the paddle blades so that they open out
with the forward stroke, but collapse with the return. Then look on
another thirty-three years--a fresh generation--and our youth of both
sexes may find a popular recreation in graceful aerial exercise. The
pace is not likely to be excessive, and molestations from disguised
policemen--not physically adapted, by the way, to rapid flight--need not
be apprehended.

One of the best tests of Besnier's measure of success is supplied by the
fact that he had pupils as well as imitators. First on this list must be
mentioned a Mr. Baldwin, a name which, curiously enough, twice over
in modern times comes into the records of bold aerial exploits. This
individual, it appears, purchased a flying outfit of Besnier himself,
and surpassed his master in achievement. A little later one Dante
contrived some modification of the same apparatus, with which he pursued
the new mode of progress till he met with a fractured thigh.

But whatever the imitators of Besnier may have accomplished, to the
honest smith must be accorded the full credit of their success, and
with his simple, but brilliant, record left at flood mark, the tide
of progress ebbed back again, while mankind ruminated over the great
problem in apparent inactivity. But not for long. The air-pump about
this period was given to the world, and chemists were already busy
investigating the nature of gases. Cavallo was experimenting on kindred
lines, while in our own land the rival geniuses of Priestley and
Cavendish were clearing the way to make with respect to the atmosphere
the most important discovery yet dreamed of. In recording this dawn of
a new era, however, we should certainly not forget how, across the
Atlantic, had arisen a Rumford and a Franklin, whose labours were
destined to throw an all-important sidelight on the pages of progress
which we have now to chronicle.


It was a November night of the year 1782, in the little town of
Annonay, near Lyons. Two young men, Stephen and Joseph Montgolfier, the
representatives of a firm of paper makers, were sitting together over
their parlour fire. While watching the smoke curling up the chimney one
propounded an idea by way of a sudden inspiration: "Why shouldn't smoke
be made to raise bodies into the air?"

The world was waiting for this utterance, which, it would seem, was on
the tip of the tongue with many others. Cavendish had already discovered
what he designated "inflammable air," though no one had as yet given it
its later title of hydrogen gas. Moreover, in treating of this gas--Dr.
Black of Edinburgh, as much as fifteen years before the date we have now
arrived at, had suggested that it should be made capable of raising a
thin bladder in the air. With a shade more of good fortune, or maybe
with a modicum more of leisure, the learned Doctor would have won
the invention of the balloon for his own country. Cavallo came almost
nearer, and actually putting the same idea into practice, had succeeded
in the spring of 1782 in making soap bubbles blown with hydrogen gas
float upwards. But he had accomplished no more when, as related, in the
autumn of the same year the brothers Montgolfier conceived the notion of
making bodies "levitate" by the simpler expedient of filling them with

This was the crude idea, the application of which in their hands was
soon marked with notable success. Their own trade supplied ready and
suitable materials for a first experiment, and, making an oblong bag of
thin paper a few feet in length, they proceeded to introduce a cloud
of smoke into it by holding crumpled paper kindled in a chafing dish
beneath the open mouth. What a subject is there here for an imaginative
painter! As the smoky cloud formed within, the bag distended itself,
became buoyant, and presently floated to the ceiling. The simple trial
proved a complete success, due, as it appeared to them, to the ascensive
power of a cloud of smoke.

An interesting and more detailed version of the story is extant. While
the experiment was in progress a neighbour, the widow of a tradesman who
had been connected in business with the firm, seeing smoke escaping into
the room, entered and stood watching the proceedings, which were not
unattended with difficulties. The bag, half inflated, was not easy to
hold in position over the chafing dish, and rapidly cooled and collapsed
on being removed from it. The widow noting this, as also the perplexity
of the young men, suggested that they should try the result of tying
the dish on at the bottom of the bag. This was the one thing wanted to
secure success, and that good lady, whose very name is unhappily
lost, deserves an honoured place in history. It was unquestionably the
adoption of her idea which launched the first balloon into space.

The same experiment repeated in the open air proving a yet more
pronounced success, more elaborate trials were quickly developed, and
the infant balloon grew fast. One worthy of the name, spherical in shape
and of some 600 cubic feet capacity, was now made and treated as before,
with the result that ere it was fully inflated it broke the strings that
held it and sailed away hundreds of feet into the air. The infant
was fast becoming a prodigy. Encouraged by their fresh success, the
inventors at once set about preparations for the construction of a much
larger balloon some thirty-five feet diameter (that is, of about 23,000
cubic feet capacity), to be made of linen lined with paper and this
machine, launched on a favourable day in the following spring, rose with
great swiftness to fully a thousand feet, and travelled nearly a mile
from its starting ground.

Enough; the time was already ripe for a public demonstration of the new
invention, and accordingly the 5th of the following June witnessed the
ascent of the same balloon with due ceremony and advertisement. Special
pains were taken with the inflation, which was conducted over a pit
above which the balloon envelope was slung; and in accordance with the
view that smoke was the chief lifting power, the fuel was composed of
straw largely mixed with wool. It is recorded that the management of
the furnace needed the attention of two men only, while eight men could
hardly hold the impatient balloon in restraint. The inflation, in spite
of the fact that the fuel chosen was scarcely the best for the purpose,
was conducted remarkable expedition, and on being released, the
craft travelled one and a half miles into the air, attaining a height
estimated at over 6,000 feet.

From this time the tide of events in the aeronautical world rolls on in
full flood, almost every half-year marking a fresh epoch, until a new
departure in the infant art of ballooning was already on the point of
being reached. It had been erroneously supposed that the ascent of the
Montgolfier balloon had been due, not to the rarefaction of the air
within it--which was its true cause--but to the evolution of some light
gas disengaged by the nature of the fuel used. It followed, therefore,
almost as a matter of course, that chemists, who, as stated in the last
chapter, were already acquainted with so-called "inflammable air," or
hydrogen gas, grasped the fact that this gas would serve better than any
other for the purposes of a balloon. And no sooner had the news of the
Montgolfiers' success reached Paris than a subscription was raised, and
M. Charles, Professor of Experimental Philosophy, was appointed, with
the assistance of M. Roberts, to superintend the construction of a
suitable balloon and its inflation by the proposed new method.

The task was one of considerable difficulty, owing partly to the
necessity of procuring some material which would prevent the escape of
the lightest and most subtle gas known, and no less by reason of the
difficulty of preparing under pressure a sufficient quantity of gas
itself. The experiment, sound enough in theory, was eventually carried
through after several instructive failures. A suitable material was
found in "lustring," a glossy silk cloth varnished with a solution of
caoutchouc, and this being formed into a balloon only thirteen feet in
diameter and fitted without other aperture than a stopcock, was after
several attempts filled with hydrogen gas prepared in the usual way by
the action of dilute sulphuric acid on scrap iron.

The preparations completed, one last and all-important mistake was
made by closing the stop-cock before the balloon was dismissed, the
disastrous and unavoidable result of this being at the time overlooked.

On August 25, 1783, the balloon was liberated on the Champ de Mars
before an enormous concourse, and in less than two minutes had reached
an elevation of half a mile, when it was temporarily lost in cloud,
through which, however, it penetrated, climbing into yet higher cloud,
when, disappearing from sight, it presently burst and descended to earth
after remaining in the air some three-quarters of an hour.

The bursting of this little craft taught the future balloonist his first
great lesson, namely, that on leaving earth he must open the neck of
his balloon; and the reason of this is obvious. While yet on earth the
imprisoned gas of a properly filled balloon distends the silk by virtue
of its expansive force, and in spite of the enormous outside pressure
which the weight of air exerts upon it. Then, as the balloon rises
high in the air and the outside pressure grows less, the struggling gas
within, if allowed no vent, stretches the balloon more and more until
the slender fabric bursts under the strain.

At the risk of being tedious, we have dwelt at some length on the
initial experiments which in less than a single year had led to the
discovery and development of two distinct methods--still employed and in
competition with each other--of dismissing balloons into the heavens. We
are now prepared to enter fully into the romantic history of our subject
which from this point rapidly unfolds itself.

Some eleven months only after the two Montgolfiers were discovered
toying with their inflated paper bag, the younger of the two brothers
was engaged to make an exhibition of his new art before the King at
Versailles, and this was destined to be the first occasion when
a balloon was to carry a living freight into the sky. The stately
structure, which was gorgeously decorated, towered some seventy
feet into the air, and was furnished with a wicker car in which the
passengers were duly installed. These were three in number, a sheep, a
cock, and a duck, and amid the acclamations of the multitude, rose a few
hundred feet and descended half a mile away. The cock was found to have
sustained an unexplained mishap: its leg was broken; but the sheep
was feeding complacently, and the duck was quacking with much apparent

Now, who among mortals will come forward and win the honour of being the
first to sail the skies? M. Pilitre de Rozier at once volunteered, and
by the month of November a new air ship was built, 74 feet high, 48 feet
in largest diameter, and 15 feet across the neck, outside which a wicker
gallery was constructed, while an iron brazier was slung below all.
But to trim the boat properly two passengers were needed, and de Rozier
found a ready colleague in the Marquis d'Arlandes. By way of precaution,
de Rozier made a few preliminary ascents with the balloon held captive,
and then the two intrepid Frenchmen took their stand on opposite sides
of the gallery, each furnished with bundles of fuel to feed the furnace,
each also carrying a large wet sponge with which to extinguish the
flames whenever the machine might catch fire. On casting off the balloon
rose readily, and reaching 3,000 feet, drifted away on an upper current.

The rest of the narrative, much condensed from a letter of the Marquis,
written a week later, runs somewhat thus: "Our departure was at
fifty-four minutes past one, and occasioned little stir among the
spectators. Thinking they might be frightened and stand in need of
encouragement, I waved my arm. M. de Rozier cried, 'You are doing
nothing, and we are not rising!' I stirred the fire, and then began to
scan the river, but Pilitre cried again, 'See the river; we are dropping
into it!' We again urged the fire, but still clung to the river bed.
Presently I heard a noise in the upper part of the balloon, which gave
a shock as though it had burst. I called to my companion, 'Are you
dancing?' The balloon by now had many holes burned in it, and using my
sponge I cried that we must descend. My companion, however, explained
that we were over Paris, and must now cross it. Therefore, raising the
fire once more, we turned south till we passed the Luxemburg, when,
extinguishing the flame, the balloon came down spent and empty."

Daring as was this ascent, it was in achievement eclipsed two months
later at Lyons, when a mammoth balloon, 130 feet in height and lifting
18 tons, was inflated in seventeen minutes, and ascended with no less
than seven passengers. When more than half a mile aloft this machine,
which was made of too slender material for its huge size, suddenly
developed a rent of half its length, causing it to descend with immense
velocity; but without the smallest injury to any of the passengers.
This was a memorable performance, and the account, sensational as it may
read, is by no means unworthy of credit; for, as will be seen hereafter,
a balloon even when burst or badly torn in midair may, on the principle
of the parachute, effect its own salvation.

In the meanwhile, the rival balloon of hydrogen gas--the Charliere, as
it has been called--had had its first innings. Before the close of
the year MM. Roberts and Charles constructed and inflated a hydrogen
balloon, this time fitted with a practicable valve, and in partnership
accomplished an ascent beating all previous records. The day, December
17, was one of winter temperature; yet the aeronauts quickly reached
6,000 feet, and when, after remaining aloft for one and a half hours,
they descended, Roberts got out, leaving Charles in sole possession.
Left to himself, this young recruit seems to have met with experiences
which are certainly unusual, and which must be attributed largely to the
novelty of his situation. He declared that at 9,000 feet, or less
than two miles, all objects on the earth had disappeared from view, a
statement which can only be taken to mean that he had entered cloud.
Further, at this moderate elevation he not only became benumbed with
cold, but felt severe pain in his right ear and jaw. He held on,
however, ascending till 10,500 feet were reached, when he descended,
having made a journey of thirty miles from the start.

Ascents, all on the Continent, now followed one another in rapid
succession, and shortly the MM. Roberts essayed a venture on new lines.
They attempted the guidance of a balloon by means of oars, and though
they failed in this they were fortunate in making a fresh record. They
also encountered a thunderstorm, and by adopting a perfectly scientific
method--of which more hereafter--succeeded in eluding it. The storm
broke around them when they were 14,000 feet high, and at this altitude,
noting that there were diverse currents aloft, they managed to manoeuvre
their balloon higher or lower at will and to suit their purpose, and
by this stratagem drew away from the storm centre. After six and a half
hours their voyage ended, but not until 150 miles had been covered.

It must be freely granted that prodigious progress had been made in
an art that as yet was little more than a year old; but assuredly not
enough to justify the absurdly inflated ideas that the Continental
public now began to indulge in. Men lost their mental balance, allowing
their imagination to run riot, and speculation became extravagant in
the extreme. There was to be no limit henceforward to the attainment
of fresh knowledge, nor any bounds placed to where man might roam. The
universe was open to him: he might voyage if he willed to the moon or
elsewhere: Paris was to be the starting point for other worlds: Heaven
itself had been taken by storm.

Moderation had to be learned ere long by the discipline of more than
one stern lesson. Hitherto a marvellous--call it a Providential--good
fortune had attended the first aerial travellers; and even when mishaps
presently came to be reckoned with, it may fairly be questioned whether
so many lives were sacrificed among those who sought to voyage through
the sky as were lost among such as first attempted to navigate the sea.

It is in such ventures as we are now regarding that fortune seems
readiest to favour the daring, and if I may digress briefly to adduce
experiences coming within my own knowledge, I would say that it is to
his very impulsiveness that the enthusiast often owes the safety of his
neck. It is the timid, not the bold rider, that comes to grief at the
fence. It is the man who draws back who is knocked over by a tramcar.
Sheer impetus, moral or physical, often carries you through, as in
the case of a fall from horse-back. To tumble off when your horse is
standing still and receive a dead blow from the ground might easily
break a limb. But at full gallop immunity often lies in the fact that
you strike the earth at an angle, and being carried forward, impact is
less abrupt. I can only say that I have on more than one occasion found
the greatest safety in a balloon venture involving the element of risk
to lie in complete abandonment to circumstances, and in the increased
life and activity which the delirium of excitement calls forth. In
comparing, however, man's first ventures by sky with those by sea, we
must remember what far greater demand the former must have made upon the
spirit of enterprise and daring.

We can picture the earliest sea voyager taking his first lesson astride
of a log with one foot on the bottom, and thus proceeding by sure stages
till he had built his coracle and learned to paddle it in shoal water.
But the case was wholly different when the first frail air ship stood at
her moorings with straining gear and fiercely burning furnace, and when
the sky sailor knew that no course was left him but to dive boldly up
into an element whence there was no stepping back, and separated from
earth by a gulf which man instinctively dreads to look down upon.

Taking events in their due sequence, we have now to record a voyage
which the terrors of sky and sea together combined to make memorable.
Winter had come--early January of 1785--when, in spite of short dark
days and frosty air, M. Blanchard, accompanied by an American, Dr.
Jeffries, determined on an attempt to cross the Channel. They chose the
English side, and inflating their balloon with hydrogen at Dover, boldly
cast off, and immediately drifted out to sea. Probably they had not paid
due thought to the effect of low sun and chilly atmosphere, for their
balloon rose sluggishly and began settling down ere little more than
a quarter of their course was run. Thereupon they parted with a large
portion of their ballast, with the result that they crept on as far as
mid-Channel, when they began descending again, and cast out the residue
of their sand, together with some books, and this, too, with the
uncomfortable feeling that even these measures would not suffice to
secure their safety.

This was in reality the first time that a sea passage had been made by
sky, and the gravity of their situation must not be under-estimated.
We are so accustomed in a sea passage to the constant passing of other
vessels that we allow ourselves to imagine that a frequented portion of
the ocean, such as the Channel, is thickly dotted over with shipping of
some sort. But in entertaining this idea we are forgetful of the fact
that we are all the while on a steamer track. The truth, however, is
that anywhere outside such a track, even from the commanding point of
view of a high-flying balloon, the ocean is seen to be more vast than
we suppose, and bears exceedingly little but the restless waves upon
its surface. Once fairly in the water with a fallen balloon, there is
clearly no rising again, and the life of the balloon in this its wrong
element is not likely to be a long one. The globe of gas may under
favourable circumstances continue to float for some while, but the open
wicker car is the worst possible boat for the luckless voyagers, while
to leave it and cling to the rigging is but a forlorn hope, owing to
the mass of netting which surrounds the silk, and which would prove a
death-trap in the water. There are many instances of lives having been
lost in such a dilemma, even when help was near at hand.

Our voyagers, whom we left in mid-air and stream, were soon descending
again, and this time they threw out their tackle--anchor, ropes, and
other gear, still without adequately mending matters. Then their case
grew desperate. The French coast was, indeed, well in sight, but there
seemed but slender chance of reaching it, when they began divesting
themselves of clothing as a last resort. The upshot of this was
remarkable, and deserves a moment's consideration. When a balloon has
been lightened almost to the utmost the discharge of a small weight
sometimes has a magical effect, as is not difficult to understand.
Throwing out ten pounds at an early stage, when there may be five
hundred pounds more of superfluous weight, will tell but little, but
when those five hundred pounds are expended then an extra ten pounds
scraped together from somewhere and cast overboard may cause a balloon
to make a giant stride into space by way of final effort; and it was so
with M. Blanchard. His expiring balloon shot up and over the approaching
land, and came safely to earth near the Forest of Guiennes. A
magnificent feast was held at Calais to celebrate the above event. M.
Blanchard was presented with the freedom of the city in a gold box, and
application was made to the Ministry to have the balloon purchased and
deposited as a memorial in the church. On the testimony of the grandson
of Dr. Jeffries the car of this balloon is now in the museum of the same

A very noteworthy example of how a balloon may be made to take a fresh
lease of life is supplied by a voyage of M. Testu about this date, which
must find brief mention in these pages. In one aspect it is laughable,
in another it is sublime. From every point of view it is romantic.

It was four o'clock on a threatening day in June when the solitary
aeronaut took flight from Paris in a small hydrogen balloon only
partially filled, but rigged with some contrivance of wings which were
designed to render it self-propelling. Discovering, however, that
this device was inoperative, M. Testu, after about an hour and a half,
allowed the balloon to descend to earth in a corn field, when, without
quitting hold of the car, he commenced collecting stones for ballast.
But as yet he knew not the ways of churlish proprietors of land, and
in consequence was presently surprised by a troublesome crowd, who
proceeded, as they supposed, to take him prisoner till he should pay
heavy compensation, dragging him off to the nearest village by the trail
rope of his balloon.

M. Testu now had leisure to consider his situation, and presently hit on
a stratagem the like of which has often since been adopted by aeronauts
in like predicament. Representing to his captors that without his
wings he would be powerless, he suffered them to remove these weighty
appendages, when also dropping a heavy cloak, he suddenly cut the cord
by which he was being dragged, and, regaining freedom, soared away into
the sky. He was quickly high aloft, and heard thunder below him, soon
after which, the chill of evening beginning to bring him earthward,
he descried a hunt in full cry, and succeeded in coming down near the
huntsmen, some of whom galloped up to him, and for their benefit he
ascended again, passing this time into dense cloud with thunder and
lightning. He saw the sun go down and the lightning gather round, yet
with admirable courage he lived the night out aloft till the storms were
spent and the midsummer sun rose once more. With daylight restored, his
journey ended at a spot over sixty miles from Paris.

We have, of course, recounted only a few of the more noteworthy early
ballooning ventures. In reality there had up to the present time been
scores of ascents made in different localities and in all conditions of
wind and weather, yet not a life had been lost. We have now, however,
to record a casualty which cost the first and boldest aeronaut his life,
and which is all the more regrettable as being due to circumstances that
should never have occurred.

M. Pilatre de Rosier, accompanied by M. Romain, determined on crossing
the Channel from the French side; and, thinking to add to their buoyancy
and avoid the risk of falling in the sea, hit on the extraordinary idea
of using a fire balloon beneath another filled with hydrogen gas! With
this deadly compound machine they actually ascended from Boulogne, and
had not left the land when the inevitable catastrophe took place.

The balloons caught fire and blew up at a height of 3,000 feet, while
the unfortunate voyagers were dashed to atoms.


As may be supposed, it was not long before the balloon was introduced
into England. Indeed, the first successful ascent on record made in our
own country took place in the summer of 1784, ten months previous to the
fatal venture narrated at the close of the last chapter. Now, it is a
remarkable and equally regrettable circumstance that though the
first ascent on British soil was undoubtedly made by one of our own
countrymen, the fact is almost universally forgotten, or ignored, and
the credit is accorded to a foreigner.

Let us in strict honesty examine into the case. Vincent Lunardi, an
Italian, Secretary to the Neapolitan Ambassador, Prince Caramanico,
being in England in the year 1784, determined on organising and
personally executing an ascent from London; and his splendid enterprise,
which was presently carried to a successful issue, will form the
principal subject of the present chapter. It will be seen that
remarkable success crowned his efforts, and that his first and ever
memorable voyage was carried through on September 15th of that year.

More than a month previously, however, attention had been called to the
fact that a Mr. Tytler was preparing to make an ascent from Edinburgh in
a hot air balloon, and in the London Chronicle of August 27th occurs the
following circumstantial and remarkable letter from a correspondent to
that journal:

"Edinburgh, Aug. 27, 1784.

"Mr. Tytler has made several improvements upon his fire balloon. The
reason of its failure formerly was its being made of porous linen,
through which the air made its escape. To remedy this defect, Mr. Tytler
has got it covered with a varnish to retain the inflammable air after
the balloon is filled.

"Early this morning this bold adventurer took his first aerial flight.
The balloon being filled at Comely Garden, he seated himself in the
basket, and the ropes being cut he ascended very high and descended
quite gradually on the road to Restalrig, about half a mile from the
place where he rose, to the great satisfaction of those spectators who
were present. Mr. Tytler went up without the furnace this morning; when
that is added he will be able to feed the balloon with inflammable air,
and continue his aerial excursions as long as he chooses.

"Mr. Tytler is now in high spirits, and in his turn laughs at those
infidels who ridiculed his scheme as visionary and impracticable. Mr.
Tytler is the first person in Great Britain who has navigated the air."

Referring to this exploit, Tytler, in a laudatory epistle addressed
to Lunardi, tells of the difficulties he had had to contend with, and
artlessly reveals the cool, confident courage he must have displayed.
No shelter being available for the inflation, and a strong wind blowing,
his first misfortune was the setting fire to his wicker gallery. The
next was the capsizing and damaging of his balloon, which he had lined
with paper. He now substituted a coat of varnish for the paper, and his
gallery being destroyed, so that he could no longer attempt to take up
a stove, he resolved to ascend without one. In the end the balloon was
successfully inflated, when he had the hardihood to entrust himself to
a small basket (used for carrying earthenware) slung below, and thus
to launch himself into the sky. He did so under the conviction that the
risk he ran was greater than it really was, for he argued that his craft
was now only like a projectile, and "must undoubtedly come to the ground
with the same velocity with which it ascended." On this occasion the
crowd tried for some time to hold him near the ground by one of the
restraining ropes, so that his flight was curtailed. In a second
experiment, however, he succeeded in rising some hundreds of feet, and
came to earth without mishap.

But little further information respecting Mr. Tytler is apparently
forthcoming, and therefore beyond recording the fact that he was the
first British aeronaut, and also that he was the first to achieve a
balloon ascent in Great Britain, we are unable to make further mention
of him in this history.

Of his illustrious contemporary already mentioned there is, on the
contrary, much to record, and we would desire to give full credit to his
admirable courage and perseverance. It was with a certain national
and pardonable pride that the young Italian planned his bold exploit,
feeling with a sense of self-satisfaction, which he is at no pains to
hide, that he aimed at winning honour for his country as well as for
himself. In a letter which he wrote to his guardian, Chevalier Gherardo
Compagni, he alludes to the stolid indifference of the English people
and philosophers to the brilliant achievements in aeronautics which
had been made and so much belauded on the Continent. He proclaims the
rivalry as regards science and art existing between France and England,
attributing to the latter an attitude of sullen jealousy. At the same
time he is fully alive to the necessity of gaining English patronage,
and sets about securing this with tactful diplomacy. First he casts
about for a suitable spot where his enterprise would not fail to enlist
general attention and perhaps powerful patrons, and here he is struck by
the attractions and facilities offered by Chelsea Hospital. He therefore
applies to Sir George Howard, the Governor, asking for the use of
the famous hospital, to which, on the occasion of his experiments, he
desires that admittance should only be granted to subscribers, while
any profits should be devoted to the pensioners of the hospital. His
application having been granted, he assures his guardian that he "still
maintains his mental balance, and his sleep is not banished by the
magnitude of his enterprise, which is destined to lead him through the
path of danger to glory."

This letter was dated the 15th of July, and by the beginning of August
his advertisement was already before the public, inviting subscribers
and announcing a private view of his balloon at the Lyceum, where it was
in course of construction, and was being fitted with contrivances of
his own in the shape of oars and sails. He had by this time not only
enlisted the interest of Sir George Howard, and of Sir Joseph Banks, but
had secured the direct patronage of the King.

But within a fortnight a most unforeseen mishap had occurred, which
threatened to overwhelm Lunardi in disappointment and ruin. A Frenchman
of the name of Moret, designing to turn to his own advertisement the
attention attracted by Lunardi's approaching trials, attempted to
forestall the event by an enterprise of his own, announcing that he
would make an ascent with a hot air balloon in some gardens near Chelsea
Hospital, and at a date previous to that fixed upon by Lunardi. In
attempting, however, to carry out this unworthy project the adventurer
met with the discomfiture he deserved. He failed to effect his
inflation, and when after fruitless attempts continued for three
hours, his balloon refused to rise, a large crowd, estimated at 60,000,
assembled outside, broke into the enclosure, committing havoc on all
sides, not unattended with acts of violence and robbery.

The whole neighbourhood became alarmed, and it followed as a matter
of course that Lunardi was peremptorily ordered to discontinue his
preparations, and to announce in the public press that his ascent from
Chelsea Hospital was forbidden. Failure and ruin now stared the young
enthusiast in the face, and it was simply the generous feeling of the
British public, and the desire to see fair play, that gave him another
chance. As it was, he became the hero of the hour; thousands flocked
to the show rooms at the Lyceum, and he shortly obtained fresh grounds,
together with needful protection for his project, at the hands of
the Hon. Artillery Company. By the 15th of September all incidental
difficulties, the mere enumeration of which would unduly swell these
pages, had been overcome by sheer persistence, and Lunardi stood in the
enclosure allotted him, his preparations in due order, with 150,000
souls, who had formed for hours a dense mass of spectators, watching
intently and now confidently the issue of his bold endeavour.

But his anxieties were as yet far from over, for a London crowd had
never yet witnessed a balloon ascent, while but a month ago they had
seen and wreaked their wrath upon the failure of an adventurer. They
were not likely to be more tolerant now. And when the advertised
hour for departure had arrived, and the balloon remained inadequately
inflated, matters began to take a more serious turn. Half an hour later
they approached a crisis, when it began to be known that the balloon
still lacked buoyancy, and that the supply of gas was manifestly
insufficient. The impatience of the mob indeed was kept in restraint by
one man alone. This man was the Prince of Wales who, refusing to join
the company within the building and careless of the attitude of the
crowd, remained near the balloon to check disorder and unfair treatment.

But an hour after time the balloon still rested inert and then,
with fine resolution, Lunardi tried one last expedient. He bade his
colleague, Mr. Biggen, who was to have ascended with him, remain behind,
and quietly substituting a smaller and lighter wicker car, or rather
gallery, took his place within and severed the cords just as the last
gun fired. The Prince of Wales raised his hat, imitated at once by all
the bystanders, and the first balloon that ever quitted English soil
rose into the air amid the extravagant enthusiasm of the multitude. The
intrepid aeronaut, pardonably excited, and fearful lest he should not
be seen within the gallery, made frantic efforts to attract attention
by waving his flag, and worked his oars so vigorously that one of
them broke and fell. A pigeon also gained its freedom and escaped. The
voyager, however, still retained companions in his venture--a dog and a

Following his own account, Lunardi's first act on finding himself fairly
above the town was to fortify himself with some glasses of wine, and to
devour the leg of a chicken. He describes the city as a vast beehive,
St. Paul's and other churches standing out prominently; the streets
shrunk to lines, and all humanity apparently transfixed and watching
him. A little later he is equally struck with the view of the open
country, and his ecstasy is pardonable in a novice. The verdant pastures
eclipsed the visions of his own lands. The precision of boundaries
impressed him with a sense of law and order, and of good administration
in the country where he was a sojourner.

By this time he found his balloon, which had been only two-thirds full
at starting, to be so distended that he was obliged to untie the mouth
to release the strain. He also found that the condensed moisture round
the neck had frozen. These two statements point to his having reached
a considerable altitude, which is intelligible enough. It is, however,
difficult to believe his further assertion that by the use of his single
oar he succeeded in working himself down to within a few hundred feet of
the earth. The descent of the balloon must, in point of fact, have been
due to a copious outrush of gas at his former altitude. Had his oar
really been effective in working the balloon down it would not have
needed the discharge of ballast presently spoken of to cause it to
reascend. Anyhow, he found himself sufficiently near the earth to land
a passenger who was anxious to get out. His cat had not been comfortable
in the cold upper regions, and now at its urgent appeal was deposited
in a corn field, which was the point of first contact with the earth.
It was carefully received by a country-woman, who promptly sold it to
a gentleman on the other side of the hedge, who had been pursuing the

The first ascent of a balloon in England was deserving of some record,
and an account alike circumstantial and picturesque is forthcoming. The
novel and astonishing sight was witnessed by a Hertfordshire farmer,
whose testimony, published by Lunardi in the same year, runs as

This deponent on his oath sayeth that, being on Wednesday, the 15th
day of September instant, between the hours of three and four in the
afternoon, in a certain field called Etna, in the parish of North Mimms
aforesaid, he perceived a large machine sailing in the air, near the
place where he was on horseback; that the machine continuing to approach
the earth, the part of it in which this deponent perceived a gentleman
standing came to the ground and dragged a short way on the ground in
a slanting direction; that the time when this machine thus touched the
earth was, as near as this deponent could judge, about a quarter before
four in the afternoon. That this deponent being on horseback, and his
horse restive, he could not approach nearer to the machine than about
four poles, but that he could plainly perceive therein gentleman dressed
in light coloured cloaths, holding in his hand a trumpet, which had the
appearance of silver or bright tin. That by this time several harvest
men coming up from the other part of the field, to the number of twelve
men and thirteen women, this deponent called to them to endeavour to
stop the machine, which the men attempted, but the gentleman in
the machine desiring them to desist, and the machine moving with
considerable rapidity, and clearing the earth, went off in a north
direction and continued in sight at a very great height for near an hour
afterwards. And this deponent further saith that the part of the machine
in the which the gentleman stood did not actually touch the ground for
more than half a minute, during which time the gentleman threw out a
parcel of what appeared to this deponent as dry sand. That after the
machine had ascended again from the earth this deponent perceived a
grapple with four hooks, which hung from the bottom of the machine,
dragging along the ground, which carried up with it into the air a small
parcel of loose oats, which the women were raking in the field. And
this deponent further on his oath sayeth that when the machine had risen
clear from the ground about twenty yards the gentleman spoke to this
deponent and to the rest of the people with his trumpet, wishing
them goodbye and saying that he should soon go out of sight. And this
deponent further on his oath sayeth that the machine in which the
gentleman came down to earth appeared to consist of two distinct parts
connected together by ropes, namely that in which the gentleman appeared
to be, a stage boarded at the bottom, and covered with netting and ropes
on the sides about four feet and a half high, and the other part of the
machine appeared in the shape of an urn, about thirty feet high and of
about the same diameter, made of canvas like oil skin, with green, red,
and yellow stripes.


Sworn before me this twentieth day of September, 1784, WILLIAM BAKER.

It was a curious fact, pointed out to the brave Italian by a resident,
that the field in which the temporary descent had been made was called
indifferently Etna or Italy, "from the circumstance which attended the
late enclosure of a large quantity of roots, rubbish, etc., having been
collected there, and having continued burning for many days. The common
people having heard of a burning mountain in Italy gave the field that

But the voyage did not end at Etna. The, as yet, inexperienced aeronaut
now cast out all available ballast in the shape of sand, as also his
provisions, and rising with great speed, soon reached a greater altitude
than before, which he sought to still farther increase by throwing down
his plates, knives, and forks. In this somewhat reckless expenditure he
thought himself justified by the reliance he placed on his oar, and it
is not surprising that in the end he owns that he owed his safety in
his final descent to his good fortune. The narrative condensed concludes

"At twenty minutes past four I descended in a meadow near Ware. Some
labourers were at work in it. I requested their assistance, but they
exclaimed they would have nothing to do with one who came on the Devil's
Horse, and no entreaties could prevail on them to approach me. I at last
owed my deliverance to a young woman in the field who took hold of
a cord I had thrown out, and, calling to the men, they yielded that
assistance at her request which they had refused to mine."

As may be supposed, Lunardi's return to London resembled a royal
progress. Indeed, he was welcomed as a conqueror to whom the whole town
sought to do honour, and perhaps his greatest gratification came by
way of the accounts he gathered of incidents which occurred during his
eventful voyage. At a dinner at which he was being entertained by the
Lord Mayor and judges he learned that a lady seeing his falling oar, and
fancying that he himself was dashed to pieces, received a shock thereby
which caused her death. Commenting on this, one of the judges bade him
be reassured, inasmuch as he had, as if by compensation, saved the
life of a young man who might live to be reformed. The young man was a
criminal whose condemnation was regarded as certain at the hands of the
jury before whom he was being arraigned, when tidings reached the court
that Lunardi's balloon was in the air. On this so much confusion arose
that the jury were unable to give due deliberation to the case, and,
fearing to miss the great sight, actually agreed to acquit the prisoner,
that they themselves might be free to leave the court!

But he was flattered by a compliment of a yet higher order. He was told
that while he hovered over London the King was in conference with his
principal Ministers, and his Majesty, learning that he was in the sky,
is reported to have said to his councillors, "We may resume our own
deliberations at pleasure, but we may never see poor Lunardi again!" On
this, it is further stated that the conference broke up, and the King,
attended by Mr. Pitt and other chief officers of State, continued to
view Lunardi through telescopes as long as he remained in the horizon.

The public Press, notably the Morning Post of September 16, paid
a worthy tribute to the hero of the hour, and one last act of an
exceptional character was carried out in his honour, and remains in
evidence to this hour. In a meadow in the parish of Standon, near Ware,
there stands a rough hewn stone, now protected by an iron rail. It marks
the spot where Lunardi landed, and on it is cut a legend which runs

     Let Posterity know
     And knowing be astonished
     On the 15th day of September 1784
     Vincent Lunardi of Lusca in Tuscany
     The first aerial traveller in Britain
     Mounting from the Artillery Ground
     In London
     And Traversing the Regions of the Air
     For Two Hours and Fifteen Minutes
     In this Spot Revisited the Earth.
     On this rude monument
     For ages be recorded
     That Wondrous Enterprise
     Successfully atchieved
     By the Powers of Chemistry
     And the Fortitude of Man
     That Improvement in Science
     The Great Author of all Knowledge
     Patronyzing by His Providence
     The Invention of Mankind
     Hath graciously permitted
     To Their Benefit
     His own Eternal Glory.


In less than two years not only had the science of ballooning reached
almost its highest development, but the balloon itself, as an aerostatic
machine, had been brought to a state of perfection which has been but
little improved upon up to the present hour. Better or cheaper methods
of inflation were yet to be discovered, lighter and more suitable
material remained to be manufactured; but the navigation of the air,
which hitherto through all time had been beyond man's grasp, had been
attained, as it were, at a bound, and at the hands of many different
and independent experimentalists was being pursued with almost the same
degree of success and safety as to-day.

Nor was this all. There was yet another triumph of the aeronautical
art which, within the same brief period, had been to all intents and
purposes achieved, even if it had not been brought to the same state of
perfection as at the present hour. This was the Parachute. This fact
is one which for a sufficient reason is not generally known. It is very
commonly supposed that the parachute, in anything like its present form,
is a very modern device, and that the art of successfully using it had
not been introduced to the world even so lately as thirty years ago.
Thus, we find it stated in works of that date dealing with the subject
that disastrous consequences almost necessarily attended the use of the
parachute, "the defects of which had been attempted to be remedied
in various ways, but up to this time without success." A more correct
statement, however, would have been that the art of constructing and
using a practicable parachute had through many years been lost or
forgotten. In actual fact, it had been adopted with every assurance of
complete success by the year 1785, when Blanchard by its means lowered
dogs and other animals with safety from a balloon. A few years later he
descended himself in a like apparatus from Basle, meeting, however, with
the misadventure of a broken leg.

But we must go much further back for the actual conception of the
parachute, which, we might suppose, may originally have been suggested
by the easy floating motion with which certain seeds or leaves will
descend from lofty trees, or by the mode adopted by birds of dropping
softly to earth with out-stretched wings. M. de la Loubere, in his
historical account of Siam, which he visited in 1687-88, speaks of an
ingenious athlete who exceedingly diverted the King and his court
by leaping from a height and supporting himself in the air by two
umbrellas, the handles of which were affixed to his girdle. In 1783,
that is, the same year as that in which the balloon was invented, M.
le Normand experimented with a like umbrella-shaped contrivance, with a
view to its adoption as a fire escape, and he demonstrated the soundness
of the principle by descending himself from the windows of a lofty house
at Lyons.

It was, however, reserved for M. Jacques Garnerin in 1797 to make the
first parachute descent that attracted general attention. Garnerin had
previously been detained as a State prisoner in the fortress of Bade,
in Hungary, after the battle of Marchiennes in 1793, and during his
confinement had pondered on the possibility of effecting his escape by a
parachute. His solitary cogitations and calculations resulted, after his
release, in the invention and construction of an apparatus which he put
to a practical test at Paris before the court of France on October 22nd,
1797. Ascending in a hydrogen balloon to the height of about 2,000 feet,
he unhesitatingly cut himself adrift, when for some distance he dropped
like a stone. The folds of his apparatus, however, opening suddenly,
his fall became instantly checked. The remainder of his descent, though
leisurely, occupying, in fact, some twelve minutes, appeared to the
spectators to be attended with uncertainty, owing to a swinging motion
set up in the car to which he was clinging. But the fact remains that he
reached the earth with only slight impact, and entirely without injury.

It appears that Garnerin subsequently made many equally successful
parachute descents in France, and during the short peace of 1802 visited
London, where he gave an exhibition of his art. From the most reliable
accounts of his exploit it would seem that his drop was from a very
great height, and that a strong ground wind was blowing at the time, the
result of which was that wild, wide oscillations were set up in the car,
which narrowly escaped bringing him in contact with the house tops in
St. Pancreas, and eventually swung him down into a field, not without
some unpleasant scratches.

Nor was Garnerin the only successful parachutist at this period. A
Polish aeronaut, Jordaki Kuparento, ascended from Warsaw on the 24th
of July, 1804 in a hot air balloon, taking up, as was the custom, an
attached furnace, which caused the balloon to take fire when at a great
height. Kuparento, however, who was alone, had as a precaution provided
himself with a parachute, and with this he seems to have found no
difficulty in effecting a safe descent to earth.

It was many years after this that fresh experimentalists, introducing
parachutes on new lines and faulty in construction, met with death or
disaster. Enough, however, has already been said to show that in
the early years we are now traversing in this history a perfectly
practicable parachute had become an accomplished fact. The early form is
well described by Mr. Monck Mason in a letter to the Morning Herald in
1837, written on the eve of an unrehearsed and fatal experiment made by
Mr. Cocking, which must receive notice in due course. "The principle,"
writes Mr. Monck Mason, "upon which all these parachutes were
constructed is the same, and consists simply of a flattened dome of silk
or linen from 24 feet to 28 feet in diameter. From the outer margin all
around at stated intervals proceed a large number of cords, in length
about the diameter of the dome itself, which, being collected together
in one point and made fast to another of superior dimensions attached to
the apex of the machine, serve to maintain it in its form when expanded
in the progress of the descent. To this centre cord likewise, at a
distance below the point of junction, varying according to the fancy of
the aeronaut, is fixed the car or basket in which he is seated, and the
whole suspended from the network of the balloon in such a manner as to
be capable of being detached in an instant at the will of the individual
by cutting the rope by which it is made fast above."

It followed almost as a matter of course that so soon as the balloon
had been made subject to something like due control, and thus had become
recognised as a new machine fairly reduced to the service of man, it
began to be regarded as an instrument which should be made capable of
being devoted to scientific research. Indeed, it may be claimed that,
among the very earliest aeronauts, those who had sailed away into the
skies and brought back intelligent observations or impressions of the
realm of cloud-land, or who had only described their own sensations at
lofty altitudes, had already contributed facts of value to science. It
is time then, taking events in their due sequence, that mention should
be made of the endeavours of various savants, who began about the
commencement of the nineteenth century to gather fresh knowledge from
the exploration of the air by balloon ascents organised with fitting
equipment. The time had now come for promoting the balloon to higher
purposes than those of mere exhibition or amusement. In point of fact,
it had already in one way been turned to serious practical account.
It had been used by the French during military operations in the
revolutionary war as a mode of reconnoitring, and not without success,
so that when after due trial the war balloon was judged of value a
number of similar balloons were constructed for the use of the various
divisions of the French army, and, as will be told in its proper place,
one, at least, of these was put to a positive test before the battle of

But, returning to more strictly scientific ascents, which began to be
mooted at this period, we are at once impressed with the widespread
influence which the balloon was exercising on thinking minds. We note
this from the fact that what must be claimed to be the first genuine
ascent for scientific observation was made in altogether fresh ground,
and at so distant a spot as St. Petersburg.

It was now the year 1804, and the Russian Academy had determined on
attempting an examination of the physical condition of the higher
atmosphere by means of the balloon. The idea had probably been suggested
by scientific observations which had already been made on mountain
heights by such explorers as De Luc, Saussure, Humboldt, and others. And
now it was determined that their results should be tested alongside such
observations as could be gathered in the free heaven far removed from
any disturbing effects that might be caused by contiguity to earth. The
lines of enquiry to which special attention was required were such as
would be naturally suggested by the scientific knowledge of the hour,
though they may read somewhat quaintly to-day. Would there be any change
in the intensity of the magnetic force? Any change in the inclination
of the magnetised needle? Would evaporation find a new law? Would solar
rays increase in power? What amount of electric matter would be found?
What change in the colours produced by the prism? What would be the
constitution of the higher and more attenuated air? What physical effect
would it have on human and bird life?

The ascent was made at 7.15 on a summer evening by M. Robertson and
the Academician, M. Sacharof, to whom we are indebted for the following
resume of notes, which have a special value as being the first of their
class. Rising slowly, a difference of atmosphere over the Neva gave the
balloon a downward motion, necessitating the discharge of ballast. As
late as 8.45 p.m. a fine view was obtained of the Newski Islands, and
the whole course of the neighbouring river. At 9.20 p.m., when the
barometer had fallen from 30 inches to 23 inches, a canary and a dove
were dismissed, the former falling precipitately, while the latter
sailed down to a village below. All available ballast was now thrown
out, including a spare great coat and the remains of supper, with the
result that at 9.30 the barometer had fallen to 22 inches, and at this
height they caught sight of the upper rim of the sun. The action of
heart and lungs remained normal. No stars were seen, though the sky was
mainly clear, such clouds as were visible appearing white and at a great
height. The echo of a speaking trumpet was heard after an interval of
ten seconds. This was substantially the outcome of the experiments. The
practical difficulties of carrying out prearranged observations amid the
inconvenience of balloon travel were much felt. Their instruments were
seriously damaged, and their results, despite most painstaking and
praiseworthy efforts, must be regarded as somewhat disappointing.

But ere the autumn of the same year two other scientific ascents,
admirably schemed and financed at the public expense, had been
successfully carried out at Paris in a war balloon which, as will be
told, had at this time been returned from military operations in Egypt.
In the first of these, Gay Lussac ascended in company with M. Biot, with
very complete equipment. Choosing ten o'clock in the morning for their
hour of departure, they quickly entered a region of thin, but wet
fog, after which they shot up into denser cloud, which they completely
surmounted at a height of 6,500 feet, when they described the upper
surface as bearing the resemblance, familiar enough to aeronauts and
mountaineers, as of a white sea broken up into gently swelling billows,
or of an extended plain covered with snow.

A series of simple experiments now embarked upon showed the behaviour
of magnetised iron, as also of a galvanic pile or battery, to remain
unaltered. As their altitude increased their pulses quickened, though
beyond feeling keenly the contrast of a colder air and of scorching rays
of the sun they experienced no physical discomfort. At 11,000 feet a
linnet which they liberated fell to the earth almost helplessly, while a
pigeon with difficulty maintained an irregular and precipitate flight.
A carefully compiled record was made of variations of temperature and
humidity, and they succeeded in determining that the upper air was
charged with negative electricity. In all this these two accomplished
physicists may be said to have carried out a brilliant achievement, even
though their actual results may seem somewhat meagre. They not only
were their own aeronauts, but succeeded in arranging and carrying out
continuous and systematic observations throughout the period of their
remaining in the sky.

This voyage was regarded as such a pronounced success that three weeks
later, in mid-September, Gay Lussac was induced to ascend again, this
time alone, and under circumstances that should enable him to reach an
exceptionally high altitude. Experience had taught the advisability of
certain modifications in his equipment. A magnet was ingeniously slung
with a view of testing its oscillation even in spite of accidental
gyrations in the balloon. Thermometers and hygrometers were carefully
sheltered from the direct action of the sun, and exhausted flasks were
supplied with the object of bringing down samples of upper air for
subsequent analysis.

Again it was an early morning ascent, with a barometer on the ground
standing at 30.6 inches, and a slightly misty air. Lussac appears
to have accomplished the exceedingly difficult task of counting the
oscillations of his magnet with satisfaction to himself. At 10,000 feet
twenty vibrations occupied 83 seconds, as compared with 84.33 seconds at
the earth's surface. The variation of the compass remained unaltered,
as also the behaviour of magnetised iron at all altitudes. Keeping his
balloon under perfect control, and maintaining a uniform and steady
ascent, he at the same time succeeded in compiling an accurate table of
readings recording atmospheric pressure, temperature and humidity,
and it is interesting to find that he was confronted with an apparent
anomaly which will commonly present itself to the aeronaut observer.
Up to 12,000 feet the temperature had decreased consistently from 82
degrees to 47 degrees, after which it increased 6 degrees in the next
2,000 feet. This by no means uncommon experience shall be presently
discussed. The balloon was now steadily manoeuvred up to 18,636 feet, at
which height freezing point was practically reached. Then with a further
climb 20,000 feet is recorded, at which altitude the ardent philosopher
could still attend to his magnetic observations, nor is his arduous and
unassisted task abandoned here, but with marvellous pertinacity he yet
struggled upwards till a height of no less than 23,000 feet is recorded,
and the thermometer had sunk to 14 degrees F. Four miles and a quarter
above the level of the sea, reached by a solitary aerial explorer, whose
legitimate training lay apart from aeronautics, and whose main care
was the observation of the philosophical instruments he carried! The
achievement of this French savant makes a brilliant record in the early
pages of our history.

It is not surprising that Lussac should own to having felt no
inconsiderable personal discomfort before his venture was over. In spite
of warm clothing he suffered greatly from cold and benumbed fingers,
not less also from laboured breathing and a quickened pulse; headache
supervened, and his throat became parched and unable to swallow food. In
spite of all, he conducted the descent with the utmost skill, climbing
down quietly and gradually till he alighted with gentle ease at St.
Gourgen, near Rouen. It may be mentioned here that the analysis of the
samples of air which he had brought down proved them to contain the
normal proportion of oxygen, and to be essentially identical, as tested
in the laboratory, with the free air secured at the surface of the

The sudden and apparently unaccountable variation in temperature
recorded by Lussac is a striking revelation to an aerial observer, and
becomes yet more marked when more sensitive instruments are used than
those which were taken up on the occasion just related. It will be
recorded in a future chapter how more suitable instruments came in
course of time to be devised. It is only necessary to point out at this
stage that instruments which lack due sensibility will unavoidably read
too high in ascents, and too low in descents where, according to the
general law, the air is found to grow constantly colder with elevation
above the earth's surface. It is strong evidence of considerable
efficiency in the instruments, and of careful attention on the part of
the observer, that Lussac was able to record the temporary inversion
of the law of change of temperature above-mentioned. Had he possessed
modern instrumental equipment he would have brought down a yet more
remarkable account of the upper regions which he visited, and learned
that the variations of heat and cold were considerably more striking
than he supposed.

With a specially devised instrument used with special precautions, the
writer, as will be shown hereafter, has been able to prove that the
temperature of the air, as traversed in the wayward course of a balloon,
is probably far more variable and complex than has been recorded by most

The exceptional height claimed to have been reached by Gay Lassac need
not for a moment be questioned, and the fact that he did not experience
the same personal inconvenience as has been complained of by mountain
climbers at far less altitudes admits of ready explanation. The physical
exertion demanded of the mountaineer is entirely absent in the case of
an aeronaut who is sailing at perfect ease in a free balloon. Moreover,
it must be remembered that--a most important consideration--the aerial
voyager, necessarily travelling with the wind, is unconscious, save
at exceptional moments, of any breeze whatever, and it is a
well-established fact that a degree of cold which might be insupportable
when a breeze is stirring may be but little felt in dead calm. It should
also be remembered, in duly regarding Gay Lussac's remarkable record,
that this was not his first experience of high altitudes, and it is an
acknowledged truth that an aeronaut, especially if he be an enthusiast,
quickly becomes acclimatised to his new element, and sufficiently inured
to its occasional rigours.


During certain years which now follow it will possibly be thought that
our history, so far as incidents of special interest are concerned,
somewhat languishes. Yet it may be wrong to regard this period as one of
stagnation or retrogression.

Before passing on to later annals, however, we must duly chronicle
certain exceptional achievements and endeavours as yet unmentioned,
which stand out prominently in the period we have been regarding as also
in the advancing years of the new century Among these must in justice
be included those which come into the remarkable, if somewhat pathetic
subsequent career of the brilliant, intrepid Lunardi.

Compelling everywhere unbounded admiration he readily secured the means
necessary for carrying out further exploits wherever he desired while
at the same time he met with a measure of good fortune in freedom from
misadventure such as has generally been denied to less bold adventurers.
Within a few months of the time when we left him, the popular hero and
happy recipient of civic and royal favours, we find him in Scotland
attempting feats which a knowledge of practical difficulties bids us
regard as extraordinary.

To begin with, nothing appears more remarkable than the ease,
expedition, and certainty with which in days when necessary facilities
must have been far harder to come by than now, he could always fill his
balloon by the usually tedious and troublesome mode attending hydrogen
inflation. We see him at his first Scottish ascent, completing the
operation in little more than two hours. It is the same later at
Glasgow, where, commencing with only a portion of his apparatus, he
finds the inflation actually to proceed too rapidly for his purpose,
and has to hold the powers at his command strongly in check. Later, in
December weather, having still further improved his apparatus, he makes
his balloon support itself after the inflation of only ten minutes.
Then, as if assured of impunity, he treats recognised risks with a
species of contempt. At Kelso he hails almost with joy the fact that
the wind must carry him rapidly towards the sea, which in the end he
narrowly escapes. At Glasgow the chances of safe landing are still
more against him, yet he has no hesitation in starting, and at last the
catastrophe he seemed to court actually overtook him, and he plumped
into the sea near Berwick, where no sail was even in sight, and a
winter's night coming on. From this predicament he was rescued by a
special providence which once before had not deserted him, when in a
tumult of violent and contrary currents, and at a great height to boot,
his gallery was almost completely carried away, and he had to cling on
to the hoop desperately with both hands.

Then we lose sight of the dauntless, light-hearted Italian for
one-and-twenty years, when in the Gentleman's Magazine of July 31,
1806, appears the brief line, "Died in the convent of Barbadinas, of a
decline, Mr. Vincent Lunardi, the celebrated aeronaut."

Garnerin, of whom mention has already been made, accomplished in the
summer of 1802 two aerial voyages marked by extreme velocity in the
rate of travel. The first of these is also remarkable as having been
the first to fairly cross the heart of London. Captain Snowdon, R.N.,
accompanied the aeronaut. The ascent took place from Chelsea Gardens,
and proved so great an attraction that the crowd overflowed into the
neighbouring parts of the town, choking up the thoroughfares with
vehicles, and covering the river with boats. On being liberated, the
balloon sped rapidly away, taking a course midway between the river
and the main highway of the Strand, Fleet Street, and Cheapside, and so
passed from view of the multitude. Such a departure could hardly fail
to lead to subsequent adventures, and this is pithily told in a letter
written by Garnerin himself: "I take the earliest opportunity of
informing you that after a very pleasant journey, but after the most
dangerous descent I ever made, on account of the boisterous weather and
the vicinity of the sea, we alighted at the distance of four miles from
this place and sixty from Ranelagh. We were only three-quarters of an
hour on the way. To-night I intend to be in London with the balloon,
which is torn to pieces. We ourselves are all over bruises."

Only a week after the same aeronaut ascended again from Marylebone, when
he attained almost the same velocity, reaching Chingford, a distance of
seventeen miles, in fifteen minutes.

The chief danger attending a balloon journey in a high wind, supposing
no injury has been sustained in filling and launching, results not so
much from impact with the ground on alighting as from the subsequent
almost inevitable dragging along the ground. The grapnels, spurning the
open, will often obtain no grip save in a hedge or tree, and even then
large boughs will be broken through or dragged away, releasing the
balloon on a fresh career which may, for a while, increase in mad
impetuosity as the emptying silk offers a deeper hollow for the wind to

The element of risk is of another nature in the case of a night ascent,
when the actual alighting ground cannot be duly chosen or foreseen.
Among many record night ascents may here, somewhat by anticipation
of events, be mentioned two embarked upon by the hero of our last
adventure. M. Garnerin was engaged to make a spectacular ascent from
Tivoli at Paris, leaving the grounds at night with attached lamps
illuminating his balloon. His first essay was on a night of early
August, when he ascended at 11 p.m., reaching a height of nearly three
miles. Remaining aloft through the hours of darkness, he witnessed the
sun rise at half-past two in the morning, and eventually came to earth
after a journey of some seven hours, during which time he had covered
considerably more than a hundred miles. A like bold adventure carried
out from the same grounds the following month was attended with graver
peril. A heavy thunderstorm appearing imminent, Garnerin elected to
ascend with great rapidity, with the result that his balloon, under the
diminished pressure, quickly became distended to an alarming degree, and
he was reduced to the necessity of piercing a hole in the silk, while
for safety's sake he endeavoured to extinguish all lamps within reach.
He now lost all control over his balloon, which became unmanageable in
the conflict of the storm. Having exhausted his ballast, he presently
was rudely brought to earth and then borne against a mountain side,
finally losing consciousness until the balloon had found anchorage three
hundred miles away from Paris.

A night ascent, which reads as yet more sensational and extraordinary,
is reported to have been made a year or two previously, and when it is
considered that the balloon used was of the Montgolfier type the account
as it is handed down will be allowed to be without parallel. It runs
thus: Count Zambeccari, Dr. Grassati of Rome, and M. Pascal Andreoli of
Antona ascended on a November night from Bologna, allowing their balloon
to rise with excessive velocity. In consequence of this rapid transition
to an extreme altitude the Count and the Doctor became insensible,
leaving Andreoli alone in possession of his faculties. At two o'clock in
the morning they found themselves descending over the Adriatic, at
which time a lantern which they carried expired and was with difficulty
re-lighted. Continuing to descend, they presently pitched in to the sea
and became drenched with salt water. It may seem surprising that the
balloon, which could not be prevented falling in the water, is yet
enabled to ascend from the grip of the waves by the mere discharge of
ballast. (It would be interesting to inquire what meanwhile happened to
the fire which they presumably carried with them.) They now rose into
regions of cloud, where they became covered with hoar frost and also
stone deaf. At 3 a.m. they were off the coast of Istria, once more
battling with the waves till picked up by a shore boat. The balloon,
relieved of their weight, then flew away into Turkey.

However overdrawn this narrative may appear, it must be read in the
light of another account, the bare, hard facts of which can admit of
no question. It is five years later, and once again Count Zambeccari is
ascending from Bologna, this time in company with Signor Bonagna. Again
it is a Montgolfier or fire balloon, and on nearing earth it becomes
entangled in a tree and catches fire. The aeronauts jump for their
lives, and the Count is killed on the spot. Certainly, when every
allowance is made for pardonable or unintentional exaggeration, it
must be conceded that there were giants in those days. Giants in the
conception and accomplishment of deeds of lofty daring. Men who came
scathless through supreme danger by virtue of the calmness and courage
with which they withstood it.

Among other appalling disasters we have an example of a terrific descent
from a vast height in which the adventurers yet escape with their lives.
It was the summer of 1808, and the aeronauts, MM. Andreoli and Brioschi,
ascending from Padua, reach a height at which a barometer sinks to eight
inches, indicating upwards of 30,000 feet. At this point the balloon
bursts, and falls precipitately near Petrarch's tomb. Commenting on
this, Mr. Glaisher, the value of whose opinion is second to none, is not
disposed to question the general truth of the narrative. In regard to
Zambeccari's escape from the sea related above, it should be stated that
in the case of a gas-inflated balloon which has no more than dipped its
car or gallery in the waves, it is generally perfectly possible to raise
it again from the water, provided there is on board a store of ballast,
the discharge of which will sufficiently lighten the balloon. A case in
point occurred in a most romantic and perilous voyage accomplished by
Mr. Sadler on the 1st of October, 1812.

His adventure is one of extraordinary interest, and of no little value
to the practical aeronaut. The following account is condensed from Mr.
Sadler's own narrative. He started from the grounds of Belvedere House,
Dublin, with the expressed intention of endeavouring to cross over the
Irish Channel to Liverpool. There appear to have been two principal
air drifts, an upper and a lower, by means of which he entertained fair
hopes of steering his desired course. But from the outset he was menaced
with dangers and difficulties. Ere he had left the land he discovered
a rent in his silk which, occasioned by some accident before leaving,
showed signs of extending. To reach this, it was necessary to
extemporise by means of a rope a species of ratlins by which he
could climb the rigging. He then contrived to close the rent with his
neckcloth. He was, by this time, over the sea, and, manoeuvring his
craft by aid of the two currents at his disposal, he was carried to the
south shore of the Isle of Man, whence he was confident of being able,
had he desired it, of landing in Cumberland. This, however, being
contrary to his intention, he entrusted himself to the higher current,
and by it was carried to the north-west of Holyhead. Here he dropped
once again to the lower current, drifting south of the Skerry Lighthouse
across the Isle of Anglesea, and at 4.30 p.m. found himself abreast of
the Great Orme's Head. Evening now approaching, he had determined to
seek a landing, but at this critical juncture the wind shifted to the
southward, and he became blown out to sea. Then, for an hour, he appears
to have tried high and low for a more favourable current, but without
success; and, feeling the danger of his situation, and, moreover,
sighting no less than five vessels beating down the Channel, he boldly
descended in the sea about a mile astern of them. He must for certain
have been observed by these vessels; but each and all held on their
course, and, thus deserted, the aeronaut had no choice but to discharge
ballast, and, quitting the waves, to regain his legitimate element. His
experiences at this period of his extraordinary voyage are best told in
his own words. "At the time I descended the sun was near setting Already
the shadows of evening had cast a dusky hue over the face of the ocean,
and a crimson glow purpled the tops of the waves as, heaving in the
evening breeze, they died away in distance, or broke in foam against the
sides of the vessels, and before I rose from the sea the orb had sunk
below the horizon, leaving only the twilight glimmer to light the vast
expanse around me. How great, therefore, was my astonishment, and how
incapable is expression to convey an adequate idea of my feelings when,
rising to the upper region of the air, the sun, whose parting beams I
had already witnessed, again burst on my view, and encompassed me with
the full blaze of day. Beneath me hung the shadows of even, whilst the
clear beams of the sun glittered on the floating vehicle which bore me
along rapidly before the wind."

After a while he sights three more vessels, which signify their
willingness to stand by, whereupon he promptly descends, dropping
beneath the two rear-most of them. From this point the narrative of the
sinking man, and the gallant attempt at rescue, will rival any like tale
of the sea. For the wind, now fast rising, caught the half empty balloon
so soon as the car touched the sea, and the vessel astern, though in
full pursuit, was wholly unable to come up. Observing this, Mr. Sadler,
trusting more to the vessel ahead, dropped his grappling iron by way of
drag, and shortly afterwards tried the further expedient of taking off
his clothes and attaching them to the iron. The vessels, despite these
endeavours, failing to overhaul him, he at last, though with reasonable
reluctance, determined to further cripple the craft that bore him so
rapidly by liberating a large quantity of gas, a desperate, though
necessary, expedient which nearly cost him his life.

For the car now instantly sank, and the unfortunate man, clutching at
the hoop, found he could not even so keep himself above the water, and
was reduced to clinging, as a last hope, to the netting. The result of
this could be foreseen, for he was frequently plunged under water by the
mere rolling of the balloon. Cold and exertion soon told on him, as he
clung frantically to the valve rope, and when his strength failed him he
actually risked the expedient of passing his head through the meshes
of the net. It was obvious that for avail help must soon come; yet the
pursuing vessel, now close, appeared to hold off, fearing to become
entangled in the net, and in this desperate extremity, fainting from
exhaustion and scarcely able to cry aloud, Mr. Sadler himself seems to
have divined the chance yet left; for, summoning his failing strength,
he shouted to the sailors to run their bowsprit through his balloon.
This was done, and the drowning man was hauled on board with the life
scarcely in him.

A fitting sequel to the above adventure followed five years afterwards.
The Irish Sea remained unconquered. No balloonist had as yet ever
crossed its waters. Who would attempt the feat once more? Who more
worthy than the hero's own son, Mr. Windham Sadler?

This aspiring aeronaut, emulating his father's enterprising spirit,
chose the same starting ground at Dublin, and on the longest day of
1817, when winds seemed favourable, left the Porto Bello barracks at
1.20 p.m. His endeavour was to "tack" his course by such currents as he
should find, in the manner attempted by his father, and at starting the
ground current blew favourably from the W.S.W. He, however, allowed his
balloon to rise to too high an altitude, where he must have been taken
aback by a contrary drift; for, on descending again through a shower of
snow, he found himself no further than Ben Howth, as yet only ten miles
on his long journey. Profiting by his mistake, he thenceforward, by
skilful regulation, kept his balloon within due limits, and successfully
maintained a direct course across the sea, reaching a spot in Wales not
far from Holyhead an hour and a half before sundown. The course taken
was absolutely the shortest possible, being little more than seventy
miles, which he traversed in five hours.

From this period of our story, noteworthy events in aeronautical history
grow few and far between. As a mere exhibition the novelty of a balloon
ascent had much worn off. No experimentalist was ready with any new
departure in the art. No fresh adventure presented itself to the minds
of the more enterprising spirits; and, whereas a few years previously
ballooning exploits crowded into every summer season and were not
neglected even in winter months, there is now for a while little to
chronicle, either abroad or in our own country. A certain revival of the
sensational element in ballooning was occasionally witnessed, and not
without mishap, as in the case of Madame Blanchard, who, in the summer
of 1819, ascending at night with fireworks from the Tivoli Gardens,
Paris, managed to set fire to her balloon and lost her life in her
terrific fall. Half a dozen years later a Mr., as also Mrs., Graham
figure before the public in some bold spectacular ascents.

But the fame of any aeronaut of that date must inevitably pale before
the dawning light shed by two stars of the first magnitude that were
arising in two opposite parts of the world--Mr. John Wise in America,
and Mr. Charles Green in our own country. The latter of these, who has
been well styled the "Father of English Aeronautics," now entered on a
long and honoured career of so great importance and success that we must
reserve for him a separate and special chapter.


The balloon, which had gradually been dropping out of favour, had now
been virtually laid aside, and, to all appearance, might have continued
so, when, as if by chance concurrence of events, there arrived both the
hour and the man to restore it to the world, and to invest it with a new
practicability and importance. The coronation of George the Fourth
was at hand, and this became a befitting occasion for the rare genius
mentioned at the end of the last chapter, and now in his thirty-sixth
year, to put in practice a new method of balloon management and
inflation, the entire credit of which must be accorded to him alone.

From its very introduction and inception the gas balloon, an expensive
and fragile structure in itself, had proved at all times exceedingly
costly in actual use. Indeed, we find that at the date at which we have
now arrived the estimate for filling a balloon of 70,000 cubic feet--no
extraordinary capacity--with hydrogen gas was about L250. When, then,
to this great outlay was added the difficulty and delay of producing
a sufficient supply by what was at best a clumsy process, as also the
positive failure and consequent disappointment which not infrequently
ensued, it is easy to understand how through many years balloon ascents,
no longer a novelty, had begun to be regarded with distrust, and the
profession of a balloonist was doomed to become unremunerative. A
simpler and cheaper mode of inflation was not only a desideratum, but an
absolute necessity. The full truth of this may be gathered from the fact
that we find there were not seldom instances where two or three days of
continuous and anxious labour were expended in generating and passing
hydrogen into a balloon, through the fabric of which the subtle gas
would escape almost as fast as it was produced.

It was at this juncture, then, that Charles Green conceived the happy
idea of substituting for hydrogen gas the ordinary household gas, which
at this time was to be found ready to hand and in sufficient quantity in
all towns of any consequence; and by the day of the coronation all was
in readiness for a public exhibition of this method of inflation, which
was carried out with complete success, though not altogether without
unrehearsed and amusing incident, as must be told.

The day, July 18, was one of summer heat, and Green at the conclusion
of his preparations, fatigued with anxious labour and oppressed by the
crowding of the populace, took refuge within the car of his balloon,
which was by that time already inflated, and only awaiting the gun
signal that was to announce the moment for its departure. To allow of
his gaining the refreshment of somewhat purer air he begged his
friends who were holding the car of his balloon in restraint to keep it
suspended at a few feet from the earth, while he rested himself within,
and, this being done, it would appear that he fell into a doze, from
which he did not awake till he found that the balloon, which had slipped
from his friends' hold, was already high above the crowd and requiring
his prompt attention. This was, however, by no means an untoward
accident, and Green's triumph was complete. By this one venture alone
the success of the new method was entirely assured. The cost of the
inflation had been reduced ten-fold, the labour and uncertainty a
hundred-fold, and, over and above all, the confidence of the public was
restored. It is little wonder, then, that in the years that now follow
we find the balloon returning to all the favour it had enjoyed in its
palmiest days. But Green proved himself something more than a practical
balloonist of the first rank. He brought to the aid of his profession
ideas which were matured by due thought and scientifically sound. It is
true he still clung for a while to the antiquated notion that mechanical
means could, with advantage, be used to cause a balloon to ascend or
descend, or to alter its direction in a tranquil atmosphere. But he
saw clearly that the true method of navigating a balloon should be by a
study of upper currents, and this he was able to put to practical proof
on a memorable occasion, and in a striking manner, as we shall presently

He learned the lesson early in his career while acquiring facts and
experience, unassisted, in a number of solitary voyages made from
different parts of the country. Among these he is careful to record an
occasion when, making a day-light ascent from Boston, Lincolnshire,
he maintained a lofty course, which promised to take him direct to
Grantham; but, presently descending to a lower level, and his balloon
diverging at an angle of some 45 degrees, he now headed for Newark. This
experience he stored away.

A month later we find him making a night voyage from Vauxhall Gardens,
destined to be the scene of many memorable ascents in the near future;
and on this occasion he gave proof of his capability as a close and
intelligent observer. It was a July night, near 11 p.m., moonless and
cloudy, yet the earth was visible, and under these circumstances
his simple narrative becomes of scientific value. He accurately
distinguished the reflective properties of the face of the diversified
country he traversed. Over Battersea and Wandsworth--this was in
1826--there were white sheets spread over the land, which proved to be
corn crops ready for the sickle. Where crops were not the ground was
darker, with, here and there, objects absolutely black--in other words,
trees and houses. Then he mentions the river in a memorandum, which
reads strangely to the aeronaut who has made the same night voyage in
these latter days. The stream was crossed in places with rows of lamps
apparently resting on the water. These were the lighted bridges;
but, here and there, were dark planks, and these too were bridges--at
Battersea and Putney--but without a light upon them!

In these and many other simple, but graphic, narratives Green draws
his own pictures of Nature in her quieter moods. But he was not without
early experience of her horse play, a highly instructive record of which
should not be omitted here, and which, as coming from so careful and
conscientious an observer, is best gathered from his own words. The
ascent was from Newbury, and it can have been no mean feat to fill,
under ordinary circumstances, a balloon carrying two passengers and a
considerable weight of ballast at the small gas-holder which served the
town eighty-five years ago. But the circumstances were not ordinary, for
the wind was extremely squally; a tremendous hail and thunderstorm blew
up, and a hurricane swept the balloon with such force that two tons
weight of iron and a hundred men scarce sufficed to hold it in check.

Green on this occasion had indeed a companion, whose usefulness however
at a pinch may be doubted when we learn that he was both deaf and dumb.
The rest of the narrative runs thus: "Between 4 and 5 p.m. the clouds
dispersed, but the wind continued to rage with unabated fury the whole
of the evening. At 6 p.m. I stepped into the car with Mr. Simmons and
gave the word 'Away!' The moment the machine was disencumbered of its
weights it was torn by the violence of the wind from the assistants,
bounded off with the velocity of lightning in a southeasterly direction,
and in a very short space of time attained an elevation of two miles. At
this altitude we perceived two immense bodies of clouds operated on by
contrary currents of air until at length they became united, and at that
moment my ears were assailed by the most awful and longest continued
peal of thunder I have ever heard. These clouds were a full mile beneath
us, but perceiving other strata floating at the same elevation at which
we were sailing, which from their appearance I judged to be highly
charged with electricity, I considered it prudent to discharge twenty
pounds of ballast, and we rose half a mile above our former elevation,
where I considered we were perfectly safe and beyond their influence.
I observed, amongst other phenomena, that at every discharge of thunder
all the detached pillars of clouds within the distance of a mile around
became attracted and appeared to concentrate their force towards the
first body of clouds alluded to, leaving the atmosphere clear and calm
beneath and around us.

"With very trifling variations we continued the same course until 7.15
p.m., when we descended to within 500 feet of the earth; but, perceiving
from the disturbed surface of the rivers and lakes that a strong wind
existed near the earth, we again ascended and continued our course till
7.30 p.m., when a final descent was safely effected in a meadow field in
the parish of Crawley in Surrey, situated between Guildford and Horsham,
and fifty-eight miles from Newbury. This stormy voyage was performed in
one hour and a half."

It was after Green had followed his profession for fifteen years that he
was called upon to undertake the management of an aerial venture, which,
all things considered, has never been surpassed in genuine enterprise
and daring. The conception of the project was due to Mr. Robert Hollond,
and it took shape in this way. This gentleman, fresh from Cambridge,
possessed of all the ardour of early manhood, as also of adequate means,
had begun to devote himself with the true zeal of the enthusiast to
the pursuit of ballooning, finding due opportunity for this in his
friendship with Mr. Green, who enjoyed the management of the fine
balloon made for ascents at the then popular Vauxhall Gardens. In the
autumn of 1836 the proprietors of this balloon, contemplating making an
exhibition of an ascent from Paris, and requiring their somewhat fragile
property to be conveyed to that city, Mr. Hollond boldly came forward
and offered to transfer it thither, and, as nearly as this might be
possible, by passage through the sky. The proposal was accepted, and Mr.
Holland, in conjunction with Green, set about the needful preparations.
These, as will appear, were on an extraordinary scale, and no blame is
to be imputed on that account, as a little consideration will show. For
the venture proposed was not to be that of merely crossing the Channel,
which, as we have seen, had been successfully effected no less than
fifty years before. The voyage in contemplation was to be from London;
it was, moreover, to be pursued through a long, moonless winter's
night, and under conditions of which no living aeronaut had had actual

Calculation, based on a sufficient knowledge of fast upper currents,
told that their course, ere finished, might be one of almost indefinite
length, and it is not too much to say that no one, with the knowledge
of that day, could predict within a thousand miles where the dawn of
the next day might find them. The equipment, therefore, was commensurate
with the possible task before them. To begin with, they limited their
number to three in all--Mr. Hollond, as chief and keeper of the log; Mr.
Green, as aeronaut; and an enthusiastic colleague, Mr. Monck Mason,
as the chronicler of the party. Next, they provided themselves with
passports to all parts of the Continent; and then came the fitting out
and victualling of the aerial craft itself, calculated to carry some
90,000 cubic feet of gas, and a counterpoise of a ton of ballast, which
took the form partly of actual provisions in large quantity, partly of
gear and apparatus, and for the rest of sand and also lime, of which
more anon. Across the middle of the car was fixed a bench to serve as
table, and also as a stage for the winding in and out of an enormous
trail rope a thousand feet long, designed by Mr. Green to meet the
special emergencies of the voyage. At the bottom of the car was spread
a large cushion to serve the purposes of rest. When all was in readiness
unfitness of weather baulked the travellers for some days, but Monday,
the 7th of November, was judged a favourable day, so that the inflation
was rapidly proceeded with, and at 1.30 p.m. the "Monstre Balloon,"
as it was entitled in the "Ingoldsby Legends," left the earth on her
eventful and ever memorable voyage. The weather was fine and promising,
and, rising with a moderate breeze from the N.W., they began to traverse
the northern parts of Kent, while light, drifting upper clouds gave
indication of other possible currents. Mr. Hollond was precise in the
determination of times and of all readings and we learn that at exactly
2.48 p.m. they were crossing the Medway, six miles west of Rochester,
while at 4.5 p.m. the lofty towers of Canterbury were well in view,
two miles to the east, and here a little function was well carried
out. Green had twice ascended from this city under patronage of the
authorities, and the idea occurred to the party that it would be a
graceful compliment to drop a message to the Mayor as they passed. A
suitable note, therefore, quickly written, was dismissed in a parachute,
and it may be mentioned that this, as also a similar missive addressed
later to the Mayor of Dover, were duly received and acknowledged.

At a quarter past four they sighted the sea, and here, the air beginning
to grow chill, the balloon dropped earthward, and for some miles they
skimmed the ground, disturbing the partridges, scattering the rooks, and
keeping up a running conversation the while with labourers and passers
below. In this there was exercise of perfectly proper aerial seamanship,
such as moreover presently led to an exhibition of true science. To save
ballast is, with a balloon, to prolong life, and this may often best be
done by flying low, which doubtless was Green's present intention. But
soon his trained eye saw that the ground current which now carried them
was leading them astray. They were trending to the northward, and so far
out of their course that they would soon make the North Foreland, and
so be carried out over the North Sea far from their desired direction.
Thereupon Green attempted to put in practice his theory, already spoken
of, of steering by upper currents, and the event proved his judgment
peculiarly correct. "Nothing," wrote Mr. Monck Mason, "could exceed
the beauty of the manoeuvre, to which the balloon at once responded,
regaining her due course, and, in a matter of a few minutes only,
bearing the voyagers almost vertically over the castle of Dover in the
exact line for crossing the straits between that town and Calais."

So far all was well, and success had been extraordinary; but from this
moment they became faced with new conditions, and with the grave trouble
of uncertainty. Light was failing, the sea was before them, and--what
else thenceforth? 4.48 p.m. was recorded as the moment when the first
line of breaking waves was seen directly below them, and then the
English coast line began rapidly to fade out from their view. But,
ahead, the obscurity was yet more intense, for clouds, banked up like
a solid wall, crowned along its frowning heights, with "parapets and
turrets and batteries and bastions," and, plunging into this opposing
barrier, they were quickly buried in blackness, losing at the same time
over the sea all sound from earth soever. So for a short hour's space,
when the sound of waves once again broke in upon them, and immediately
afterwards emerging from the dense cloud (a sea-fog merely) they found
themselves immediately over the brilliantly lighted town of Calais.
Seeing this, the travellers attempted to signal by igniting and lowering
a Bengal Light, which was directly followed by the beating of drums from

It adds a touch of reality, as well as cheerfulness, to the narrative
to read that at this period of their long journey the travellers apply
themselves to a fair, square meal, the first for twelve hours, despite
the day's excitement and toil. We have an entry among the stores of the
balloon of wine bottles and spirit flasks, but there is no mention of
these being requisitioned at this period. The demand seems rather to
have been for coffee--coffee hot; and this by a novel device was soon
prepared. It goes without saying that a fire or flame of any kind,
except with special precautions, is inadmissable in a balloon; but a
cooking heat, sufficient for the present purpose, was supplied from the
store of lime, a portion of which, being placed in a suitably contrived
vessel and slaked quickly, procured the desired beverage.

This meal now indulged in seems to have been heartily and happily
enjoyed; and from this point, for a while, the narrative becomes that of
enthusiastic and delighted travellers. In the gloom below, for leagues
around, they regarded the scattered fires of a watchful population, with
here and there the lights of larger towns, and the contemplation begot
romantic reveries. "Were they not amid the vast solitudes of the skies,
in the dead of night, unknown and unnoticed, secretly and silently
reviewing kingdoms, exploring territories, and surveying cities all
clothed in the dark mantle of mystery?" Presently they identified the
blazing city of Liege, with the lurid lights of extensive outlying iron
works, and this was the last visible sign they caught of earth that
night; save, at least, when occasional glimpses of lightning momentarily
and dimly outlined the world in the abyss below.

Ere long, they met with their first discomfort, which they seem to
have regarded as a most serious one, namely, the accidental dropping
overboard of their cherished coffee-boiling apparatus. With its loss
their store of lime became useless, save as ballast, and for this it
was forthwith utilised until nothing remained but the empty lime barrel
itself, which, being regarded as an objectionable encumbrance, it was
desirable to get rid of, were it not for the risk involved in rudely
dropping it to earth. But the difficulty was met. They possessed a
suitable small parachute, and, attached to this, the barrel was allowed
to float earthward.

As hours advanced, the blackness of night increased, and their
impressions appear somewhat strange to anyone familiar with ordinary
night travel in the sky. Mr. Monck Mason compares their progress through
the darkness to "cleaving their way through an interminable mass of
black marble." Then, presently, an unaccountable object puzzles and
absorbs the attention of all the party for a long period. They were
gazing open-mouthed at a long narrow avenue of feeble light, which,
though apparently belonging to earth, was too long and regular for a
river, and too broad for a canal or road, and it was only after many
futile imaginings that they discovered they were simply looking at a
stay rope of the balloon hanging far out over the side.

Somewhat later still, there was a more serious claim upon the
imagination. It was half-past three in the morning, and the balloon,
which, to escape from too low an altitude, had been liberally lightened,
had now at high speed mounted to a vast height. And then, amid the black
darkness and dead silence of that appalling region, suddenly overhead
came the sound of an explosion, followed by the violent rustling of the
silk, while the car jerked violently, as though suddenly detached from
its hold. This was the idea, leading to the belief that the balloon had
suddenly exploded, and that they were falling headlong to earth.
Their suspense, however, cannot have been long, and the incident was
intelligible enough, being due to the sudden yielding of stiffened net
and silk under rapid expansion caused by their speedy and lofty ascent.

The chief incidents of the night were now over, until the dawn arrived
and began to reveal a strange land, with large tracts of snow, giving
place, as the light strengthened, to vast forests. To their minds these
suggested the plains of Poland, if not the steppes of Russia, and,
fearing that the country further forward might prove more inhospitable,
they decided to come to earth as speedily as possible. This, in spite
of difficult landing, they effected about the hour that the waking
population were moving abroad, and then, and not till then, they learned
the land of their haven--the heart of the German forests. Five hundred
miles had been covered in eighteen hours from start to finish!


All history is liable to repeat itself, and that of aeronautics forms
no exception to the rule. The second year after the invention of the
balloon the famous M. Blanchard, ascending from Frankfort, landed near
Weilburg, and, in commemoration of the event, the flag he bore was
deposited among the archives in the ducal palace of that town. Fifty-one
years passed by when, outside the same city, a yet more famous balloon
effected its landing, and with due ceremony its flag is presently laid
beside that of Blanchard in the same ducal palace. The balloon of the
"Immortal Three," whose splendid voyage has just been recounted,
will ever be known by the title of the Great Nassau Balloon, but the
neighbourhood of its landing was that of the town of Weilburg, in the
Duchy of Nassau, whither the party betook themselves, and where, during
many days, they were entertained with extravagant hospitality and honour
until business recalled Mr. Hollond home.

Green had now made upwards of two hundred ascents, and, though he lived
to make a thousand, it was impossible that he could ever eclipse
this last record. It is true that the same Nassau balloon, under his
guidance, made many other most memorable voyages, some of which it will
be necessary to dwell on. But, to preserve a better chronology, we must
first, without further digression, approach an event which fills a dark
page in our annals; and, in so doing, we have to transfer our attention
from the balloon itself to its accessory, the parachute.

Twenty-three years before our present date, that is to say in 1814,
Mr. Cocking delivered his views as to the proper form of the parachute
before the Society of Arts, who, as a mark of approval, awarded him a
medal. This parachute, however, having never taken practical shape, and
only existing, figuratively speaking, in the clouds, seemed unlikely to
find its way there in reality until the success of the Nassau adventure
stirred its inventor to strenuous efforts to give it an actual trial.
Thus it came about that he obtained Mr. Green's co-operation in the
attempt he now undertook, and, though this ended disastrously, for Mr.
Cocking, the great professional aeronaut can in no way soever be blamed
for the tragic event.

The date of the trial was in July, 1837. Mr. Cocking's parachute was
totally different in principle from that form which, as we have
seen, had met with a fair measure of success at the hands of early
experimenters; and on the eve of its trial it was strongly denounced
and condemned in the London Press by the critic whom we have recently so
freely quoted, Mr. Monck Mason.

This able reasoner and aeronaut pointed out that the contrivance about
to be tested aimed at obviating two principal drawbacks which the
parachute had up to that time presented, namely (1) the length of time
which elapses before it becomes sufficiently expanded, and (2) the
oscillatory movement which accompanies the descent. In this new
endeavour the inventor caused his machine to be fixed rigidly open, and
to assume the shape of an inverted cone. In other words, instead of its
being like an umbrella opened, it rather resembled an umbrella blown
inside out. Taking, then, the shape and dimensions of Mr. Cocking's
structure as a basis for mathematical calculation, as also its weight,
which for required strength he put at 500 lbs. Mr. Monck Mason estimated
that the adventurer and his machine must attain in falling a velocity of
some twelve miles an hour. In fact, his positive prediction was that one
of two events must inevitably take place. "Either the parachute would
come to the ground with a force incompatible with the safety of the
individual, or should it be attempted to make it sufficiently light to
resist this conclusion, it must give way beneath the forces which will
develop in the descent."

This emphatic word of warning was neglected, and the result of the
terrible experiment can best be gathered from two principal sources.
First, that of a special reporter writing from terra-firma, and,
secondly, that of Mr. Green himself, who gives his own observations
as made from the balloon in which he took the unfortunate man and his
invention into the sky.

The journalist, who first speaks of the enormous concourse that gathered
to see the ascent, not only within Vauxhall Gardens, but on every
vantage ground without, proceeds to tell of his interview with Mr.
Cocking himself, who, when questioned as to the danger involved,
remarked that none existed for him, and that the greatest peril, if
any, would attend the balloon when suddenly relieved of his weight. The
proprietors of the Gardens, as the hour approached, did their best to
dissuade the over-confident inventor, offering, themselves, to take the
consequences of any public disappointment. This was again without
avail, and so, towards 6 p.m., Mr. Green, accompanied by Mr. Spencer,
a solicitor of whom this history will have more to tell, entered the
balloon, which was then let up about 40 feet that the parachute might be
affixed below. A little later, Mr. Cocking, casting aside his heavy coat
and tossing off a glass of wine, entered his car and, amid deafening
acclamations, with the band playing the National Anthem, the balloon and
aeronauts above, and he himself in his parachute swinging below, mounted
into the heavens, passing presently, in the gathering dusk, out of view
of the Gardens.

The sequel should be gathered from Mr. Green's own narrative. Previous
to starting, 650 lbs. of ballast had to be discarded to gain buoyancy
sufficient to raise the massive machine. This, together with another 100
lbs., which was also required to be ejected owing to the cooling of the
air, was passed out through a canvas tube leading downwards through a
hole in the parachute, an ingenious contrivance which would prevent
the sand thrown out from the balloon falling on the slender structure
itself. On quitting the earth, however, this latter set up such violent
oscillations that the canvas tube was torn away, and then it became the
troublesome task of the aeronauts to make up their ballast into little
parcels, and, as occasion required, to throw these into space clear of
the swinging parachute below.

Despite all efforts, however, it was soon evident that the cumbersome
nature of the huge parachute would prevent its being carried up quite
so high as the inventor desired. Mr. Cocking had stipulated for an
elevation of 7,000 feet, and, as things were, only 5,000 feet could be
reached, at any rate, before darkness set in. This fact was communicated
to Mr. Cocking, who promptly intimated his intention of leaving, only
requesting to know whereabouts he was, to which query Mr. Spencer
replied that they were on a level with Greenwich. The brief colloquy
that ensued is thus given by Mr. Green:--

"I asked him if he felt quite comfortable, and if the practical trial
bore out his calculation. Mr. Cocking replied, 'Yes, I never felt more
comfortable or more delighted in my life,' presently adding, 'Well, now
I think I shall leave you.' I answered, 'I wish you a very "Good Night!"
and a safe descent if you are determined to make it and not use the
tackle' (a contrivance for enabling him to retreat up into the balloon
if he desired). Mr. Cocking's only reply was, 'Good-night, Spencer;
Good-night, Green!' Mr. Cocking then pulled the rope that was to
liberate himself, but too feebly, and a moment afterwards more
violently, and in an instant the balloon shot upwards with the velocity
of a sky rocket. The effect upon us at this moment was almost beyond
description. The immense machine which suspended us between heaven and
earth, whilst it appeared to be forced upwards with terrific violence
and rapidity through unknown and untravelled regions amidst the howlings
of a fearful hurricane, rolled about as though revelling in a freedom
for which it had long struggled, but of which until that moment it had
been kept in utter ignorance. It, at length, as if somewhat fatigued by
its exertions, gradually assumed the motions of a snake working its way
with extraordinary speed towards a given object. During this frightful
operation the gas was rushing in torrents from the upper and lower
valve, but more particularly from the latter, as the density of the
atmosphere through which we were forcing our progress pressed so
heavily on the valve at the top of the balloon as to admit of but a
comparatively small escape by this aperture. At this juncture, had it
not been for the application to our mouths of two pipes leading into an
air bag, with which we had furnished ourselves previous to starting,
we must within a minute have been suffocated, and so, but by different
means, have shared the melancholy fate of our friend. This bag was
formed of silk, sufficiently capacious to contain 100 gallons of
atmospheric air. Prior to our ascent, the bag was inflated with the
assistance of a pair of bellows with fifty gallons of air, so allowing
for any expansion which might be produced in the upper regions. Into the
end of this bag were introduced two flexible tubes, and the moment we
felt ourselves to be going up in the manner just described, Mr. Spencer,
as well as myself, placed either of them in our mouths. By this simple
contrivance we preserved ourselves from instantaneous suffocation, a
result which must have ensued from the apparently endless volume of
gas with which the car was enveloped. The gas, notwithstanding all our
precautions, from the violence of its operation on the human frame,
almost immediately deprived us of sight, and we were both, as far as our
visionary powers were concerned, in a state of total darkness for four
or five minutes."

Messrs. Green and Spencer eventually reached earth in safety near
Maidstone, knowing nothing of the fate of their late companion. But of
this we are sufficiently informed through a Mr. R. Underwood, who was on
horseback near Blackheath and watching the aeronauts at the moment when
the parachute was separated from the balloon. He noticed that the former
descended with the utmost rapidity, at the same time swaying fearfully
from side to side, until the basket and its occupant, actually parting
from the parachute, fell together to earth through several hundred feet
and were dashed to pieces.

It would appear that the liberation of the parachute from below the
balloon had been carried out without hitch; indeed, all so far had
worked well, and the wind at the time was but a gentle breeze. The
misadventure, therefore, must be entirely attributed to the faulty
manner in which the parachute was constructed. There could, of course,
be only one issue to the sheer drop from such a height, which became the
unfortunate Mr. Cocking's fate, but the very interesting question will
have to be discussed as to the chances in favour of the aeronaut who,
within his wicker car, while still duly attached to the balloon, may
meet with a precipitate descent.

We may here fitly mention an early perilous experience of Mr. Green, due
simply to the malice of someone never discovered. It appears that while
Green's balloon, previous to an ascent, was on the ground, the cords
attaching the car had been partly severed in such a way as to escape
detection. So that as soon as the balloon rose the car commenced
breaking away, and its occupants, Mr. Green and Mr. Griffiths, had to
clutch at the ring, to which with difficulty they continued to cling.
Meanwhile, the car remaining suspended by one cord only, the balloon was
caused to hang awry, with the result that its upper netting began
giving way, allowing the balloon proper gradually to escape through the
bursting meshes, thus threatening the distracted voyagers with terrible
disaster. The disaster, in fact, actually came to pass ere the party
completed their descent, "the balloon, rushing through the opening
in the net-work with a tremendous explosion, and the two passengers
clinging to the rest of the gear, falling through a height said to be
near a hundred feet. Both, though only with much time and difficulty,
recovered from the shock."

In 1840, three years after the tragic adventure connected with Mr.
Cocking's parachute trial, we find Charles Green giving his views as to
the practicability of carrying out a ballooning enterprise which should
far excel all others that had hitherto been attempted. This was nothing
less than the crossing of the Atlantic from America to England. There is
no shadow of doubt that the adventurous aeronaut was wholly in earnest
in the readiness he expressed to embark on the undertaking should
adequate funds be forthcoming; and he discusses the possibilities
with singular clearness and candour. He maintains that the actual
difficulties resolve themselves into two only: first, the maintenance of
the balloon in the sky for the requisite period of time; and, secondly,
the adequate control of its direction in space. With respect to the
first difficulty, he points out the fact to which we have already
referred, namely, that it is impossible to avoid the fluctuations of
level in a balloon's course, "by which it constantly becomes alternately
subjected to escape of gas by expansion, and consequent loss of ballast,
to furnish an equivalent diminution of weight." Taking his own balloon
of 80,000 cubic feet by way of example, he shows that this, fully
inflated on the earth, would lose 8,000 cubic feet of gas by expansion
in ascending only 3,000 feet. Moreover, the approach of night or passage
through cloud or falling rain would occasion chilling of the gas or
accumulation of moisture on the silk, in either case necessitating the
loss of ballast, the store of which is always the true measure of the
balloon's life.

To combat the above difficulty Green sanguinely relies on his favourite
device of a trail or guide rope, whose function, being that of relieving
the balloon of a material weight as it approaches the earth, could, he
supposed, be made to act yet more efficiently when over the sea in the
following manner. Its length, suspended from the ring, being not less
than 2,000 feet, it should have attached at its lower end at certain
intervals a number of small, stout waterproof canvas bags, the apertures
of which should be contrived to admit water, but to oppose its return.
Between these bags were to be conical floats, to support any length of
the rope that might descend on the sea. Now, should the balloon commence
descending, it would simply deposit a certain portion of rope on the
water until it regained equilibrium at no great decrease of altitude,
and would thus continue its course until alteration of conditions should
cause it to recommence rising, when the weight of water now collected in
the bags would play its part in preventing the balloon from soaring up
into space. With such a contrivance Green allowed himself to imagine
that he could keep a properly made balloon at practically the same
altitude for a period of three months if required.

The difficulty of maintaining a due course was next discussed, and
somewhat speedily disposed of. Here Green relied on the results of his
own observation, gathered during 275 ascents, and stated his conviction
that there prevails a uniformity of upper wind currents that would
enable him to carry out his bold projects successfully. His contention
is best given in his own words:

"Under whatever circumstances," he says, "I made my ascent, however
contrary the direction of the winds below, I uniformly found that at a
certain elevation, varying occasionally, but always within 10,000 feet
of the earth, a current from the west or rather from the north of west,
invariably travailed, nor do I recollect a single instance in which a
different result ensued." Green's complete scheme is now sufficiently
evident. He was to cross the Atlantic practically by the sole assistance
of upper currents and his guide rope, but on this latter expedient,
should adverse conditions prevail, he yet further relied, for he
conceived that the rope could have attached to its floating end a
water drag, which would hold the balloon in check until favouring gales

Funds, apparently, were not forthcoming to allow of Mr. Green's putting
his bold method to the test; but we find him still adhering with so
much zeal to his project that, five years later, he made, though again
unsuccessfully, a second proposal to cross the Atlantic by balloon. He
still continued to make many and most enterprising ascents, and one of a
specially sensational nature must be briefly mentioned before we pass on
to regard the exploits of other aeronauts.

It was in 1841 on the occasion of a fete at Cremorne House, when Mr.
Green, using his famous Nassau balloon, ascended with a Mr. Macdonnell.
The wind was blowing with such extreme violence that Rainham, in Essex,
about twenty miles distant, was reached in little more than a quarter of
an hour, and here, on nearing the earth, the grapnel, finding good hold,
gave a wrench to the balloon that broke the ring and jerked the car
completely upside down, the aeronauts only escaping precipitation by
holding hard to the ropes. A terrific steeplechase ensued, in which the
travellers were dragged through stout fencing and other obstacles till
the balloon, fairly emptied of gas, finally came to rest, but not until
some severe injuries had been received.


By this period the domination of the air was being pursued in a fresh
part of the world. England and her Continental neighbours had vied with
each in adding to the roll of conquests, and it could hardly other be
supposed that America would stand by without taking part in the campaign
which was now being revived with so much fresh energy in the skies.

The American champion who stepped forward was Mr. John Wise, of
Lancaster, Pa., whose career, commencing in the year 1835, we must now
for a while follow. Few attempts at ballooning of any kind had up to
that time been made in all America. There is a record that in December,
1783, Messrs. Rittenhouse and Hopkins, Members of the Philosophical
Academy of Philadelphia, instituted experiments with an aerial machine
consisting of a cage to which forty-seven small balloons were harnessed.
In this strange craft a carpenter, by name Wilcox, was induced to
ascend, which, it is said, he did successfully, remaining in the air for
ten minutes, when, finding himself near a river, he sought to come to
earth again by opening several of his balloons. This brought about an
awkward descent, attended, however, by no more serious accident than a
dislocated wrist. Mr. Wise, on the other hand, states that Blanchard had
won the distinction of making the first ascent in the New World in 1793
in Philadelphia on which occasion Washington was a spectator; and a few
years afterwards other Frenchmen gave exhibitions, which, however, led
to no real development of the new art on this, the further side of the
Atlantic. Thus the endeavours we are about to describe were those of an
independent and, at the same time, highly, practical experimentalist,
and on this account have a special value of their own.

The records that Wise has left of his investigations begin at the
earliest stage, and possess the charm of an obvious and somewhat quaint
reality. They commence with certain crude calculations which would seem
to place no limit to the capabilities of a balloon. Thus, he points out
that one of "the very moderate size of 400 feet diameter" would convey
13,000 men. "No wonder, then," he continues, "the citizens of London
became alarmed during the French War, when they mistook the appearance
of a vast flock of birds coming towards the Metropolis for Napoleon's
army apparently coming down upon them with this new contrivance."

Proceeding to practical measures, Wise's first care was to procure some
proper material of which to build an experimental balloon of sufficient
size to lift and convey himself alone. For this he chose ordinary
long-cloth, rendered gas-tight by coats of suitable varnish, the
preparation of which became with him, as, indeed, it remains to this
day, a problem of chief importance and difficulty. Perhaps it hardly
needs pointing out that the varnish of a balloon must not only
be sufficiently elastic not to crack or scale off with folding or
unavoidable rough usage, but it must also be of a nature to resist the
common tendency of such substances to become adherent or "tacky." Wise
determined on bird lime thinned with linseed oil and ordinary driers.
With this preparation he coated his material several times both before
and after the making up, and having procured a net, of which he speaks
with pride, and a primitive sort of car, of which he bitterly complains,
he thought himself sufficiently equipped to embark on an actual ascent,
which he found a task of much greater practical difficulty than the mere
manufacture of his air ship. For the inflation by hydrogen of so small
a balloon as his was he made more than ample provision in procuring
no less than fifteen casks of 130 gallons capacity each. He also duly
secured a suitable filling ground at the corner of Ninth and Green
Streets, Philadelphia, but he made a miscalculation as to the time the
inflation would demand, and this led to unforeseen complications, for
as yet he knew not the way of a crowd which comes to witness a balloon

Having all things in readiness, and prudently waiting for fair weather,
he embarked on his grand experiment on the 2nd of May, 1835, announcing
4 p.m. as the hour of departure. But by that time the inflation, having
only proceeded for three hours, the balloon was but half full, and then
the populace began to behave as in such circumstances they always will.
They were incredulous, and presently grew troublesome. In vain the
harnessing of the car was proceeded with as though all were well. For
all was not well, and when the aeronaut stepped into his car with only
fifteen pounds of sand and a few instruments he must have done so with
much misgiving. Still, he had friends around who might have been useful
had they been less eager to help. But these simply crowded round him,
giving him no elbow room, nor opportunity for trying the "lift" of his
all-too-empty globe. Moreover, some would endeavour to throw the machine
upward, while others as strenuously strove to keep it down, and at last
the former party prevailed, and the balloon, being fairly cast into the
air, grazed a neighbouring chimney and then plunged into an adjacent
plot, not, however, before the distracted traveller had flung away
all his little stock of sand. There now was brief opportunity for free
action, and to the first bystander who came running up Wise gave
the task of holding the car in check. To the next he handed out his
instruments, his coat, and also his boots, hoping thus to get away; but
his chance had not yet come, for once again the crowd swarmed round him,
keeping him prisoner with good-natured but mistaken interference, and
drowning his voice with excited shouting. Somehow, by word and gesture,
he gave his persecutors to understand that he wished to speak, and then
he begged them only to give him a chance, whereupon the crowd fell
back, forming a ring, and leaving only one man holding the car. It was
a moment of suspense, for Wise calculated that he had only parted with
some eighteen pounds since his first ineffectual start from the filling
ground; but it was enough, and in another moment he was sailing up
clear above the crowd. So great, as has been already shewn, is often
the effect of parting with the last few pounds of dead weight in a
well-balanced balloon.

Such was the first "send off" of the future great balloonist, destined
to become the pioneer in aeronautics on the far side of the Atlantic.
The balloon ascended to upwards of a mile, floating gradually away, but
at its highest point it reached a conflict of currents, causing eddies
from which Wise escaped by a slight decrease of weight, effected by
merely cutting away the wreaths of flowers that were tied about his car.
A further small substitute for ballast he extemporised in the metal tube
inserted in the neck of his fabric, and this he cast out when over the
breadth of the Delaware, and he describes it as falling with a rustling
sound, and striking the water with a splash plainly heard at more than
a mile in the sky. After an hour and a quarter the balloon spontaneously
and steadily settled to earth.

An ascent carried out later in the same summer led to a mishap, which
taught the young aeronaut an all-important lesson. Using the same
balloon and the same mode of inflation, he got safely and satisfactorily
away from his station in the town of Lebanon, Pa., and soon found
himself over a toll gate in the open country, where the gate keeper in
banter called up to him for his due. To this summons Wise, with heedless
alacrity, responded in a manner which might well have cost him dear. He
threw out a bag of sand to represent his toll, and, though he estimated
this at only six pounds, it so greatly accelerated his ascent that he
shortly found himself at a greater altitude than he ever after attained.
He passed through mist into upper sunshine, where he experienced extreme
cold and ear-ache, at which time, seeking the natural escape from such
trouble, he found to his dismay that the valve rope was out of reach.
Thus he was compelled to allow the balloon to ascend yet higher, at its
own will; and then a terrible event happened.

By mischance the neck of his balloon, which should have been open, was
out of reach and folded inwards in such a way as to prevent the free
escape of the gas, which, at this great altitude, struggled for egress
with a loud humming noise, giving him apprehensions of an accident which
very shortly occurred, namely, the bursting of the lower part of his
balloon with a loud report. It happened, however, that no extreme loss
of gas ensued, and he commenced descending with a speed which, though
considerable, was not very excessive. Still, he was eager to alight in
safety, until a chance occurrence made him a second time that afternoon
guilty of an act of boyish impetuosity. A party of volunteers firing
a salute in his honour as he neared the ground, he instantly flung out
papers, ballast, anything he could lay his hands on, and once again
soared to a great height with his damaged balloon. He could then do no
more, and presently subsiding to earth again, he acquired the welcome
knowledge that even in such precarious circumstances a balloon may make
a long fall with safety to its freight.

Mr. Wise's zeal and indomitable spirit of enterprise led to speedy
developments of the art which he had espoused; the road to success being
frequently pointed out by failure or mishap. He quickly discarded the
linen balloon for one of silk on which he tried a new varnish composed
of linseed oil and india-rubber, and, dressing several gores with this,
he rolled them up and left them through a night in a drying loft, with
the result that the next day they were disintegrated and on the point
of bursting into flame by spontaneous combustion. Fresh silk and
other varnish were then tried, but with indifferent success. Next he
endeavoured to dispense with sewing, and united the gores of yet another
balloon by the mere adhesiveness of the varnish and application of a hot
iron. This led to a gaping seam developing at the moment of an ascent,
and then there followed a hasty and hazardous descent on a house-top and
an exciting rescue by a gentleman who appeared opportunely at a third
storey window. Further, another balloon had been destroyed, and Wise
badly burned, at a descent, owing to a naked light having been brought
near the escaping gas. It is then without wonder that we find him
after this temporarily bankrupt, and resorting to his skill in
instrument-making to recover his fortunes. Only, however, for a few
months, after which he is before the public once more as a professional
aeronaut. He now adopts coal gas for inflation, and incidents of an
impressive nature crowd into his career, forcing important facts upon
him. The special characteristics of his own country present peculiar
difficulties; broad rivers and vast forests become serious obstacles.
He is caught in the embrace of a whirlwind; he narrowly escapes falling
into a forest fire; he is precipitated, but harmlessly, into a pine
wood. Among other experiments, he makes a small copy of Mr. Cocking's
parachute, and drops it to earth with a cat as passenger, proving
thereby that that unfortunate gentleman's principle was really less in
fault than the actual slenderness of the material used in his machine.

We now approach one of Wise's boldest, and at the same time most
valuable, experiments. It was the summer of 1839, and once again the old
trouble of spontaneous combustion had destroyed a silk balloon which
was to have ascended at Easton, Pa. Undeterred, however, Wise resolutely
advertised a fresh attempt, and, with only a clear month before the
engagement, determined on hastily rigging up a cambric muslin balloon,
soaking it in linseed oil and essaying the best exhibition that
this improvised experiment could afford. It was intended to become
a memorable one, inasmuch as, should he meet with no hindrance, his
determination was nothing less than that of bursting this balloon at a
great height, having firmly convinced himself that the machine in these
circumstances would form itself into a natural parachute, and bring
him to earth with every chance in favour of safety. In his own words,
"Scientific calculations were on his side with a certainty as great and
principles as comprehensive as that a pocket-handkerchief will not fall
as rapidly to the ground when thrown out of a third storey window as
will a brick."

His balloon was specially contrived for the experiment in hand, having
cords sewn to the upper parts of its seams, and then led down through
the neck, where they were secured within reach, their office being that
of rending the whole head of the balloon should this be desired. On this
occasion a cat and a dog were taken up, one of these being let fall from
a height of 2,000 feet in a Cocking's parachute, and landing in safety,
the other being similarly dismissed at an altitude of 4,000 feet in an
oiled silk balloon made in the form of a collapsed balloon, which,
after falling a little distance, expanded sufficiently to allow of its
descending with a safe though somewhat vibratory motion. Its behaviour,
at any rate, fully determined Wise on carrying out his own experiment.

Being constructed entirely for the main object in view, the balloon had
no true opening in the neck beyond an orifice of about an inch, and by
the time a height of 13,000 feet had been reached the gas was streaming
violently through this small hole, the entire globe being expanded
nearly to bursting point, and the cords designed for rending the balloon
very tense. At this critical period Wise owns to having experienced
considerable nervous excitement, and observing far down a thunderstorm
in progress he began to waver in his mind, and inclined towards
relieving the balloon of its strain, and so abandoning his experiment,
at least for the present. He remembers pulling out his watch to make a
note of the hour, and, while thus occupied, the straining cords, growing
tenser every moment, suddenly took charge of the experiment and burst
the balloon of their own accord. The gas now rushed from the huge rent
above tumultuously and in some ten seconds had entirely escaped, causing
the balloon to descend rapidly, until the lower part of the muslin,
doubling in upwards, formed a species of parachute after the manner
intended. The balloon now came down with zig-zag descent, and finally
the car, striking the earth obliquely, tossed its occupant out into
a field unharmed. Shortly after this Wise experimented with further
success with an exploded balloon.

It is not a little remarkable that this pioneer of aeronautics in
American--a contemporary of Charles Green in England, but working and
investigating single-handed on perfectly independent lines--should
have arrived at the same conclusions as did Green himself as to the
possibility, which, in his opinion, amounted to a certainty, of being
able to cross the Atlantic by balloon if only adequate funds were
forth-coming. So intent was he on his bold scheme that, in the summer of
1843, he handed to the Lancaster Intelligencer a proclamation, which he
desired might be conveyed to all publishers of newspapers on the globe.
It contained, among other clauses, the following:--

"Having from a long experience in aeronautics been convinced that a
constant and regular current of air is blowing at all times from west to
east, with a velocity of from twenty to forty and even sixty miles per
hour, according to its height from the earth, and having discovered a
composition which renders silk or muslin impervious to hydrogen gas, so
that a balloon may be kept afloat for many weeks, I feel confident with
these advantages that a trip across the Atlantic will not be attended
with as much real danger as by the common mode of transition. The
balloon is to be 100 feet in diameter, giving it a net ascending power
of 25,000 lbs." It was further stated that the crew would consist of
three persons, including a sea navigator, and a scientific landsman.
The specifications for the transatlantic vessel were also to include a
seaworthy boat in place of the ordinary car. The sum requisite for this
enterprise was, at the time, not realised; but it should be mentioned
that several years later a sufficient sum of money was actually
subscribed. In the summer of 1873 the proprietors of the New York Daily
Graphic provided for the construction of a balloon of no less than
400,000 cubic feet capacity, and calculated to lift 14,000 lbs. It was,
however, made of bad material; and, becoming torn in inflation, Wise
condemned and declined to use it. A few months later, when it had been
repaired, one Donaldson and two other adventurers, attempting a voyage
with this ill-formed monster, ascended from New York, and were
fortunate in coming down safely, though not without peril, somewhere in

Failing in his grand endeavour, Wise continued to follow the career of a
professional aeronaut for some years longer, of which he has left a full
record, terminating with the spring of 1848. His ascents were always
marked by carefulness of detail, and a coolness and courage in trying
circumstances that secured him uniform success and universal regard. He
was, moreover, always a close and intelligent observer, and many of his
memoranda are of scientific value.

His description of an encounter with a storm-cloud in the June of 1843
has an interest of its own, and may not be considered overdrawn. It was
an ascent from Carlisle, Pa., to celebrate the anniversary of Bunker's
Hill, and Wise was anxious to gratify the large concourse of people
assembled, and thus was tempted, soon after leaving the ground, to dive
up into a huge black cloud of peculiarly forbidding aspect. This cloud
appeared to remain stationary while he swept beneath it, and, having
reached its central position, he observed that its under surface was
concave towards the earth, and at that moment he became swept upwards in
a vortex that set his balloon spinning and swinging violently, while he
himself was afflicted with violent nausea and a feeling of suffocation.
The cold experienced now became intense, and the cordage became glazed
with ice, yet this had no effect in checking the upward whirling of the
balloon. Sunshine was beyond the upper limits of the cloud; but this was
no sooner reached than the balloon, escaping from the uprush, plunged
down several hundred feet, only to be whirled up again, and this
reciprocal motion was repeated eight or ten times during an interval of
twenty minutes, in all of which time no expenditure of gas or discharge
of ballast enabled the aeronaut to regain any control over his vessel.

Statements concerning a thunderstorm witnessed at short range by Wise
will compare with other accounts. The thunder "rattled" without any
reverberations, and when the storm was passing, and some dense clouds
moving in the upper currents, the "surface of the lower stratum swelled
up suddenly like a boiling cauldron, which was immediately followed by
the most brilliant ebullition of sparkling coruscations." Green, in his
stormy ascent from Newbury, England, witnessed a thunderstorm below
him, as will be remembered, while an upper cloud stratum lay at his
own level. It was then that Green observed that "at every discharge of
thunder all the detached pillars of clouds within the distance of a mile
around became attracted."

The author will have occasion, in due place, to give personal
experiences of an encounter with a thunderstorm which will compare with
the foregoing description.


Before proceeding to introduce the chief actors and their achievements
in the period next before us, it will be instructive to glance at some
of the principal ideas and methods in favour with aeronauts up to the
date now reached. It will be seen that Wise in America, contrary to the
practice of Green in our own country, had a strong attachment to the
antique mode of inflation with hydrogen prepared by the vitriolic
process; and his balloons were specially made and varnished for the use
of this gas. The advantage which he thus bought at the expense of much
trouble and the providing of cumbersome equipment was obvious enough,
and may be well expressed by a formula which holds good to-day, namely,
that whereas 1,000 cubic feet of hydrogen is capable of lifting 7 lbs.,
the same quantity of coal gas of ordinary quality will raise but 35 lbs.
The lighter gas came into all Wise's calculations for bolder schemes.
Thus, when he discusses the possibility of using a metal balloon, his
figures work out as follows: If a balloon of 200 feet diameter were
constructed out of copper, weighing one pound to the square foot;
if, moreover, some six tons were allowed for the weight of car and
fastenings, an available lifting power would remain capable of raising
45 tons to an altitude of two miles. This calculation may appear
somewhat startling, yet it is not only substantially correct, but Wise
entertained no doubt as to the practicability of such a machine. For its
inflation he suggests inserting a muslin balloon filled with air within
the copper globe, and then passing hydrogen gas between the muslin and
copper surfaces, which would exclude the inner balloon as the copper one
filled up.

His method of preparing hydrogen was practically that still adopted
in the field, and seems in his hands to have been seldom attended with
difficulty. With eight common 130-gallon rum puncheons he could reckon
on evolving 5,000 cubic feet of gas in an hour, using his elements
in the following proportions: water, 560 lbs.; sulphuric acid (sp. g.
1.85), 144 lbs.; iron turnings, 125 lbs. The gas, as given off, was
cooled and purified by being passed through a head of water kept cool
and containing lime in solution. Contrasted with this, we find it
estimated, according to the practice of this time, that a ton of good
bituminous coal should yield 10,000 cubic feet of carburetted hydrogen
fit for lighting purposes, and a further quantity which, though useless
as an illuminant, is still of excellent quality for the aeronaut.

It would even seem from a statement of Mr. Monck Mason that the value of
coke in his day largely compensated for the cost of producing coal gas,
so that in a large number of Green's ascents no charge whatever was made
for gas by the companies that supplied him.

Some, at least, of the methods formerly recommended for the management
of free balloons must in these days be modified. Green, as we have seen,
was in favour of a trail rope of inordinate length, which he recommended
both as an aid to steering and for a saving of ballast. In special
circumstances, and more particularly over the sea, this may be reckoned
a serviceable adjunct, but over land its use, in this country at
least, would be open to serious objection. The writer has seen the
consternation, not to say havoc, that a trail rope may occasion when
crossing a town, or even private grounds, and the actual damage done
to a garden of hops, or to telegraph or telephone wires, may be very
serious indeed. Moreover, the statement made by some early practitioners
that a trail rope will not catch so as to hold fast in a wood or the
like, is not to be relied on, for an instance could be mentioned coming
under the writer's knowledge where such a rope was the source of so much
trouble in a high wind that it had to be cut away.

The trouble arose in this way. The rope dragged harmlessly enough along
the open ground. It would, likewise, negotiate exceedingly well a single
tree or a whole plantation, catching and releasing itself with only such
moderate tugs at the car as were not disturbing; but, presently, its
end, which had been caught and again released by one tree, swung free
in air through a considerable gap to another tree, where, striking a
horizontal bough, it coiled itself several times around, and thus held
the balloon fast, which now, with the strength of the wind, was borne
to the earth again and again, rebounding high in air after each impact,
until freedom was gained only by the sacrifice of a portion of the rope.

Wise recommends a pendant line of 600 or 800 feet, capable of bearing a
strain of 100 lbs., and with characteristic ingenuity suggests a special
use which can be made of it, namely, that of having light ribbons tied
on at every hundred feet, by means of which the drifts of lower currents
may be detected. In this suggestion there is, indeed, a great deal of
sound sense; for there is, as will be shown hereafter, very much value
to be attached to a knowledge of those air rivers that are flowing,
often wholly unsuspected, at various heights. Small parachutes, crumpled
paper, and other such-like bodies as are commonly thrown out and relied
on to declare the lower drifts, are not wholly trustworthy, for this
reason--that air-streams are often very slender, mere filaments, as
they are sometimes called, and these, though setting in some definite
direction, and capable of entrapping and wafting away some small body
which may come within their influence, may not affect the travel of so
big an object as a balloon, which can only partake of some more general
air movement.

Wise, by his expedient of tying ribbons at different points to his trail
rope, would obtain much more correct and constant information respecting
those general streams through which the pendant rope was moving. A
similar expedient adopted by the same ingenious aeronaut is worthy
of imitation, namely, that of tying ribbons on to a rod projecting
laterally from the car. These form a handy and constant telltale as to
the flight of the balloon, for should they be fluttering upwards the sky
sailor at once knows that his craft is descending, and that he must act

The material, pure silk, which was universally adopted up to and after
the period we are now regarding, is not on every account to be reckoned
the most desirable. In the first place, its cost alone is prohibitive,
and next, although lighter than any kind of linen, strength for
strength, it requires a greater weight of varnish, which, moreover,
it does not take so kindly as does fabric made of vegetable tissue.
Further, paradoxical as it may appear, its great strength is not entirely
an advantage. There are occasions which must come into the experience of
every zealous aeronaut when his balloon has descended in a rough wind,
and in awkward country. This may, indeed, happen even when the ascent
has been made in calm. Squalls of wind may spring up at short notice, or
after traversing only two or three counties a strong gale may be found
on the earth, though such was absent in the starting ground. This is
more particularly the case when the landing chances to be on high ground
in the neighbourhood of the sea. In these circumstances, the careful
balloonist, who will generally be forewarned by the ruffle on any water
he may pass, or by the drift of smoke, the tossing of trees, or by their
very rustling or "singing" wafted upwards to him, will, if possible,
seek for his landing place the lee of a wood or some other sheltered
spot. But, even with all his care, he will sometimes find himself, on
reaching earth, being dragged violently across country on a mad course
which the anchor cannot check. Now, the country through which he is
making an unwilling steeplechase may be difficult, or even dangerous.
Rivers, railway cuttings, or other undesirable obstacles may lie ahead,
or, worse yet, such a death trap as in such circumstances almost any
part of Derbyshire affords, with its stone walls, its precipitous
cliffs, and deep rocky dells. To be dragged at the speed of an express
train through territory of this description will presently mean damage
to something, perhaps to telegraph poles, to roofs, or crops, and if
not, then to the balloon itself. Something appertaining to it must be
victimised, and it is in all ways best that this should be the fabric of
the balloon itself. If made of some form, or at least some proportion
of linen, this will probably rend ere long, and, allowing the gas
to escape, will soon bring itself to rest. On the other hand, if the
balloon proper is a silk one, with sound net and in good condition, it
is probable that something else will give way first, and that something
may prove to be the hapless passenger or passengers.

And here be it laid down as one first and all-important principle, that
in any such awkward predicament as that just described, if there be more
than one passenger aboard, let none attempt to get out. In the first
place, he may very probably break a limb in so doing, inasmuch as the
tangle of the ropes will not allow of his getting cut readily; or,
when actually on the ground, he may be caught and impaled by the anchor
charging and leaping behind. But, worse than all, he may, in any case,
jeopardise the lives of his companions, who stand in need of all the
available weight and help that the car contains up to the moment Of
coming to final rest.

We have already touched on the early notions as to the means of steering
a balloon. Oars had been tested without satisfactory result, and the
conception of a rotary screw found favour among theorists at this time,
the principle being actually tried with success in working models,
which, by mechanical means, could be made to flit about in the still
air of the lecture room; but the only feasible method advocated was that
already alluded to, which depended on the undesirable action of a trail
rope dragging over the ground or through water. The idea was, of course,
perfectly practical, and was simply analogous to the method adopted
by sailors, who, when floating with the stream but without wind, are
desirous of gaining "steerage way." While simply drifting with the
flood, they are unable to guide their vessel in any way, and this, in
practice, is commonly effected by simply propelling the vessel faster
than the stream, in which case the rudder at once becomes available. But
the same result is equally well obtained by slowing the vessel, and this
is easily accomplished by a cable, with a small anchor or other weight
attached, dragging below the vessel. This cable is essentially the same
as the guide-rope of the older aeronauts.

It is when we come to consider the impressions and sensations described
by sky voyagers of bygone times that we find them curiously at variance
with our own. As an instance, we may state that the earth, as seen from
a highflying balloon, used to be almost always described as appearing
concave, or like a huge basin, and ingenious attempts were made to prove
mathematically that this must be so. The laws of refraction are brought
in to prove the fact; or, again, the case is stated thus: Supposing the
extreme horizon to be seen when the balloon is little more than a mile
high, the range of view on all sides will then be, roughly, some eighty
miles. If, then, a line were drawn from the aerial observer to this
remote distance, that line would be almost horizontal; so nearly so that
he cannot persuade himself that his horizon is otherwise than still on
a level with his eye; yet the earth below him lies, as it seems, at the
bottom of a huge gulf. Thus the whole visible earth appears as a vast
bowl or basin. This is extremely ingenious reasoning, and not to be
disregarded; but the fact remains that in the experience of the writer
and of many others whom he has consulted, there is no such optical
illusion as I have just discussed, and to their vision it is impossible
to regard the earth as anything but uniformly flat.

Another impression invariably insisted on by early balloonists is that
the earth, on quitting it, appears to drop away into an abyss, leaving
the voyagers motionless, and this illusion must, indeed, be probably
universal. It is the same illusion as the apparent gliding backwards of
objects to a traveller in a railway carriage; only in this latter case
the rattling and shaking of the carriage helps the mind to grasp the
real fact that the motion belongs to the train itself; whereas it is
otherwise with a balloon, whose motion is so perfectly smooth as to be
quite imperceptible.

Old ideas, formed upon insufficient observations, even if erroneous,
were slow to die. Thus it used to be stated that an upper cloud floor
adapted itself to the contour of the land over which it rested, giving
what Mr. Monck Mason has called a "phrenological estimate" of the
character of the earth below; the clouds, "even when under the influence
of rapid motion, seeming to accommodate themselves to all variations of
form in the surface of the subjacent soil, rising with its prominences
and sinking with its depressions." Probably few aeronauts of the present
time will accept the statement.

It used commonly to be asserted, and is so often to this day, that a
feeling as of sea-sickness is experienced in balloon travel, and the
notion has undoubtedly arisen from the circumstances attending an ascent
in a captive balloon. It were well, now that ballooning bids fair to
become popular, to disabuse the public mind of such a wholly false idea.
The truth is that a balloon let up with a lengthy rope and held captive
will, with a fitful breeze, pitch and sway in a manner which may induce
all the unpleasant feelings attending a rough passage at sea. It may
do worse, and even be borne to earth with a puff of wind which may
come unexpectedly, and considerably unsettle the nerves of any holiday
passenger. I could tell of a "captive" that had been behaving itself
creditably on a not very settled day suddenly swooping over a roadway
and down into public gardens, where it lay incontinently along the
ground, and then, before the astonished passengers could attempt to
alight, it was seized with another mood, and, mounting once again
majestically skyward, submitted to be hauled down with all becoming
grace and ease. It is owing to their vagaries and want of manageability
that, as will be shown, "captives" are of uncertain use in war. On the
other hand, a free balloon is exempt from such disadvantages, and at
moderate heights not the smallest feeling of nausea is ever experienced.
The only unpleasant sensation, and that not of any gravity, ever
complained of, is a peculiar tension in the ears experienced in a
rapid ascent, or more often, perhaps, in a descent. The cause, which is
trivial and easily removed, should be properly understood, and cannot be
given in clearer language than that used by Professor Tyndall:--"Behind
the tympanic membrane exists a cavity--the drum of the ear--in part
crossed by a series of bones, and in part occupied by air. This cavity
communicates with the mouth by means of a duct called the Eustachian
tube. This tube is generally closed, the air space behind the tympanic
membrane being thus cut off from the external air. If, under these
circumstances, the external air becomes denser, it will press the
tympanic membrane inwards; if, on the other hand, the air on the other
side becomes rarer, while the Eustachian tube becomes closed, the
membrane will be pressed outwards. Pain is felt in both cases, and
partial deafness is experienced.... By the act of swallowing the
Eustachian tube is opened, and thus equilibrium is established between
the external and internal pressure."

Founded on physical facts more or less correct in themselves, come a
number of tales of olden days, which are at least more marvellous than
credible, the following serving as an example. The scientific truth
underlying the story is the well-known expedient of placing a shrivelled
apple under the receiver of an air pump. As the air becomes rarefied the
apple swells, smooths itself out, and presently becomes round and rosy
as it was in the summer time. It is recorded that on one occasion a
man of mature years made an ascent, accompanied by his son, and, after
reaching some height, the youth remarked on how young his father
was looking. They still continued to ascend, and the same remark was
repeated more than once. And at last, having now reached attenuated
regions, the son cried in astonishment, "Why, dad, you ought to be at
school!" The cause of this remark was that in the rarefied air all the
wrinkles had come out of the old man's face, and his cheeks were as
chubby as his son's.

This discussion of old ideas should not be closed without mention of a
plausible plea for the balloon made by Wise and others on the score of
its value to health. Lofty ascents have proved a strain on even robust
constitutions--the heart may begin to suffer, or ills akin to mountain
sickness may intervene before a height equal to that of our loftiest
mountain is reached. But many have spoken of an exhilaration of spirits
not inferior to that of the mountaineer, which is experienced,
and without fatigue, in sky voyages reasonably indulged in--of a
light-heartedness, a glow of health, a sharpened appetite, and the keen
enjoyment of mere existence. Nay, it has been seriously affirmed that
"more good may be got by the invalid in an hour or two while two miles
up on a fine summer's day than is to be gained in an entire voyage from
New York to Madeira by sea."


Resuming the roll of progressive aeronauts in England whose labours
were devoted to the practical conquest of the air, and whose methods and
mechanical achievements mark the road of advance by which the
successes of to-day have been obtained, there stand out prominently two
individuals, of whom one has already received mention in these pages.

The period of a single life is seldom sufficient to allow within its
span the full development of any new departure in art or science, and it
cannot, therefore, be wondered at if Charles Green, though reviving and
re-modelling the art of ballooning in our own country, even after an
exceptionally long and successful career, left that pursuit to which he
had given new birth virtually still in its infancy.

The year following that in which Green conducted the famous Nassau
voyage we find him experimenting in the same balloon with his chosen
friend and colleague, Edward Spencer, solicitor, of Barnsbury, who, only
nine years later, compiles memoranda of thirty-four ascents, made under
every variety of circumstance, many being of a highly enterprising
nature. We find him writing enthusiastically of the raptures he
experienced when sailing over London in night hours, of lofty ascents
and extremely low temperatures, of speeding twenty-eight miles in twenty
minutes, of grapnel ropes breaking, and of a cross-country race of four
miles through woods and hedges. Such was Mr. Spencer the elder, and if
further evidence were needed of his practical acquaintance with, as well
as personal devotion to, his adopted profession of aeronautics, we have
it in the store of working calculations and other minutiae of the craft,
most carefully compiled in manuscript by his own hand; these memoranda
being to this day constantly consulted by his grandsons, the present
eminent aeronauts, Messrs. Spencer Brothers, as supplying a manual of
reliable data for the execution of much of the most important parts of
their work.

In the terrific ordeal and risk entailed by the daring and fatal
parachute descent of Cocking, Green required an assistant of exceptional
nerve and reliability, and, as has been recorded, his choice at once
fell on Edward Spencer. In this choice it has already been shown that
he was well justified, and in the trying circumstances that ensued Green
frankly owns that it was his competent companion who was the first to
recover himself. A few years later, when a distinguished company, among
whom were Albert Smith and Shirley Brooks, made a memorable ascent from
Cremorne, Edward Spencer is one of the select party.

Some account of this voyage should be given, and it need not be said
that no more graphic account is to be found than that given by the
facile pen of Albert Smith himself. His personal narrative also forms
an instructive contrast to another which he had occasion to give to
the world shortly afterwards, and which shall be duly noticed. The
enthusiastic writer first describes, with apparent pride, the company
that ascended with him. Besides Mr. Shirley Brooks, there were Messrs.
Davidson, of the Garrick Club; Mr. John Lee, well known in theatrical
circles; Mr. P. Thompson, of Guy's Hospital, and others--ten in all,
including Charles Green as skipper, and Edward Spencer, who, sitting
in the rigging, was entrusted with the all-important management of the
valve rope.

"The first sensation experienced," Albert Smith continues, "was not
that we were rising, but that the balloon remained fixed, whilst all the
world below was rapidly falling away; while the cheers with which they
greeted our departure grew fainter, and the cheerers themselves began
to look like the inmates of many sixpenny Noah's Arks grouped upon
a billiard table.... Our hats would have held millions.... And most
strange is the roar of the city as it comes surging into the welkin
as though the whole metropolis cheered you with one voice.... Yet
none beyond the ordinary passengers are to be seen. The noise is as
inexplicable as the murmur in the air at hot summer noontide."

The significance of this last remark will be insisted on when the writer
has to tell his own experiences aloft over London, as also a note to
the effect that there were seen "large enclosed fields and gardens
and pleasure grounds where none were supposed to exist by ordinary
passengers." Another interesting note, having reference to a once
familiar feature on the river, now disappearing, related to the paddle
boats of those days, the steamers making a very beautiful effect,
"leaving two long wings of foam behind them similar to the train of a
table rocket." Highly suggestive, too, of the experiences of railway
travellers in the year 1847 is the account of the alighting, which, by
the way, was obviously of no very rude nature. "Every time," says the
writer, "the grapnel catches in the ground the balloon is pulled up
suddenly with a shock that would soon send anybody from his seat, a jerk
like that which occurs when fresh carriages are brought up to a railway
train." But the concluding paragraph in this rosy narrative affords
another and a very notable contrast to the story which that same writer
had occasion to put on record before that same year had passed.

"We counsel everybody to go up in a balloon... In spite of the apparent
frightful fragility of cane and network nothing can in reality be more
secure... The stories of pressure on the ears, intense cold, and the
danger of coming down are all fictions.... Indeed, we almost wanted
a few perils to give a little excitement to the trip, and have some
notion, if possible, of going up the next time at midnight with
fireworks in a thunderstorm, throwing away all the ballast, fastening
down the valve, and seeing where the wind will send us."

The fireworks, the thunderstorm, and the throwing away of ballast, all
came off on the 15th of the following October, when Albert Smith made
his second ascent, this time from Vauxhall Gardens, under the guidance
of Mr. Gypson, and accompanied by two fellow-passengers. Fireworks,
which were to be displayed when aloft, were suspended on a framework
forty feet below the car. Lightning was also playing around as they cast
off. The description which Albert Smith gives of London by night as seen
from an estimated elevation of 4,000 feet, should be compared with other
descriptions that will be given in these pages:--

"In the obscurity all traces of houses and enclosures are lost sight
of. I can compare it to nothing else than floating over dark blue and
boundless sea spangled with hundreds of thousands of stars. These stars
were the lamps. We could see them stretching over the river at the
bridges, edging its banks, forming squares and long parallel lines of
light in the streets and solitary parks. Further and further apart until
they were altogether lost in the suburbs. The effect was bewildering."

At 7,000 feet, one of the passengers, sitting in the ring, remarked that
the balloon was getting very tense, and the order was given to "ease
her" by opening the top valve. The valve line was accordingly pulled,
"and immediately afterwards we heard a noise similar to the escape
of steam in a locomotive, and the lower part of the balloon collapsed
rapidly, and appeared to fly up into the upper portion. At the same
instant the balloon began to fall with appalling velocity, the immense
mass of loose silk surging and rustling frightfully over our heads....
retreating up away from us more and more into the head of the balloon.
The suggestion was made to throw everything over that might lighten the
balloon. I had two sandbags in my lap, which were cast away directly....
There were several large bags of ballast, and some bottles of wine, and
these were instantly thrown away, but no effect was perceptible. The
wind still appeared to be rushing up past us at a fearful rate, and,
to add to the horror, we came among the still expiring discharge of
the fireworks which floated in the air, so that little bits of exploded
cases and touch-paper, still incandescent, attached themselves to the
cordage of the balloon and were blown into sparks.... I presume we
must have been upwards of a mile from the earth.... How long we were
descending I have not the slightest idea, but two minutes must have
been the outside.... We now saw the houses, the roofs of which appeared
advancing to meet us, and the next instant, as we dashed by their
summits, the words, 'Hold hard!' burst simultaneously from all the
party.... We were all directly thrown out of the car along the ground,
and, incomprehensible as it now appears to me, nobody was seriously

But "not so incomprehensible, after all," will be the verdict of all
who compare the above narrative with the ascents given in a foregoing
account of how Wise had fared more than once when his balloon had burst.
For, as will be readily guessed, the balloon had in this case also
burst, owing to the release of the upper valve being delayed too long,
and the balloon had in the natural way transformed itself into a true
parachute. Moreover, the fall, which, by Albert Smith's own showing,
was that of about a mile in two minutes, was not more excessive than one
which will presently be recorded of Mr. Glaisher, who escaped with no
material injury beyond a few bruises.

One fact has till now been omitted with regard to the above sensational
voyage, namely, the name of the passenger who, sitting in the ring,
was the first to point out the imminent danger of the balloon. This
individual was none other than Mr. Henry Coxwell, the second, indeed, of
the two who were mentioned in the opening paragraph of this chapter as
marking the road of progress which it is the scope of these pages to
trace, and to whom we must now formally introduce our readers.

This justly famous sky pilot, whose practical acquaintance with
ballooning extends over more than forty years, was the son of a naval
officer residing near Chatham, and in his autobiography he describes
enthusiastically how, a lad of nine years old, he watched through a sea
telescope a balloon, piloted by Charles Green, ascend from Rochester
and, crossing the Thames, disappear in distance over the Essex flats. He
goes on to describe how the incident started him in those early days on
boyish endeavours to construct fire balloons and paper parachutes. Some
years later his home, on the death of his father, being transferred to
Eltham, he came within frequent view of such balloons as, starting from
the neighbourhood of London, will through the summer drift with the
prevailing winds over that part of Kent. And it was here that, ere long,
he came in at the death of another balloon of which Green was in charge.

And from this time onwards the schoolboy with the strange hobby was
constantly able to witness the flights and even the inflations of those
ships of the air, which, his family associations notwithstanding took
precedence of all boyish diversions.

His elder brother, now a naval officer, entirely failed to divert his
aspirations into other channels, and it was when the boy had completed
sixteen summers that an aeronautic enterprise attracted not only his
own, but public attention also. It was the building of a mammoth balloon
at Vauxhall under the superintendence of Mr. Green. The launching of
this huge craft when completed was regarded as so great an occasion that
the young Coxwell, who had by this time obtained a commercial opening
abroad, was allowed, at his earnest entreaty, to stay till the event
had come off, and fifty years after the hardened sky sailor is found
describing with a boyish enthusiasm how thirty-six policemen were needed
round that balloon; how enormous weights were attached to the cordage,
only to be lifted feet above the ground; while the police were compelled
to pass their staves through the meshes to prevent the cords cutting
their hands. At this ascent Mr. Hollond was a passenger, and by the
middle of the following November all Europe was ringing with the great
Nassau venture.

Commercial business did not suit the young Coxwell, and at the age
of one-and-twenty we find him trying his hand at the profession of
surgeon-dentist, not, however, with any prospect of its keeping him from
the longing of his soul, which grew stronger and stronger upon him. It
was not till the summer of 1844 that Mr. Hampton, giving an exhibition
from the White Conduit Gardens, Pentonville, offered the young man, then
twenty-five years old, his first ascent.

In after years Coxwell referred to his first sensations in
characteristic language, contrasting them with the experiences of the
mountaineer. "In Alpine travels," he says, "the process is so slow, and
contact with the crust of the earth so palpable, that the traveller
is gradually prepared for each successive phase of view as it presents
itself. But in the balloon survey, cities, villages, and vast tracts for
observation spring almost magically before the eye, and change in
aspect and size so pleasingly that bewilderment first and then unbounded
admiration is sure to follow."

The ice was now fairly broken, and, not suffering professional duties
to be any hindrance, Coxwell began to make a series of ascents under the
leadership of two rival balloonists, Gale and Gypson. One voyage made
with the latter he describes as leading to the most perilous descent in
the annals of aerostation. This was the occasion, given above, on which
Albert Smith was a passenger, and which that talented writer describes
in his own fashion. He does not, however, add the fact, worthy of being
chronicled, that exactly a week after the appalling adventure Gypson
and Coxwell, accompanied by a Captain whose name does not transpire,
and loaded with twice the previous weight of fireworks, made a perfectly
successful night ascent and descent in the same balloon.

It is very shortly after this that we find Coxwell seduced into
undertaking for its owners the actual management of a balloon, the
property of Gale, and now to be known as the "Sylph." With this craft he
practically began his career as a professional balloonist, and after
a few preliminary ascents made in England, was told off to carry on
engagements in Belgium.

A long series of ascents was now made on the Continent, and in the
troubled state of affairs some stirring scenes were visited, not without
some real adventure. One occasion attended with imminent risk occurred
at Berlin in 1851. Coxwell relates that a Prussian labourer whom he
had dismissed for bad conduct, and who almost too manifestly harboured
revenge, nevertheless begged hard for a re-engagement, which, as the
man was a handy fellow, Coxwell at length assented to. He took up three
passengers beside himself, and at an elevation of some 3,000 feet found
it necessary to open the valve, when, on pulling the cord, one of the
top shutters broke and remained open, leaving a free aperture of 26
inches by 12 inches, and occasioning such a copious discharge of gas
that nothing short of a providential landing could save disaster. But
the providential landing came, the party falling into the embrace of a
fruit tree in an orchard. It transpired afterwards that the labourer had
been seen to tamper with the valve, the connecting lines of which he had
partially severed.

Returning to England in 1852 Coxwell, through the accidents inseparable
from his profession, found himself virtually in possession of the field.
Green, now advanced in years, was retiring from the public life in which
he had won so much fame and honour. Gale was dead, killed in an
ascent at Bordeaux. Only one aspirant contested the place of public
aeronaut--one Goulston, who had been Gale's patron. Before many months,
however, he too met with a balloonist's death, being dashed against some
stone walls when ascending near Manchester.

It will not be difficult to form an estimate of how entirely the
popularity of the balloon was now reestablished in England, from the
mere fact that before the expiration of the year Coxwell had been called
upon to make thirty-six voyages. Some of these were from Glasgow,
and here a certain coincidence took place which is too curious to be
omitted. A descent effected near Milngavie took place in the same field
in which Sadler, twenty-nine years before, had also descended, and the
same man who caught the rope of Mr. Sadler's balloon performed the same
service once again for a fresh visitor from the skies.

The following autumn Coxwell, in fulfilling one out of many engagements,
found himself in a dilemma which bore resemblance in a slight degree to
a far more serious predicament in which the writer became involved, and
which must be told in due place. The preparations for the ascent, which
was from the Mile End Road, had been hurried, and after finally getting
away at a late hour in the evening, it was found that the valve line
had got caught in a fold of the silk, and could not be operated. In
consequence, the balloon was, of necessity, left to take its own chance
through the night, and, after rising to a considerable height, it slowly
lost buoyancy during the chilly hours, and, gradually settling, came
to earth near Basingstoke, where the voyager, failing to get help or
shelter, made his bed within his own car, lying in an open field, as
other aeronauts have had to do in like circumstances.

Coxwell tells of a striking phenomenon seen during that voyage. "A
splendid meteor was below the car, and apparently about 600 feet
distant. It was blue and yellow, moving rapidly in a N.E. direction, and
became extinguished without noise or sparks."


At this point we must, for a brief while, drop the history of the famous
aeronaut whose early career we have been briefly sketching in the last
chapter, and turn our attention to a new feature of English ballooning.
We have, at last, to record some genuinely scientific ascents, which our
country now, all too tardily, instituted. It was the British Association
that took the initiative, and the two men they chose for their purpose
were both exceptionally qualified for the task they had in hand. The
practical balloonist was none other than the veteran Charles Green, now
in his sixty-seventh year, but destined yet to enjoy nearly twenty years
more of life. The scientific expert was Mr. John Welsh, well fitted
for the projected work by long training at Kew Observatory. The balloon
which they used is itself worthy of mention, being the great Nassau
Balloon of olden fame.

Welsh was quick to realise more clearly than any former experimentalist
that on account of the absence of breeze in a free balloon, as also on
account of great solar radiation, the indications of thermometers would,
without special precautions, be falsified. He therefore invented a
form of aspirating thermometer, the earliest to be met with, and far
in advance of any that were subsequently used by other scientists. It
consisted of a polished tube, in which thermometers were enclosed, and
through which a stream of air was forced by bellows.

The difficulty of obtaining really accurate readings where thermometers
are being quickly transported through varying temperatures is generally
not duly appreciated. In the case of instruments carried m a balloon it
should be remembered that the balloon itself conveys, clinging about it,
no inconsiderable quantity of air, brought from other levels, while the
temperature of its own mass will be liable to affect any thermometer
in close neighbourhood. Moreover, any ordinary form of thermometer
is necessarily sluggish in action, as may be readily noticed. If, for
example, one be carried from a warm room to a cold passage, or vice
versa it will be seen that the column moves very deliberately, and quite
a long interval will elapse before it reaches its final position, the
cause being that the entire instrument, with any stand or mounting that
it may have, will have to adapt itself to the change of temperature
before a true record will be obtained. This difficulty applies
unavoidably to all thermometers in some degree, and the skill of
instrument makers has been taxed to reduce the errors to a minimum. It
is necessary, in any case, that a constant stream of surrounding
air should play upon the instrument, and though this is most readily
effected when instruments are carried aloft by kites, yet even thus it
is thought that an interval of some minutes has to elapse before any
form of thermometer will faithfully record any definite change of
temperature. It is on this account that some allowance must be made
for observations which will, in due place, be recorded of scientific
explorers; the point to be borne in mind being that, as was mentioned in
a former chapter, such observations will have to be regarded as giving
readings which are somewhat too high in ascents and too low in descents.
Two forms of thermometers at extremely simple construction, yet
possessed of great sensibility, will be discussed in later chapters.

The thermometers that Welsh used were undoubtedly far superior to any
that were devised before his time and it is much to be regretted that
they were allowed to fall into disuse. Perhaps the most important
stricture on the observations that will have to be recorded is that the
observers were not provided with a base station, on which account the
value of results was impaired. It was not realised that it was necessary
to make observations on the ground to compare with those that were being
made at high altitudes.

Welsh made, in all, four ascents in the summer and autumn of 1852 and
in his report he is careful to give the highest praise to his colleague,
Green, whose control over his balloon he describes as "so complete
that none who accompanied him can be otherwise than relieved from all
apprehension, and free to devote attention calmly to the work before

The first ascent was made at 3.49 p.m. on August the 17th, under a south
wind and with clouds covering some three-quarters of the sky. Welsh's
first remark significant, and will be appreciated by anyone who has
attempted observational work in a balloon. He states naively that "a
short time was lost at first in an attempt to put the instruments into
more convenient order, and also from the novelty of the situation." Then
he mentions an observation which, in the experience of the writer, is a
common one. The lowest clouds, which were about 2,500 feet high and not
near the balloon, were passed without being noticed; other clouds were
passed at different heights; and, finally, a few star-shaped crystals of
snow; but the sun shone almost constantly. Little variation occurred in
the direction of travel, which averaged thirty-eight miles an hour, and
the descent took place at 5.20 p.m. at Swavesey, near Cambridge.

The second ascent took place at 4.43 p.m. on August 26th, under a gentle
east wind and a partially obscured sky. The clouds were again passed
without being perceived. This was at the height of 3,000 feet, beyond
which was very clear sky of deep blue. The air currents up to the limits
of 12,000 feet set from varying directions. The descent occurred near
Chesham at 7.45 p.m.

The third ascent, at 2.35 p.m. on October the 21st was made into a sky
covered with dense cloud masses lying within 3,000 and 3,700 feet.
The sun was then seen shining through cirrus far up. The shadow of the
balloon was also seen on the cloud, fringed with a glory, and about
this time there was seen "stretching for a considerable length in a
serpentine course, over the surface of the cloud, a well-defined belt,
having the appearance of a broad road."

Being now at 12,000 feet, Green thought it prudent to reconnoitre his
position, and, finding they were near the sea, descended at 4.20 p.m.
at Rayleigh, in Essex. Some important notes on the polarisation of the
clouds were made.

The fourth and final voyage was made in a fast wind averaging fifty
knots from the north-east. Thin scud was met at 1,900 feet, and an upper
stratum at 4,500 feet, beyond which was bright sun. The main shift
of wind took place just as the upper surface of the first stratum was
reached. In this ascent Welsh reached his greatest elevation, 22,930
feet, when both Green and himself experienced considerable difficulty
in respiration and much fatigue. The sea being now perceived rapidly
approaching, a hasty descent was made, and many of the instruments were

In summarising his results Welsh states that "the temperature of the
air decreases uniformly with height above the earth's surface until at a
certain elevation, varying on different days, decrease is arrested,
and for the space of 2,000 or 3,000 feet the temperature remains nearly
constant, or even increases, the regular diminution being again resumed
and generally maintained at a rate slightly less rapid than in the lower
part of the atmosphere, and commencing from a higher temperature than
would have existed but for the interruption noticed." The analysis
of the upper air showed the proportion of oxygen and nitrogen to vary
scarcely more than at different spots on the earth.

As it is necessary at this point to take leave of the veteran Green as a
practical aeronaut, we may here refer to one or two noteworthy facts and
incidents relating to his eventful career. In 1850 M. Poitevin is said
to have attracted 140,000 people to Paris to look at an exhibition of
himself ascending in a balloon seated on horseback, after which
Madame Poitevin ascended from Cremorne Gardens in the same manner, the
exhibition being intended as a representation of "Europa on a Bull."
This, however, was discountenanced by the authorities and withdrawn.
The feats were, in reality, merely the repetitions of one that had been
conceived and extremely well carried out by Green many years before--as
long ago, in fact, as 1828, when he arranged to make an ascent from the
Eagle Tavern, City Road, seated on a pony. To carry out his intention,
he discarded the ordinary car, replacing it with a small platform,
which was provided with places to receive the pony's feet; while straps
attached to the hoop were passed under the animal's body, preventing it
from lying down or from making any violent movement. This the creature
seemed in no way disposed to attempt, and when all had been successfully
carried out and an easy descent effected at Beckenham, the pony was
discovered eating a meal of beans with which it had been supplied.

Several interesting observations have been recorded by Green on
different occasions, some of which are highly instructive from a
practical or scientific point of view. On an ascent from Vauxhall, in
which he was accompanied by his friend Spencer and Mr. Rush, he recorded
how, as he constantly and somewhat rapidly rose, the wind changed its
direction from N.W. through N. to N.E., while he remained over the
metropolis, the balloon all the while rotating on its axis. This
continual swinging or revolving of the balloon Green considers an
accompaniment of either a rapid ascent or descent, but it may be
questioned whether it is not merely a consequence of changing currents,
or, sometimes, of an initial spin given inadvertently to the balloon at
the moment of its being liberated. The phenomenon of marked change which
he describes in the upper currents is highly interesting, and tallies
with what the writer has frequently experienced over London proper. Such
higher currents may be due to natural environment, and to conditions
necessarily prevailing over so vast and varied a city, and they may be
able to play an all-important part in the dispersal of London smoke
or fog. This point will be touched on later. In this particular voyage
Green records that as he was rising at the moment when his barometer
reached 19 inches, the thermometer he carried registered 46 degrees,
while on coming down, when the barometer again marked 19 inches, the
same thermometer recorded only 22 degrees. It will not fail to be
recognised that there is doubtless here an example of the errors alluded
to above, inseparable from readings taken in ascent and descent.

A calculation made by Green in his earlier years has a certain value. By
the time he had accomplished 200 ascents he was at pains to compute
that he had travelled across country some 6,000 miles, which had been
traversed in 240 hours. From this it would follow that the mean rate
of travel in aerial voyages will be about twenty-five miles per hour.
Towards the end of his career we find it stated by Lieutenant G. Grover,
R.E., that "the Messrs. Green, Father and Son, have made between them
some 930 ascents, in none of which have they met with any material
accident or failure." This is wonderful testimony, indeed, and we may
here add the fact that the father took up his own father, then at the
age of eighty-three, in a balloon ascent of 1845, without any serious
consequences. But it is time that some account should be given of a
particular occasion which at least provided the famous aeronaut with
an adventure spiced with no small amount of risk. It was on the 5th
of July, 1850, that Green ascended, with Rush as his companion, from
Vauxhall, at the somewhat late hour of 7.50 p.m., using, as always, the
great Nassau balloon. The rate of rise must have been very considerable,
and they presently record an altitude of no less than 20,000 feet, and
a temperature of 12 degrees below freezing. They were now above the
clouds, where all view of earth was lost, and, not venturing to remain
long in this situation, they commenced a rapid descent, and on emerging
below found themselves sailing down Sea Reach in the direction of Nore
Sands, when they observed a vessel. Their chance of making land was, to
say the least, uncertain, and Green, considering that his safety lay in
bespeaking the vessel's assistance, opened the valve and brought the
car down in the water some two miles north of Sheerness, the hour being
8.45, and only fifty-five minutes since the start. The wind was blowing
stiffly, and, catching the hollow of the half-inflated balloon, carried
the voyagers rapidly down the river, too fast, indeed, to allow of the
vessel's overtaking them. This being soon apparent, Green cast out his
anchor, and not without result, for it shortly became entangled in
a sunken wreck, and the balloon was promptly "brought up," though
struggling and tossing in the broken water. A neighbouring barge at once
put off a boat to the rescue, and other boats were despatched by H.M.
cutter Fly, under Commander Gurling. Green and Rush were speedily
rescued, but the balloon itself was too restive and dangerous an object
to approach with safety. At Green's suggestion, therefore, a volley of
musketry was fired into the silk' after which it became possible to pass
a rope around it and expel the gas. Green subsequently relates how it
took a fortnight to restore the damage, consisting of sixty-two bullet
rents and nineteen torn gores.

Green's name will always be famous, if only for the fact that it was he
who first adopted the use of coal gas in his calling. This, it will be
remembered, was in 1821, and it should be borne in mind that at that
time household gas had only recently been introduced. In point of fact,
it first lighted Pall Mall in 1805, and it was not used for the general
lighting of London till 1814.

We are not surprised to find that the great aeronaut at one time
turned his attention to the construction of models, and this with no
inconsiderable success. A model of his was exhibited in 1840 at the
Polytechnic Institution, and is described in the Times as consisting of
a miniature balloon of three feet diameter, inflated with coal gas. It
was acted on by fans, which were operated by mechanism placed in the
car. A series of three experiments was exhibited. First, the balloon
being weighted so as to remain poised in the still air of the building,
the mechanism was started, and the machine rose steadily to the ceiling.
The fans were then reversed, when the model, equally gracefully,
descended to the floor. Lastly, the balloon, with a weighted trail rope,
being once more balanced in mid-air, the fans were applied laterally,
when the machine would take a horizontal flight, pulling the trail rope
after it, with an attached weight dragging along the floor until
the mechanism had run down, when it again remained stationary. The
correspondent of the Times continues, "Mr. Green states that by these
simple means a voyage across the Atlantic may be performed in three or
four days, as easily as from Vauxhall Gardens to Nassau."

We can hardly attribute this statement seriously to one who knew as well
as did Green how fickle are the winds, and how utterly different are the
conditions between the still air of a room and those of the open sky.
His insight into the difficulties of the problem cannot have been less
than that of his successor, Coxwell, who, as the result of his own
equally wide experience, states positively, "I could never imagine a
motive power of sufficient force to direct and guide a balloon, much
less to enable a man or a machine to fly." Even when modern invention
had produced a motive power undreamed of in the days we are now
considering, Coxwell declares his conviction that inherent difficulties
would not be overcome "unless the air should invariably remain in a calm

It would be tedious and scarcely instructive to inquire into the various
forms of flying machines that were elaborated at this period; but
one that was designed in America by Mr. Henson, and with which it was
seriously contemplated to attempt to cross the Atlantic, may be briefly
described. In theory it was supposed to be capable of being sustained in
the air by virtue of the speed mechanically imparted to it, and of
the angle at which its advancing under surface would meet the air. The
inventor claimed to have produced a steam engine of extreme lightness
as well as efficiency, and for the rest his machine consisted of a huge
aero-plane propelled by fans with oblique vanes, while a tail somewhat
resembling that of a bird was added, as also a rudder, the functions of
which were to direct the craft vertically and horizontally respectively.
Be it here recorded that the machine did not cross the Atlantic.

One word as to the instruments used up to this time for determining
altitudes. These were, in general, ordinary mercurial barometers,
protected in various ways. Green encased his instrument in a simple
metal tube, which admitted of the column of mercury being easily read.
This instrument, which is generally to be seen held in his hand in
Green's old portraits, might be mistaken for a mariner's telescope. It
is now in the possession of the family of Spencers, the grandchildren
of his old aeronautical friend and colleague, and it is stated that with
all his care the glass was not infrequently broken in a descent.

Wise, with characteristic ingenuity, devised a rough-and-ready height
instrument, which he claims to have answered well. It consisted simply
of a common porter bottle, to the neck of which was joined a bladder of
the same capacity. The bottle being filled with air of the density of
that on the ground, and the bladder tied on in a collapsed state, the
expansion of the air in the bottle would gradually fill the bladder as
it rose into the rarer regions of the atmosphere. Experience would then
be trusted to enable the aeronaut to judge his height from the amount of
inflation noticeable in the bladder.


Mention should be made in these pages of a night sail of a hundred
miles, boldly carried out in 1849 by M. Arban, which took the voyager
from Marseilles to Turin fairly over the Alps. The main summit was
reached at 11 p.m., when the "snow, cascades, and rivers were all
sparkling under the moon, and the ravines and rocks produced masses of
darkness which served as shadows to the gigantic picture." Arban was
at one time on a level with the highest point of Mont Blanc, the top of
which, standing out well above the clouds, resembled "an immense block
of crystal sparkling with a thousand fires."

In London, in the year of the Great Exhibition, and while the building
was still standing in Hyde Park, there occurred a balloon incident small
in itself, but sufficient to cause much sensation at the crowded spot
where it took place. The ascent was made from the Hippodrome by Mr. and
Mrs. Graham in very boisterous weather, and, on being liberated, the
balloon seems to have fouled a mast, suffering a considerable rent.
After this the aeronauts succeeded in clearing the trees in Kensington
Gardens, and in descending fairly in the Park, but, still at the mercy
of the winds, they were carried on to the roof of a house in Arlington
Street, and thence on to another in Park Place, where, becoming lodged
against a stack of chimneys, they were eventually rescued by the police
without any material damage having been done.

But this same summer saw the return to England of Henry Coxwell, and
for some years the story of the conquest of the air is best told by
following his stirring career, and his own comments on aeronautical
events of this date. We find him shortly setting about carrying out some
reconnoitring and signalling experiments, designed to be of use in time
of war. This was an old idea of his, and one which had, of course, been
long entertained by others, having, indeed, been put to some practical
test in time of warfare. It will be well to make note of what attention
the matter had already received, and of what progress had been made both
in theory and practice.

We have already made some mention in Chapter IV. of the use which the
French had made of balloons in their military operations at the end of
the eighteenth and beginning of nineteenth the century. It was, indeed,
within the first ten years after the first invention of the balloon
that, under the superintendence of the savants of the French Academy, a
practical school of aeronautics was established at Meudon. The names
of Guyton, De Morveau (a distinguished French chemist), and Colonel
Coutelle are chiefly associated with the movement, and under them some
fifty students received necessary training. The practising balloon had a
capacity of 17,000 cubic feet, and was inflated with pure hydrogen, made
by what was then a new process as applied to ballooning, and which will
be described in a future chapter. It appears that the balloon was kept
always full, so that any opportunity of calm weather would be taken
advantage of for practice. And it is further stated that a balloon was
constructed so sound and impervious that after the lapse of two months
it was still capable, without being replenished, of raising into the air
two men, with necessary ballast and equipment. The practical trial for
the balloon in real service came off in June, 1794, when Coutelle in
person, accompanied by two staff officers, in one of the four balloons
which the French Army had provided, made an ascent to reconnoitre the
Austrian forces at Fleurus. They ascended twice in one day, remaining
aloft for some four hours, and, on their second ascent being sighted,
drew a brisk fire from the enemy. They were unharmed, however, and the
successful termination of the battle of Fleurus has been claimed as due
in large measure to the service rendered by that balloon.

The extraordinary fact that the use of the balloon was for many
years discontinued in the French Army is attributed to a strangely
superstitious prejudice entertained by Napoleon. Las Cases (in his
"Private Life of Napoleon at St. Helena ") relates an almost miraculous
story of Napoleon's coronation. It appears that a sum of 23,500 francs
was given to M. Garnerin to provide a balloon ascent to aid in the
celebrations, and, in consequence, a colossal machine was made to ascend
at 11 p.m. on December 16th from the front of Notre Dame, carrying
3,000 lights. This balloon was unmanned, and at its departure apparently
behaved extremely well, causing universal delight. During the hours of
darkness, however, it seems to have acquitted itself in a strange and
well-nigh preternatural manner, for at daybreak it is sighted on the
horizon by the inhabitants of Rome, and seen to be coming towards their
city. So true was its course that, as though with predetermined purpose,
it sails on till it is positively over St. Peter's and the Vatican,
when, its mission being apparently fulfilled, it settles to earth, and
finally ends its career in the Lake Bracciano. Regarded from whatever
point of view, the flight was certainly extraordinary, and it is not
surprising that in that age it was regarded as nothing less than a
portent. Moreover, little details of the wonderful story were quickly
endowed with grave significance. The balloon on reaching the ground rent
itself. Next, ere it plunged into the water, it carefully deposited
a portion of its crown on the tomb of Nero. Napoleon, on learning
the facts, forbade that they should ever be referred to. Further,
he thenceforward discountenanced the balloon in his army, and the
establishment at Meudon was abandoned.

There is record of an attempt of some sort that was made to revive the
French military ballooning school in the African campaign of 1830, but
it was barren of results. Again, it has been stated that the Austrians
used balloons for reconnaissance, before Venice in 1849, and yet again
the same thing is related of the Russians at the time of the siege of
Sebastopol, though Kinglake does not mention the circumstance. In 1846
Wise drew up and laid before the American War Office an elaborate scheme
for the reduction of Vera Cruz. This will be discussed in its due place,
though it will be doubtless considered as chimerical.

On the other hand, eminently practical were the experiments co-ordinated
and begun to be put to an actual test by Mr. Coxwell, who, before he
could duly impress his project upon the military authorities, had to
make preliminary trials in private ventures. The earliest of these was
at the Surrey Zoological Gardens in the autumn of 1854, and it will be
granted that much ingenuity and originality were displayed when it
is considered that at that date neither wireless telegraphy, electric
flashlight, nor even Morse Code signalling was in vogue. According to
his announcement, the spectators were to regard his balloon, captive or
free, as floating at a certain altitude over a beleaguered fortress, the
authorities in communication with it having the key of the signals and
seeking to obtain through these means information as to the approach
of an enemy. It was to be supposed that, by the aid of glasses, a vast
distance around could be subjected to careful scrutiny, and a constant
communication kept up with the authorities in the fortress. Further,
the flags or other signals were supposed preconcerted and unknown to the
enemy, being formed by variations of shape and colour. Pigeons were also
despatched from a considerable height to test their efficiency
under novel conditions. The public press commented favourably on the
performance and result of this initial experiment.

Mr. Coxwell's account of an occasion when he had to try conclusions with
a very boisterous wind, and of the way in which he negotiated a very
trying and dangerous landing, will be found alike interesting and
instructive. It was an ascent from the Crystal Palace, and the morning
was fair and of bright promise outwardly; but Coxwell confesses to
have disregarded a falling glass. The inflation having been progressing
satisfactorily, he retired to partake of luncheon, entirely free from
apprehensions; but while thus occupied, he was presently sought out and
summoned by a gardener, who told him that his balloon had torn away, and
was now completely out of control, dragging his men about the bushes. On
reaching the scene, the men, in great strength, were about to attempt a
more strenuous effort to drag the balloon back against the wind, which
Coxwell promptly forbade, warning them that so they would tear all to
pieces. He then commenced, as it were, to "take in a reef," by gathering
in the slack of the silk, which chiefly was catching the wind, and by
drawing in the net, mesh by mesh, until the more inflated portion of the
balloon was left snug and offering but little resistance to the gale,
when he got her dragged in a direction slanting to the wind and under
the lee of trees.

Eventually a hazardous and difficult departure was effected, Mr.
Chandler, a passenger already booked, insisting on accompanying the
aeronaut, in spite of the latter's strongest protestations. And their
first peril came quickly, in a near shave of fouling the balcony of the
North Tower, which they avoided only by a prompt discharge of sand, the
crowd cheering loudly as they saw how the crisis was avoided. The car,
adds Mr. Coxwell in his memoirs, "was apparently trailing behind the
balloon with a pendulous swing, which is not often the case... In less
than two minutes we entered the lower clouds, passing through them
quickly, and noticing that their tops, which are usually of white,
rounded conformation, were torn into shreds and crests of vapour. Above,
there was a second wild-looking stratum of another order. We could
hear, as we hastened on, the hum of the West End of London; but we were
bowling along, having little time to look about us, though some extra
sandbags were turned to good account by making a bed of them at the
bottom ends of the car, which we occupied in anticipation of a rough

As it came on to rain hard the voyagers agreed to descend, and Coxwell,
choosing open ground, succeeded in the oft-attempted endeavour to drop
his grapnel in front of a bank or hedge-row. The balloon pulled up with
such a shock as inevitably follows when flying at sixty miles an hour,
and Mr. Coxwell continues:--"We were at this time suspended like a
kite, and it was not so much the quantity of gas which kept us up as the
hollow surface of loose silk, which acted like a falling kite, and the
obvious game of skill consisted in not letting out too much gas to
make the balloon pitch heavily with a thud that would have been awfully
unpleasant; but to jockey our final touch in a gradual manner, and yet
to do it as quickly as possible for fear of the machine getting adrift,
since, under the peculiar circumstances in which we were placed, it
would have inevitably fallen with a crushing blow, which might have
proved fatal. I never remember to have been in a situation when more
coolness and nicety were required to overcome the peril which here beset
us; while on that day the strong wind was, strange as it may sound,
helping us to alight easily, that is to say as long as the grapnel held
fast and the balloon did not turn over like an unsteady kite." Such
peril as there was soon terminated without injury to either voyager.

The same remark will apply to an occasion when Coxwell was caught in
a thunderstorm, which he thus describes in brief:--"On a second ascent
from Chesterfield we were carried into the midst of gathering clouds,
which began to flash vividly, and in the end culminated in a storm.
There were indications, before we left the earth, as to what might be
expected. The lower breeze took us in another direction as we rose, but
a gentle, whirling current higher up got us into the vortex of a highly
charged cloud.... We had to prove by absolute experience whether the
balloon was insulated and a non-conductor. Beyond a drenching, no
untoward incident occurred during a voyage lasting in all three-quarters
of an hour."

A voyage which Coxwell (referring, doubtless, to aerial travel over
English soil only) describes as "being so very much in excess of
accustomary trips in balloons" will be seen to fall short of one
memorable voyage of which the writer will have to give his own
experiences. Some account, however, of what the famous aeronaut has to
tell will find a fitting place here.

It was an ascent on a summer night from North Woolwich, and on this
occasion Coxwell was accompanied by two friends, one being Henry Youens,
who subsequently became a professional balloonist of considerable
repute, and who at this time was an ardent amateur. It was half an hour
before midnight when the party took their places, and, getting smartly
away from the crowd in the gala grounds, shot over the river, and
shortly were over the town of Greenwich with the lights of London
well ahead. Then their course took them over Kennington Oval, Vauxhall
Bridge, and Battersea, when they presently heard the strains of a Scotch
polka. This came up from the then famous Gardens of Cremorne, and, the
breeze freshening, it was but a few minutes later when they stood over
Kingston, by which time it became a question whether, being now clear
of London, they should descend or else live out the night and take what
thus might come their way. This course, as the most prudent, as well
as the most fascinating, was that which commended itself, and at that
moment the hour of midnight was heard striking, showing that a fairly
long distance had been covered in a short interval of time.

From this period they would seem to have lost their way, and though
scattered lights were sighted ahead, they were soon in doubt as to
whether they might not already be nearing the sea, a doubt that was
strengthened by their hearing the cry of sea-fowl. After a pause, lights
were seen looming under the haze to sea-ward, which at times resembled
water; and a tail like that of a comet was discerned, beyond which was a
black patch of considerable size.

The patch was the Isle of Wight, and the tail the Water from
Southampton. They were thus wearing more south and towards danger. They
had no Davy lamp with which to read their aneroid, and could only tell
from the upward flight of fragments of paper that they were descending.
Another deficiency in their equipment was the lack of a trail rope
to break their fall, and for some time they were under unpleasant
apprehension of an unexpected and rude impact with the ground, or
collision with some undesirable object. This induced them to discharge
sand and to risk the consequences of another rise into space, and as
they mounted they were not reassured by sighting to the south a ridge of
lighter colour, which strongly suggested the coast line.

But it was midsummer, and it was not long before bird life awakening was
heard below, and then a streak of dawn revealed their locality, which
was over the Exe, with Sidmouth and Tor Bay hard by on their left.
Then from here, the land jutting seawards, they confidently traversed
Dartmoor, and effected a safe, if somewhat unseasonable, descent near
Tavistock. The distance travelled was considerable, but the duration, on
the aeronaut's own showing, was less than five hours.

In the year 1859 the Times commented on the usefulness of military
balloons in language that fully justified all that Coxwell had
previously claimed for them. A war correspondent, who had accompanied
the Austrian Army during that year, asks pertinently how it had happened
that the French had been ready at six o'clock to make a combined
attack against the Austrians, who, on their part, had but just taken up
positions on the previous evening. The correspondent goes on to supply
the answer thus:--"No sooner was the first Austrian battalion out
of Vallegio than a balloon was observed to rise in the air from
the vicinity of Monsambano--a signal, no doubt, for the French in
Castiglione. I have a full conviction that the Emperor of the French
knew overnight the exact position of every Austrian corps, while the
Emperor of Austria was unable to ascertain the number or distribution of
the forces of the allies."

It appears that M. Godard was the aeronaut employed to observe the
enemy, and that fresh balloons for the French Army were proceeded with.

The date was now near at hand when Coxwell, in partnership with Mr.
Glaisher, was to take part in the classical work which has rendered
their names famous throughout the world. Before proceeding to tell of
that period, however, Mr. Coxwell has done well to record one
aerial adventure, which, while but narrowly missing the most serious
consequences, gives a very practical illustration of the chances in
favour of the aeronaut under extreme circumstances.

It was an ascent at Congleton in a gale of wind, a and the company of
two passengers--Messrs. Pearson, of Lawton Hall--was pressed upon him.
Everything foretold a rough landing, and some time after the start was
made the outlook was not improved by the fact that the dreaded county of
Derbyshire was seen approaching; and it was presently apparent that
the spot on which they had decided to descend was faced by rocks and
a formidable gorge. On this, Coxwell attempted to drop his grapnel in
front of a stone wall, and so far with success; but the wall went down,
as also another and another, the wicker car passing, with its great
impetus, clean through the solid obstacles, till at last the balloon
slit from top to bottom. Very serious injuries to heads and limbs were
sustained, but no lives were lost, and Coxwell himself, after being laid
up at Buxton, got home on crutches.


It was the year 1862, and the scientific world in England determined
once again on attempting observational work in connection with balloons.
There had been a meeting of the British Association at Wolverhampton,
and, under their auspices, and with the professional services of Thomas
Lythgoe, Mr. Creswick, of Greenwich Observatory, was commissioned to
make a lofty scientific ascent with a Cremorne balloon. The attempt,
however, was unsatisfactory; and the balloon being condemned, an
application was made to Mr. Coxwell to provide a suitable craft, and to
undertake its management. The principals of the working committee were
Colonel Sykes, M.P., Dr. Lee, and Mr. James Glaisher, F.R.S., and a
short conference between these gentlemen and the experienced aeronaut
soon made it clear that a mammoth balloon far larger than any in
existence was needed for the work in hand. But here a fatal obstacle
presented itself in lack of funds, for it transpired that the grant
voted was only to be devoted to trial ascents.

It was then that Mr. Coxwell, with characteristic enterprise, undertook,
at his own cost, to build a suitable balloon, and, moreover, to have it
ready by Midsummer Day. It was a bold, as well as a generous, offer;
for it was now March, and, according to Mr. Coxwell's statement, if silk
were employed, the preparation and manufacture would occupy six months
and cost not less than L2,000. The fabric chosen was a sort of American
cloth, and by unremitting efforts the task was performed to time, and
the balloon forwarded to Wolverhampton, its dimensions being 55 feet in
diameter, 80 feet in height from the ground, with a capacity of 93,000
cubic feet. But the best feature in connection with it was the fact that
Mr. Glaisher himself was to make the ascents as scientific observer.

No time was lost in getting to work, but twice over the chosen days were
unsuitable, and it was not till July 17th that the two colleagues, of
whom so much is to be told, got away at 9.30 a.m. with their balloon
only two-thirds full, to allow of expansion to take place in such a
lofty ascent as was contemplated. And, when it is considered that
an altitude of five miles was reached, it will be granted that the
scientific gentleman who was making his maiden ascent that day showed
remarkable endurance and tenacity of purpose--the all-important
essential for the onerous and trying work before him. At 9.56 the
balloon had disappeared from sight, climbing far into the sky in the
E.N.E. The story of the voyage we must leave in Mr. Glaisher's hands.
Certain events, however, associated with other aeronauts, which had
already happened, and which should be considered in connection with
the new drama now to be introduced, may fittingly here meet with brief

The trouble arising from the coasting across country of a fallen and
still half-inflated balloon has already been sufficiently illustrated,
and needs little further discussion. It is common enough to see a
balloon, when full and round, struggling restively under a moderate
breeze with a score of men, and dragging them, and near a ton of
sand-bags as well, about the starting ground. But, as has already been
pointed out, the power of the wind on the globe is vastly increased
when the silk becomes slack and forms a hollow to hold the wind, like
a bellying sail. Various means to deal with this difficulty have been
devised, one of these being an emergency, or ripping valve, in addition
to the ordinary valve, consisting of an arrangement for tearing a large
opening in the upper part of one of the gores, so that on reaching
earth the balloon may be immediately crippled and emptied of so large a
quantity of gas as to render dragging impossible. Such a method is not
altogether without drawbacks, one of these being the confusion liable
to arise from there being more than one valve line to reckon with. To
obviate this, it has been suggested that the emergency line should be of
a distinctive colour.

But an experiment with a safeguard to somewhat of this nature was
attended with fatal consequence in the year 1824. A Mr. Harris, a
lieutenant in the British Navy, ascended from the Eagle Tavern, City
Road, with a balloon fitted with a contrivance of his own invention,
consisting of a large hinged upper valve, having within it a smaller
valve of the same description, the idea being that, should the operation
of the smaller outlet not suffice for any occasion, then the shutter
of the larger opening might be resorted to, to effect a more liberal
discharge of gas.

Mr. Harris took with him a young lady, Miss Stocks by name, and
apparently the afternoon--it being late May--was favourable for an
aerial voyage; for, with full reliance on his apparatus, he left his
grapnel behind, and was content with such assistance as the girl might
be able to render him. It was not long before the balloon was found
descending, and with a rapidity that seemed somewhat to disturb the
aeronaut; and when, after a re-ascent, effected by a discharge of
ballast, another decided downward tendency ensued, Mr. Harris clearly
realised that something was wrong, without, however, divining the cause.
The story subsequently told by the girl was to the effect that when
the balloon was descending the second time she was spoken to by her
unfortunate companion in an anxious manner. "I then heard the balloon
go 'Clap! clap!' and Mr. Harris said he was afraid it was bursting,
at which I fainted, and knew no more until I found myself in bed." A
gamekeeper tells the sequel, relating that he observed the balloon,
which was descending with great velocity, strike and break the head
of an oak tree, after which it also struck the ground. Hurrying up, he
found the girl insensible, and Mr. Harris already dead, with his breast
bone and several ribs broken. The explanation of the accident given by
Mr. Edward Spencer is alike convincing and instructive. This eminently
practical authority points out that the valve lines must have been made
taut to the hoop at the time that the balloon was full and globular.
Thus, subsequently, when from diminution of gas the balloon's shape
elongated, the valve line would become strained and begin to open the
valve, but in such a gradual manner as to escape the notice of
the aeronaut. Miss Stocks, far from being unnerved by the terrible
experience, actually made three subsequent ascents in company with Mr.

It deserves mention that another disaster, equally instructive, but
happily not attended with loss of life, occurred in Dublin in 1844 to
Mr. Hampton, who about this time made several public and enterprising
voyages. He evidently was possessed of admirable nerve and decision, and
did not hesitate to make an ascent from the Porto-Bello Gardens in face
of strong wind blowing sea-wards, and in spite of many protestations
from the onlookers that he was placing himself in danger. This danger he
fully realised, more particularly when he recognised that the headland
on which he hoped to alight was not in the direction of the wind's
course. Resolved, however, on gratifying the crowd, Mr. Hampton ascended
rapidly, and then with equal expedition commenced a precipitate descent,
which he accomplished with skill and without mishap. But the wind was
still boisterous, and the balloon sped onward along the ground towards
fresh danger unforeseen, and perhaps not duly reckoned with. Ahead was
a cottage, the chimney of which was on fire. A balloonist in these
circumstances is apt to think little of a single small object in his
way, knowing how many are the chances of missing or of successfully
negotiating any such obstacle. The writer on one occasion was, in the
judgment of onlookers below, drifting in dangerous proximity to the
awful Cwmavon stack in Glamorganshire, then in full blast; yet it was
a fact that that vast vent of flame and smoke passed almost unheeded by
the party in the descending car. It may have been thus, also, with Mr.
Hampton, who only fully realised his danger when his balloon blew up
"with an awfully grand explosion," and he was reduced to the extremity
of jumping for his life, happily escaping the mass of burning silk and

The awful predicament of falling into the sea, which has been
illustrated already, and which will recur again in these pages, was ably
and successfully met by Mr. Cunningham, who made an afternoon ascent
from the Artillery Barracks at Clevedon, reaching Snake Island at
nightfall, where, owing to the gathering darkness, he felt constrained
to open his valve. He quickly commenced descending into the sea, and
when within ten feet of the water, turned the "detaching screw" which
connected the car with the balloon. The effect of this was at once to
launch him on the waves, but, being still able to keep control over the
valve, he allowed just enough gas to remain within the silk to hold the
balloon above water. He then betook himself to the paddles with which
his craft was provided, and reached Snake Island with the balloon in
tow. Here he seems to have found good use for a further portion of his
very complete equipment; for, lighting a signal rocket, he presently
brought a four-oared gig to his succour from Portsmouth Harbour.

The teaching of the above incident is manifest enough. If it should
be contemplated to use the balloon for serious or lengthened travel
anywhere within possible reach of the sea-board--and this must apply to
all parts of the British Isles--it must become a wise precaution, if not
an absolute necessity, to adopt some form of car that would be of avail
in the event of a fall taking place in the sea. Sufficient confirmation
of this statement will be shortly afforded by a memorable voyage
accomplished during the partnership of Messrs. Glaisher and Coxwell, one
which would certainly have found the travellers in far less jeopardy
had their car been convertible into a boat. We have already seen how
essential Wise considered this expedient in his own bolder schemes,
and it may further be mentioned here that modern air ships have been
designed with the intention of making the water a perfectly safe

The ballooning exploits which, however, we have now to recount had quite
another and more special object consistently in view--that of scientific
investigation; and we would here premise that the proper appreciation of
these investigations will depend on a due understanding of the attendant
circumstances, as also of the constant characteristic behaviour of
balloons, whether despatched for mere travel or research.

First let us regard the actual path of a balloon in space when being
manoeuvred in the way we read of in Mr. Glaisher's own accounts. This
part is in most cases approximately indicated in that most attractive
volume of his entitled, "Travels in the Air," by diagrams giving a
sectional presentment of his more important voyages; but a little
commonplace consideration may take the place of diagrams.

It has been common to assert that a balloon poised in space is the most
delicate balance conceivable. Its intrinsic weight must be exactly equal
to the weight of the air it displaces, and since the density of the
air decreases according to a fixed law, amounting, approximately, to
a difference in barometric reading of 0.1 inch for every 90 feet, it
follows, theoretically, that if a balloon is poised at 1,000 feet above
sea level, then it would not be in equilibrium at any other height, so
long as its weight and volume remain the same. If it were 50 feet higher
it must commence descending, and, if lower, then it must ascend till it
reaches its true level; and, more than that, in the event of either such
excursion mere impetus would carry it beyond this level, about which it
would oscillate for a short time, after the manner of the pendulum. This
is substantially true, but it must be taken in connection with other
facts which have a far greater influence on a balloon's position or

For instance, in the volume just referred to it is stated by M. Gaston
Tissandier that on one occasion when aloft he threw overboard a chicken
bone, and, immediately consulting a barometer, had to admit on "clearest
evidence that the bone had caused a rise of from twenty to thirty yards,
so delicately is a balloon equipoised in the air." Here, without pausing
to calculate whether the discharge of an ounce or so would suffice to
cause a large balloon to ascend through ninety feet, it may be pointed
out that the record cannot be trustworthy, from the mere fact that a
free balloon is from moment to moment being subjected to other potent
influences, which necessarily affect its position in space. In daytime
the sun's influence is an all-important factor, and whether shining
brightly or partially hidden by clouds, a slight difference in
obscuration will have a ready and marked effect on the balloon's
altitude. Again, a balloon in transit may pass almost momentarily from a
warmer layer of air to a colder, or vice versa, the plane of demarcation
between the two being very definite and abrupt, and in this case
altitude is at once affected; or, yet again, there are the descending
and ascending currents, met with constantly and unexpectedly, which have
to be reckoned with.

Thus it becomes a fact that a balloon's vertical course is subjected
to constant checks and vicissitudes from a variety of causes, and these
will have to be duly borne in mind when we are confronted with the
often surprising results and readings which are supplied by scientific
observers. With regard to the close proximity, without appreciable
intermingling, of widely differing currents, it should be mentioned that
explorers have found in regions where winds of different directions
pass each other that one air stream appears actually to drag against
the surface of the other, as though admitting no interspace where the
streams might mingle. Indeed, trustworthy observers have stated that
even a hurricane can rage over a tranquil atmosphere with a sharply
defined surface of demarcation between calm and storm. Thus, to quote
the actual words of Charles Darwin, than whom it is impossible to adduce
a more careful witness, we find him recording how on mountain heights
he met with winds turbulent and unconfined, yet holding courses "like
rivers within their beds."

It is in tracing the trend of upper air streams, to whose wayward
courses and ever varying conditions we are now to be introduced,
that much of our most valuable information has come, affecting the
possibility of forecasting British wind and weather. It should need
no insisting on that the data required by meteorologists are not
sufficiently supplied by the readings of instruments placed on or near
the ground, or by the set of the wind as determined by a vane planted
on the top of a pole or roof of a building. The chief factors in our
meteorology are rather those broader and deeper conditions which obtain
in higher regions necessarily beyond our ken, until those regions are
duly and diligently explored.

Mr. Glaisher's estimate of the utility of the balloon as an instrument
of research, formed at the conclusion of his aeronautical labours, has
a special value and significance. Speaking with all the weight attaching
to so trained and eminent an observer, he declares, "The balloon,
considered as an instrument for vertical exploration, presents itself to
us under a variety of aspects, each of which is fertile in suggestions.
Regarding the atmosphere as the great laboratory of changes which
contain the germ of future dis discoveries, to belong respectively, as
they unfold, to the chemist and meteorologist, the physical relation
to animal life of different heights, the form of death which at certain
elevations waits to accomplish its destruction, the effect of diminished
pressure upon individuals similarly placed, the comparison of mountain
ascents with the experiences of aeronauts, are some of the questions
which suggest themselves and faintly indicate enquiries which naturally
ally themselves to the course of balloon experiments. Sufficiently
varied and important, they will be seen to rank the balloon as a
valuable aid to the uses of philosophy, and rescue it from the
impending degradation of continuing a toy fit only to be exhibited or to
administer to the pleasures of the curious and lovers of adventure."

The words of the same authority as to the possible practical development
of the balloon as an aerial machine should likewise be quoted, and will
appear almost prophetic. "In England the subject of aero-station has
made but little progress, and no valuable invention has arisen to
facilitate travelling in the air. In all my ascents I used the balloon
as I found it. The desire which influenced me was to ascend to the
higher regions and travel by its means in furtherance of a better
knowledge of atmospheric phenomena. Neither its management nor its
improvement formed a part of my plan. I soon found that balloon
travelling was at the mercy of the wind, and I saw no probability of any
method of steering balloons being obtained. It even appeared to me that
the balloon itself, admirable for vertical ascents, was not necessarily
a first step in aerial navigation, and might possibly have no share
in the solution of the problem. It was this conviction that led to
the formation of the Aeronautical Society a few years since under the
presidency of the Duke of Argyll. In the number of communications made
to this society it is evident that many minds are taxing their ingenuity
to discover a mode of navigating the air; all kinds of imaginary
projects have been suggested, some showing great mechanical ingenuity,
but all indicating the want of more knowledge of the atmosphere itself.
The first great aim of this society is the connecting the velocity of
the air with its pressure on plane surfaces at various inclinations.

"There seems no prospect of obtaining this relation otherwise than by a
careful series of experiments."


Mr. Glaisher's instrumental outfit was on an elaborate and costly scale,
and the programme of experimental work drawn up for him by the Committee
of the British Association did not err on the side of too much modesty.
In the first place the temperature and moisture of the atmosphere were
to be examined. Observations on mountain sides had determined that
thermometers showed a decrease of 1 degree F. for every 300 feet,
and the accuracy of this law was particularly to be tested. Also,
investigations were to be made as to the distribution of vapour
below the clouds, in them, and above them. Then careful observations
respecting the dew point were to be undertaken at all accessible
heights, and, more particularly, up to those heights where man may be
resident or troops may be located. The comparatively new instrument, the
aneroid barometer, extremely valuable, if only trustworthy, by reason of
its sensibility, portability and safety, was to be tested and compared
with the behaviour of a reliable mercurial barometer. Electrical
conditions were to be examined; the presence of ozone tested; the
vibration of a magnet was again to be resorted to to determine how
far the magnetism of the earth might be affected by height. The solar
spectrum was to be observed; air was to be collected at different
heights for analysis; clouds, also upper currents, were to be reported
on. Further observations were to be made on sound, on solar radiation,
on the actinic action of the sun, and on atmospheric phenomena in

All this must be regarded as a large order where only a very limited
number of ascents were contemplated, and it may be mentioned that some
of the methods of investigation, as, for instance, the use of ozone
papers, would now be generally considered obsolete; while the mechanical
aspiration of thermometers by a stream of air, which, as we have pointed
out, was introduced by Welsh, and which is strongly insisted on at the
present day, was considered unnecessary by Mr. Glaisher in the case
of wet and dry bulb hygrometers. The entire list of instruments,
as minutely described by the talented observer, numbered twenty-two
articles, among which were such irreproachable items as a bottle of
water and a pair of scissors.

The following is a condensed account, gathered from Mr. Glaisher's own
narrative, of his first ascent, which has been already briefly sketched
in these pages by the hand of Mr. Coxwell. Very great difficulties were
experienced in the inflation, which operation appeared as if it would
never be completed, for a terrible W.S.W. wind was constantly blowing,
and the movements of the balloon were so great and so rapid that it was
impossible to fix a single instrument in its position before quitting
the earth, a position of affairs which, says Mr. Glaisher, "was by no
means cheering to a novice who had never before put his foot in the car
of a balloon," and when, at last, at 9.42 a.m., Mr. Coxwell cast off,
there was no upward motion, the car simply dragging on its side till
the expiration of a whole minute, when the balloon lifted, and in six
minutes reached the first cloud at an altitude of 4,467 feet. This cloud
was passed at 5,802 feet, and further cloud encountered at 2,000 feet
further aloft. Four minutes later, the ascent proceeding, the sun shone
out brightly, expanding the balloon into a perfect globe and displaying
a magnificent view, which, however, the incipient voyager did not allow
himself to enjoy until the instruments were arranged in due order, by
which time a height of 10,000 feet was recorded.

Mr. Glaisher apparently now had opportunity for observing the clouds,
which he describes as very beautiful, and he records the hearing of a
band of music at a height of 12,709 feet, which was attained in exactly
twenty minutes from the start. A minute later the earth was sighted
through a break in the clouds, and at 16,914 feet the clouds were
far below, the sky above being perfectly cloudless, and of an intense
Prussian blue.

By this time Mr. Glaisher had received his first surprise, as imparted
by the record of his instruments. At starting, the temperature of the
air had stood at 59 degrees. Then at 4,000 feet this was reduced to 45
degrees; and, further, to 26 degrees at 10,000 feet, when it remained
stationary through an ascent of 3,000 feet more, during which period
both travellers added to their clothing, anticipating much accession of
cold. However, at 15,500 feet the temperature had actually risen to 31
degrees, increasing to no less than 42 degrees at 19,500 feet.

Astonishing as this discovery was, it was not the end of the wonder,
for two minutes later, on somewhat descending, the temperature commenced
decreasing so rapidly as to show a fall of 27 degrees in 26 minutes.
As to personal experiences, Mr. Glaisher should be left to tell his
own story. "At the height of 18,844 feet 18 vibrations of a horizontal
magnet occupied 26.8 seconds, and at the same height my pulse beat at
the rate of 100 pulsations per minute. At 19,415 feet palpitation of
the heart became perceptible, the beating of the chronometer seemed
very loud, and my breathing became affected. At 19,435 feet my pulse had
accelerated, and it was with increasing difficulty that I could read
the instruments; the palpitation of the heart was very perceptible; the
hands and lips assumed a dark bluish colour, but not the face. At 20,238
feet 28 vibrations of a horizontal magnet occupied 43 seconds. At 21,792
feet I experienced a feeling analogous to sea-sickness, though there was
neither pitching nor rolling in the balloon, and through this illness I
was unable to watch the instrument long enough to lower the temperature
to get a deposit of dew. The sky at this elevation was of a very
deep blue colour, and the clouds were far below us. At 22,357 feet I
endeavoured to make the magnet vibrate, but could not; it moved through
arcs of about 20 degrees, and then settled suddenly.

"Our descent began a little after 11 a.m., Mr. Coxwell experiencing
considerable uneasiness at our too close vicinity to the Wash. We came
down quickly from a height of 16,300 feet to one of 12,400 feet in one
minute; at this elevation we entered into a dense cloud which proved to
be no less than 8,000 feet in thickness and whilst passing through this
the balloon was invisible from the car. From the rapidity of the descent
the balloon assumed the shape of a parachute, and though Mr. Coxwell had
reserved a large amount of ballast, which he discharged as quickly as
possible, we collected so much weight by the condensation of the immense
amount of vapour through which we passed that, notwithstanding all his
exertions, we came to the earth with a very considerable shock, which
broke nearly all the instruments.... The descent took place at Langham,
near Oakham."

Just a month later Mr. Glaisher, bent on a yet loftier climb, made
his second ascent, again under Mr. Coxwell's guidance, and again from
Wolverhampton. Besides attending to his instruments he found leisure to
make other chance notes by the way. He was particularly struck by the
beauty of masses of cloud, which, by the time 12,000 feet were reached,
were far below, "presenting at times mountain scenes of endless variety
and grandeur, while fine dome-like clouds dazzled and charmed the eye
with alternations and brilliant effects of light and shade."

When a height of about 20,000 feet had been reached thunder was heard
twice over, coming from below, though no clouds could be seen. A height
of 4,000 feet more was attained, and shortly after this Mr. Glaisher
speaks of feeling unwell. It was difficult to obtain a deposit of dew
on the hygrometer, and the working of the aspirator became troublesome.
While in this region a sound like that of loud thunder came from the
sky. Observations were practically completed at this point, and a speedy
and safe return to earth was effected, the landing being at Solihull,
seven miles from Birmingham.

It was on the 5th of September following that the same two colleagues
carried out an exploit which will always stand alone in the history of
aeronautics, namely, that of ascending to an altitude which, based on
the best estimate they were able to make, they calculated to be no less
than seven miles. Whatever error may have unavoidably come into the
actual estimate, which is to some extent conjectural, is in reality a
small matter, not the least affecting the fact that the feat in itself
will probably remain without a parallel of its kind. In these days,
when aeronauts attempt to reach an exceptionally lofty altitude, they
invariably provide themselves with a cylinder of oxygen gas to meet
the special emergencies of the situation, so that when regions of such
attenuated air are reached that the action of heart and lungs becomes
seriously affected, it is still within their power to inhale the
life-giving gas which affords the greatest available restorative to
their energies. Forty years ago, however, cylinders of compressed oxygen
gas were not available, and on this account alone we may state without
hesitation that the enterprise which follows stands unparalleled at the
present hour.

The filling station at Wolverhampton was quitted at 1.3 p.m., the
temperature of the air being 59 degrees on the ground, and falling to 41
degrees at an altitude of 5,000 feet, directly after which a dense cloud
was entered, which brought the temperature down to 36 degrees. At this
elevation the report of a gun was heard. Here Mr. Glaisher attempted
(probably for the first time in history) to take a cloud-scape
photograph, the illumination being brilliant, and the plates with which
he was furnished being considered extremely sensitive. The attempt,
however, was unsuccessful. The height of two miles was reached in 19
minutes, and here the temperature was at freezing point. In six minutes
later three miles was reached, and the thermometer was down to 18
degrees. In another twelve minutes four miles was attained, with the
thermometer recording 8 degrees, and by further discharge of sand the
fifth aerial milestone was passed at 1.50 p.m., i.e. in 47 minutes from
the start, with the thermometer 2 degrees below zero.

Mr. Glaisher relates that up to this point he had taken observations
with comfort, and experienced no trouble in respiration, whilst Mr.
Coxwell, in consequence of the exertions he had to make, was breathing
with difficulty. More sand was now thrown out, and as the balloon rose
higher Mr. Glaisher states that he found some difficulty in seeing
clearly. But from this point his experiences should be gathered from his
own words:--

"About 1.52 p.m., or later, I read the dry bulb thermometer as minus
five; after this I could not see the column of mercury in the wet bulb
thermometer, nor the hands of the watch, nor the fine divisions on any
instrument. I asked Mr. Coxwell to help me to read the instruments. In
consequence, however, of the rotatory motion of the balloon, which had
continued without ceasing since leaving the earth, the valve line had
become entangled, and he had to leave the car and mount into the ring to
readjust it. I then looked at the barometer, and found its reading to be
9 3/4 inches, still decreasing fast, implying a height exceeding 29,000
feet. Shortly after, I laid my arm upon the table, possessed of its full
vigour; but on being desirous of using it I found it powerless--it must
have lost its power momentarily. Trying to move the other arm, I found
it powerless also. Then I tried to shake myself, and succeeded, but I
seemed to have no limbs. In looking at the barometer my head fell over
my left shoulder. I struggled and shook my body again, but could not
move my arms. Getting my head upright for an instant only, it fell on my
right shoulder; then I fell backwards, my back resting against the
side of the car and my head on its edge. In this position my eyes were
directed to Mr. Coxwell in the ring. When I shook my body I seemed to
have full power over the muscles of the back, and considerably so over
those of the neck, but none over either my arms or my legs. As in the
case of the arms, so all muscular power was lost in an instant from my
back and neck. I dimly saw Mr. Coxwell, and endeavoured to speak, but
could not. In an instant intense darkness overcame me, so that the optic
nerve lost power suddenly; but I was still conscious, with as active a
brain as at the present moment whilst writing this. I thought I had been
seized with asphyxia, and believed I should experience nothing more,
as death would come unless we speedily descended. Other thoughts were
entering my mind when I suddenly became unconscious, as on going to
sleep. I cannot tell anything of the sense of hearing, as no sound
reaches the ear to break the perfect stillness and silence of the
regions between six and seven miles above the earth. My last observation
was made at 1.54 p.m., above 29,000 feet. I suppose two or three minutes
to have elapsed between my eyes becoming insensible to seeing fine
divisions and 1.54 p.m., and then two or three minutes more to have
passed till I was insensible, which I think, therefore, took place about
1.56 p.m. or 1.57 p.m.

"Whilst powerless, I heard the words 'Temperature' and 'Observation,'
and I knew Mr. Coxwell was in the car speaking to and endeavouring to
rouse me--therefore consciousness and hearing had returned. I then heard
him speak more emphatically, but could not see, speak, or move. I heard
him again say, 'Do try, now do!' Then the instruments became dimly
visible, then Mr. Coxwell, and very shortly I saw clearly. Next, I arose
in my seat and looked around, as though waking from sleep, though not
refreshed, and said to Mr. Coxwell, 'I have been insensible.' He said,
'You have, and I too, very nearly.' I then drew up my legs, which had
been extended, and took a pencil in my hand to begin observations. Mr.
Coxwell told me that he had lost the use of his hands, which were black,
and I poured brandy over them."

Mr. Glaisher considers that he must have been totally insensible for
a period of about seven minutes, at the end of which time the water
reserved for the wet bulb thermometer, which he had carefully kept
from freezing, had become a solid block of ice. Mr. Coxwell's hands had
become frostbitten, so that, being in the ring and desirous of coming to
his friend's assistance, he was forced to rest his arms on the ring
and drop down. Even then, the table being in the way, he was unable to
approach, and, feeling insensibility stealing over himself, he became
anxious to open the valve. "But in consequence of having lost the use of
his hands he could not do this. Ultimately he succeeded by seizing the
cord in his teeth and dipping his head two or three times until the
balloon took a decided turn downwards." Mr. Glaisher adds that no
inconvenience followed his insensibility, and presently dropping in a
country where no conveyance of any kind could be obtained, he was able
to walk between seven and eight miles.

The interesting question of the actual height attained is thus discussed
by Mr. Glaisher:--"I have already said that my last observation was made
at a height of 29,000 feet. At this time, 1.54 p.m., we were ascending
at the rate of 1,000 feet per minute, and when I resumed observations
we were descending at the rate of 2,000 feet per minute. These two
positions must be connected, taking into account the interval of time
between, namely, thirteen minutes; and on these considerations the
balloon must have attained the altitude of 36,000 or 37,000 feet. Again,
a very delicate minimum thermometer read minus 11.9, and this would give
a height of 37,000 feet. Mr. Coxwell, on coming from the ring, noticed
that the centre of the aneroid barometer, its blue hand, and a rope
attached to the car, were all in the same straight line, and this gave a
reading of seven inches, and leads to the same result. Therefore, these
independent means all lead to about the same elevation, namely, fully
seven miles."

So far we have followed Mr. Glaisher's account only, but Mr. Coxwell has
added testimony of his own to this remarkable adventure, which renders
the narrative more complete. He speaks of the continued rotation of the
balloon and the necessity for mounting into the ring to get possession
of the valve line. "I had previously," he adds, "taken off a thick pair
of gloves so as to be the better able to manipulate the sand-bags, and
the moment my unprotected hands rested on the ring, which retained the
temperature of the air, I found that they were frost-bitten; but I did
manage to bring down with me the valve line, after noticing the hand of
the aneroid barometer, and it was not long before I succeeded in opening
the shutters in the way described by Mr. Glaisher.... Again, on letting
off more gas, I perceived that the lower part of the balloon was rapidly
shrinking, and I heard a sighing, as if it were in the network and the
ruffled surface of the cloth. I then looked round, although it seemed
advisable to let off more gas, to see if I could in any way assist Mr.
Glaisher, but the table of instruments blocked the way, and I could not,
with disabled hands, pass beneath. My last hope, then, was in seeking
the restorative effects of a warmer stratum of atmosphere.... Again
I tugged at the valve line, taking stock, meanwhile, of the reserve
ballast in store, and this, happily, was ample.

"Never shall I forget those painful moments of doubt and suspense as to
Mr. Glaisher's fate, when no response came to my questions. I began
to fear that he would never take any more readings. I could feel the
reviving effects of a warmer temperature, and wondered that no signs of
animation were noticeable. The hand of the aneroid that I had looked
at was fast moving, while the under part of the balloon had risen high
above the car. I had looked towards the earth, and felt the rush of air
as it passed upwards, but was still in despair when Mr. Glaisher gasped
with a sigh, and the next moment he drew himself up and looked at me
rather in confusion, and said he had been insensible, but did not seem
to have any clear idea of how long until he caught up his pencil and
noted the time and the reading of the instruments."

The descent, which was at first very rapid, was effected without
difficulty at Cold Weston.


Early in the following spring we find the same two aeronauts going
aloft again on a scientific excursion which had a termination nearly as
sensational as the last. The ascent was from the Crystal Palace, and the
intention being to make a very early start the balloon for this purpose
had been partially filled overnight; but by the morning the wind blew
strongly, and, though the ground current would have carried the voyagers
in comparative safety to the southwest, several pilots which were
dismissed became, at no great height, carried away due south. On this
account the start was delayed till 1 p.m., by which time the sky had
nearly filled in, with only occasional gleams of sun between the clouds.
It seemed as if the travellers would have to face the chance of
crossing the Channel, and while, already in the car, they were actually
discussing this point, their restraining rope broke, and they were
launched unceremoniously into the skies. This occasioned an unexpected
lurch to the car, which threw Mr. Glaisher among his instruments, to the
immediate destruction of some of them.

Another result of this abrupt departure was a very rapid rise, which
took the balloon a height of 3,000 feet in three minutes' space, and
another 4,000 feet higher in six minutes more. Seven thousand feet
vertically in nine minutes is fast pace; but the voyagers were to know
higher speed yet that day when the vertical motion was to be in the
reverse and wrong direction. At the height now reached they were in
cloud, and while thus enveloped the temperature, as often happens,
remained practically stationary at about 32 degrees, while that of the
dew point increased several degrees. But, on passing out of the cloud,
the two temperatures were very suddenly separated, the latter decreasing
rapidly under a deep blue upper sky that was now without a cloud.
Shortly after this the temperature dropped suddenly some 8 degrees, and
then, during the next 12,000 feet, crept slowly down by small stages.
Presently the balloon, reaching more than twenty thousand feet, or,
roughly, four miles, and still ascending, the thermometer was taken with
small fits of rising and falling alternately till an altitude of
24,000 feet was recorded, at which point other and more serious matters
intruded themselves.

The earth had been for a considerable time lost to view, and the rate
and direction of recent progress had become merely conjectural. What
might be taking place in these obscured and lofty regions? It would be
as well to discover. So the valve was opened rather freely, with the
result that the balloon dropped a mile in three minutes. Then another
mile slower, by a shade. Then at 12,000 feet a cloud layer was reached,
and shortly after the voyagers broke through into the clear below.

At that moment Mr. Glaisher, who was busy with his instruments, heard
Mr. Coxwell make an exclamation which caused him to look over the
car, and he writes, "The sea seemed to be under us. Mr. Coxwell again
exclaimed, 'There's not a moment to spare: we must save the land at
all risks. Leave the instruments.' Mr. Coxwell almost hung to the valve
line, and told me to do the same, and not to mind its cutting my hand.
It was a bold decision opening the valve in this way, and it was boldly
carried out." As may be supposed, the bold decision ended with a crash.
The whole time of descending the four and a quarter miles was a quarter
of an hour, the last two miles taking four minutes only. For all that,
there was no penalty beyond a few bruises and the wrecking of the
instruments, and when land was reached there was no rebound; the balloon
simply lay inert hard by the margin of the sea. This terrific experience
in its salient details is strangely similar to that already recorded by
Albert Smith.

In further experimental labours conducted during the summer of this
year, many interesting facts stand out prominently among a voluminous
mass of observations. In an ascent in an east wind from the Crystal
Palace in early July it was found that the upper limit of that wind was
reached at 2,400 feet, at which level an air-stream from the north
was encountered; but at 3,000 feet higher the wind again changed to a
current from the N.N.W. At the height, then, of little more than half a
mile, these upper currents were travelling leisurely; but what was more
noteworthy was their humidity, which greatly increased with altitude,
and a fact which may often be noted here obtruded itself, namely, when
the aeronauts were at the upperlimits of the east wind, flat-bottomed
cumulus clouds were floating at their level. These clouds were entirely
within the influence of the upper or north wind, so that their under
sides were in contact with the east wind, i.e. with a much drier
air, which at once dissipated all vapour in contact with it, and
thus presented the appearance of flat-bottomed clouds. It is a common
experience to find the lower surface of a cloud mowed off flat by an
east wind blowing beneath it.

At the end of June a voyage from Wolverton was accomplished, which
yielded remarkable results of much real value and interest. The previous
night had been perfectly calm, and through nearly the whole morning
the sun shone in a clear blue sky, without a symptom of wind or coming
change. Shortly before noon, however, clouds appeared aloft, and the
sky assumed an altered aspect. Then the state of things quickly changed.
Wind currents reached the earth blowing strongly, and the half-filled
balloon began to lurch to such an extent that the inflation could only
with difficulty be proceeded with. Fifty men were unable to hold it in
sufficient restraint to prevent rude bumping of the car on the ground,
and when, at length, arrangements were complete and release effected,
rapid discharge of ballast alone saved collision with neighbouring

It was now that the disturbance overhead came under investigation;
and, considering the short period it had been in progress, proved most
remarkable, the more so the further it was explored. At 4,000 feet they
plunged into the cloud canopy, through which as it was painfully cold,
they, sought to penetrate into the clear above, feeling confident of
finding themselves, according to their usual experience, in bright blue
sky, with the sun brilliantly shining. On the contrary, however, the
region they now entered was further obscured with another canopy of
cloud far up. It was while they were traversing this clear interval that
a sound unwonted in balloon travel assailed their ears. This was the
"sighing, or rather moaning, of the wind as preceding a storm." Rustling
of the silk within the cordage is often heard aloft, being due to
expansion of gas or similar cause; but the aeronauts soon convinced
themselves that what they heard was attributable to nothing else than
the actual conflict of air currents beneath. Then they reached fog--a
dry fog--and, passing through it, entered a further fog, but wetting
this time, and within the next 1,000 feet they were once again in fog
that was dry; and then, reaching three miles high and seeing struggling
sunbeams, they looked around and saw cloud everywhere, below, above,
and far clouds on their own level. The whole sky had filled in most
completely since the hours but recently passed, when they had been
expatiating on the perfect serenity of the empty heavens.

Still they climbed upwards, and in the next 2,000 feet had entered
further fog, dry at first, but turning wetter as they rose. At four
miles high they found themselves on a level with clouds, whose dark
masses and fringed edges proved them to be veritable rain clouds; and,
while still observing them, the fog surged up again and shut out the
view, and by the time they had surmounted it they were no less than
23,000 feet up, or higher than the loftiest of the Andes. Even here,
with cloud masses still piling high overhead, the eager observer,
bent on further quests, was for pursuing the voyage; but Mr. Coxwell
interposed with an emphatic, "Too short of sand!" and the downward
journey had to be commenced. Then phenomena similar to those already
described were experienced again--fog banks (sometimes wet, sometimes
dry), rain showers, and cloud strata of piercing cold. Presently, too,
a new wonder for a midsummer afternoon--a snow scene all around, and
spicules of ice settling and remaining frozen on the coatsleeve. Finally
dropping to earth helplessly through the last 5,000 feet, with all
ballast spent, Ely Cathedral was passed at close quarters; yet even that
vast pile was hidden in the gloom that now lay over all the land.

It was just a month later, and day broke with thoroughly dirty weather,
a heavy sky, and falling showers. This was the day of all others that
Mr. Glaisher was waiting for, having determined on making special
investigations concerning the formation of rain in the clouds
themselves. It had long been noticed that, in an ordinary way, if there
be two rain gauges placed, one near the surface of the ground, and
another at a somewhat higher elevation, then the lower gauge will
collect most water. Does, then, rain condense in some appreciable
quantity out of the lowest level? Again, during rain, is the air
saturated completely, and what regulates the quality of rainfall, for
rain sometimes falls in large drops and sometimes in minute particles?
These were questions which Mr. Glaisher sought to solve, and there was

Charles Green had stated as his conviction that whenever rain was
falling from an overcast sky there would always be found a higher canopy
of cloud over-hanging the lower stratum. On the day, then, which we are
now describing, Mr. Glaisher wished to put this his theory to the test;
and, if correct, then he desired to measure the space between the cloud
layers, to gauge their thickness, and to see if above the second stratum
the sun was shining. The main details of the ascent read thus:--

In ten seconds they were in mist, and in ten seconds more were level
with the cloud. At 1,200 feet they were out of the rain, though not yet
out of the cloud. Emerging from the lower cloud at 2,300 feet, they saw,
what Green would have foretold, an upper stratum of dark cloud above.
Then they made excursions up and down, trying high and low to verify
these conditions, and passing through fogs both wet and dry, at last
drifting earthward, through squalls of wind and rain with drops as
large as fourpenny pieces, to find that on the ground heavy wet had been
ceaselessly falling.

A day trip over the eastern suburbs of London in the same year seems
greatly to have impressed Mr. Glaisher. The noise of London streets
as heard from above has much diminished during the last fifteen years'
probably owing to the introduction of wood paving. But, forty years ago,
Mr. Glaisher describes the deep sound of London as resembling the roar
of the sea, when at a mile high; while at greater elevations it was
heard at a murmuring noise. But the view must have been yet more
striking than the hearing, for in one direction the white cliffs from
Margate to Dover were visible, while Brighton and the sea beyond were
sighted, and again all the coast line up to Yarmouth yet the atmosphere
that day, one might have thought, should have been in turmoil, by reason
of a conflict of aircurrents; for, within two miles of the earth, the
wind was from the east; between two and three miles high it was exactly
opposite, being from the west; but at three miles it was N.E.; while,
higher, it was again directly opposite, or S.W.

During his researches so far Mr. Glaisher had found much that was
anomalous in the way of the winds, and in other elements of weather. He
was destined to find much more. It had been commonly accepted that the
temperature of the air decreases at the average rate of 10 degrees for
every 300 feet of elevation, and various computations, as, for example,
those which relate to the co-efficient of refraction, have been
founded on this basis; but Mr. Glaisher soon established that the above
generalisation had to be much modified. The following, gathered from his
notes is a typical example of such surprises as the aeronaut with due
instrumental equipment may not unfrequently meet with.

It was the 12th of January, 1864, with an air-current on the ground from
the S.E., of temperature 41 degrees,, which very slowly decreased up to
1,600 feet when a warm S.W. current was met with, and at 3,000 feet the
temperature was 3 1/2 degrees higher than on the earth. Above the S.W.
stream the air became dry, and here the temperature decreased reasonably
and consistently with altitude; while fine snow was found falling out
of this upper space into the warmer stream below. Mr. Glaisher discusses
the peculiarity and formation of this stream in terms which will repay

"The meeting with this S.W. current is of the highest importance, for it
goes far to explain why England possesses a winter temperature so much
higher than is due to her northern latitude. Our high winter temperature
has hitherto been mostly referred to the influence of the Gulf Stream.
Without doubting the influence of this natural agent, it is necessary to
add the effect of a parallel atmospheric current to the oceanic current
coming from the same region--a true aerial Gulf Stream. This great
energetic current meets with no obstruction in coming to us, or to
Norway, but passes over the level Atlantic without interruption from
mountains. It cannot, however, reach France without crossing Spain and
the lofty range of the Pyrenees, and the effect of these cold mountains
in reducing its temperature is so great that the former country derives
but little warmth from it."

An ascent from Woolwich, arranged as near the equinox of that year
as could be managed, supplied some further remarkable results. The
temperature, which was 45 degrees to begin with, at 4.7 p.m., crept
down fairly steadily till 4,000 feet altitude was registered, when, in a
region of warm fog, it commenced rising abruptly, and at 7,500 feet, in
blue sky, stood at the same reading as when the balloon had risen only
1,500 feet. Then, amid many anomalous vicissitudes, the most curious,
perhaps, was that recorded late in the afternoon, when, at 10,000 feet,
the air was actually warmer than when the ascent began.

That the temperature of the upper air commonly commences to rise
after nightfall as the warmth radiated through day hours off the earth
collects aloft, is a fact well known to the balloonist, and Mr. Glaisher
carried out with considerable success a well-arranged programme for
investigating the facts of the case. Starting from Windsor on an
afternoon of late May, he so arranged matters that his departure from
earth took place about an hour and three quarters before sunset, his
intention being to rise to a definite height, and with as uniform a
speed as possible to time his descent so as to reach earth at the
moment of sundown; and then to re-ascend and descend again m a precisely
similar manner during an hour and three-quarters after sunset, taking
observations all the way. Ascending for the first flight, he left a
temperature of 58 degrees on the earth, and found it 55 degrees at
1,200 feet, then 43 degrees at 3,600 feet, and 29 1/2 degrees at
the culminating point of 6,200 feet. Then, during the descent, the
temperature increased, though not uniformly, till he was nearly brushing
the tops of the trees, where it was some 3 degrees colder than at

It was now that the balloon, showing a little waywardness, slightly
upset a portion of the experiment, for, instead of getting to the
neighbourhood of earth just at the moment of sunset, the travellers
found themselves at that epoch 600 feet above the ground, and over the
ridge of a hill, on passing which the balloon became sucked down with
a down draught, necessitating a liberal discharge of sand to prevent
contact with the ground. This circumstance, slight in itself, caused the
lowest point of the descent to be reached some minutes late, and, still
more unfortunate, occasioned the ascent which immediately followed to be
a rapid one, too rapid, doubtless, to give the registering instruments
a fair chance; but one principal record aimed at was obtained at least
with sufficient truth, namely, that at the culminating point, which
again was 6,200 feet, the temperature read 35 degrees, or about 6
degrees warmer than when the balloon was at the same altitude a little
more than an hour before. This comparatively warm temperature was
practically maintained for a considerable portion of the descent.

We may summarise the principal of Mr. Glaisher's generalisations thus,
using as nearly as possible his own words:--

"The decrease of temperature, with increase of elevation, has a diurnal
range, and depends upon the hour of the day, the changes being the
greatest at mid-day and the early part of the afternoon, and decreasing
to about sunset, when, with a clear sky, there is little or no change
of temperature for several hundred feet from the earth; whilst, with a
cloudy sky, the change decreases from the mid-day hours at a less rapid
rate to about sunset, when the decrease is nearly uniform and at the
rate of 1 degree in 2,000 feet.

"Air currents differing in direction are almost always to be met with.
The thicknesses of these were found to vary greatly. The direction of
the wind on the earth was sometimes that of the whole mass of air up to
20,000 feet nearly, whilst at other times the direction changed within
500 feet of the earth Sometimes directly opposite currents were met

With regard to the velocity of upper currents, as shown by the travel
of balloons, when the distances between the places of ascent and descent
are measured, it was always found that these distances were very
much greater than the horizontal movement of the air, as measured by
anemometers near the ground.


By this period a revival of aeronautics in the land of its birth had
fairly set in. Since the last ascents of Gay Lussac, in 1804, already
recorded, there had been a lull in ballooning enterprise in France, and
no serious scientific expeditions are recorded until the year 1850, when
MM. Baral and Bixio undertook some investigations respecting the upper
air, which were to deal with its laws of temperature and humidity,
with the proportion of carbonic acid present in it, with solar heat at
different altitudes, with radiation and the polarisation of light, and
certain other interesting enquiries.

The first ascent, made in June from the Paris Observatory, though a
lofty one, was attended with so much danger and confusion as to be
barren of results. The departure, owing to stormy weather, was hurried
and illordered, so that the velocity in rising was excessive, the net
constricted the rapidly-swelling globe, and the volumes of out-rushing
gas half-suffocated the voyagers. Then a large rent occurred, which
caused an alarmingly rapid fall, and the two philosophers were reduced
to the necessity of flinging away all they possessed, their instruments
only excepted. The landing, in a vineyard, was happily not attended with
disaster, and within a month the same two colleagues attempted a second
aerial excursion, again in wet weather.

It would seem as if on this occasion, as on the former one, there was
some lack of due management, for the car, suspended at a long distance
from the balloon proper, acquired violent oscillations on leaving the
ground, and dashing first against a tree, and then against a mast, broke
some of the instruments. A little later there occurred a repetition on
a minor scale of the aeronauts' previous mishap, for a rent appeared in
the silk, though, luckily, so low down in the balloon as to be of
small consequence, and eventually an altitude of some 19,000 feet
was attained. At one time needles of ice were encountered settling
abundantly with a crackling sound upon their notebooks. But the
most remarkable observation made during this voyage related to an
extraordinary fall of temperature which, as recorded, is without
parallel. It took place in a cloud mass, 15,000 feet thick, and amounted
to a drop of from 15 degrees to -39 degrees.

In 1867 M. C. Flammarion made a few balloon ascents, ostensibly for
scientific research. His account of these, translated by Dr. T. L.
Phipson, is edited by Mr. Glaisher, and many of the experiences he
relates will be found to contrast with those of others. His physical
symptoms alone were remarkable, for on one occasion, at an altitude of
apparently little over 10,000 feet, he became unwell being affected with
a sensation of drowsiness, palpitation, shortness of breath, and singing
in the ears, which, after landing gave place to a "fit of incessant
gaping" while he states that in later voyages, at but slightly greater
altitudes, his throat and lungs became affected, and he was troubled
with presence of blood upon the lips. This draws forth a footnote from
Mr. Glaisher, which should be commended to all would-be sky voyagers.
It runs thus:--"I have never experienced any of these effects till I had
long passed the heights reached by M. Flammarion, and at no elevation
was there the presence of blood." However, M. Flammarion adduces, at
least, one reassuring fact, which will be read with interest. Once,
having, against the entreaties of his friends, ascended with an attack
of influenza upon him, he came down to earth again an hour or two
afterwards with this troublesome complaint completely cured.

It would seem as if the soil of France supplied the aeronaut with
certain phenomena not known in England, one of these apparently being
the occasional presence of butterflies hovering round the car when at
considerable heights. M. Flammarion mentions more than one occasion when
he thus saw them, and found them to be without sense of alarm at the
balloon or its passengers. Again, the French observer seems seldom to
have detected those opposite airstreams which English balloonists may
frequently observe, and have such cause to be wary of. His words, as
translated, are:--"It appears to me that two or more currents, flowing
in different directions, are very rarely met with as we rise in the air,
and when two layers of cloud appear to travel in opposite directions the
effect is generally caused by the motion of one layer being more rapid
than the other, when the latter appears to be moving in a contrary
direction." In continuation of these experiences, he speaks of an
occasion when, speeding through the air at the rate of an ordinary
express train, he was drawn towards a tempest by a species of

The French aeronaut's estimate of what constitutes a terrific rate of
fall differs somewhat from that of others whose testimony we have been
recording. In one descent, falling (without reaching earth, however) a
distance of 2,130 feet in two minutes, he describes the earth rising up
with frightful rapidity, though, as will be observed, this is not nearly
half the speed at which either Mr. Glaisher or Albert Smith and his
companions were precipitated on to bare ground. Very many cases which
we have cited go to show that the knowledge of the great elasticity of
a well-made wicker car may rob a fall otherwise alarming of its terrors,
while the practical certainty that a balloon descending headlong will
form itself into a natural parachute, if properly managed, reduces
enormously the risk attending any mere impact with earth. It will be
allowed by all experienced aeronauts that far worse chances lie in some
awkward alighting ground, or in the dragging against dangerous obstacles
after the balloon has fallen.

Many of M. Flammarion's experiments are remarkable for their simplicity.
Indeed, in some cases he would seem to have applied himself to making
trials the result of which could not have been seriously questioned.
The following, quoting from Dr. Phipson's translation, will serve as an

"Another mechanical experiment was made in the evening, and renewed
next day. I wished to verify Galileo's principle of the independence
of simultaneous motions. According to this principle, a body which is
allowed to fall from another body in motion participates in the motion
of the latter; thus, if we drop a marble from the masthead of a ship, it
preserves during its fall the rate of motion of the vessel, and falls
at the foot of the mast as if the ship were still. Now, if a body falls
from a balloon, does it also follow the motion of the latter, or does it
fall directly to the earth in a line which is perpendicular to the point
at which we let it fall? In the first case its fall would be described
by an oblique line. The latter was found to be the fact, as we proved by
letting a bottle fall. During its descent it partakes of the balloon's
motion, and until it reaches the earth is always seen perpendicularly
below the car."

An interesting phenomenon, relating to the formation of fog was
witnessed by M. Flammarion in one of his voyages. He was flying low with
a fast wind, and while traversing a forest he noticed here and there
patches of light clouds, which, remaining motionless in defiance of
the strong wind, continued to hang above the summits of the trees.
The explanation of this can hardly be doubtful, being analogous to
the formation of a night-cap on a mountain peak where warm moist
air-currents become chilled against the cold rock surface, forming,
momentarily, a patch of cloud which, though constantly being blown away,
is as constantly re-formed, and thus is made to appear as if stationary.

The above instructive phenomenon could hardly have been noticed save
by an aeronaut, and the same may be said of the following. Passing in
a clear sky over the spot where the Marne flows into the Seine, M.
Flammarion notes that the water of the Marne, which, as he says, is as
yellow now as it was in the time of Julius Caesar, does not mix with the
green water of the Seine, which flows to the left of the current, nor
with the blue water of the canal, which flows to the right. Thus, a
yellow river was seen flowing between two distinct brooks, green and
blue respectively.

Here was optical evidence of the way in which streams of water which
actually unite may continue to maintain independent courses. We have
seen that the same is true of streams of air, and, where these traverse
one another in a copious and complex manner, we find, as will be shown,
conditions produced that cause a great deadening of sound; thus, great
differences in the travel of sound in the silent upper air can be
noticed on different days, and, indeed, in different periods of the same
aerial voyage. M. Flammarion bears undeniable testimony to the manner in
which the equable condition of the atmosphere attending fog enhances,
to the aeronaut, the hearing of sounds from below. But when he gives
definite heights as the range limits of definite sounds it must be
understood that these ranges will be found to vary greatly according
to circumstances. Thus, where it is stated that a man's voice may make
itself heard at 3,255 feet, it might be added that sometimes it cannot
be heard at a considerably less altitude; and, again, the statement that
the whistle of a locomotive rises to near 10,000 feet, and the noise of
a railway train to 8,200 feet, should be qualified an additional note
to the effect that both may be occasionally heard at distances vastly
greater. But perhaps the most curious observation of M. Flammarion
respecting sounds aloft relates to that of echo. To his fancy, this had
a vague depth, appearing also to rise from the horizon with a curious
tone, as if it came from another world. To the writer, on the contrary,
and to many fellow observers who have specially experimented with this
test of sound, the echo has always appeared to come very much from the
right place--the spot nearly immediately below--and if this suggested
its coming from another world then the same would have to be said of all
echoes generally.

About the same period when M. Flammarion was conducting his early
ascents, MM. de Fonvielle and Tissandier embarked on experimental
voyages, which deserve some particular notice. Interest in the new
revival of the art of aeronautics was manifestly be coming reestablished
in France, and though we find enthusiasts more than once bitterly
complaining of the lack of financial assistance, still ballooning
exhibitions, wherever accomplished, never failed to arouse popular
appreciation. But enthusiasm was by no means the universal attitude with
which the world regarded aerial enterprise. A remarkable and instructive
instance is given to the contrary by M. W. de Fonvielle himself.

He records an original ballooning exploit, organised at Algiers, which
one might have supposed would have caused a great sensation, and to
which he himself had called public attention in the local journals. The
brothers Braguet were to make an ascent from the Mustapha Plain in a
small fire balloon heated with burning straw, and this risky performance
was successfully carried out by the enterprising aeronauts. But, to the
onlooker, the most striking feature of the proceeding was the fact that
while the Europeans present regarded the spectacle with curiosity and
pleasure, the native Mussulmans did not appear to take the slightest
interest in it; "And this," remarked de Fonvielle, "was not the first
time that ignorant and fanatic people have been noted as manifesting
complete indifference to balloon ascents. After the taking of
Cairo, when General Buonaparte wished to produce an effect upon the
inhabitants, he not only made them a speech, but supplemented it with
the ascent of a fire balloon. The attempt was a complete failure, for
the French alone looked up to the clouds to see what became of the

In the summer of 1867 an attempt was made to revive the long extinct
Aeronautic Company of France, established by De Guyton. The undertaking
was worked with considerable energy. Some forty or fifty active recruits
were pressed into the service, a suitable captive balloon was obtained,
thousands of spectators came to watch the evolutions; and many were
found to pay the handsome fee of 100 francs for a short excursion in the
air. For all this, the effort was entirely abortive, and the ballooning
corps, as such, dropped out of existence.

A little while after this de Fonvielle, on a visit to England, had a
most pathetic interview with the veteran Charles Green, who was living
in comfortable retirement at Upper Holloway. The grand old man pointed
to a well-filled portfolio in the corner of his room, in which, he
said, were accounts of all his travels, that would require a lifetime to
peruse and put in order. Green then took his visitor to the end of the
narrow court, and, opening the door of an outhouse, showed him the old
Nassau balloon. "Here is my car," he said, touching it with a kind of
solemn respect, "which, like its old pilot, now reposes quietly after
a long and active career. Here is the guide rope which I imagined in
former years, and which has been found very useful to aeronauts.... Now
my life has past and my time has gone by.... Though my hair is white and
my body too weak to help you, I can still give you my advice, and you
have my hearty wishes for your future."

It was but shortly after this, on March 26, 1870, that Charles Green
passed away in the 85th year of his age.

De Fonvielle's colleague, M. Gaston Tissandier, was on one occasion
accidentally brought to visit the resting place of the earliest among
aeronauts, whose tragic death occurred while Charles Green himself
was yet a boy. In a stormy and hazardous descent Tissandier, under
the guidance of M. Duruof, landed with difficulty on the sea coast of
France, when one of the first to render help was a lightkeeper of the
Griz-nez lighthouse, who gave the information that on the other side of
the hills, a few hundred yards from the spot where they had landed, was
the tomb of Pilatre de Rozier, whose tragical death has been recorded in
an early chapter. A visit to the actual locality the next day revealed
the fact that a humble stone still marked the spot.

Certain scientific facts and memoranda collected by the talented French
aeronaut whom we are following are too interesting to be omitted. In the
same journey to which we have just referred the voyagers, when nearly
over Calais, were witnesses from their commanding standpoint of a very
striking phenomenon of mirage. Looking in the direction of England, the
far coast line was hidden by an immense veil of leaden-coloured cloud,
and, following this cloud wall upward to detect where it terminated, the
travellers saw above it a greenish layer like that of the surface of
the sea, on which was detected a little black point suggesting a walnut
shell. Fixing their eyes on this black spot, they presently discerned
it to be a ship sailing upside down upon an aerial ocean. Soon after, a
steamer blowing smoke, and then other vessels, added themselves to the
illusory spectacle.

Another wonder detected, equally striking though less uncommon, was
of an acoustical nature, the locality this time being over Paris. The
height of the balloon at this moment was not great, and, moreover,
was diminishing as it settled down. Suddenly there broke in upon the
voyagers a sound as of a confused kind of murmur. It was not unlike
the distant breaking of waves against a sandy coast, and scarcely less
monotonous. It was the noise of Paris that reached them, as soon as they
sank to within 2,600 feet of the ground, but it disappeared at once when
they threw out just sufficient ballast to rise above that altitude.

It might appear to many that so strange and sudden a shutting out of a
vast sound occurring abruptly in the free upper air must have been more
imaginary than real, yet the phenomenon is almost precisely similar to
one coming within the experience the writer, and vouched for by his son
and daughter, as also by Mr. Percival Spencer, all of whom were joint
observers at the time, the main point of difference in the two cases
being the fact that the "region of silence" was recorded by the French
observers as occurring at a somewhat lower level. In both cases there
is little doubt that the phenomenon can be referred to a stratum of
disturbed or non-homogeneous air, which may have been very far spread,
and which is capable of acting as a most opaque sound barrier.

Attention has often been called in these pages to the fact that the
action of the sun on an inflated balloon, even when the solar rays may
be partially obscured and only operative for a few passing moments,
is to give sudden and great buoyancy to the balloon. An admirable
opportunity for fairly estimating the dynamic effect of the sun's rays
on a silk globe, whose fabric was half translucent, was offered to
the French aeronauts when their balloon was spread on the grass under
repair, and for this purpose inflated with the circumambient air by
means of a simple rotatory fan. The sun coming out, the interior of
the globe quickly became suffocating, and it was found that, while the
external temperature recorded 77 degrees, that of the interior was in
excess of 91 degrees.


A balloon which has become famous in history was frequently used in the
researches of the French aeronauts mentioned in our last chapter. This
was known as "The Giant," the creation of M. Nadar, a progressive and
practical aeronaut, who had always entertained ambitious ideas about
aerial travel.

M. Nadar had been editor of L'Aeronaut, a French journal devoted to the
advancement of aerostation generally. He had also strongly expressed
his own views respecting the possibility of constructing air ships that
should be subject to control and guidance when winds were blowing. His
great contention was that the dirigible air ship would, like a bird,
have to be made heavier than the medium in which it was to fly. As he
put it, a balloon could never properly become a vessel. It would only
be a buoy. In spite of any number of accessories, paddles, wings, fans,
sails, it could not possibly prevent the wind from bodily carrying away
the whole concern.

After this strong expression of opinion, it may appear somewhat strange
that such a bold theoriser should at once have set himself to construct
the largest gas balloon on record. Such, however, was the case and the
reason urged was not otherwise than plausible. For, seeing that a vast
sum of money would be needed to put his theories into practice, M.
Nadar conceived the idea of first constructing a balloon so unique and
unrivalled that it should compel public attention in a way that no other
balloon had done before, and so by popular exhibitions bring to his
hand such sums as he required. A proper idea of the scale of this
huge machine can be easily gathered. The largest balloons at present
exhibited in this country are seldom much in excess of 50,000 cubic
feet capacity. Compared with these the "Great Nassau Balloon," built by
Charles Green, which has been already sufficiently described, was a
true leviathan; while Coxwell's "Mammoth" was larger yet, possessing
a content, when fully inflated, of no less than 93,000 cubic feet, and
measuring over 55 feet in diameter. This, however, as will be seen, was
but a mere pigmy when compared with "The Giant," which, measuring some
74 feet in diameter, possessed the prodigious capacity of 215,000 cubic

But the huge craft possessed another novelty besides that of
exceptional size. It was provided with a subsidiary balloon, called the
"Compensator," and properly the idea of M. L. Godard, the function of
which was to receive any expulsion of gas in ascending, and thus
to prevent loss during any voyage. The specification of this really
remarkable structure may be taken from M. Nadar's own description. The
globe in itself was for greater strength virtually double, consisting of
two identical balloons, one within the other, each made of white silk
of the finest quality, and costing about 5s. 4d. per yard. No less than
22,000 yards of this silk were required, and the sewing up of the
gores was entirely done by hand. The small compensating balloon was
constructed to have a capacity of about 3,500 cubic feet, and the whole
machine, when fully inflated, was calculated to lift 4 1/2 tons. With
this enormous margin of buoyancy, M. Nadar determined on making the
car of proportionate and unparalleled dimensions, and of most elaborate
design. It contained two floors, of which the upper one was open, the
height of all being nearly 7 feet, with a width of about 13 feet. Then
what was thought to be due provision was made for possible emergencies.
It might descend far from help or habitations, therefore means were
provided for attaching wheels and axles. Again, the chance of rough
impact had to be considered, and so canes, to act as springs, were
fitted around and below. Once again, there was the contingency of
immersion to be reckoned with; therefore there were provided buoys
and water-tight compartments. Further than this, unusual luxuries
were added, for there were cabins, one for the captain at one end, and
another with three berths for passengers at the other. Nor was this all,
for there was, in addition, a larder, a lavatory, a photographic room,
and a printing office. It remains now only to tell the tale of how this
leviathan of the air acquitted itself.

The first ascent was made on the 4th of October, 1853, from the Champ de
Mars, and no fewer than fifteen living souls were launched together
into the sky. Of these Nadar was captain, with the brothers Godard
lieutenants. There was the Prince de Sayn-Wittgenstein; there was the
Count de St. Martin; above all, there was a lady, the Princess de la
Tour d'Auvergne. The balloon came to earth at 9 o'clock at night near
Meaux, and, considering all the provision which had been made to guard
against rough landing, it can hardly be said that the descent was a
happy one. It appears that the car dragged on its side for nearly a
mile, and the passengers, far from finding security in the seclusion of
the inner chambers, were glad to clamber out above and cling, as best
they might, to the ropes.

Many of the party were bruised more or less severely, though no one was
seriously injured, and it was reported that such fragile articles as
crockery, cakes, confectionery, and wine bottles to the number of no
less than thirty-seven, were afterwards discovered to be intact, and
received due attention. It is further stated that the descent was
decided on contrary to the wishes of the captain, but in deference to
the judgment of the experienced MM. Godard, it being apparently their
conviction that the balloon was heading out to sea, whereas, in reality,
they were going due east, "with no sea at all before them nearer than
the Caspian."

This was certainly an unpropitious trial trip for the vessel that had so
ambitiously sought dominion over the air, and the next trial, which was
embarked upon a fortnight later, Sunday, October 18th, was hardly
less unfortunate. Again the ascent was from the Champ de Mars, and the
send-off lacked nothing in the way of splendour and circumstance.
The Emperor was present, for two hours an interested observer of the
proceedings; the King of Greece also attended, and even entered the car,
while another famous spectator was the popular Meyerbeer. "The Giant"
first gave a preliminary demonstration of his power by taking up, for a
cable's length, a living freight of some thirty individuals, and then,
at 5.10 p.m., started on its second free voyage, with nine souls on
board, among them again being a lady, in the person of Madame Nadar. For
nearly twenty-four hours no tidings of the voyage were forthcoming,
when a telegram was received stating that the balloon had passed over
Compiegne, more than seventy miles from Paris, at 8.30 on the previous
evening, and that Nadar had dropped the simple message, "All goes
well!" A later telegram the same evening stated that the balloon had at
midnight on Sunday passed the Belgian frontier over Erquelines, where
the Custom House officials had challenged the travellers without
receiving an answer.

But eight-and-forty hours since the start went by without further news,
and excitement in Paris grew intense. When the news came at last it
was from Bremen, to say that Nadar's balloon had descended at Eystrup,
Hanover, with five of the passengers injured, three seriously.
These three were M. Nadar, his wife, and M. St. Felix. M. Nadar, in
communicating this intelligence, added, "We owe our lives to the courage
of Jules Godard." The following signed testimony of M. Louis Godard is
forthcoming, and as it refers to an occasion which is among the most
thrilling in aerial adventure, it may well be given without abridgment.
It is here transcribed almost literatim from Mr. H. Turner's valuable
work, "Astra Castra."

"The Giant," after passing Lisle, proceeded in the direction of Belgium,
where a fresh current, coming from the Channel, drove it over the
marshes of Holland. It was there that M. Louis Godard proposed to
descend to await the break of day, in order to recognise the situation
and again to depart. It was one in the morning, the night was dark,
but the weather calm. Unfortunately, this advice, supported by long
experience, was not listened to. "The Giant" went on its way, and
then Louis Godard no longer considered himself responsible for the
consequences of the voyage.

The balloon coasted the Zuyder Zee, and then entered Hanover. The sun
began to appear, drying the netting and sides of the balloon, wet from
its passage through the clouds, and produced a dilatation which elevated
the aeronauts to 15,000 feet. At eight o'clock the wind, blowing
suddenly from the west, drove the balloon in a right line towards the
North Sea. It was necessary, at all hazards, to effect a descent. This
was a perilous affair, as the wind was blowing with extreme violence.
The brothers Godard assisted, by M. Gabriel, opened the valve and got
out the anchors; but, unfortunately, the horizontal progress of the
balloon augmented from second to second. The first obstacle which the
anchors encountered was a tree; it was instantly uprooted, and dragged
along to a second obstacle, a house, whose roof was carried off. At this
moment the two cables of the anchors were broken without the voyagers
being aware of it. Foreseeing the successive shocks that were about
to ensue--the moment was critical--the least forgetfulness might cause
death. To add to the difficulty, the balloon's inclined position did not
permit of operating the valve, except on the hoop.

At the request of his brother, Jules Godard attempted the difficult work
of climbing to this hoop, and, in spite of his known agility, he was
obliged several times to renew the effort. Alone, and not being able to
detach the cord, M. Louis Godard begged M. Yon to join his brother on
the hoop. The two made themselves masters of the rope, which they passed
to Louis Godard. The latter secured it firmly, in spite of the shocks
he received. A violent impact shook the car and M. de St. Felix
became entangled under the car as it was ploughing the ground. It was
impossible to render him any assistance; notwithstanding, Jules Godard,
stimulated by his brother, leapt out to attempt mooring the balloon to
the trees by means of the ropes. M. Montgolfier, entangled in the same
manner, was re-seated in time and saved by Louis Godard.

At this moment others leapt out and escaped with a few contusions. The
car, dragged along by the balloon, broke trees more than half a yard in
diameter and overthrew everything that opposed it.

Louis Godard made M. Yon leap out of the car to assist Madame Nadar; but
a terrible shock threw out MM. Nadar, Louis Godard, and Montgolfier, the
two first against the ground, the third into the water. Madame Nadar,
in spite of the efforts of the voyagers, remained the last, and found
herself squeezed between the ground and the car, which had fallen
upon her. More than twenty minutes elapsed before it was possible to
disentangle her, in spite of the most vigorous efforts on the part of
everyone. It was at this moment the balloon burst and, like a furious
monster, destroyed everything around it. Immediately afterwards they
ran to the assistance of M. de St. Felix, who had been left behind, and
whose face was one ghastly wound, and covered with blood and mire. He
had an arm broken, his chest grazed and bruised.

After this accident, though a creditable future lay in store for "The
Giant," its monstrous and unwieldy car was condemned, and presently
removed to the Crystal Palace, where it was daily visited by large

It is impossible to dismiss this brief sketch of French balloonists
of this period without paying some due tribute to M. Depuis Delcourt,
equally well known in the literary and scientific world, and regarded
in his own country as a father among aeronauts. Born in 1802, his
recollection went back to the time of Montgolfier and Charles, to the
feats of Garnerin, and the death of Madame Blanchard. He established the
Aerostatic and Meteorological Society of France, and was the author of
many works, as well as of a journal dealing with aerial navigation. He
closed a life devoted to the pursuit and advancement of aerostation in
April, 1864.

Before very long, events began shaping themselves in the political world
which were destined to bring the balloon in France into yet greater
prominence. But we should mention that already its capabilities in
time of war to meet the requirements of military operations had been
scientifically and systematically tested, and of these trials it will be
necessary to speak without further delay.

Reference has already been made in these pages to a valuable article
contributed in 1862 by Lieutenant G. Grover, R.E., to the Royal
Engineers' papers. From this report it would appear that the balloon, as
a means of reconnoitring, was employed with somewhat uncertain success
at the battle of Solferino, the brothers Godard being engaged as
aeronauts. The balloon used was a Montgolfier, or fire balloon, and,
in spite of its ready inflation, MM. Godard considered it, from the
difficulty of maintaining within it the necessary degree of buoyancy,
far inferior to the gas inflated balloon. On the other hand, the
Austrian Engineer Committee were of a contrary opinion. It would seem
that no very definite conclusions had been arrived at with respect
to the use and value of the military balloon up to the time of the
commencement of the American War in 1862.

It was now that the practice of ballooning became a recognised
department of military manoeuvres, and a valuable report appears in
the above-mentioned papers from the pen of Captain F. Beaumont, R.E.
According to this officer, the Americans made trial of two different
balloons, both hydrogen inflated, one having a capacity of about 13,000
cubic feet, and the other about twice as large. It was this latter that
the Americans used almost exclusively, it being found to afford more
steadiness and safety, and to be the means, sometimes desirable, of
taking up more than two persons. The difficulty of sufficient gas
supply seems to have been well met. Two generators sufficed, these
being "nothing more than large tanks of wood, acid-proof inside, and of
sufficient strength to resist the expansive action of the gas; they were
provided with suitable stopcocks for regulating the admission of the
gas, and with manhole covers for introducing the necessary materials."
The gas, as evolved, being made to pass successively through two vessels
containing lime water, was delivered cool and purified into the balloon,
and as the sulphuric acid needed for the process was found sufficiently
cheap, and scrap iron also required was readily come by, it would seem
that practical difficulties in the field were reduced to a minimum.

According to Captain Beaumont, the difficulties which might have been
expected from windy weather were not considerable, and twenty-five or
thirty men sufficed to convey the balloon easily, when inflated, over
all obstacles. The transport of the bulk of the rest of the apparatus
does not read, on paper, a very serious matter. The two generators
required four horses each, and the acid and balloon carts as many more.
Arrived on the scene of action, the drill itself was a simple matter.
A squad of thirty men under an officer sufficed to get the balloon into
position, and to arrange the ballast so that, with all in, there was a
lifting power of some thirty pounds. Then, at the word of command, the
men together drop the car, and seize the three guy ropes, of which one
is made to pass through a snatch block firmly secured. The guy ropes are
then payed out according to the directions of the aeronaut, as conveyed
through the officer.

The balloon accompanied the army's advance where its services could be
turned to the greatest advantage. It was employed in making continual
ascents, and furnishing daily reports to General M'Clellan, and it was
supposed that by constant observation the aeronaut could, at a glance,
assure himself that no change had taken place in the occupation of the
country. Captain Beaumont, speaking, be it remembered, of the military
operations and manoeuvres then in vogue, declared that earthworks could
be seen even at the distance of eight miles, though their character
could not be distinctly stated. Wooded country was unfitted for balloon
reconnaissance, and only in a plain could any considerable body of
troops be made known. Then follows such a description as one would be
expecting to find:--

"During the battle of Hanover Court House, which was the first
engagement of importance before Richmond, I happened to be close to the
balloon when the heavy firing began. The wind was rather high; but I was
anxious to see, if possible, what was going on, and I went up with the
father of the aeronaut. The balloon was, however, short of gas, and
as the wind was high we were obliged to come down. I then went up by
myself, the diminished weight giving increased steadiness; but it
was not considered safe to go more than 500 feet, on account of the
unsettled state of the weather. The balloon was very unsteady, so much
so that it was difficult to fix my sight on any particular object. At
that distance I could see nothing of the fight."

Following this is another significant sentence:--

"In the case of a siege, I am inclined to think that a balloon
reconnaissance would be of less value than in almost any other case
where a reconnaissance can be required; but, even here, if useless,
it is, at any rate, also harmless. I once saw the fire of artillery
directed from the balloon; this became necessary, as it was only in
this way that the picket which it was desired to dislodge could be seen.
However, I cannot say that I thought the fire of artillery was of much
effect against the unseen object; not that this was the fault of the
balloon, for had it not told the artillerists which way the shots were
falling their fire would have been more useless still."

It will be observed that at this time photography had not been adopted
as an adjunct to military ballooning.

Full details have been given in this chapter of the monster balloon
constructed by M. Nadar; but in 1864 Eugene Godard built one larger yet
of the Montgolfier type. Its capacity was nearly half a million cubic
feet, while the stove which inflated it stood 18 feet high, and weighed
nearly 1,000 pounds. Two free ascents were made without mishap from
Cremorne Gardens. Five years later Ashburnham Park was the scene of
captive ascents made with another mammoth balloon, containing no less
than 350,000 cubic feet of pure hydrogen, and capable of lifting
11 tons. It was built at a cost of 28,000 francs by M. Giffard, the
well-known engineer and inventor of the injector for feeding steam

These aerial leviathans do not appear to have been, in any true sense


Within a few months of the completion of the period covered by the
records of the last chapter, France was destined to receive a more
urgent stimulus than ever before to develop the resources of ballooning,
and, in hot haste, to turn to the most serious and practical account all
the best resources of aerial locomotion. The stern necessity of war was
upon her, and during four months the sole mode of exit from Paris--nay,
the only possible means of conveying a simple message beyond the
boundary of her fortifications--was by balloon.

Hitherto, from the very inception of the art from the earliest
Montgolfier with its blazing furnace, the balloon had gone up from
the gay capital under every variety of circumstance--for pleasure, for
exhibition, for scientific research. It was now put in requisition to
mitigate the emergency occasioned by the long and close investment of
the city by the Prussian forces.

Recognising, at an early stage, the possibilities of the balloon, an
enquiry was at once made by the military authorities as to the existing
resources of the city, when it was quickly discovered that, with certain
exceptions to be presently mentioned, such balloons as were in existence
within the walls were either unserviceable or inadequate for the work
that was demanded of them. Thereupon, with admirable promptness and
enterprise, it was forthwith determined to organise the building
and equipment of a regular fleet of balloons of sufficient size and

It chanced that there were in Paris at the time two professional
aeronauts of proved experience and skill, both of whom had become well
known in London only the season before in connection with M. Giffard's
huge captive balloon at Ashburnham Park. These were MM. Godard and Yon,
and to them was entrusted the establishment of two separate factories in
spacious buildings, which were at once available and admirably adapted
for the purpose. These were at the Orleans and the Northern Railway
stations respectively, where spacious roofs and abundant elbow room,
the chief requisites, were to be found. The first-mentioned station was
presided over Godard, the latter by M. Yon, assisted by M. Dartois.

It was not doubted that the resources of the city would be able to
supply the large demand that would be made for suitable material; but
silk as a fabric was at once barred on the score of expense alone. A
single journey was all that needed to be calculated on for each craft,
and thus calico would serve the purpose, and would admit of speedy
making up. Slight differences in manufacture were adopted at the two
factories. At the Northern station plain white calico was used, sewn
with a sewing machine, whereas at the Orleans station the material was
coloured and entrusted only to hand stitching. The allimportant detail
of varnish was supplied by a mixture of linseed oil and the active
principle of ordinary driers, and this, laid on with a rubber, rendered
the material gas-tight and quickly dry enough for use. Hundreds of
hands, men and women, were employed at the two factories, at which some
sixty balloons were produced before the end of the siege. Much of
the more important work was entrusted to sailors, who showed special
aptness, not only in fitting out and rigging the balloons, but also in
their management when entrusted to the winds.

It must have been an impressive sight for friend or foe to witness the
departure of each aerial vessel on its venturesome mission. The bold
plunge into space above the roofs of the imprisoned city; the rapid
climb into the sky and, later, the pearl drop high in air floating
away to its uncertain and hazardous haven, running the gauntlet of
the enemy's fire by day or braving what at first appeared to be equal
danger, attending the darkness of night. It will be seen, however, that,
of the two evils, that of the darkness was considered the less, even
though, with strange and unreasonable excess of caution, the aeronauts
would not suffer the use of the perfectly safe and almost indispensable
Davy lamp.

Before any free ascents were ventured on, two old balloons were put
to some practical trial as stationary observatories. One of these was
moored at Montmartre, the other at Mont-souris. From these centres
daily, when the weather permitted, captive ascents were made--four by
day and two by night--to watch and locate the movements of the enemy.
The system, as far as it went, was well planned. It was safe, and, to
favour expedition, messages were written in the car of the balloon and
slid down the cable to the attendants below. The net result, however,
from a strategic point of view, does not appear to have been of great

Ere yet the balloons were ready, certain bold and eventful escapes were
ventured on. M. Duruof, already introduced in these pages, trusting
himself to the old craft, "Le Neptune," in unskyworthy condition, made
a fast plunge into space, and, catching the upper winds, was borne away
for as long a period as could be maintained at the cost of a prodigal
expenditure of ballast. The balloon is said to have described a visible
parabola, like the trajectory of a projectile, and fell at Evreux in
safety and beyond the range of the enemy's fire, though not far from
their lines. This was on the 23rd of September. Two days afterwards the
first practical trial was made with homing pigeons, with the idea of
using them in connection with balloons for the establishment of an
officially sanctioned post. MM. Maugin and Grandchamp conducted this
voyage in the "Ville de Florence," and descended near Vernouillet, not
far beyond Le Foret de St. Germain, and less than twenty miles
from Paris. The serviceability of the pigeon, however, was clearly
established, and a note contributed by Mr. Glaisher, relating to the
breeding and choice of these birds, may be considered of interest. Mr.
R. W. Aldridge, of Charlton, as quoted by Mr. Glaisher, stated that his
experience went to show that these birds can be produced with different
powers of orientation to meet the requirements of particular cases. "The
bird required to make journeys under fifty miles would materially differ
in its pedigree from one capable of flying 100 or 600 miles. Attention,
in particular, must be given to the colour of the eye; if wanted for
broad daylight the bird known as the 'Pearl Eye,' from its colour,
should be selected; but if for foggy weather or for twilight flying the
black- or blue-eyed bird should receive the preference."

Only a small minority, amounting to about sixty out of 360 birds taken
up, returned to Paris, but these are calculated to have conveyed among
them some 100,000 messages. To reduce these pigeon messages to the
smallest possible compass a method of reduction by photography was
employed with much success. A long letter might, in this way, be
faithfully recorded on a surface of thinnest photographic paper, not
exceeding the dimensions of a postage stamp, and, when received, no
more was necessary than to subject it to magnification, and then to
transcribe it and send a fair copy to the addressee.

The third voyage from Paris, on September 29th was undertaken by Louis
Godard in two small balloons, united together, carrying both despatches
and pigeons, and a safe landing was effected at Mantes This successful
feat was rival led the next day by M. Tissandier, who ascended alone in
a balloon of only some 26,000 cubic feet capacity and reached earth at
Dreux, in Normandy.

These voyages exhausted the store of ready-made balloons, but by a week
later the first of those being specially manufactured was ready, and
conveyed in safety from the city no less a personage than M. Gambetta.

The courageous resolve of the great man caused much sensation in Paris,
the more so because, owing to contrary winds, the departure had to be
postponed from day to day. And when, at length, on October 7th, Gambetta
and his secretary, with the aeronaut Trichet, actually got away, in
company with another balloon, they were vigorously fired at with shot
and shell before they had cleared St. Denis. Farther out over the German
posts they were again under fire, and escaped by discharging ballast,
not, however, before Gambetta had been grazed by a bullet. Yet once more
they were assailed by German volleys before, about 3 p.m., they found a
haven near Montdidier.

The usual dimensions of the new balloons gave a capacity of 70,000 cubic
feet, and each of these, when inflated with coal gas, was calculated
to convey a freight of passengers, ballast, and despatches amounting to
some 2,000 pounds. Their despatch became frequent, sometimes two in the
same twenty-four hours. In less than a single week in October as many as
four balloons had fallen in Belgium, and as many more elsewhere. Up
till now some sixteen ventures had ended well, but presently there
came trouble. On October 22nd MM. Iglesia and Jouvencel fell at Meaux,
occupied by the Prussians; their despatches, however, were saved in
a dung cart. The twenty-third voyage ended more unhappily. On this
occasion a sailor acted as aeronaut, accompanied by an engineer, Etienne
Antonin, and carrying nearly 1,000 pounds of letters. It chanced
that they descended near Orleans on the very day when that town was
re-occupied by the enemy, and both voyagers were made prisoners. The
engineer, however, subsequently escaped. Three days later another
sailor, also accompanied by an engineer, fell at the town of Ferrieres,
then occupied by the Prussians, when both were made prisoners. In this
case, also, the engineer succeeded in making his escape; while the
despatches were rescued by a forester and forwarded in safety.

At about this date W. de Fonvielle, acting as aeronaut, and taking
passengers, made a successful escape, of which he has given a graphic
account. He had been baulked by more than one serious contretemps. It
had been determined that the departure should be by night, and November
19th being fixed upon, the balloon was in process of inflation under a
gentle wind that threatened a travel towards Prussian soil, when, as the
moment of departure approached, a large hole was accidentally made in
the fabric by the end of the metal pipe, and it was then too late to
effect repairs. The next and following days the weather was foul, and
the departure was not effected till the 25th, when he sailed away over
the familiar but desolated country. He and his companions were fired at,
but only when they were well beyond range, and in less than two hours
the party reached Louvain, beyond Brussels, some 180 English miles in a
direct line from their starting point. This was the day after the "Ville
d'Orleans" balloon had made the record voyage and distance of all the
siege, falling in Norway, 600 miles north of Christiania, after a flight
of fifteen hours.

At the end of November, when over thirty escape voyages had been made,
two fatal disasters occurred. A sailor of the name of Prince ascended
alone on a moonless night, and at dawn, away on the north coast of
Scotland, some fishermen sighted a balloon in the sky dropping to the
westward in the ocean. The only subsequent trace of this balloon was a
bag of despatches picked up in the Channel. Curiously enough, two days
later almost the same story was repeated. Two aeronauts, this time in
charge of despatches and pigeons, were carried out to sea and never

Undeterred by these disasters, a notable escape was now attempted. An
important total eclipse of the sun was to occur in a track crossing
southern Spain and Algeria on December 22nd. An enthusiastic astronomer,
Janssen, was commissioned by the Academy of Sciences to attend and make
observations of this eclipse. But M. Janssen was in Paris, as were also
his instruments, and the eclipse track lay nearly a thousand miles away.
The one and only possible mode of fulfilling his commission was to try
the off-chance afforded by balloon, and this chance he resorted to only
twenty days before the eclipse was due.

Taking with him the essential parts of a reflecting telescope, and an
active young sailor as assistant, he left Paris at 6 a.m. and rose at
once to 3,600 feet, dipping again somewhat at sunrise (owing, as he
supposed, to loss of heat through radiation), but subsequently ascending
again rapidly under the increased altitude of the sun till his balloon
attained its highest level of 7,200 feet. From this elevation, shortly
after 11 a.m., he sighted the sea, when he commenced a descent which
brought him to earth at the mouth of the Loire. It had been fast
travelling--some 300 miles in little more than three hours--and the
ground wind was strong. Nevertheless, neither passengers nor instruments
were injured, and M. Janssen was fully established by the day of
eclipse on his observing ground at Oran, on the Algerian coast. It is
distressing to add that the phenomenon was hidden by cloud. In the
month that followed this splendid venture no fewer than fifteen balloons
escaped from Paris, of which four fell into the hands of the enemy,
although for greater security all ascents were now being made by night.

On January 13th, 1871, a new device for the return post was tried, and,
in addition to pigeons, sheep dogs were taken up, with the idea of their
being returned to the city with messages concealed within their collars.
There is apparently no record of any message having been returned to the
town by this ingenious method. On January 24th a balloon, piloted by
a sailor, and containing a large freight of letters, fell within the
Prussian lines, but the patriotism of the country was strong enough to
secure the despatches being saved and entrusted to the safe conveyance
of the Post Office. Then followed the total loss of a balloon at sea;
but this was destined to be the last, save one, that was to attempt the
dangerous mission. The next day, January 28th, the last official balloon
left the town, manned by a single sailor, carrying but a small weight
of despatches, but ordering the ships to proceed to Dieppe for the
revictualling of Paris.

Five additional balloons at that time in readiness were never required
for the risky service for which they were designed.

There can be little doubt that had the siege continued a more elaborate
use of balloons would have been developed. Schemes were being mooted to
attempt the vastly more difficult task of conveying balloons into
Paris from outside. When hostilities terminated there were actually six
balloons in readiness for this venture at Lisle, and waiting only for
a northerly wind. M. de Fonvielle, possessed of both courage and
experience, was prepared to put in practice a method of guiding by a
small propelling force a balloon that was being carried by sufficiently
favouring winds within a few degrees of its desired goal--and in the
case of Paris the goal was an area of some twenty miles in diameter.
Within the invested area several attempts were actually made to control
balloons by methods of steering. The names of Vert and Dupuy de Lome
must here be specially mentioned. The former had elaborated an invention
which received much assistance, and was subsequently exhibited at the
Crystal Palace. The latter received a grant of L1,600 to perfect
a complex machine, having within its gas envelope an air chamber,
suggested by the swimming bladder of a fish, having also a sail helm and
a propelling screw, to be operated by manual labour.

The relation of this invention to others of similar purpose will be
further discussed later on. But an actual trial of a dirigible craft,
the design of Admiral Labrousse, was made from the Orleans railway
station on January 9th. This machine consisted of a balloon of about the
standard capacity of the siege balloons, namely some 70,000 cubic feet,
fitted with two screws of about 12 feet diameter, but capable of being
readily worked at moderate speed. It was not a success. M. Richard, with
three sailors, made a tentative ascent, and used their best endeavours
to control their vessel, but practically without avail, and the machine
presently coming to earth clumsily, a portion of the gear caught in the
ground and the travellers were thrown over and roughly dragged for a
long distance.

Fairly looked at, the aerial post of the siege of Paris must be regarded
as an ambitious and, on the whole, successful enterprise. Some two
million and a half of letters, amounting in weight to some ten tons,
were conveyed through the four months, in addition to which at least
an equal weight of other freight was taken up, exclusive of actual
passengers, of whom no fewer than two hundred were transported from
the beleaguered city. Of these only one returned, seven or eight were
drowned, twice this number were taken prisoners, and as many again more
or less injured in descents. From a purely financial point of view the
undertaking was no failure, as the cost, great as it necessarily became,
was, it is said, fairly covered by the postage, which it was possible
and by no means unreasonable to levy. The recognised tariff seems to
have been 20 centimes for 4 grammes, or at the rate of not greatly more
than a shilling per English ounce. Surely hardly on a par with fame in
prices in a time of siege.

It has already been stated that the defenders of Paris did not derive
substantial assistance from the services of such a reconnoitring balloon
as is generally used in warfare at every available opportunity. It is
possible that the peculiar circumstances of the investment of the town
rendered such reconnaissance of comparatively small value. But, at
any rate, it seems clear that due opportunity was not given to this
strategic method. M. Giffard, who at the commencement of the siege was
in Paris, and whose experience with a captive balloon was second to
none, made early overtures to the Government, offering to build for
L40,000 a suitable balloon, capable of raising forty persons to a
height of 3,000 feet. Forty aerial scouts, it may be said, are hardly
needed for purposes of outlook at one time; but it appears that this was
not the consideration which stood in the way of M. Giffard's offer
being accepted. According to M. de Fonvielle, the Government refused the
experienced aeronaut's proposal on the ground that he required a place
in the Champs Elysees, "which it would be necessary to clear of a few


The mechanical air ship had, by this time, as may be inferred, begun
seriously to occupy the attention of both theoretical and practical
aeronauts. One of the earliest machines deserving of special mention was
designed by M. Giffard, and consisted of an elongated balloon, 104 feet
in length and 39 feet in greatest diameter, furnished with a triangular
rudder, and a steam engine operating a screw. The fire of the engine,
which burned coke, was skilfully protected, and the fuel and water
required were taken into calculation as so much ballast to be gradually
expended. In this vessel, inflated only with coal gas, and somewhat
unmanageable and difficult to balance, the enthusiastic inventor
ascended alone from the Hippodrome and executed sundry desired
movements, not unsuccessfully. But the trial was not of long duration,
and the descent proved both rapid and perilous. Had the trial been made
in such a perfect calm as that which prevailed when certain subsequent
inventions were tested, it was considered that M. Giffard's vessel
would have been as navigable as a boat in the water. This unrivalled
mechanician, after having made great advances in the direction of high
speed engines of sufficient lightness, proceeded to design a vastly
improved dirigible balloon, when his endeavours were frustrated by

As has been already stated, M. Dupuy de Lome, at the end of the siege of
Paris, was engaged in building a navigable balloon, which, owing to the
unsettled state of affairs in France, did not receive its trial till two
years later. This balloon, which was inflated with pure hydrogen, was
of greater capacity than that of M. Giffard, being cigar shaped and
measuring 118 feet by 48 feet. It was also provided with an ingenious
arrangement consisting of an internal air bag, capable of being either
inflated or discharged, for the purpose of keeping the principal
envelope always distended, and thus offering the least possible
resistance to the wind. The propelling power was the manual labour of
eight men working the screw, and the steerage was provided for by a
triangular rudder. The trial, which was carried out without mishap, took
place in February, 1872, in the Fort of Vincennes, under the personal
direction of the inventor, when it was found that the vessel readily
obeyed the helm, and was capable of a speed exceeding six miles an hour.

It was not till nine years after this that the next important trial with
air ships was made. The brothers Tissandier will then be found taking
the lead, and an appalling incident in the aeronautical career of one of
these has now to be recorded.

In the spring of 1875, and with the co-operation of French scientific
societies, it was determined to make two experimental voyages in a
balloon called the "Zenith," one of these to be of long duration,
the other of great height. The first of these had been successfully
accomplished in a flight of twenty-four hours' duration from Paris to
Bordeaux. It was now April the 15th, and the lofty flight was embarked
upon by M. Gaston Tissandier, accompanied by MM. Croce-Spinelli and
Sivel. Under competent advice, provision for respiration on emergency
was provided in three small balloons, filled with a mixture of air and
oxygen, and fitted with indiarubber hose pipes, which would allow the
mixture, when inhaled, to pass first through a wash bottle containing
aromatic fluid. The experiments determined on included an analysis of
the proportion of carbonic acid gas at different heights by means
of special apparatus; spectroscopic observations, and the readings
registered by certain barometers and thermometers. A novel and valuable
experiment, also arranged, was that of testing the internal temperature
of the balloon as compared with that of the external air.

Ascending at 11.30 a.m. under a warm sun, the balloon had by 1 p.m.
reached an altitude of 16,000 feet, when the external air was at
freezing point, the gas high in the balloon being 72 degrees, and at the
centre 66 degrees. Ere this height had been fully reached, however,
the voyagers had begun to breathe oxygen. At 11.57, an hour previously,
Spinelli had written in his notebook, "Slight pain in the ears--somewhat
oppressed--it is the gas." At 23,000 feet Sivel wrote in his notebook,
"I am inhaling oxygen--the effect is excellent," after which he
proceeded to urge the balloon higher by a discharge of ballast. The
rest of the terrible narrative has now to be taken from the notes of M.
Tissandier, and as these constitute one of the most thrilling narratives
in aeronautical records we transcribe them nearly in full, as given by
Mr. Glaisher:--

"At 23,000 feet we were standing up in the car. Sivel, who had given up
for a moment, is re-invigorated. Croce-Spinelli is motionless in front
of me.... I felt stupefied and frozen. I wished to put on my fur gloves,
but, without being conscious of it, the action of taking them from my
pocket necessitated an effort that I could no longer make.... I copy,
verbatim, the following lines which were written by me, although I have
no very distinct remembrance of doing so. They are traced in a hardly
legible manner by a hand trembling with cold: 'My hands are frozen. I am
all right. We are all all right. Fog in the horizon, with little rounded
cirrus. We are ascending. Croce pants; he inhales oxygen. Sivel
closes his eyes. Croce also closes his eyes.... Sivel throws out
ballast'--these last words are hardly readable. Sivel seized his knife
and cut successively three cords, and the three bags emptied themselves
and we ascended rapidly. The last remembrance of this ascent which
remains clear to me relates to a moment earlier. Croce-Spinelli was
seated, holding in one hand a wash bottle of oxygen gas. His head was
slightly inclined and he seemed oppressed. I had still strength to tap
the aneroid barometer to facilitate the movement of the needle. Sivel
had just raised his hand towards the sky. As for myself, I remained
perfectly still, without suspecting that I had, perhaps, already lost
the power of moving. About the height of 25,000 feet the condition of
stupefaction which ensues is extraordinary. The mind and body weaken by
degrees, and imperceptibly, without consciousness of it. No suffering
is then experienced; on the contrary, an inner joy is felt like
an irradiation from the surrounding flood of light. One becomes
indifferent. One thinks no more of the perilous position or of danger.
One ascends, and is happy to ascend. The vertigo of the upper regions
is not an idle word; but, so far as I can judge from my personal
impression, vertigo appears at the last moment; it immediately precedes
annihilation, sudden, unexpected, and irresistible.

"When Sivel cut away the bags of ballast at the height of about 24,000
feet, I seemed to remember that he was sitting at the bottom of the car,
and nearly in the same position as Croce-Spinelli. For my part, I was in
the angle of the car, thanks to which support I was able to hold up; but
I soon felt too weak even to turn my head to look at my companions. Soon
I wished to take hold of the tube of oxygen, but it was impossible
to raise my arm. My mind, nevertheless, was quite clear. I wished to
explain, 'We are 8,000 metres high'; but my tongue was, as it were,
paralysed. All at once I closed my eyes, and, sinking down inert, became
insensible. This was about 1.30 p.m. At 2.8 p.m. I awoke for a moment,
and found the balloon rapidly descending. I was able to cut away a bag
of ballast to check the speed and write in my notebook the following
lines, which I copy:

"'We are descending. Temperature, 3 degrees. I throw out ballast.
Barometer, 12.4 inches. We are descending. Sivel and Croce still in a
fainting state at the bottom of the car. Descending very rapidly.'

"Hardly had I written these lines when a kind of trembling seized me,
and I fell back weakened again. There was a violent wind from below,
upwards, denoting a very rapid descent. After some minutes I felt myself
shaken by the arm, and I recognised Croce, who had revived. 'Throw out
ballast,' he said to me, 'we are descending '; but I could hardly open
my eyes, and did not see whether Sivel was awake. I called to mind that
Croce unfastened the aspirator, which he then threw overboard, and then
he threw out ballast, rugs, etc.

"All this is an extremely confused remembrance, quickly extinguished,
for again I fell back inert more completely than before, and it seemed
to me that I was dying. What happened? It is certain that the balloon,
relieved of a great weight of ballast, at once ascended to the higher

"At 3.30 p.m. I opened my eyes again. I felt dreadfully giddy and
oppressed, but gradually came to myself. The balloon was descending
with frightful speed and making great oscillations. I crept along on
my knees, and I pulled Sivel and Croce by the arm. 'Sivel! Croce!' I
exclaimed, 'Wake up!' My two companions were huddled up motionless
in the car, covered by their cloaks. I collected all my strength, and
endeavoured to raise them up. Sivel's face was black, his eyes dull, and
his mouth was open and full of blood. Croce's eyes were half closed and
his mouth was bloody.

"To relate what happened afterwards is quite impossible. I felt a
frightful wind; we were still 9,700 feet high. There remained in the car
two bags of ballast, which I threw out. I was drawing near the earth.
I looked for my knife to cut the small rope which held the anchor, but
could not find it. I was like a madman, and continued to call 'Sivel!
Sivel!' By good fortune I was able to put my hand upon my knife and
detach the anchor at the right moment. The shock on coming to the
ground was dreadful. The balloon seemed as if it were being flattened.
I thought it was going to remain where it had fallen, but the wind was
high, and it was dragged across fields, the anchor not catching. The
bodies of my unfortunate friends were shaken about in the car, and I
thought every moment they would be jerked out. At length, however, I
seized the valve line, and the gas soon escaped from the balloon, which
lodged against a tree. It was then four o'clock. On stepping out, I was
seized with a feverish attack, and sank down and thought for a moment
that I was going to join my friends in the next world; but I came to.
I found the bodies of my friends cold and stiff. I had them put under
shelter in an adjacent barn. The descent of the 'Zenith' took place in
the plains 155 miles from Paris as the crow flies. The greatest height
attained in this ascent is estimated at 28,000 feet."

It was in 1884 that the brothers Tissandier commenced experiments with
a screw-propelled air ship resembling in shape those constructed by
Giffard and Dupuy de Lome, but smaller, measuring only 91 feet by
30 feet, and operated by an electric motor placed in circuit with a
powerful battery of bichromate cells. Two trials were made with this
vessel in October, 1883, and again in the following September, when it
proved itself capable of holding its course in calm air and of being
readily controlled by the rudder.

But, ere this, a number of somewhat similar experiments, on behalf of
the French Government, had been entered upon by Captains Renard and
Krebs at Chalais-Meudon. Their balloon may be described as fish-shaped,
165 feet long, and 27.5 feet in principal diameter. It was operated
by an electric motor, which was capable of driving a screw of large
dimensions at forty-eight revolutions per minute. At its first trial, in
August, 1884, in dead calm, it attained a velocity of over twelve miles
per hour, travelling some two and a half miles in a forward direction,
when, by application of the rudder and judicious management, it was
manoeuvred homewards, and practically brought to earth at the point of

A more important trial was made on the 12th of the following month, and
was witnessed by M. Tissandier, according to whom the aerostat conveying
the inventors ascended gently and steadily, drifting with an appreciable
breeze until the screw was set in motion and the helm put down, when the
vessel was brought round to the wind and held its own until the motor,
by an accident, ceased working. A little later the same air ship met
with more signal success. On one occasion, starting from Chalais-Meudon,
it took a direct course to the N.E., crossing the railway and the Seine,
where the aeronauts, stopping the screw, ascertained the velocity of the
wind to be approximately five miles an hour. The screw being again put
in motion, the balloon was steered to the right, and, following a path
parallel to its first, returned to its point of departure. Starting
again the same afternoon, it was caused to perform a variety of aerial
evolutions, and after thirty-five minutes returned once more to its
starting place.

A tabular comparison of the four navigable balloons which we have now
described has been given as follows:--

     Date.    Name.             Motor.           Vel. p. Sec.
     1852  M. Henri Giffard    Steam engine     13.12 ft.
     1872  M. Dupuy de Lome    Muscular force    9.18 ft.
     1883  MM. Tissandier      Electric motor    9.84 ft.
     1884  MM. Renard & Krebs  Electric motor   18.04 ft.

About this period, that is in 1883, and really prior to the Meudon
experiments, there were other attempts at aerial locomotion not to be
altogether passed over, which were made also in France, but financed by
English money. The experiments were performed by Mr. F. A. Gower, who,
writing to Professor Tyndall, claims to have succeeded in "driving a
large balloon fairly against the wind by steam power." A melancholy
interest will always belong to these trials from the fact that Mr. Gower
was subsequently blown out to sea with his balloon, leaving no trace

At this stage it will be well to glance at some of the more important
theories which were being mooted as to the possibility of aerial
locomotion properly so called. Broadly, there were two rival schools
at this time. We will call them the "lighter-than-air-ites" and the
"heavier-than-air-ites," respectively. The former were the advocates
of the air vessel of which the balloon is a type. The latter school
maintained that, as birds are heavier than air, so the air locomotive
of the future would be a machine itself heavier than air, but capable
of being navigated by a motor yet to be discovered, which would develop
proportionate power. Sir H. Maxim's words may be aptly quoted here. "In
all Nature," he says, "we do not find a single balloon. All Nature's
flying machines are heavier than the air, and depend altogether upon the
development of dynamic energy."

The faculty of soaring, possessed by many birds, of which the albatross
may be considered a type, led to numerous speculations as to what would
constitute the ideal principle of the air motor. Sir G. Cayley, as
far back as 1809, wrote a classical article on this subject, without,
however, adding much to its elucidation. Others after his time conceived
that the bird, by sheer habit and practice, could perform, as it were,
a trick in balancing by making use of the complex air streams varying in
speed and direction that were supposed to intermingle above.

Mr. R. A. Proctor discusses the matter with his usual clear-sightedness.
He premises that the bird may, in actual fact, only poise itself
for some ten minutes--an interval which many will consider far too
small--without flap of the wings, and, while contending that the problem
must be simply a mechanical one, is ready to admit that "the sustaining
power of the air on bodies of a particular form travelling swiftly
through it may be much greater or very different in character from what
is supposed." In his opinion, it is a fact that a flat body travelling
swiftly and horizontally will sink towards the ground much more slowly
than a similar body moving similarly but with less speed. In proof of
this he gives the homely illustration of a flat stone caused to make
"ducks and drakes." Thus he contends that the bird accomplishes its
floating feat simply by occasional powerful propulsive efforts, combined
with perfect balance. From which he deduces the corollary that "if ever
the art of flying, or rather of making flying machines, is attained
by man, it will be by combining rapid motion with the power of perfect

It will now appear as a natural and certain consequence that a feature
to be introduced by experimentalists into flying machines should be
the "Aeroplane," or, in other words, a plane which, at a desired angle,
should be driven at speed through the air. Most notable attempts with
this expedient were now shortly made by Hiram Maxim, Langley, and

But, contemporaneously with these attempts, certain feats with the rival
aerostat--the balloon--were accomplished, which will be most fittingly
told in this place.


It will have been gathered from what has been already stated that the
balloonist is commonly in much uncertainty as to his precise course when
he is above the clouds, or when unable from darkness to see the earth
beneath him. With a view of overcoming this disadvantage some original
experiments were suggested by a distinguished officer, who during the
seventies had begun to interest himself in aeronautics.

This was Captain Burnaby. His method was to employ two small silk
parachutes, which, if required, might carry burning magnesium wires, and
which were to be attached to each other by a length of silk thread.
On dropping one parachute, it would first partake of the motion of the
balloon, but would presently drop below, when the second parachute would
be dismissed, and then an imaginary line drawn between the two bodies
was supposed to betray the balloon's course. It should be mentioned,
however, that if a careful study is made of the course of many
descending parachutes it will be found that their behaviour is too
uncertain to be relied upon for such a purpose as the above. They will
often float behind the balloon's wake, but sometimes again will be found
in front, and sometimes striking off in some side direction, so wayward
and complex are the currents which control such small bodies. Mr.
Glaisher has stated that a balloon's course above the clouds may be
detected by observing the grapnel, supposed to be hanging below the car,
as this would be seen to be out of the vertical as the balloon drifted,
and thus serve to indicate the course. However this may be, the most
experienced sky sailors will be found to be in perplexity as to their
direction, as also their speed, when view of the earth is obscured.

But Captain Burnaby is associated notably with the adventurous side of
ballooning, the most famous of his aerial exploits being, perhaps, that
of crossing the English Channel alone from Dover on March 23rd, 1882.
Outwardly, he made presence of sailing to Paris by sky to dine there
that evening; inwardly, he had determined to start simply with a wind
which bid fair for a cross-Channel trip, and to take whatever chances it
might bring him.

Thus, at 10.30 a.m., just as the mail packet left the pier, he cast
off with a lifting power which rapidly carried him to a height of 2,000
feet, when he found his course to be towards Folkestone. But by shortly
after 11 o'clock he had decided that he was changing his direction,
and when, as he judged, some seven miles from Boulogne, the wind was
carrying him not across, but down the Channel. Then, for nearly four
hours, the balloon shifted about with no improvement in the outlook,
after which the wind fell calm, and the balloon remained motionless at
2,000 feet above the sea. This state of things continuing for an hour,
the Captain resolved on the heroic expedient of casting out all his
ballast and philosophically abiding the issue. The manoeuvre turned
out a happy one, for the balloon, shooting up to 11,000 feet, caught a
current, on which it was rapidly carried towards and over the main land;
and, when twelve miles beyond Dieppe, it became easy to descend to
a lower level by manipulation of the valve, and finally to make a
successful landing in open country beyond.

A few years before, an attempt to cross the Channel from the other side
ended far more disastrously. Jules Duruof, already mentioned as having
piloted the first runaway balloon from beleaguered Paris, had
determined on an attempt to cross over to England from Calais; and, duly
advertising the event, a large concourse assembled on the day announced,
clamouring loudly for the ascent. But the wind proved unsuitable,
setting out over the North Sea, and the mayor thought fit to interfere,
and had the car removed so as to prevent proceedings. On this the
crowd grew impatient, and Duruof, determining to keep faith with them,
succeeded by an artifice in regaining his car, which he hastily carried
back to the balloon, and immediately taking his seat, and accompanied
by his wife, the intrepid pair commenced their bold flight just as the
shades of evening were settling down. Shortly the balloon disappeared
into the gathering darkness, and then for three days Calais knew no more
of balloon or balloonists.

Neither could the voyagers see aught for certain of their own course,
and thus through the long night hours their attention was wholly needed,
without chance of sleep, in closely watching their situation, lest
unawares they should be borne down on the waves. When morning broke
they discovered that they were still being carried out over the sea on
a furious gale, being apparently off the Danish coast, with the distant
mountains of Norway dimly visible on the starboard bow. It was at this
point, and possibly owing to the chill commonly experienced aloft soon
after dawn, that the balloon suddenly took a downward course and plunged
into the sea, happily, however, fairly in the track of vessels. Presently
a ship came in sight, but cruelly kept on its course, leaving the
castaways in despair, with their car fast succumbing to the waves.

Help, nevertheless, was really at hand. The captain of an English
fishing smack, the Grand Charge, had sighted the sinking balloon, and
was already bearing down to the rescue. It is said that when, at length,
a boat came alongside as near as it was possible, Madame Duruof was
unable to make the necessary effort to jump on board, and her husband
had to throw her into the arms of the sailors. A fitting sequel to the
story comes from Paris, where the heroic couple, after a sojourn in
England, were given a splendid reception and a purse of money, with
which M. Duruof forthwith constructed a new balloon, named the "Ville de

On the 4th of March, 1882, the ardent amateur balloonist, Mr. Simmons,
had a narrow escape in circumstances somewhat similar to the above. He
was attempting, in company with Colonel Brine, to cross the Channel from
Canterbury, when a change of wind carried them out towards the North
Sea. Falling in the water, they abandoned their balloon, but were
rescued by the mail packet Foam.

The same amateur aeronaut met with an exciting experience not long
after, when in company with Sir Claude C. de Crespigny. The two
adventurers left Maldon, in Essex, at 11 p.m., on an August night, and,
sailing at a great height out to sea, lost all sight of land till 6
a.m. the next morning, when, at 17,000 feet altitude, they sighted the
opposite coast and descended in safety near Flushing.

Yet another adventure at sea, and one which proved fatal and unspeakably
regrettable, occurred about this time, namely, on the 10th of December,
1881, when Captain Templer, Mr. W. Powell, M.P., and Mr. Agg-Gardner
ascended from Bath. We prefer to give the account as it appears in a
leading article in the Times for December 13th of that year.

After sailing over Glastonbury, "Crewkerne was presently sighted, then
Beaminster. The roar of the sea gave the next indication of the locality
to which the balloon had drifted and the first hint of the possible
perils of the voyage. A descent was now effected to within a few hundred
feet of earth, and an endeavour was made to ascertain the exact position
they had reached. The course taken by the balloon between Beaminster and
the sea is not stated in Captain Templer's letter. The wind, as far as
we can gather, must have shifted, or different currents of air must have
been found at the different altitudes. What Captain Templer says is that
they coasted along to Symonsbury, passing, it would seem, in an easterly
direction and keeping still very near to the earth. Soon after they had
left Symonsbury, Captain Templer shouted to a man below to tell them how
far they were from Bridport, and he received for answer that Bridport
was about a mile off. The pace at which the balloon was moving had now
increased to thirty-five miles an hour. The sea was dangerously close,
and a few minutes in a southerly current of air would have been enough
to carry them over it. They seem, however, to have been confident in
their own powers of management. They threw out ballast, and rose to
a height of 1,500 feet, and thence came down again only just in time,
touching the ground at a distance of about 150 yards from the cliff. The
balloon here dragged for a few feet, and Captain Templer, who had been
letting off the gas, rolled out of the car, still holding the valve line
in his hand. This was the last chance of a safe escape for anybody.
The balloon, with its weight lightened, went up about eight feet. Mr.
Agg-Gardner dropped out and broke his leg. Mr. Powell now remained as
the sole occupant of the car. Captain Templer, who had still hold of the
rope, shouted to Mr. Powell to come down the line. This he attempted
to do, but in a few seconds, and before he could commence his perilous
descent, the line was torn out of Captain Templer's hands. All
communication with the earth was cut off, and the balloon rose rapidly,
taking Mr. Powell with it in a south-easterly direction out to sea."

It was a few seasons previous to this, namely, on the 8th of July, 1874,
when Mr. Simmons was concerned in a balloon fatality of a peculiarly
distressing nature. A Belgian, Vincent de Groof, styling himself the
"Flying Man," announced his intention of descending in a parachute
from a balloon piloted by Mr. Simmons, who was to start from Cremorne
Gardens. The balloon duly ascended, with De Groof in his machine
suspended below, and when over St. Luke's Church, and at a height
estimated at 80 feet, it is thought that the unfortunate man
overbalanced himself after detaching his apparatus, and fell forward,
clinging to the ropes. The machine failed to open, and De Groof was
precipitated into Robert Street, Chelsea, expiring almost immediately.
The porter of Chelsea Infirmary, who was watching the balloon, asserted
that he fancied the falling man called out twice, "Drop into the
churchyard; look out!" Mr. Simmons, shooting upwards in his balloon,
thus suddenly lightened, to a great height, became insensible, and when
he recovered consciousness found himself over Victoria Park. He made a
descent, without mishap, on a line of railway in Essex.

On the 19th of August, 1887, occurred an important total eclipse of the
sun, the track of which lay across Germany, Russia, Western Siberia, and
Japan. At all suitable stations along the shadow track astronomers from
all parts of the world established themselves; but at many eclipses
observers had had bad fortune owing to the phenomenon at the critical
moment being obscured. And on this account one astronomer determined
on measures which should render his chances of a clear view a practical
certainty. Professor Mendeleef, in Russia, resolved to engage a balloon,
and by rising above the cloud barrier, should there be one, to have the
eclipse all to himself. It was an example of fine enthusiasm, which,
moreover, was presently put to a severe and unexpected test, for the
balloon, when inflated, proved unable to take up both the aeronaut and
the astronomer, whereupon the latter, though wholly inexperienced, had
no alternative but to ascend alone, which, either by accident or choice,
he actually did. Shooting up into space, he soon reached an altitude
of 11,500 feet, where he obtained, even if he did not enjoy, an
unobstructed view of the Corona. It may be supposed, however, that,
owing to the novelty of his situation, his scientific observations may
not have been so complete as they would have been on terra firma.

In the same month an attempt to reach a record height was made by MM.
Jovis and Mallet at Paris, with the net result that an elevation of
23,000 feet was reached. It will have been noted that the difficulty
through physical exhaustion of inhaling oxygen from either a bag or
cylinder is a serious matter not easily overcome, and it has been
suggested that the helmet invented by M. Fleuss might prove of value.
This contrivance, which has scarcely attracted the attention it has
merited, provides a receptacle for respiration, containing oxygen and
certain purifying media, by means of which the inventor was able to
remain for hours under water without any communication with the outward

About the period at which we have now arrived two fatal accidents befel
English aeronauts. We have related how Maldon, in Essex, was associated
with one of the more adventurous exploits in Mr. Simmons's career. It
was fated also to be associated with the voyage with which his career
closed. On August 27th, 1888, he ascended from Olympia in company with
Mr. Field, of West Brighton, and Mr. Myers, of the Natural History
Museum, with the intention, if practicable, of crossing to Flanders;
and the voyage proceeded happily until the neighbourhood of Maldon was
reached, when, as the sea coast was in sight, and it was already past
five o'clock, it appeared prudent to Mr. Simmons to descend and moor
the balloon for the night. Some labourers some three miles from Maldon
sighted the balloon coming up at speed, and at the same time descending
until its grapnel commenced tearing through a field of barley, when
ballast was thrown out, causing the balloon to rise again towards
and over some tall elms, which became the cause of the disaster which
followed. The grapnel, catching in the upper boughs of one of these
trees, held fast, while the balloon, borne by the force of a strong
wind, was repeatedly blown down to earth with violence, rebounding each
time to a considerable height, only to be flung down again on the same
spot. After three or four impacts the balloon is reported to have burst
with a loud noise, when high in the air, the silk being blown about over
the field, and the car and its occupants dashed to the ground. Help
was unavailing till this final catastrophe, and when, at length, the
labourers were able to extricate the party, Mr. Simmons was found with a
fractured skull and both companions badly injured.

Four summers later, June 30th, 1892, Captain Dale, the aeronaut to the
Crystal Palace, was announced to make an ascent from the usual balloon
grounds, weather permitting. Through the night and morning a violent
storm prevailed, and it was contemplated that the exhibition would be
withdrawn; but the wind abating in the afternoon, the inflation was
proceeded with, and the ascent took place shortly before 6 p.m., not,
however, before a large rent had been discovered and repaired as far as
possible by Mrs. Dale. As passengers, there ascended the Captain's son
William, aged nineteen, Mr. J. Macintosh, and Mr. Cecil Shadbolt. When
the balloon had reached an altitude estimated at 600 feet the onlookers
were horrified to see it suddenly collapse, a large rent having
developed near the top part of the silk, from which the gas "rushed out
in a dense mass, allowing the balloon to fall like a rag." The occupants
of the car were seen to be throwing out everything madly, even wrenching
the buttons from their clothing. All, however, with little avail, for
the balloon fell "with a sickening thud," midway between the Maze and
lower lake. All were found alive; but Captain Dale, who had alighted on
his back, died in a few minutes; Mr. Shadbolt succumbed later, and both
remaining passengers sustained terrible injuries.

Few balloon mishaps, unattended with fatal results, have proved more
exciting than the following. A large party had ascended from Belfast, in
a monster balloon, under the guidance of Mr. Coxwell, on a day which was
very unfit for the purpose by reason of stormy weather. A more serious
trouble than the wind, however, lay in several of the passengers
themselves, who seem to have been highly excitable Irishmen, incapable
at the critical moment of quietly obeying orders.

The principal hero of the story, a German. Mr. Runge, in writing
afterwards to the Ulster Observer, entirely exonerates Mr. Coxwell
from any blame, attributing his mischances solely to the reprehensible
conduct of his companions. On approaching the ground, Mr. Coxwell gave
clear instructions. The passengers were to sit down in an unconstrained
position facing each other, and be prepared for some heavy shocks. Above
all things they were to be careful to get out one by one, and on no
account to leave hold of the car. Many of the passengers, however,
refused to sit down, and, according to Mr. Runge, "behaved in the
wildest manner, losing completely their self-control. Seizing the valve
rope themselves, they tore it away from its attachment, the stronger
pushing back the weaker, and refusing to lend help when they had got
out. In consequence of this the car, relieved of their weight, tore away
from the grasp of Mr. Coxwell and those who still clung to it, and rose
above the trees, with Mr. Runge and one other passenger, Mr. Halferty,
alone within. As the balloon came earthwards again, they shouted to the
countrymen for succour, but without the slightest avail, and presently,
the anchor catching, the car struck the earth with a shock which threw
Mr. Halferty out on the ground, leaving Mr. Runge to rise again into the
air, this time alone." He thus continues the story:--

"The balloon moved on, very soon, in a horizontal direction straight
towards the sea, which we were then rapidly nearing. Coming to a farm,
I shouted out to the people standing there. Some women, with their quick
humane instincts, were the first to perceive my danger, and exhorted the
men to hurry to my assistance, they themselves running as fast as they
could to tender what little help they might be able to give me. The
anchor stuck in a willow tree. I shouted out to the people below to
secure the cable and anchor by ropes, which they did. The evening was
now beautifully still, the breeze had died away, and the balloon was
swinging calmly at her moorings above the farmhouse. One of the men
asked me whether I had a rope with me, and how I intended to get out.
I told them only to take care of the cable, because the balloon would
settle down by herself before long. I was congratulating myself on a
speedy escape from my dangerous position. I had not counted on the wind.
A breeze in about six or eight minutes sprang up, tossed the balloon
about like a large sail, then a crash, and--the anchor was loose again.
It tore through the trees, flinging limbs and branches about like
matches. It struck the roof of the farmhouse, splintering the chimneys
and tiles like glass.

"On I went; I came near another farm; shouted out for help, and told
the men to secure the anchor to the foot of a large tree close by. The
anchor was soon made fast, but this was only a momentary relief. The
breeze again filled the half-empty balloon like a sail, there was a
severe strain on the cable, then a dull sound, and a severe concussion
of the basket--the cable, strange fatality, had broken, and the anchor,
my last and only hope, was gone. I was now carried on in a straight
direction towards the sea, which was but a short distance ahead. The
anchor being lost I gave up all hope. I sat down resigned in the car,
and prepared for the end. All at once I discovered that a side current
was drifting me towards the mountain; the car struck the ground, and was
dashing along at a fearful rate, knocking down stone fences and breaking
everything it came in contact with in its wild career. By-and-by the
knocks became less frequent. We were passing over a cultivated country,
and the car was, as it were skimming the surface and grazing the top of
the hedges. I saw a thick hawthorn hedge at some distance before me,
and the balloon rapidly sweeping towards it. That was my only chance. I
rushed to the edge of the car and flung myself down upon the hedge."


In the early nineties the air ship was engaging the attention of many
inventors, and was making important strides in the hands of Mr. Maxim.
This unrivalled mechanician, in stating the case, premises that a motive
power has to be discovered which can develop at least as much power in
proportion to its weight as a bird is able to develop. He asserts that a
heavy bird, with relatively small wings--such as a goose--carries
about 150 lb. to the horse power, while the albatross or the vulture,
possessed of proportionately greater winged surface, can carry about 250
lbs. per horse power.

Professor Langley, of Washington, working contemporaneously, but
independently of Mr. Maxim, had tried exhaustive experiments on
a rotating arm (characteristically designated by Mr. Maxim a
"merry-go-round"), thirty feet long, applying screw propellers. He used,
for the most part, small planes, carrying loads of only two or three
pounds, and, under these circumstances, the weight carried was at the
rate of 250 lbs. per horse power. His important statements with regard
to these trials are that one-horse power will transport a larger weight
at twenty miles an hour than at ten, and a still larger at forty miles
than at twenty, and so on; that "the sustaining pressure of the air on
a plane moving at a small angle of inclination to a horizontal path is
many times greater than would result from the formula implicitly given
by Newton, while, whereas in land or marine transport increased speed
is maintained only by a disproportionate expenditure of power within the
limits of experiment, in aerial horizontal transport the higher speeds
are more economical of power than the lower ones."

This Mr. Maxim is evidently ready to endorse, stating, in his own words,
that birds obtain the greater part of their support by moving forward
with sufficient velocity so as to be constantly resting on new air, the
inertia of which has not been disturbed. Mr. Maxim's trials were on a
scale comparable with all his mechanical achievements. He employed for
his experiments a rotating arm, sweeping out a circle, the circumference
of which was 200 feet. To the end of this arm he attached a cigar-shaped
apparatus, driven by a screw, and arranged in such a manner that
aero-planes could be attached to it at any angle. These planes were on
a large scale, carrying weights of from 20 lbs. to 100 lbs. With this
contrivance he found that, whatever push the screw communicated to the
aero-plane, "the plane would lift in a vertical direction from ten to
fifteen times as much as the horizontal push that it received from the
screw, and which depended upon the angle at which the plane was set, and
the speed at which the apparatus was travelling through the air." Next,
having determined by experiment the power required to perform artificial
flight, Mr. Maxim applied himself to designing the requisite motor.
"I constructed," he states, "two sets of compound engines of tempered
steel, all the parts being made very light and strong, and a steam
generator of peculiar construction, the greater part of the heating
surface consisting of small and thin copper tubes. For fuel I employed

This Mr. Maxim wrote in 1892, adding that he was then experimenting with
a large machine, having a spread of over 100 feet. Labour, skill, and
money were lavishly devoted henceforward to the great task undertaken,
and it was not long before the giant flying machine, the outcome of so
much patient experimenting, was completed and put to a practical trial.
Its weight was 7,500 lbs. The screw propellers were nearly 18 feet in
diameter, each with two blades, while the engines were capable of being
run up to 360 horse power. The entire machine was mounted on an inner
railway track of 9 feet and an outer of 35 feet gauge, while above there
was a reversed rail along which the machine would begin to run so soon
as with increase of speed it commenced to lift itself off the inner

In one of the latest experiments it was found that when a speed of 42
miles an hour was attained all the wheels were running on the upper
track, and revolving in the opposite direction from those on the lower
track. However, after running about 1,000 feet, an axle tree doubled up,
and immediately afterwards the upper track broke away, and the machine,
becoming liberated, floated in the air, "giving those on board a
sensation of being in a boat."

The experiment proved conclusively to the inventor that a machine
could be made on a large scale, in which the lifting effect should be
considerably greater than the weight of the machine, and this, too,
when a steam engine was the motor. When, therefore, in the years shortly
following, the steam engine was for the purposes of aerial locomotion
superseded by the lighter and more suitable petrol engine, the
construction of a navigable air ship became vastly more practicable.
Still, in Sir H. Maxim's opinion, lately expressed, "those who seek
to navigate the air by machines lighter than the air have come,
practically, to the end of their tether," while, on the other hand,
"those who seek to navigate the air with machines heavier than the air
have not even made a start as yet, and the possibilities before them are
very great indeed."

As to the assertion that the aerial navigators last mentioned "have not
even made a start as yet," we can only say that Sir H. Maxim speaks with
far too much modesty. His own colossal labours in the direction of that
mode of aerial flight, which he considers to be alone feasible, are
of the first importance and value, and, as far as they have gone,
exhaustive. Had his experiments been simply confined to his classical
investigations of the proper form of the screw propeller his name would
still have been handed down as a true pioneer in aeronautics. His work,
however, covers far wider ground, and he has, in a variety of ways,
furnished practical and reliable data, which must always be an
indispensable guide to every future worker in the same field.

Professor Langley, in attacking the same problem, first studied the
principle and behaviour of a well-known toy--the model invented by
Penaud, which, driven by the tension of india-rubber, sustains itself in
the air for a few seconds. He constructed over thirty modifications of
this model, and spent many months in trying from these to as certain
what he terms the "laws of balancing leading to horizontal flight." His
best endeavours at first, however, showed that he needed three or four
feet of sustaining surface to a pound of weight, whereas he calculated
that a bird could soar with a surface of less than half a foot to the
pound. He next proceeded to steam-driven models in which for a time he
found an insuperable difficulty in keeping down the weight, which, in
practice, always exceeded his calculation; and it was not till the end
of 1893 that he felt himself prepared for a fair trial. At this time he
had prepared a model weighing between nine and ten pounds, and he needed
only a suitable launching apparatus to be used over water. The model
would, like a bird, require an initial velocity imparted to it, and the
discovery of a suitable apparatus gave him great trouble. For the rest
the facilities for launching were supplied by a houseboat moored on the
Potomac. Foiled again and again by many difficulties, it was not till
after repeated failures and the lapse of many months, when, as the
Professor himself puts it, hope was low, that success finally came. It
was in the early part of 1896 that a successful flight was accomplished
in the presence of Dr. Bell, of telephone fame, and the following is
a brief epitome of the account that this accomplished scientist
contributed to the columns of Nature:--

"The flying machine, built, apparently, almost entirely of metal, was
driven by an engine said to weigh, with fuel and water, about 25 lbs.,
the supporting surface from tip to tip being 12 or 14 feet. Starting
from a platform about 20 feet high, the machine rose at first directly
in the face of the wind, moving with great steadiness, and subsequently
wheeling in large curves until steam was exhausted, when, from a height
of 80 or 100 feet, it shortly settled down. The experiment was then
repeated with similar results. Its motion was so steady that a glass of
water might have remained unspilled. The actual length of flight each
time, which lasted for a minute and a half, exceeded half a mile, while
the velocity was between twenty and twenty-five miles an hour in a
course that was constantly taking it 'up hill.' A yet more successful
flight was subsequently made."

But flight of another nature was being courageously attempted at this
time. Otto Lilienthal, of Berlin, in imitation of the motion of birds,
constructed a flying apparatus which he operated himself, and with which
he could float down from considerable elevations. "The feat," he
warns tyros, "requires practice. In the beginning the height should be
moderate, and the wings not too large, or the wind will soon show that
it is not to be trifled with." The inventor commenced with all due
caution, making his first attempt over a grass plot from a spring board
one metre high, and subsequently increasing this height to two and a
half metres, from which elevation he could safely cross the entire grass
plot. Later he launched himself from the lower ridges of a hill 250 feet
high, when he sailed to a distance of over 250 yards, and this time he
writes enthusiastically of his self-taught accomplishment:--

"To those who, from a modest beginning and with gradually increased
extent and elevation of flight have gained full control over the
apparatus, it is not in the least dangerous to cross deep and broad
ravines. It is a difficult task to convey to one who has never enjoyed
aerial flight a clear perception of the exhilarating pleasure of this
elastic motion. The elevation above the ground loses its terrors,
because we have learned by experience what sure dependence may be placed
upon the buoyancy of the air."

As a commentary to the above we extract the following:--"We have to
record the death of Otto Lilienthal, whose soaring machine, during a
gliding flight, suddenly tilted over at a height of about 60 feet,
by which mishap he met an untimely death on August 9th, 1896." Mr. O.
Chanute, C.E. of Chicago, took up the study of gliding flight at the
point where Lilienthal left it, and, later, Professor Fitzgerald
and others. Besides that invented by Penaud, other aero-plane models
demanding mention had been produced by Tatin, Moy, Stringfellow,
and Lawrence Hargrave, of Australia, the subsequent inventor of the
well-known cellular kite. These models, for the most part, aim at the
mechanical solution of the problem connected with the soaring flight of
a bird.

The theoretical solution of the same problem had been attacked by
Professor Langley in a masterly monograph, entitled "The Internal Work
of the Wind." By painstaking experiment with delicate instruments,
specially constructed, the Professor shows that wind in general, so
far from being, as was commonly assumed, mere air put in motion with
an approximately uniform velocity in the same strata, is, in reality,
variable and irregular in its movements beyond anything which had been
anticipated, being made up, in fact, of a succession of brief pulsations
in different directions, and of great complexity. These pulsations, he
argues, if of sufficient amplitude and frequency, would be capable, by
reason of their own "internal work," of sustaining or even raising a
suitably curved surface which was being carried along by the main mean
air stream. This would account for the phenomenon of "soaring." Lord
Rayleigh, discussing the same problem, premises that when a bird is
soaring the air cannot be moving uniformly and horizontally. Then comes
the natural question, Is it moving in ascending currents? Lord Rayleigh
has frequently noticed such currents, particularly above a cliff facing
the wind. Again, to quote another eminent authority, Major Baden-Powell,
on an occasion when flying one of his own kites, found it getting to
so high an angle that it presently rose absolutely overhead, with the
string perpendicular. He then took up a heavy piece of wood, which, when
tied to the string, began to rise in the air. He satisfied himself that
this curious result was solely due to a strong uptake of the air.

But, again, Lord Rayleigh, lending support to Professor Langley's
argument, points out that the apparent cause of soaring may be the
non-uniformity of the wind. The upper currents are generally stronger
than the lower, and it is mechanically possible for a bird, taking
advantage of two adjacent air streams, different in velocity, to
maintain itself in air without effort on its own part.

Lord Rayleigh, proceeding to give his views on artificial flight,
declares the main problem of the flying machine to be the problem of the
aerial plane. He states the case thus:--"Supposing a plane surface to
be falling vertically at the rate of four miles an hour, and also moving
horizontally at the rate of twenty miles an hour, it might have been
supposed that the horizontal motion would make no difference to the
pressure on its under surface which the falling plane must experience.
We are told, however, that in actual trial the horizontal motion much
increases the pressure under the falling plane, and it is this fact on
which the possibility of natural and artificial flight depends."

Ere this opinion had been stated by Lord Rayleigh in his discourse on
"Flight," at the Royal Institution, there were already at work upon the
aero-plane a small army of inventors, of whom it will be only possible
in a future chapter to mention some. Due reference, however, should here
be made to Mr. W. F. Wenham, of Boston, U.S.A., who had been at work on
artificial flight for many years, and to whose labours in determining
whether man's power is sufficient to raise his own weight Lord Rayleigh
paid a high tribute. As far back as 1866 Mr. Wenham had published a
paper on aerial locomotion, in which he shows that any imitation by
man of the far-extended wings of a bird might be impracticable, the
alternative being to arrange the necessary length of wing as a series of
aero-planes, a conception far in advance of many theorists of his time.

But there had been developments in aerostation in other lines, and it
is time to turn from the somewhat tedious technicalities of mechanical
flight and the theory or practice of soaring, to another important means
for traversing the air--the parachute. This aerial machine, long
laid aside, was to lend its aid to the navigation of the air with a
reliability never before realised. Professor Baldwin, as he was termed,
an American aeronaut, arrived in England in the summer of 1888, and
commenced giving a series of exhibitions from the Alexandra Palace with
a parachute of his own invention, which, in actual performance, seems
to have been the most perfect instrument of the kind up to that time
devised. It was said to be about 18 feet in diameter, whereas that of
Garnerin, already mentioned, had a diameter of some 30 feet, and was
distinctly top-heavy, owing to its being thus inadequately ballasted;
for it was calculated that its enormous size would have served for the
safe descent, not of one man, but of four or five. Baldwin's parachute,
on the contrary, was reckoned to give safe descent to 250 lbs., which
would include weight of man and apparatus, and reduce the ultimate fall
to one not exceeding 8 feet. The parachute was attached to the ring of a
small balloon of 12,000 cubic feet, and the Professor ascended, sitting
on a mere sling of rope, which did duty for a car.

Mr. Thomas Moy, who investigated the mechanics of the contrivance,
estimated that after a drop of 16 feet, the upward pressure, amounting
to over 2 lb. per square foot, would act on a surface of not less than
254 square feet. There was, at the time, much foolish comment on the
great distance which the parachute fell before it opened, a complete
delusion due to the fact that observers failed to see that at the moment
of separation the balloon itself sprang upward.


It has been in the hands of the Spencers that the parachute, as also
many other practical details of aeronautics, has been perfected, and
some due sketch of the career of this family of eminent aeronauts must
be no longer delayed.

Charles Green had stood godfather to the youngest son of his friend
and colleague, Mr. Edward Spencer, and in later years, as though to
vindicate the fact, this same son took up the science of aeronautics at
the point where his father had left it. We find his name in the records
of the Patent Office of 1868 as the inventor of a manumetric flying
machine, and there are accounts of the flying leaps of several
hundred feet which he was enabled to take by means of the machine he
constructed. Again, in 1882 we find him an inventor, this time of the
patent asbestos fire balloon, by means of which the principal danger to
such balloons was overcome.

At this point it is needful to make mention of the third generation--the
several sons who early showed their zeal and aptitude for perpetuating
the family tradition. It was from his school playground that the eldest
son, Percival, witnessed with intense interest what appeared like a drop
floating in the sky at an immense altitude. This proved to be Simmons's
balloon, which had just risen to a vast elevation over Cremorne Gardens,
after having liberated the unfortunate De Groof, as mentioned in a
former chapter. And one may be sure that the terrible reality of the
disaster that had happened was not lost on the young schoolboy. But his
wish was to become an aeronauts, and from this desire nothing deterred
him, so that school days were scarcely over before he began to accompany
his father aloft, and in a very few years, i.e. in 1888, he had assumed
the full responsibilities of a professional balloonist.

It was in this year that Professor Baldwin appeared in England, and it
is easy to understand that the parachute became an object of interest to
the young Spencer, who commenced on his own account a series of trials
at the Alexandra Palace, and it was now, also, that chance good fortune
came his way. An Indian gentleman, who was witness of his experiments,
and convinced that a favourable field for their further development
existed in his own country, proposed to the young aspirant that he
should accompany him to India, with equipment suited for the making of a
successful campaign.

Thus it came about that in the early days of 1889, in the height of the
season, Mr. Percival Spencer arrived at Bombay, and at once commenced
professional business in earnest. Coal gas being here available, a
maiden ascent was quickly arranged, and duly announced to take place at
the Government House, Paral, the chief attraction being the parachute
descent, the first ever attempted in India.

This preliminary exhibition proving in all ways a complete success,
Mr. Spencer, after a few repetitions of his performance, repaired to
Calcutta; but here great difficulties were experienced in the matter of
gas. The coal gas available was inadequate, and when recourse was had to
pure hydrogen the supply proved too sluggish. At the advertised hour
of departure the balloon was not sufficiently inflated, while the
spectators were growing impatient. It was at this critical moment that
Mr. Spencer resolved on a surprise. Suddenly casting off the parachute,
and seated on a mere sling below the half-inflated balloon, without
ballast, without grapnel, and unprovided with a valve, he sailed away
over the heads of the multitude.

The afternoon was already far advanced, and the short tropical twilight
soon gave way to darkness, when the intrepid voyager disappeared
completely from sight. Excitement was intense that night in Calcutta,
and greater still the next day when, as hour after hour went by, no
news save a series of wild and false reports reached the city. Trains
arriving from the country brought no intelligence, and telegraphic
enquiries sent in all directions proved fruitless. The Great Eastern
Hotel, where the young man had been staying, was literally besieged
for hours by a large crowd eager for any tidings. Then the Press gave
expression to the gloomiest forebodings, and the town was in a fever of
unrest. From the direction the balloon had taken it was thought that,
even if the aeronaut had descended in safety, he could only have been
landed in the jungle of the Sunderbunds, beset with perils, and
without a chance of succour. A large reward was offered for reliable
information, and orders were issued to every likely station to organise
a search. But ere this was fully carried into effect messages were
telegraphed to England definitely asserting that Mr. Spencer had lost
his life. For all this, after three days he returned to Calcutta, none
the worse for the exploit.

Then the true tale was unravelled. The balloon had changed its course
from S.E. to E. after passing out of sight of Calcutta, and eventually
came to earth the same evening in the neighbourhood of Hossainabad,
thirty-six miles distant. During his aerial flight the voyager's main
trouble had been caused by his cramped position, the galling of his
sling seat, and the numbing effect of cold as he reached high altitudes;
but, as twilight darkened into gloom, his real anxiety was with respect
to his place of landing, for he could with difficulty see the earth
underneath. He heard the distant roll of the waters, caused by the
numerous creeks which intersect the delta of the Ganges, and when
darkness completely shut out the view it was impossible to tell whether
he was over land or sea. Fortune favoured him, however, and reaching dry
ground, he sprang from his seat, relinquishing at the same moment his
hold of the balloon, which instantly disappeared into the darkness.

Then his wanderings began. He was in an unknown country, without
knowledge of the language, and with only a few rupees in his pocket.
Presently, however, seeing a light, he proceeded towards it, but only to
find himself stopped by a creek. Foiled more than once in this way, he
at length arrived at the dwelling of a family of natives, who promptly
fled in terror. To inspire confidence and prove that he was mortal,
Mr. Spencer threw his coat over the mud wall of the compound, with the
result that, after examination of the garment, he was received and cared
for in true native fashion, fed with rice and goat's milk, and allowed
the use of the verandah to sleep in. He succeeded in communing with
the natives by dint of lead pencil sketches and dumb show, and
learned, among other things, that he had descended in a little clearing
surrounded by woods, and bounded by tidal creeks, which were infested
with alligators. Yet, in the end, the waterways befriended him; for, as
he was being ferried across, he chanced on his balloon sailing down
on the tide, recovered it, and used the tidal waters for the return

The greeting upon his arrival in Calcutta was enthusiastic beyond
description from both Europeans and natives. The hero of the adventure
was visited by rajahs and notables, who vied with each other in
expressions of welcome, in making presents, even inviting him to visit
the sacred precincts of their zenanas. The promised parachute descent
was subsequently successfully made at Cossipore, and then followed a
busy, brilliant season, after which the wanderer returned to England.
By September he is in Dublin, and makes the first parachute descent ever
witnessed in Ireland; but by November he is in Bombay again, whence,
proceeding to Calcutta, he repeats his success of the year before. Next
he visits Allahabad, where the same fortune attends him, though his
balloon flies away in a temporary escape into the Jumna. By May he is
ascending at Singapore, armed here, however, with a cork jacket.

Hence, flushed with success, he repairs to the Dutch Indies, and
demonstrates to the Dutch officers the use of the balloon in war. As a
natural consequence, he is moved up to the seat of the Achinese War
in Sumatra, where, his balloon being moored to the rear of an armoured
train, an immediate move is made to the front, and orders are forthwith
telephoned from various centres to open fire on the enemy. Mr. Spencer,
the while accompanied by an officer, makes a captive ascent, in which
for some time he is actually under the enemy's fire. The result of
this plucky experiment is a most flattering official report. In all the
above-mentioned ascents he made his own gas without a hitch.

Thence he travels on with the same trusty little 12,000 cubic feet
balloon, the same programme, and the same success. This is slightly
varied, however, at Kobe, Japan, where his impatient craft fairly breaks
away with him, and, soaring high, flies overhead of a man-of-war, and
plumps into the water a mile out at sea. But "Smartly" was the word. The
ship's crew was beat to quarters, and within one minute a boat was to
the rescue. An ascent at Cairo, where he made a parachute descent in
sight of the Pyramids and landed in the desert, completed this oriental
tour, and home duties necessitated his return to England. Among exploits
far too many to enumerate may be mentioned four several occasions when
Mr. Percival Spencer has crossed the English Channel.

It fell to the lot of the second son, Arthur, to carry fame into fresh
fields. In the year 1897 he visited Australia, taking with him two
balloons, one of these being a noble craft of 80,000 cubic feet,
considerably larger than any balloon used in England, and the singular
fate of this aerial monster is deserving of mention.

Its trial trip in the new country was arranged to take place on Boxing
Day in the Melbourne Exhibition ground, and for the lengthy and critical
work of inflation the able assistance of British bluejackets was
secured. To all appearance, the main difficulties to be provided against
were likely to arise simply from a somewhat inadequate supply of gas,
and on this account filling commenced as early as 10 a.m. on the morning
of the day previous to the exhibition, and was continued till 6 o'clock
in the afternoon, by which time the balloon, being about half full,
was staved down with sandbags through the night till 4 o'clock the next
morning, when the inflation was again proceeded with without hindrance
and apparently under favourable conditions. The morning was beautifully
fine, warm, brilliant, and still, and so remained until half-past six,
when, with startling rapidity, there blew up a sudden squall known in
the country as a "Hot Buster," and in two or three minutes' space a
terrific wind storm was sweeping the ground. A dozen men, aiding a dead
weight of 220 sandbags, endeavoured to control the plunging balloon, but
wholly without avail. Men and bags together were lifted clean up in
the air on the windward side, and the silk envelope, not yet completely
filled, at once escaped from the net and, flying upwards to a height
estimated at 10,000 feet, came to earth again ninety miles away in
a score of fragments. Nothing daunted, however, Mr. Spencer at once
endeavoured to retrieve his fortunes, and started straightway for the
gold-mining districts of Ballarat and Bendigo with a hot-air balloon,
with which he successfully gave a series of popular exhibitions of
parachute descents. Few aeronauts are more consistently reliable than
Mr. Arthur Spencer. A few summers ago in this country he was suddenly
called upon to give proof of his prowess and presence of mind in a very
remarkable manner. It was at an engagement at Reading, where he had been
conducting captive ascents throughout the afternoon, and was requested
to conclude the evening with a "right away," in which two passengers had
agreed to accompany him. The balloon had been hauled down for the last
time, when, by some mistake, the engine used for the purpose proceeded
to work its pump without previously disconnecting the hauling gear.
The consequence of this was that the cable instantly snapped, and in
a moment the large balloon, devoid of ballast, grapnel, or other
appliances, and with neck still tied, was free, and started skyward.

The inevitable result of this accident must have been that the balloon
in a few seconds would rise to a height where the expansion of the
imprisoned gas would burst and destroy it. Mr. Spencer, however, was
standing near, and, grasping the situation in a moment, caught at the
car as it swung upwards, and, getting hold, succeeded in drawing himself
up and so climbing into the ring. Quickly as this was done, the balloon
was already distended to the point of bursting, and only the promptest
release of gas averted catastrophe.

Mr. Stanley Spencer made himself early known to the world by a series
of parachute descents, performed from the roof of Olympia. It was a bold
and sensational exhibition, and on the expiration of his engagement
the young athlete, profiting by home training, felt fully qualified to
attempt any aerial feat connected with the profession of an aeronaut.
And at this juncture an eminent American cyclist, visiting the father's
factory, suggested to Stanley a business tour in South America.

As an extra attraction it was proposed that a young lady parachutist
should be one of the company; so, after a few satisfactory trial
exhibitions in England, the party made their way to Rio, Brazil. Here an
ascent was arranged, and by the day and hour appointed the balloon was
successfully inflated with hydrogen, an enormous concourse collected,
and the lady performer already seated in the sling. Then a strange
mischance happened. By some means, never satisfactorily explained, the
young woman, at the moment of release, slipped from her seat, and the
balloon, escaping into the air, turned over and fell among the people,
who vindictively destroyed it. Then the crowd grew ungovernable,
and threatened the lives of the aeronauts, who eventually were, with
difficulty, rescued by the soldiery.

This was a bad start; but with a spare balloon a fresh attempt at an
ascent was arranged, though, from another cause, with no better success.
This time a furious storm arose, before the inflation was completed, and
the balloon, carrying away, was torn to ribbons. Yet a third time, with
a hot air balloon now, a performance was advertised and successfully
carried out; but, immediately after, Mr. Spencer's American friend
succumbed to yellow fever, and the young man, being thrown on his
own resources, had to fight his own way until his fortunes had been
sufficiently restored to return to England.

A few months later he set sail for Canada, where for several months he
had a most profitable career, on one occasion only meeting with some
difficulty. He was giving an exhibition on Prince Edward's Island,
not far from the sea, but on a day so calm that he did not hesitate to
ascend. On reaching 3,000 feet, however, he was suddenly caught by a
strong land breeze, which, ere he could reach the water, had carried him
a mile out to sea, and here he was only rescued after a long interval,
during which he had become much exhausted in his attempts to save his
parachute from sinking.

Early in 1892 our traveller visited South Africa with a hot air balloon,
and, fortune continuing to favour him, he subsequently returned to
Canada, and proceeded thence to the United States and Cuba. It was at
Havannah that popular enthusiasm in his favour ran so high that he was
presented with a medal by the townsfolk. It was from here also that, a
little while after, tidings of his own death reached him, together
with most gratifying obituary notices. It would seem that, after his
departure, an adventurer, attempting to personate him, met with his

In November, 1897, he followed his elder brother's footsteps to the
East, and exhibited in Calcutta, Singapore, Canton, and also Hong-Kong,
where, for the first and only time in his experience, he met with
serious accident. He was about to ascend for the ordinary parachute
performance with a hot air balloon, which was being held down by
about thirty men, one among them being a Chinaman possessed of much
excitability and very long finger nails. By means of these latter the
man contrived to gouge a considerable hole in the fabric of the balloon.
Mr. Spencer, to avoid a disappointment, risked an ascent, and it was
not till the balloon had reached 600 feet that the rent developed into a
long slit, and so brought about a sudden fall to earth. Alighting on the
side of a mountain, Mr. Spencer lay helpless with a broken leg till the
arrival of some British bluejackets, who conveyed him to the nearest
surgeon, when, after due attention, he was sent home. Other remarkable
exploits, which Mr. Stanley Spencer shared with Dr. Berson and with the
writer and his daughter, will be recorded later.


After Mr. Coxwell's experiments at Aldershot in 1862 the military
balloon, as far as England was concerned, remained in abeyance for nine
long years, when the Government appointed a Commission to enquire into
its utility, and to conduct further experiments. The members of this
committee were Colonel Noble, R.E., Sir F. Abel, Captain Lee, R.E.,
assisted by Captain Elsdale, R.E., and Captain (now Colonel) Templer.
Yet another nine years, however, elapsed before much more was heard of
this modernised military engine.

But about the beginning of the eighties the Government had become fully
alive to the importance of the subject, and Royal Engineers at Woolwich
grew busy with balloon manufacture and experiment. Soon "the sky around
London became speckled with balloons." The method of making so-called
pure hydrogen by passing steam over red-hot iron was fully tested, and
for a time gained favour. The apparatus, weighing some three tons,
was calculated to be not beyond the carrying powers of three service
waggons, while it was capable of generating enough gas to inflate two
balloons in twenty-four hours, a single inflation holding good, under
favourable circumstances, for a long period. At the Brighton Volunteer
Review of 1880, Captain Templer, with nine men, conducted the operations
of a captive reconnoitring balloon. This was inflated at the Lewes gas
works, and then towed two and a half miles across a river, a railway,
and a line of telegraph wires, after which it was let up to a height of
1,500 feet, whence, it was stated, that so good a view was obtained
that "every man was clearly seen." Be it remembered, however, that
the country was not the South African veldt, and every man was in the
striking English uniform of that date.

Just at this juncture came the Egyptian War, and it will be recalled
that in the beginning of that war balloons were conspicuous by their
absence. The difficulties of reconnaissance were keenly felt and
commented on, and among other statements we find the following in the
war intelligence of the Times:--

"As the want of a balloon equipment has been mentioned in letters from
Egypt, it may be stated that all the War Department balloons remain in
store at the Royal Dockyard at Woolwich, but have been recently examined
and found perfectly serviceable." An assertion had been made to the
effect that the nature of the sand in Egypt would impede the transport
of the heavy material necessary for inflation. At last, however, the
order came for the despatch of the balloon equipment to the front, and
though this arrived long after Tel-el-Kebir, yet it is recorded that the
first ascent in real active service in the British Army took place on
the 25th of March, 1885, at Suakin, and balloons becoming regarded as
an all-important part of the equipment of war, they were sent out in
the Bechuanaland Expedition under Sir Charles Warren, the supply of gas
being shipped to Cape Town in cylinders.

It was at this period that, according to Mr. Coxwell, Lord Wolseley made
ascents at home in a war balloon to form his own personal opinion of
their capabilities, and, expressing this opinion to one of his staff,
said that had he been able to employ balloons in the earlier stages of
the Soudan campaign the affair would not have lasted as many months as
it did years. This statement, however, should be read in conjunction
with another of the same officer in the "Soldier's Pocket Book,"
that "in a windy country balloons are useless." In the Boer War the
usefulness of the balloon was frequently tested, more particularly
during the siege of Ladysmith, when it was deemed of great value in
directing the fire of the British artillery, and again in Buller's
advance, where the balloon is credited with having located a
"death-trap" of the enemy at Spion Kop. Other all-important service was
rendered at Magersfontein. The Service balloon principally used was made
of goldbeaters' skin, containing about 10,000 cubic feet of hydrogen,
which had been produced by the action of sulphuric acid on zinc, and
compressed in steel cylinders. A special gas factory was, for the
purpose of the campaign, established at Cape Town.

It is here that reference must be made to some of the special work
undertaken by Mr. Eric S. Bruce, which dealt with the management of
captive balloons under different conditions, and with a system
of signalling thus rendered feasible. Mr. Bruce, who, since Major
Baden-Powell's retirement from the office, has devoted his best energies
as secretary to the advancement of the British Aeronautical Society,
was the inventor of the system of electric balloon signalling which
he supplied to the British Government, as well as to the Belgian and
Italian Governments. This system requires but a very small balloon, made
of three or four thicknesses of goldbeaters' skin, measuring from 7 to
10 feet in diameter, and needing only two or three gas cylinders for
inflation. Within the balloon, which is sufficiently translucent, are
placed several incandescent lamps in metallic circuit, with a source
of electricity on the ground. This source of electricity may consist of
batteries of moderate size or a portable hand dynamo. In the circuit
is placed an apparatus for making and breaking contact rapidly, and by
varying the duration of the flashes in the balloon telegraphic messages
may be easily transmitted. To overcome the difficulty of unsteadiness,
under circumstances of rough weather, in the captive balloon which
carried the glow lamps, Mr. Bruce experimented with guy ropes, and gave
a most successful exhibition of their efficiency before military experts
at Stamford Bridge grounds, though a stiff wind was blowing at the time.

It must be perfectly obvious, however, that a captive balloon in a wind
is greatly at a disadvantage, and to counteract this, attempts have been
made in the direction of a combination between the balloon and a kite.
This endeavour has been attended with some measure of success in the
German army. Mr. Douglas Archibald, in England, was one of the first
to advocate the kite balloon. In 1888 he called attention to the
unsatisfactory behaviour of captive balloons in variable winds, dropping
with every gust and rising again with a lull. In proof he described an
expedient of Major Templer's, where an attempt was being made to operate
a photographic camera hoisted by two tandem kites. "The balloon," he
writes, "went up majestically, and all seemed very satisfactory until a
mile of cable had been run out, and the winder locked." It was then that
troubles began which threatened the wreckage of the apparatus, and Mr.
Archibald, in consequence, strongly recommended a kite balloon at that
time. Twelve years later the same able experimentalist, impressed with
the splendid work done by kites alone for meteorological purposes at
least, allowed that he was quite content to "let the kite balloon go

But the German school of aeronauts were doing bigger things than making
trials with kite balloons. The German Society for the Promotion of
Aerial Navigation, assisted by the Army Balloon Corps, were busy in
1888, when a series of important ascents were commenced. Under the
direction of Dr. Assmann, the energetic president of the aeronautical
society above named, captive ascents were arranged in connection with
free ascents for meteorological purposes, and it was thus practicable to
make simultaneous observations at different levels. These experiments,
which were largely taken up on the Continent, led to others of yet
higher importance, in which the unmanned balloon took a part. But the
Continental annals of this date contain one unhappy record of another
nature, the recounting of which will, at least, break the monotony
attending mere experimental details.

In October, 1893, Captain Charbonnet, an enthusiastic French aeronaut,
resolved on spending his honeymoon, with the full consent of his bride,
in a prolonged balloon excursion. The start was to be made from Turin,
and, the direction of travel lying across the Alps, it was the hope of
the voyagers eventually to reach French territory. The ascent was made
in perfect safety, as was also the first descent, at the little village
of Piobesi, ten miles away. Here a halt was made for the night, and the
next morning, when a fresh start was determined on, two young Italians,
Signori Botto and Durando, were taken on board as assistants, for the
exploit began to assume an appearance of some gravity, and this the
more so when storm clouds began brewing. At an altitude of 10,000 feet
cross-currents were encountered, and the course becoming obscured the
captain descended to near the earth, where he discovered himself to be
in dangerous proximity to gaunt mountain peaks. On observing this, he
promptly cast out sand so liberally that the balloon rose to a height
approaching 20,000 feet, when a rapid descent presently began, and
refused to be checked, even with the expenditure of all available

All the while the earth remained obscured, but, anticipating a fall
among the mountains, Captain Charbonnet bade his companions lie down in
the car while he endeavoured to catch sight of some landmark; but, quite
suddenly, the balloon struck some mountain slope with such force as
to throw the captain back into the car with a heavy blow over the eye;
then, bounding across a gulley, it struck again and yet again, falling
and rebounding between rocky walls, till it settled on a steep and
snowy ridge. Darkness was now closing in, and the party, without food
or proper shelter, had to pass the night as best they might on the bare
spot where they fell, hoping for encouragement with the return of day.
But dawn showed them to be on a dangerous peak, 10,000 feet high,
whence they must descend by their own unassisted efforts. After a little
clambering the captain, who was in a very exhausted state, fell through
a hidden crevasse, fracturing his skull sixty feet below. The remaining
three struggled on throughout the day, and had to pass a second night on
the mountain, this time without covering. On the third day they met with
a shepherd, who conducted them with difficulty to the little village of

This story, by virtue of its romance, finds a place in these pages;
but, save for its tragic ending, it hardly stands alone. Ballooning
enterprise and adventure were growing every year more and more common on
the Continent. In Scandinavia we find the names of Andree, Fraenkal, and
Strindberg; in Denmark that of Captain Rambusch. Berlin and Paris had
virtually become the chief centres of the development of ballooning as a
science. In the former city a chief among aeronauts had arisen in Dr. A.
Berson, who, in December, 1894, not only reached 30,000 feet, ascending
alone, but at that height sustained himself sufficiently, by inhaling
oxygen, to take systematic observations throughout the entire voyage of
five hours. The year before, in company with Lieutenant Gross, he barely
escaped with his life, owing to tangled ropes getting foul of the valve.
Toulet and those who accompanied him lost their lives near Brussels.
Later Wolfert and his engineer were killed near Berlin, while Johannsen
and Loyal fell into the Sound. Thus ever fresh and more extended
enterprise was embarked upon with good fortune and ill. In fact, it had
become evident to all that the Continent afforded facilities for the
advancement of aerial exploration which could be met with in no other
parts of the world, America only excepted. And it was at this period
that the expedient of the ballon sonde, or unmanned balloon, was happily
thought of. One of these balloons, the "Cirrus," among several trials,
rose to a height, self-registered, of 61,000 feet, while a possible
greater height has been accorded to it. On one occasion, ascending from
Berlin, it fell in Western Russia, on another in Bosnia. Then, in 1896,
at the Meteorological Conference at Paris, with Mascart as President,
Gustave Hermite, with characteristic ardour, introduced a scheme of
national ascents with balloons manned and unmanned, and this scheme was
soon put in effect under a commission of famous names--Andree, Assmann,
Berson, Besancon, Cailletet, Erk, de Fonvielle, Hergesell, Hermite,
Jaubert, Pomotzew (of St. Petersburg), and Rotch (of Boston, Mass.).

In November, 1896, five manned balloons and three unmanned ascended
simultaneously from France, Germany, and Russia. The next year saw,
with the enterprise of these nations, the co-operation of Austria and
Belgium. Messrs. Hermite and Besancon, both French aeronauts, were the
first to make practical trial of the method of sounding the upper air by
unmanned balloons, and, as a preliminary attempt, dismissed from Paris
a number of small balloons, a large proportion of which were recovered,
having returned to earth after less than 100 miles' flight. Larger paper
balloons were now constructed, capable of carrying simple self-recording
instruments, also postcards, which became detached at regular intervals
by the burning away of slow match, and thus indicated the path of the
balloon. The next attempt was more ambitious, made with a goldbeaters'
skin balloon containing 4,000 cubic feet of gas, and carrying automatic
instruments of precision. This balloon fell in the Department of the
Yonne, and was returned to Paris with the instruments, which remained
uninjured, and which indicated that an altitude of 49,000 feet had
been reached, and a minimum temperature of -60 degrees encountered.
Yet larger balloons of the same nature were then experimented with in
Germany, as well as France.

A lack of public support has crippled the attempts of experimentalists
in this country, but abroad this method of aerial exploration continues
to gain favour.

Distinct from, and supplementing, the records obtained by free balloons,
manned or unmanned, are those to be gathered from an aerostat moored
to earth. It is here that the captive balloon has done good service to
meteorology, as we have shown, but still more so has the high-flying
kite. It must long have been recognised that instruments placed on or
near the ground are insufficient for meteorological purposes, and, as
far back as 1749, we find Dr. Wilson, of Glasgow, employing kites to
determine the upper currents, and to carry thermometers into higher
strata of the air. Franklin's kite and its application is matter of
history. Many since that period made experiments more or less in earnest
to obtain atmospheric observations by means of kites, but probably
the first in England, at least to obtain satisfactory results, was Mr.
Douglas Archibald, who, during the eighties, was successful in obtaining
valuable wind measurements, as also other results, including aerial
photographs, at varying altitudes up to 1,000 or 1,200 feet. From that
period the records of serious and systematic kite flying must be
sought in America. Mr. W. A. Eddy was one of the pioneers, and a very
serviceable tailless kite, in which the cross-bar is bowed away from the
wind, is his invention, and has been much in use. Mr. Eddy established
his kite at Blue Hill--the now famous kite observatory--and succeeded
in lifting self-recording meteorological instruments to considerable
heights. The superiority of readings thus obtained is obvious from the
fact that fresh air-streams are constantly playing on the instruments.

A year or two later a totally dissimilar kite was introduced by Mr.
Lawrence Hargrave, of Sydney, Australia. This invention, which
has proved of the greatest utility and efficiency, would, from its
appearance, upset all conventional ideas of what a kite should be,
resembling in its simplest form a mere box, minus the back and
front. Nevertheless, these kites, in their present form, have carried
instruments to heights of upwards of two miles, the restraining line
being fine steel piano wire.

But another and most efficient kite, admirably adapted for many most
important purposes, is that invented by Major Baden-Powell. The main
objects originally aimed at in the construction of this kite related to
military operations, such as signalling, photography, and the raising of
a man to an elevation for observational purposes. In the opinion of the
inventor, who is a practiced aeronaut, a wind of over thirty miles
an hour renders a captive balloon useless, while a kite under such
conditions should be capable of taking its place in the field.
Describing his early experiments, Major, then Captain, Baden-Powell,
stated that in 1894, after a number of failures, he succeeded with a
hexagonal structure of cambric, stretched on a bamboo framework 36
feet high, in lifting a man--not far, but far enough to prove that his
theories were right. Later on, substituting a number of small kites for
one big one, he was, on several occasions, raised to a height of 100
feet, and had sent up sand bags, weighing 9 stone, to 300 feet, at which
height they remained suspended nearly a whole day.

This form of kite, which has been further developed, has been used in
the South African campaign in connection with wireless telegraphy for
the taking of photographs at great heights, notably at Modder River, and
for other purposes.

It has been claimed that the first well-authenticated occasion of a man
being raised by a kite was when at Pirbright Camp a Baden-Powell kite,
30 feet high, flown by two lines, from which a basket was suspended,
took a man up to a height of 10 feet. It is only fair, however, to state
that it is related that more than fifty years ago a lady was lifted some
hundred feet by a great kite constructed by one George Pocock, whose
machine was designed for an observatory in war, and also for drawing
carriages along highways.


Among many suggestions, alike important and original, due to Major
Baden-Powell, and coming within the field of aeronautics, is one having
reference to the use of balloons for geographical research generally and
more particularly for the exploration of Egypt, which, in his opinion,
is a country possessing many most desirable qualifications on the score
of prevailing winds, of suitable base, and of ground adapted for such
steering as may be effected with a trail rope. At the Bristol meeting of
the British Association the Major thus propounded his method: "I should
suggest several balloons, one of about 60,000 cubic feet, and, say,
six smaller ones of about 7,000 cubic feet; then, if one gets torn or
damaged, the others might remain intact. After a time, when gas is
lost, one of the smaller ones could be emptied into the others, and the
exhausted envelope discharged as ballast; the smaller balloons would be
easier to transport by porters than one big one, and they could be more
easily secured on the earth during contrary winds. Over the main balloon
a light awning might be rigged to neutralise, as far as possible, the
changes of temperature. A lightning conductor to the top of the balloon
might be desirable. A large sail would be arranged, and a bifurcated
guide rope attached to the end of a horizontal pole would form
an efficient means of steering. The car would be boat-shaped and
waterproof, so that it could be used for a return journey down a river.
Water tanks would be fitted."

The reasonableness of such a scheme is beyond question, even without the
working calculations with which it is accompanied; but, ere these words
were spoken, one of the most daring explorers that the world has known
had begun to put in practice a yet bolder and rasher scheme of his own.
The idea of reaching the North Pole by means of balloons appears to have
been entertained many years ago. In a curious work, published in Paris
in 1863 by Delaville Dedreux, there is a suggestion for reaching the
North Pole by an aerostat which should be launched from the nearest
accessible point, the calculation being that the distance from such
a starting place to the Pole and back again would be only some 1,200
miles, which could be covered in two days, supposing only that there
could be found a moderate and favourable wind in each direction. Mr. C.
G. Spencer also wrote on the subject, and subsequently Commander Cheyne
proposed a method of reaching the Pole by means of triple balloons. A
similar scheme was advocated in yet more serious earnest by M. Hermite
in the early eighties.

Some ten years later than this M. S. A. Andree, having obtained
sufficient assistance, took up the idea with the determined intention
of pushing it to a practical issue. He had already won his spurs as
an aeronaut, as may be briefly told. In October, 1893, when making an
ascent for scientific purposes, his balloon got carried out over the
Baltic. It may have been the strength of the wind that had taken him by
surprise; but, there being now no remedy, it was clearly the speed and
persistence of the wind that alone could save him. If a chance vessel
could not, or would not, "stand by," he must make the coast of Finland
or fall in the sea, and several times the fall in the sea seemed
imminent as his balloon commenced dropping. This threatened danger
induced him to cast away his anchor, after which the verge of the
Finland shore was nearly reached, when a change of wind began to carry
him along the rocky coast, just as night was setting in.

Recognising his extreme danger, Andree stood on the edge of the car,
with a bag of ballast ready for emergencies. He actually passed over
an island, on which was a building with a light; but failed to effect
a landing, and so fell in the sea on the farther side; but, the balloon
presently righting itself, Andree, now greatly exhausted, made his last
effort, and as he rose over the next cliff jumped for his life. It was
past 7 p.m. when he found himself once again on firm ground, but with a
sprained leg and with no one within call. Seeking what shelter he could,
he lived out the long night, and, being now scarce able to stand, took
off his clothes and waved them for a signal. This signal was not seen,
yet shortly a boat put off from an island--the same that he had passed
the evening before--and rowed towards him. The boatman overnight had
seen a strange sail sweeping over land and sea, and he had come in quest
of it, bringing timely succour to the castaway.

Briefly stated, Andree's grand scheme was to convey a suitable balloon,
with means for inflating it, as also all necessary equipment, as far
towards the Pole as a ship could proceed, and thence, waiting for a
favourable wind, to sail by sky until the region of the Pole should be
crossed, and some inhabited country reached beyond. The balloon was
to be kept near the earth, and steered, as far as this might be
practicable, by means of a trail rope. The balloon, which had a capacity
of nearly 162,000 cubic feet, was made in Paris, and was provided with a
rudder sail and an arrangement whereby the hang of the trail rope could
be readily shifted to different positions on the ring. Further, to
obviate unnecessary diffusion and loss of gas at the mouth, the balloon
was fitted with a lower valve, which would only open at a moderate
pressure, namely, that of four inches of water.

All preparations were completed by the summer of 1896, and on June 7th
the party embarked at Gothenburg with all necessaries on board, arriving
at Spitzbergen on June 21st. Andree, who was to be accompanied on his
aerial voyage by two companions, M. Nils Strindberg and Dr. Ekholm,
spent some time in selecting a spot that would seem suitable for their
momentous start, and this was finally found on Dane's Island, where
their cargo was accordingly landed.

The first operation was the erection of a wooden shed, the materials for
which they had brought with them, as a protection from the wind. It was
a work which entailed some loss of time, after which the gas apparatus
had to be got into order, so that, in spite of all efforts, it was the
27th of July before the balloon was inflated and in readiness.

A member of an advance party of an eclipse expedition arriving in
Spitzbergen at this period, and paying a visit to Andree for the purpose
of taking him letters, wrote:--"We watched him deal out the letters
to his men. They are all volunteers and include seven sea captains, a
lawyer, and other people some forty in all. Andree chaffed each man
to whom he gave a letter, and all were as merry as crickets over the
business.... We spent our time in watching preparations. The vaseline
(for soaking the guide ropes) caught fire to-day, but, luckily no rope
was in the pot."

But the wind as yet was contrary, and day after day passed without any
shift to a favourable quarter, until the captain of the ship which had
conveyed them was compelled to bring matters to an issue by saying that
they must return home without delay if he was to avoid getting frozen
in for the winter. The balloon had now remained inflated for twenty-one
days, and Dr. Ekholm, calculating that the leakage of gas amounted to
nearly 1 per cent. per day, became distrustful of the capability of such
a vessel to cope with such a voyage as had been aimed at. The party had
now no choice but to return home with their balloon, leaving, however,
the shed and gas-generating apparatus for another occasion.

This occasion came the following summer, when the dauntless explorers
returned to their task, leaving Gothenburg on May 28th, 1897, in a
vessel lent by the King of Sweden, and reaching Dane's Island on the
30th of the same month. Dr. Ekholm had retired from the enterprise, but
in his place were two volunteers, Messrs. Frankel and Svedenborg, the
latter as "odd man," to fill the place of any of the other three who
might be prevented from making the final venture.

It was found that the shed had suffered during the winter, and some time
was spent in making the repairs and needful preparation, so that
the month of June was half over before all was in readiness for the
inflation. This operation was then accomplished in four days, and by
midnight of June 22nd the balloon was at her moorings, full and in
readiness; but, as in the previous year, the wind was contrary, and
remained so for nearly three weeks. This, of course, was a less serious
matter, inasmuch as the voyagers were a month earlier with their
preparation, but so long a delay must needs have told prejudicially
against the buoyancy of the balloon, and Andree is hardly to be blamed
for having, in the end, committed himself to a wind that was not wholly

The wind, if entirely from the right direction, should have been due
south, but on July 11th it had veered to a direction somewhat west of
south, and Andree, tolerating no further delay, seized this as his best
opportunity, and with a wind "whistling through the woodwork of the shed
and flapping the canvas," accompanied by Frankel and Svedenborg, started
on his ill-fated voyage.

A telegram which Andree wrote for the Press at that epoch ran thus:--
"At this moment, 2.30 p.m., we are ready to start. We shall probably be
driven in a north-north-easterly direction."

On July 22nd a carrier pigeon was recovered by the fishing boat Alken
between North Cape, Spitzbergen, and Seven Islands, bearing a message,
"July 13th, 12.30 p.m., 82 degrees 2 minutes north lat., 15 degrees
5 minutes east long. Good journey eastward. All goes well on board.

Not till August 31st was there picked up in the Arctic zone a buoy,
which is preserved in the Museum of Stockholm. It bears the message,
"Buoy No. 4. First to be thrown out. 11th July, 10 p.m., Greenwich mean
time. All well up till now. We are pursuing our course at an altitude
of about 250 metres Direction at first northerly 10 degrees east; later;
northerly 45 degrees east. Four carrier pigeons were despatched at 5.40
p.m. They flew westwards. We are now above the ice, which is very cut
up in all directions. Weather splendid. In excellent spirits.--Andree,
Svedenborg, Frankel. (Postscript later on.) Above the clouds, 7.45,
Greenwich mean time."

According to Reuter, the Anthropological and Geological Society
at Stockholm received the following telegram from a ship owner at
Mandal:--"Captain Hueland, of the steamship Vaagen who arrived there on
Monday morning, reports that when off Kola Fjord, Iceland, in 65 degrees
34 minutes north lat., 21 degrees 28 minutes west long., on May 14th
he found a drifting buoy, marked 'No. 7.' Inside the buoy was a capsule
marked 'Andree's Polar Expedition,' containing a slip of paper, on which
was given the following: 'Drifting Buoy No. 7. This buoy was thrown
out from Andree's balloon on July 11th 1897, 10.55 p.m., Greenwich mean
time, 82 degrees north lat., 25 degrees east lon. We are at an altitude
of 600 metres. All well.--Andree, Svedenborg, Frankel.'"

Commenting on the first message, Mr. Percival Spencer says:--"I cannot
place reliance upon the accuracy of either the date or else the lat. and
long. given, as I am confident that the balloon would have travelled
a greater distance in two days." It should be noted that Dane's Island
lies in 79 degrees 30 minutes north lat. and 10 degrees 10 minutes east

Mr. Spencer's opinion, carefully considered and expressed eighteen
months afterwards, will be read with real interest:--

"The distance from Dane's Island to the Pole is about 750 miles, and to
Alaska on the other side about 1,500 miles. The course of the balloon,
however, was not direct to the Pole, but towards Franz Josef Land (about
600 miles) and to the Siberian coast (another 800 miles). Judging from
the description of the wind at the start, and comparing it with my own
ballooning experience, I estimate its speed as 40 miles per hour, and
it will, therefore, be evident that a distance of 2,000 miles would be
covered in 50 hours, that is two days and two hours after the start. I
regard all theories as to the balloon being capable of remaining in the
air for a month as illusory. No free balloon has ever remained aloft for
more than 36 hours, but with the favourable conditions at the northern
regions (where the sun does not set and where the temperature remains
equable) a balloon might remain in the air for double the length of time
which I consider ample for the purpose of Polar exploration."

A record of the direction of the wind was made after Andree's departure,
and proved that there was a fluctuation in direction from S.W. to N.W.,
indicating that the voyagers may have been borne across towards Siberia.
This, however, can be but surmise. All aeronauts of experience know that
it is an exceedingly difficult manoeuvre to keep a trail rope dragging
on the ground if it is desirable to prevent contact with the earth on
the one hand, or on the other to avoid loss of gas. A slight increase of
temperature or drying off of condensed moisture may--indeed, is sure to
after a while--lift the rope off the ground, in which case the balloon,
rising into upper levels, may be borne away on currents which may be of
almost any direction, and of which the observer below may know nothing.
As to the actual divergence from the wind's direction which a trail rope
and side sail might be hoped to effect, it may be confidently stated
that, notwithstanding some wonderful accounts that have gone abroad, it
must not be relied on as commonly amounting to much more than one or, at
the most, two points.

Although it is to be feared that trustworthy information as to the
ultimate destination of Andree's balloon may never be gained, yet we may
safely state that his ever famous, though regrettable, voyage was the
longest in duration ever attained. At the end of 48 hours his vessel
would seem to have been still well up and going strong. The only other
previous voyage that had in duration of travel approached this record
was that made by M. Mallet, in 1892, and maintained for 36 hours. Next
we may mention that of M. Herve, in 1886, occupying 24 1/2 hours, which
feat, however, was almost equal led by the great Leipzig balloon in
1897, which, with eight people in the car, remained up for 24 1/4 hours,
and did not touch earth till 1,032 miles had been traversed.

The fabric of Andree's balloon may not be considered to have been the
best for such an exceptional purpose. Dismissing considerations of cost,
goldbeaters' skin would doubtless have been more suitable. The military
balloons at Aldershot are made of this, and one such balloon has been
known to remain inflated for three months with very little loss. It is
conceivable, therefore, that the chances of the voyagers, whose ultimate
safety depended so largely upon the staying power of their aerial
vessel, might have been considerably increased.

One other expedient, wholly impracticable, but often seriously
discussed, may be briefly referred to, namely, the idea of taking up
apparatus for pumping gas into metal receivers as the voyage proceeds,
in order to raise or lower a balloon, and in this way to prolong its
life. Mr. Wenham has investigated the point with his usual painstaking
care, and reduced its absurdity to a simple calculation, which should
serve to banish for good such a mere extravagant theory.

Suppose, he says, the gas were compressed to one-twentieth part of its
bulk, which would mean a pressure within its receiver of 300 lbs. per
square inch, and that each receiver had a capacity of 1 cubic foot,
while for safety sake it was made of steel plates one-twentieth of an
inch thick, then each receiver would weigh 10 lbs., and to liberate
1,000 feet clearly a weight of 500 lbs. would have to be taken up. Now,
when it is considered that 1,000 cubic feet of hydrogen will only
lift 72 lbs., the scheme begins to look hope less enough. But when the
question of the pumping apparatus, to be worked by hand, is contemplated
the difficulties introduced become yet more insuperable. The only
feasible suggestion with respect the use of compressed gas is that of
taking on board charged cylinders under high pressure, which, after
being discharged to supply the leakage of the balloon could, in an
uninhabited country, be cast out as ballast last. It will need no
pointing out, however, that such an idea would be practically as futile
as another which has gravely been recommended, namely, that of heating
the gas of the balloon by a Davy lamp, so as to increase its buoyancy
at will. Major Baden-Powell has aptly described this as resembling "an
attempt to warm a large hall with a small spirit lamp."

In any future attempt to reach the Pole by balloon it is not
unreasonable to suppose that wireless telegraphy will be put in
practice to maintain communication with the base. The writer's personal
experience of the possibilities afforded by this mode of communication,
yet in its infancy, will be given.


In the autumn of 1898 the aeronautical world was interested to hear
that a young Brazilian, M. Santos Dumont, had completed a somewhat novel
dirigible balloon, cylindrical in shape, with conical ends, 83 feet long
by 12 feet in diameter, holding 6,500 cubic feet of gas, and having a
small compensating balloon of 880 cubic feet capacity. For a net was
substituted a simple contrivance, consisting of two side pockets,
running the length of the balloon, and containing battens of wood, to
which were affixed the suspension cords, bands being also sewn over the
upper part of the balloon connecting the two pockets. The most important
novelty, however, was the introduction of a small petroleum motor
similar to those used for motor tricycles.

The inventor ascended in this balloon, inflated with pure hydrogen, from
the Jardin d'Acclimatation, Paris, and circled several times round the
large captive balloon in the Gardens, after which, moving towards the
Bois de Boulogne, he made several sweeps of 100 yards radius. Then the
pump of the compensator caused the engine to stop, and the machine,
partially collapsing, fell to the ground. Santos Dumont was somewhat
shaken, but announced his intention of making other trials. In this bold
and successful attempt there was clear indication of a fresh phase in
the construction of the airship, consisting in the happy adoption of the
modern type of petroleum motor. Two other hying machines were heard of
about this date, one by Professor Giampietre, of Pavia, cigar-shaped,
driven by screws, and rigged with masts and sails. The other, which had
been constructed and tested in strict privacy, was the invention of
a French engineer, M. Ader, and was imagined to imitate the essential
structure of a bird. Two steam motors of 20-horse power supplied
the power. It was started by being run on the ground on small wheels
attached to it, and it was claimed that before a breakdown occurred the
machine had actually raised itself into the air.

Of Santos Dumont the world was presently to know more, and the same
must be said of another inventor, Dr. Barton, of Beckenham, who
shortly completed an airship model carrying aeroplanes and operated by
clockwork. In an early experiment this model travelled four miles in
twenty-three minutes.

But another airship, a true leviathan, had been growing into stately and
graceful proportions on the shores of the Bodenzee in Wurtemberg, and
was already on the eve of completion. Count Zeppelin, a lieut.-general
in the German Army, who had seen service in the Franco-German War, had
for some years devoted his fortune and energy to the practical study
of aerial navigation, and had prosecuted experiments on a large scale.
Eventually, having formed a company with a large capital, he was enabled
to construct an airship which in size has been compared to a British
man-of-war. Cigar-shaped, its length was no less than 420 feet, and
diameter 40 feet, while its weight amounted to no more than 7,250 lbs.
The framework, which for lightness had been made of aluminium, was,
with the object of preventing all the gas collecting at one end of its
elongated form, subdivided into seventeen compartments, each of these
compartments containing a completely fitted gas balloon, made of oiled
cotton and marvellously gas tight. A steering apparatus was placed
both fore and aft, and at a safe distance below the main structure were
fixed, also forward and aft, on aluminium platforms, two Daimler motor
engines of 16-horse power, working aluminium propellers of four blades
at the rate of 1,000 revolutions a minute. Finally, firmly attached
to the inner framework by rods of aluminium, were two cars of the same
metal, furnished with buffer springs to break the force of a fall. The
trial trip was not made till the summer following--June, 1900--and, in
the meanwhile, experiments had gone forward with another mode of flight,
terminating, unhappily, in the death of one of the most expert and
ingenious of mechanical aeronauts.

Mr. Percy S. Pilcher, now thirty-three years of age, having received his
early training in the Navy, retired from the Service to become a civil
engineer, and had been for some time a partner in the firm of Wilson
and Pilcher. For four or five years he had been experimenting in soaring
flight, using a Lilienthal machine, which he improved to suit his own
methods. Among these was the device of rising off the ground by being
rapidly towed by a line against the wind.

At the end of September he gave an exhibition at Stamford Park before
Lord Bray and a select party of friends--this in spite of an unsuitable
afternoon of unsteady wind and occasional showers. A long towing line
was provided, which, being passed round pulley blocks and dragged by
a couple of horses, was capable of being hauled in at high speed. The
first trial, though ending in an accident, was eminently satisfactory.
The apparatus, running against the wind, had risen some distance,
when the line broke, yet the inventor descended slowly and safely with
outstretched wings. The next trial also commenced well, with an easy
rise to a height of some thirty feet. At that point, however, the tail
broke with a snap, and the machine, pitching over, fell a complete
wreck. Mr. Pilcher was found insensible, with his thigh broken, and
though no other serious injury was apparent, he succumbed two days
afterwards without recovering consciousness. It was surmised that
shrinkage of the canvas of the tail, through getting wet, had strained
and broken its bamboo stretcher.

This autumn died Gaston Tissandier, at the age of fifty-six; and in the
month of December, at a ripe old age, while still in full possession of
intellectual vigour, Mr. Coxwell somewhat suddenly passed away. Always
keenly interested in the progress of aeronautics; he had but recently,
in a letter to the Standard, proposed a well-considered and practical
method of employing Montgolfier reconnoitring balloons, portable,
readily inflated, and especially suited to the war in South Africa.
Perhaps the last letters of a private nature penned by Mr. Coxwell
were to the writer and his daughter, full of friendly and valuable
suggestion, and more particularly commenting on a recent scientific
aerial voyage, which proved to be not only sensational, but established
a record in English ballooning.

The great train of the November meteors, known as the Leonids, which at
regular periods of thirty-three years had in the past encountered the
earth's atmosphere, was due, and over-due. The cause of this, and of
their finally eluding observation, need only be very briefly touched
on here. The actual meteoric train is known to travel in an elongated
ellipse, the far end of which lies near the confines of the solar
system, while at a point near the hither end the earth's orbit runs
slantingly athwart it, forming, as it were, a level crossing common
to the two orbits, the earth taking some five or six hours in transit.
Calculation shows that the meteor train is to be expected at this
crossing every thirty-three and a third years, while the train is
extended to such an enormous length--taking more than a year to draw
clear--that the earth must needs encounter it ere it gets by, possibly
even two years running. There could be no absolute certainty about the
exact year, nor the exact night when the earth and the meteors would
foregather, owing to the uncertain disturbance which the latter must
suffer from the pull of the planetary bodies in the long journey out
and home again among them. As is now known, this disturbing effect had
actually dispersed the train.

The shower, which was well seen in 1866, was pretty confidently expected
in 1899, and to guard against the mischance of cloudy weather, it was
arranged that the writer should, on behalf of the Times newspaper, make
an ascent on the right night to secure observations. Moreover, it was
arranged that he should have, as chief assistant, his own daughter,
an enthusiastic lady aeronaut, who had also taken part in previous
astronomical work.

Unfortunately there were two nights, those of November 14th and 15th,
when the expected shower seemed equally probable, and, taking counsel
with the best authorities in the astronomical world, it seemed that the
only course to avoid disappointment would be to have a balloon filled
and moored in readiness for an immediate start, either on the first
night or on the second.

This settled the matter from the astronomical side, but there was the
aeronautical side also to be considered. A balloon of 56,000 cubic feet
capacity was the largest available for the occasion, and a night ascent
with three passengers and instruments would need plenty of lifting power
to meet chance emergencies. Thus it seemed that a possible delay of
forty-eight hours might entail a greater leakage of gas than could be

The leakage might be expected chiefly to occur at the valve in the
head of the balloon, it being extremely difficult to render any form of
mechanical valve gas tight, however carefully its joints be stopped with
luting. On this account, therefore, it was determined that the balloon
should be fitted with what is known as a solid or rending valve,
consisting simply of balloon fabric tied hard and fast over the entire
upper outlet, after the fashion of a jam pot cover. The outlet itself
was a gaping hole of over 2 feet across; but by the time its covering
had been carefully varnished over all leakage was sufficiently
prevented, the one drawback to this method being the fact that the
liberation of gas now admitted of no regulation. Pulling the valve line
would simply mean opening the entire wide aperture, which could in no
way be closed again.

The management of such a valve consists in allowing the balloon to
sink spontaneously earthwards, and when it has settled near the ground,
having chosen a desirable landing place, to tear open the so-called
valve once and for all.

This expedient, dictated by necessity, seeming sufficient for the
purpose at hand, preparations were proceeded with, and, under the
management of Mr. Stanley Spencer, who agreed to act as aeronaut, a
large balloon, with solid valve, was brought down to Newbury gas works
on November 14th, and, being inflated during the afternoon, was full and
made snug by sundown. But as the meteor radiant would not be well above
the horizon till after midnight, the aeronautical party retired for
refreshment, and subsequently for rest, when, as the night wore on, it
became evident that, though the sky remained clear, there would be no
meteor display that night. The next day was overcast, and by nightfall
hopelessly so, the clouds ever thickening, with absence of wind or any
indication which might give promise of a change. Thus by midnight it
became impossible to tell whether any display were in progress or not.
Under these circumstances, it might have been difficult to decide when
to make the start with the best show of reason. Clearly too early a
start could not subsequently be rectified; the balloon, once off, could
not come back again; while, once liberated, it would be highly unwise
for it to remain aloft and hidden by clouds for more than some two
hours, lest it should be carried out to sea.

Happily the right decision under these circumstances was perfectly
clear. Other things being equal, the best time would be about 4 a.m., by
which period the moon, then near the full, would be getting low, and the
two hours of darkness left would afford the best seeing. Leaving, then,
an efficient outlook on the balloon ground, the party enjoyed for some
hours the entertainment offered them by the Newbury Guildhall Club, and
at 4 a.m. taking their seats in the car, sailed up into the calm chilly
air of the November night.

But the chilliness did not last for long. A height of 1,500 feet was
read by the Davy lamp, and then we entered fog--warm, wetting fog,
through which the balloon would make no progress in spite of a prodigal
discharge of sand. The fact was that the balloon, which had become
chilled through the night hours, was gathering a great weight of
moisture from condensation on its surface, and when, at last, the whole
depth of the cloud, 1,500 feet, had been penetrated, the chill of the
upper air crippled the balloon and sent her plunging down again into the
mist, necessitating yet further expenditure of sand, which by this time
had amounted to no less than 3 1/2 cwt. in twenty minutes. And then at
last we reached our level, a region on the upper margin of the cloud
floor, where evaporation reduced the temperature, that had recently been
that of greenhouse warmth, to intense cold.

That evaporation was going on around us on a gigantic scale was made
very manifest. The surface of the vast cloud floor below us was in a
perfect turmoil, like that of a troubled sea. If the cloud surface could
be compared to anything on earth it most resembled sea where waves
are running mountains high. At one moment we should be sailing over
a trough, wide and deep below us, the next a mighty billow would toss
itself aloft and vanish utterly into space. Everywhere wreaths of
mist with ragged fringes were withering away into empty air, and, more
remarkable yet, was the conflict of wind which sent the cloud wrack
flying simply in all directions.

For two hours now there was opportunity for observing at leisure all
that could be made of the falling meteors. There were a few, and these,
owing to our clear, elevated region, were exceptionally bright. The
majority, too, were true Leonids, issuing from the radiant point in the
"Sickle," but these were not more numerous than may be counted on that
night in any year, and served to emphasise the fact that no real display
was in progress. The outlook was maintained, and careful notes made for
two hours, at the end of which time the dawn began to break, the stars
went in, and we were ready to pack up and come down.

But the point was that we were not coming down. We were at that time,
6 a.m., 4,000 feet high, and it needs no pointing out that at such an
altitude it would have been madness to tear open our huge rending valve,
thus emptying the balloon of gas. It may also be unnecessary to point
out that in an ordinary afternoon ascent such a valve would be perfectly
satisfactory, for under these circumstances the sun presently must go
down, the air must grow chill, and the balloon must come earthward,
allowing of an easy descent until a safe and suitable opportunity
for rending the valve occurred; but now we knew that conditions were
reversed, and that the sun was just going to rise.

And then it was we realised that we were caught in a trap. From that
moment it was painfully evident that we were powerless to act, and were
at the mercy of circumstances. By this time the light was strong, and,
being well above the tossing billows of mist, we commanded an extended
view on every side, which revealed, however, only the upper unbroken
surface of the dense cloud canopy that lay over all the British Isles.
We could only make a rough guess as to our probable locality. We
knew that our course at starting lay towards the west, and if we were
maintaining that course a travel of scarcely more than sixty miles would
carry us out to the open sea. We had already been aloft for two hours,
and as we were at an altitude at which fast upper currents are commonly
met with, it was high time that, for safety, we should be coming down;
yet it was morally certain that it would be now many hours before
our balloon would commence to descend of its own accord by sheer slow
leakage of gas, by which time, beyond all reasonable doubt, we must
be carried far out over the Atlantic. All we could do was to listen
intently for any sounds that might reach us from earth, and assure us
that we were still over the land; and for a length of time such sounds
were vouchsafed us--the bark of a dog, the lowing of cattle, the ringing
trot of a horse on some hard road far down.

And then, as we were expecting, the sun climbed up into an unsullied
sky, and, mounting by leaps and bounds, we watched the cloud floor
receding beneath us. The effect was extremely beautiful. A description
written to the Times the next morning, while the impression was still
fresh, and from notes made at this period, ran thus:--"Away to an
infinitely distant horizon stretched rolling billows of snowy whiteness,
broken up here and there into seeming icefields, with huge fantastic
hummocks. Elsewhere domes and spires reared themselves above the general
surface, or an isolated Matterhorn towered into space. In some quarters
it was impossible to look without the conviction that we actually beheld
the outline of lofty cliffs overhanging a none too distant sea." Shortly
we began to hear loud reports overhead, resembling small explosions,
and we knew what these were--the moist, shrunken netting was giving out
under the hot sun and yielding now and again with sudden release to the
rapidly expanding gas. It was, therefore, with grave concern, but with
no surprise, that when we next turned to the aneroid we found the index
pointing to 9,000 feet, and still moving upwards.

Hour after hour passed by, and, sounds having ceased to reach us, it
remains uncertain whether or no we were actually carried out to sea
and headed back again by contrary currents, an experience with which
aeronauts, including the writer, have been familiar; but, at length,
there was borne up to us the distant sound of heavy hammers and of
frequent trains, from which we gathered that we were probably over
Bristol, and it was then that the thought occurred to my daughter that
we might possibly communicate with those below with a view to succour.
This led to our writing the following message many times over on blank
telegraph forms and casting them down:--"Urgent. Large balloon from
Newbury travelling overhead above the clouds. Cannot descend. Telegraph
to sea coast (coast-guards) to be ready to rescue.--Bacon and Spencer."

While thus occupied we caught the sound of waves, and the shriek of a
ship's siren. We were crossing a reach of the Severn, and most of our
missives probably fell in the sea. But over the estuary there must have
been a cold upper current blowing, which crippled our balloon, for the
aneroid presently told of a fall of 2,000 feet. It was now past noon,
and to us the turn of the tide was come. Very slowly, and with strange
fluctuations, the balloon crept down till it reached and became
enveloped in the cloud below, and then the end was near. The actual
descent occupied nearly two hours, and affords a curious study in
aerostation. The details of the balloon's dying struggles and of our own
rough descent, entailing the fracture of my daughter's arm, are told in
another volume.{*}

We fell near Neath, Glamorganshire, only one and a half miles short
of the sea, completing a voyage which is a record in English
ballooning--ten hours from start to finish.

* "By Land and Sky," by the Author.


The first trial of the Zeppelin air ship was arranged to take place on
June 30th, 1900, a day which, from absence of wind, was eminently well
suited for the purpose; but the inflation proved too slow a process,
and operations were postponed to the morrow. The morrow, however, was
somewhat windy, causing delay, and by the time all was in readiness
darkness had set in and the start was once more postponed. On
the evening of the third day the monster craft was skilfully and
successfully manoeuvred, and, rising with a very light wind, got fairly
away, carrying Count Zeppelin and four other persons in the two cars.
Drifting with the wind, it attained a height of some 800 or 900 feet,
at which point the steering apparatus being brought into play it circled
round and faced the wind, when it remained stationary. But not for long.
Shortly it began to descend and, sinking gradually, gracefully, and
in perfect safety, in about nine minutes it reached and rested on the
water, when it was towed home.

A little later in the month, July, another trial was made, when a wind
was blowing estimated at sixteen miles an hour. As on the previous
occasion, the direct influence of the sun was avoided by waiting till
evening hours. It ascended at 8 p.m., and the engines getting to work
it made a slow progress of about two miles an hour against the wind for
about 3 1/2 miles, when one of the rudders gave way, and the machine was
obliged to descend.

On the evening of October 24th of the same year, in very calm weather
and with better hope, another ascent was made. On this occasion,
however, success was frustrated by one of the rear rudders getting foul
of the gear, followed by the escape of gas from one of the balloons.

Another and more successful trial took place in the same month, again in
calm atmosphere. Inferior gas was employed, and it would appear that the
vessel had not sufficient buoyancy. It remained aloft for a period of
twenty minutes, during which it proved perfectly manageable, making
a graceful journey out and home, and returning close to its point of
departure. This magnificent air ship, the result of twenty years of
experiment, has since been abandoned and broken up; yet the sacrifice
has not been without result. Over and above the stimulus which Count
Zeppelin's great endeavour has given to the aeronautical world, two
special triumphs are his. He has shown balloonists how to make a
perfectly gas-tight material, and has raised powerful petroleum motors
in a balloon with safety.

In the early part of 1900 it was announced that a member of the Paris
Aero Club, who at the time withheld his name (M. Deutsch) offered a
prize of 100,000 francs to the aeronaut who, either in a balloon
or flying machine, starting from the grounds of the Aero Club at
Longchamps, would make a journey round the Eiffel Tower, returning to
the starting place within half an hour. The donor would withdraw his
prize if not won within five years, and in the meanwhile would pay 4,000
francs annually towards the encouragement of worthy experimenters.

It was from this time that flying machines in great variety and goodly
number began to be heard of, if not actually seen. One of the earliest
to be announced in the Press was a machine invented by the Russian,
Feedoroff, and the Frenchman, Dupont. Dr. Danilewsky came forward with
a flying machine combining balloon and aeroplane, the steering of which
would be worked like a velocipede by the feet of the aeronaut.

Mr. P. Y. Alexander, of Bath, who had long been an enthusiastic
balloonist, and who had devoted a vast amount of pains, originality, and
engineering skill to the pursuit of aeronautics, was at this time
giving much attention to the flying machine, and was, indeed, one of the
assistants in the first successful launching of the Zeppelin airship.
In concert with Mr. W. G. Walker, A.M.I.C.E., Mr. Alexander carried out
some valuable and exhaustive experiments on the lifting power of air
propellers, 30 feet in diameter, driven by a portable engine. The
results, which were of a purely technical nature, have been embodied in
a carefully compiled memoir.

An air ship now appeared, invented by M. Rose, consisting of two
elongated vessels filled with gas, and carrying the working gear and car
between them. The machine was intentionally made heavier than air, and
was operated by a petrol motor of 12-horse power.

It was now that announcements began to be made to the effect that,
next to the Zeppelin air ship, M. Santos Dumont's balloon was probably
attracting most of the attention of experts. The account given of this
air vessel by the Daily Express was somewhat startling. The balloon
proper was compared to a large torpedo. Three feet beneath this hangs
the gasoline motor which is to supply the power. The propeller is 12
feet in diameter, and is revolved so rapidly by the motor that the
engine frequently gets red hot. The only accommodation for the traveller
is a little bicycle seat, from which the aeronaut will direct his
motor and steering gear by means of treadles. Then the inclination or
declination of his machine must be noted on the spirit level at his
side, and the 200 odd pounds of ballast must be regulated as the course

A more detailed account of this navigable balloon was furnished by a
member of the Paris Aero Club. From this authority we learn that the
capacity of the balloon was 10,700 cubic feet. It contained an inner
balloon and an air fan, the function of which was to maintain the shape
of the balloon when meeting the wind, and the whole was operated by a
10-horse power motor capable of working the screw at 100 revolutions per

But before the aerial exploits of Santos Dumont had become famous,
balloons had again claimed public attention. On August 1st Captain
Spelterini, with two companions, taking a balloon and 180 cylinders
of hydrogen to the top of the Rigi and ascending thence, pursued a
north-east course, across extensive and beautiful tracts of icefield and
mountain fastnesses unvisited by men. The descent, which was difficult
and critical, was happily manoeuvred. This took place on the Gnuetseven,
a peak over 5,000 feet high, the plateau on which the voyagers landed
being described as only 50 yards square, surrounded by precipices.

On the 10th of September following the writer was fortunate in carrying
out some wireless telegraphy experiments in a balloon, the success of
which is entirely due to the unrivalled skill of Mr. Nevil Maskelyne,
F.R.A.S., and to his clever adaptation of the special apparatus of his
own invention to the exigencies of a free balloon. The occasion was the
garden party at the Bradford meeting of the British Association, Admiral
Sir Edmund Fremantle taking part in the voyage, with Mr. Percival
Spencer in charge. The experiment was to include the firing of a mine
in the grounds two minutes after the balloon had left, and this item
was entirely successful. The main idea was to attempt to establish
communication between a base and a free balloon retreating through space
at a height beyond practicable gun shot. The wind was fast and squally,
and the unavoidable rough jolting which the car received at the start
put the transmitting instrument out of action. The messages, however,
which were sent from the grounds at Lister Park were received and
watched by the occupants of the car up to a distance of twenty miles, at
which point the voyage terminated.

On September 30th, and also on October 9th, of this year, took place
two principal balloon races from Vincennes in connection with the Paris
Exposition. In the first race, among those who competed were M. Jacques
Faure, the Count de la Vaulx, and M. Jacques Balsan. The Count was the
winner, reaching Wocawek, in Russian Poland, a travel of 706 miles, in
21 hours 34 minutes. M. Balsan was second, descending near Dantzig in
East Prussia, 757 miles, in 22 hours. M. Jacques Faure reached Mamlitz,
in East Prussia, a distance of 753 miles.

In the final race the Count de la Vaulx made a record voyage of 1,193
miles, reaching Korosticheff, in Russia, in 35 hours 45 minutes,
attaining a maximum altitude of 18,810 feet. M. J. Balsan reached a
greater height, namely, 21,582 feet, travelling to Rodom, in Russia, a
distance of 843 miles, in 27 hours 25 minutes.

Some phenomenal altitudes were attained at this time. In September,
1898, Dr. Berson, of Berlin, ascended from the Crystal Palace in a
balloon inflated with hydrogen, under the management of Mr. Stanley
Spencer, oxygen being an essential part of the equipment. The start was
made at 5 p.m., and the balloon at first drifted south-east, out over
the mouth of the Thames, until at an altitude of 10,000 feet an upper
current changed the course to southwest, the balloon mounting rapidly
till 23,000 feet was reached, at which height the coast of France was
plainly seen. At 25,000 feet both voyagers were gasping, and compelled
to inhale oxygen. At 27,500 feet, only four bags of ballast being left,
the descent was commenced, and a safe landing was effected at Romford.

Subsequently Dr. Berson, in company with Dr. Suring, ascending from
Berlin, attained an altitude of 34,000 feet. At 30,000 feet the
aeronauts were inhaling oxygen, and before reaching their highest point
both had for a considerable time remained unconscious.

In 1901 a new aeroplane flying machine began to attract attention, the
invention of Herr Kress. A novel feature of the machine was a device to
render it of avail for Arctic travel. In shape it might be compared to
an iceboat with two keels and a long stem, the keels being adapted to
run on ice or snow, while the boat would float on water. Power was to be
derived from a petrol motor.

At the same period M. Henry Sutor was busy on Lake Constance with an air
ship designed also to float on water. Then Mr. Buchanan followed with
a fish-shaped vessel, one of the most important specialities of which
consisted in side propellers, the surfaces of which were roughened with
minute diagonal grooves to effect a greater grip on the air.

No less original was the air ship, 100 feet long, and carrying 18,000
cubic feet of gas, which Mr. W. Beedle was engaged upon. In this
machine, besides the propellers for controlling the horizontal motion,
there was one to regulate vertical motion, with a view of obviating
expenditure of gas or ballast.

But by this time M. Santos Dumont, pursuing his hobby with unparalleled
perseverance, had built in succession no less than six air ships,
meeting with no mean success, profiting by every lesson taught by
failures, and making light of all accidents, great or small. On July
15th, 1901, he made a famous try for the Deutsch prize in a cigar-shaped
balloon, 110 feet long, 19,000 cubic feet capacity, carrying a Daimler
oil motor of 15-horse power. The day was not favourable, but, starting
from the Parc d'Aerostation, he was abreast of the Eiffel Tower in
thirteen minutes, circling round which, and battling against a head
wind, he reached the grounds of the Aero Club in 41 minutes from the
start, or 11 minutes late by the conditions of the prize. A cylinder had
broken down, and the balance of the vessel had become upset.

Within a fortnight--July 29th--in favourable weather, he made another
flight, lasting fifteen minutes, at the end of which he had returned to
his starting ground. Then on August 8th a more momentous attempt came
off. Sailing up with a rapid ascent, and flying with the wind, Santos
Dumont covered the distance to the Tower in five minutes only, and
gracefully swung round; but, immediately after, the wind played havoc,
slowing down the motor, at the same time damaging the balloon, and
causing an escape of gas. On this Santos Dumont, ascending higher into
the sky, quitted the car, and climbed along the keel to inspect, and,
if possible, rectify the motor, but with little success. The balloon was
emptying, and the machine pitched badly, till a further rent occurred,
when it commenced falling hopelessly and with a speed momentarily

Slanting over a roof, the balloon caught a chimney and tore asunder; but
the wreck, also catching, held fast, while the car hung helplessly down
a blank wall. In this perilous predicament great coolness and agility
alone averted disaster, till firemen were able to come to the rescue.

The air ship was damaged beyond repair, but by September 6th another was
completed, and on trial appeared to work well until, while travelling at
speed, it was brought up and badly strained by the trail rope catching
in trees.

Early in the next month the young Brazilian was aloft again, with
weather conditions entirely in his favour; but again certain minor
mishaps prevented his next struggle for the prize, which did not take
place till the 19th. On this day a light cross wind was blowing, not
sufficient, however, seriously to influence the first stage of the time
race, and the outward journey was accomplished with a direct flight in
nine minutes. On rounding the tower, however, the wind began to tell
prejudicially, and the propeller became deranged. On this, letting his
vessel fall off from the wind, Santos Dumont crawled along the framework
till he reached the motor, which he succeeded in again setting in
working order, though not without a delay of several minutes and some
loss of ground. From that point the return journey was accomplished
in eight minutes, and the race was, at the time, declared lost by 40
seconds only.

The most important and novel feature in the air ships constructed by
Santos Dumont was the internal ballonet, inflated automatically by a
ventilator, the expedient being designed to preserve the shape of the
main balloon itself while meeting the wind. On the whole, it answered
well, and took the place of the heavy wire cage used by Zeppelin.

M. de Fonvielle, commenting on the achievements of Santos Dumont,
wrote:--"It does not appear that he has navigated his balloon against
more than very light winds, but in his machinery he has shown such
attention to detail that it may reasonably be expected that if he
continues to increase his motive power he will, ere long, exceed past

Mr. Chanute has a further word to say about the possibility of making
balloons navigable. He considers that their size will have to be great
to the verge of impracticability and the power of the motor enormous in
proportion to its weight. As to flying machines, properly so called, he
calculates the best that has been done to be the sustaining of from 27
lbs. to 55 lbs. per horse power by impact upon the air. But Mr. Chanute
also argues that the equilibrium is of prime importance, and on this
point there could scarcely be a greater authority. No one of living men
has given more attention to the problem of "soaring," and it is stated
that he has had about a thousand "slides" made by assistants, with
different types of machine, and all without the slightest accident.

Many other aerial vessels might be mentioned. Mr. T. H. Bastin, of
Clapham, has been engaged for many years on a machine which should
imitate bird flight as nearly as this may be practicable.

Baron Bradsky aims at a navigable balloon on an ambitious scale. M.
Tatin is another candidate for the Deutsch prize. Of Dr. Barton's air
ship more is looked for, as being designed for the War Office. It is
understood that the official requirements demand a machine which, while
capable of transporting a man through the air at a speed of 13 miles an
hour, can remain fully inflated for 48 hours. One of the most sanguine,
as well as enterprising, imitators of Santos Dumont was a fellow
countryman, Auguste Severo. Of his machine during construction little
could be gathered, and still less seen, from the fact that the various
parts were being manufactured at different workshops, but it was known
to be of large size and to be fitted with powerful motors. This was an
ill-fated vessel. At an early hour on May 12th of this year, 1902, all
Paris was startled by a report that M. Severo and his assistant, M.
Sachet had been killed while making a trial excursion. It appears that
at daybreak it had been decided that the favourable moment for trial
had arrived. The machinery was got ready, and with little delay the air
vessel was dismissed and rose quietly and steadily into the calm sky.
The Daily Mail gives the following account of what ensued:--

"For the first few minutes all went well, and the motor seemed to be
working satisfactorily. The air ship answered the helm readily, and
admiring exclamations rose from the crowd.... But as the vessel rose
higher she was seen to fall off from the wind, while the aeronauts
could be seen vainly endeavouring to keep her head on. Then M. Severo
commenced throwing out ballast.... All this time the ship was gradually
soaring higher and higher until, just as it was over the Montparnasse
Cemetery, at the height of 2,000 feet, a sheet of flame was seen to
shoot up from one of the motors, and instantly the immense silk envelope
containing 9,000 cubic feet of hydrogen was enveloped in leaping tongues
of fire.... As soon as the flames came in contact with the gas a
tremendous explosion followed, and in an instant all that was left of
the air ship fell to the earth." Both aeronauts were dashed to pieces.
It was thought that the fatality was caused through faulty construction,
the escape valve for the gas being situated only about nine feet from
the motor. It was announced by Count de la Vaulx that during the summer
of 1901 he would attempt to cross the Mediterranean by a balloon,
provisioned for three weeks, maintaining communication with the
coast during his voyage by wireless telegraphy and other methods of
signalling. He was to make use of the "Herve Deviator," or steering
apparatus, which may be described as a series of cupshaped plates
dipping in the water at the end of a trail rope. By means of controlling
cords worked from the car, the whole series of plates could be turned
at an angle to the direction of the wind, by which the balloon's course
would be altered. Count de la Vaulx attempted this grand journey on
October 12th, starting from Toulon with the intention of reaching
Algiers, taking the precaution, however, of having a cruiser in
attendance. When fifty miles out from Marseilles a passing steamer
received from the balloon the signal, "All's well"; but the wind had
veered round to the east, and, remaining persistently in this quarter,
the Count abandoned his venture, and, signalling to the cruiser,
succeeded in alighting on her deck, not, however, before he had
completed the splendid and record voyage of 41 hours' duration.


Clearly the time has not yet arrived when the flying machine will be
serviceable in war. Yet we are not without those theorisers who, at the
present moment, would seriously propose schemes for conveying dynamite
and other explosives by air ship, or dropping them over hostile forces
or fortresses, or even fleets at sea. They go yet further, and gravely
discuss the point whether such warfare would be legitimate. We,
however, may say at once, emphatically, that any such scheme is simply
impracticable. It must be abundantly evident that, so far, no form of
dirigible air ship exists which could be relied on to carry out any
required manoeuvre in such atmospheric conditions as generally prevail.
If, even in calm and favourable weather, more often than not motors
break down, or gear carries away, what hope is there for any aerial
craft which would attempt to battle with such wind currents as commonly
blow aloft?

And when we turn to the balloon proper, are chances greatly improved?
The eminently practical aeronaut, John Wise, as was told in Chapter
XII., prepared a scheme for the reduction of Vera Cruz by the agency
of a balloon. Let us glance at it. A single balloon was to suffice,
measuring 100 feet in diameter, and capable of raising in the gross
30,000 lbs. To manoeuvre this monstrous engine he calculates he would
require a cable five miles long, by means of which he hoped, in some
manner, to work his way directly over the fortress, and to remain poised
at that point at the height of a mile in the sky. Once granted that he
could arrive and maintain himself at that position, the throwing out of
combustibles would be simple, though even then the spot where they would
alight after the drop of a mile would be by no means certain. It is
also obvious that a vast amount of gas would have to be sacrificed
to compensate for the prodigal discharge of ballast in the form of

The idea of manoeuvring a balloon in a wind, and poising it in the
manner suggested, is, of course, preposterous; and when one considers
the attempt to aim bombs from a moving balloon high in air the case
becomes yet more absurd. Any such missile would partake of the motion
of the balloon itself, and it would be impossible to tell where it would
strike the earth.

To give an example which is often enough tried in balloon travel when
the ground below is clear. A glass bottle (presumably empty) is cast
overboard and its fall watched. It is seen not to be left behind, but to
keep pace with the balloon, shrinking gradually to an object too small
to be discerned, except when every now and then a ray of sunlight
reflected off it reveals it for a moment as it continues to plunge
downwards. After a very few seconds the impression is that it is about
to reach the earth, and the eye forms a guess at some spot which it
will strike; but the spot is quickly passed, and the bottle travels far
beyond across a field, over the further fence, and vastly further yet;
indeed, inasmuch as to fall a mile in air a heavy body may take over
twenty seconds--and twenty seconds is long to those who watch--it is
often impossible to tell to two or three fields where it will finally

All this while the risk that a balloon would run of being riddled by
bullets, shrapnel, or pom-poms has not been taken into account, and as
to the estimate of this risk there is some difference of opinion. The
balloon corps and the artillery apparently approach the question with
different bias. On the one hand, it is stated with perfect truth that
a free balloon, which is generally either rising or falling, as well
as moving across country, is a hard object to hit, and a marksman would
only strike it with a chance or blundering shot; but, on the other hand
let us take the following report of three years ago.

The German artillery had been testing the efficiency of a quick-firing
gun when used against a balloon, and they decided that the latter would
have no chance of escape except at night. A German kite-balloon was kept
moving at an altitude of 600 metres, and the guns trained upon it were
distant 3,000 metres. It was then stated that after the third discharge
of the rapid firing battery the range was found, when all was at once
over with the balloon; for, not only was it hit with every discharge,
but it was presently set on fire and annihilated.

But, in any case, the antique mode of keeping a balloon moored at any
spot as a post of observation must be abandoned in modern warfare. Major
Baden-Powell, speaking from personal experience in South Africa, has
shown how dangerous, or else how useless, such a form of reconnaissance
has become. "I remember," he says, "at the battle of Magersfontein my
company was lying down in extended order towards the left of our line.
We were perfectly safe from musketry fire, as we lay, perhaps, two miles
from the Boer trenches, which were being shelled by some of our guns
close by. The enemy's artillery was practically silent. Presently, on
looking round, I descried our balloon away out behind us about two miles
off. Then she steadily rose and made several trips to a good height, but
what could be seen from that distance? When a large number of our troops
were ranged up within 800 yards of the trenches, and many more at all
points behind them, what useful information could be obtained by means
of the balloon four miles off?"

The same eminent authority insists on the necessity of an observing war
balloon making short ascents. The balloon, in his opinion, should be
allowed to ascend rapidly to its full height, and with as little delay
as possible be hauled down again. Under these conditions it may then
be well worth testing whether the primitive form of balloon, the
Montgolfier, might not be the most valuable. Instead of being made, as
the war balloon is now, of fragile material, and filled with costly
gas difficult to procure, and which has to be conveyed in heavy and
cumbersome cylinders, a hot air balloon could be rapidly carried by hand
anywhere where a few men could push their way. It is of strong material,
readily mended if torn, and could be inflated for short ascents, if not
by mere brush wood, then by a portable blast furnace and petroleum.

But there is a further use for balloons in warfare not yet exploited.
The Siege of Paris showed the utility of free balloons, and occasions
arise when their use might be still further extended. The writer pointed
out that it might have been very possible for an aeronaut of experience,
by choosing the right weather and the right position along the British
lines, to have skilfully manoeuvred a free balloon by means of upper
currents, so as to convey all-important intelligence to besieged
Mafeking, and he proved that it would have sufficed if the balloon could
have been "tacked" across the sky to within some fifteen miles of the
desired goal.

The mode of signalling which he proposed was by means of a "collapsing
drum," an instrument of occasional use in the Navy. A modification
of this instrument, as employed by the writer, consisted of a light,
spherical, drum-shaped frame of large size, which, when covered with
dark material and hung in the clear below the car of a lofty balloon,
could be well seen either against blue sky or grey at a great distance.
The so-called drum could, by a very simple contrivance, readily worked
from the car, be made to collapse into a very inconspicuous object, and
thus be capable of displaying Morse Code signals. A long pause with the
drum extended--like the long wave of a signalling flag--would denote a
"dash," and a short pause a "dot," and these motions would be at once
intelligible to anyone acquainted with the now universal Morse Code

Provided with an apparatus of the kind, the writer made an ascent from
Newbury at a time when the military camps were lying on Salisbury Plain
at a distance of nearly twenty miles to the south-west. The ground
wind up to 2,500 feet on starting was nearly due north, and would have
defeated the attempt; again, the air stream blowing above that height
was nearly due east, which again would have proved unsuitable. But it
was manifestly possible to utilise the two currents, and with good luck
to zig-zag one's course so as to come within easy signalling distance
of the various camps; and, as a matter of fact, we actually passed
immediately over Bulford Camp, with which we exchanged signals, while
two other camps lay close to right and left of us. Fortune favouring us,
we had actually hit our mark, though it would have been sufficient for
the experiment had our course lain within ten miles right or left.

Yet a further use for the balloon in warfare remains untried in this
country. Acting under the advice of experts in the Service, the writer,
in the early part of the present year, suggested to the Admiralty the
desirability of experimenting with balloons as a means of detecting
submarine engines of war. It is well known that reefs and shoals can
generally be seen from a cliff or mast head far more clearly than from
the deck or other position near the surface of the water. Would not,
then, a balloon, if skilfully manoeuvred, serve as a valuable post of
observation? The Admiralty, in acknowledging the communication, promised
to give the matter their attention; but by the month of June the Press
had announcements of how the self-same experiments had been successfully
carried through by French authorities, while a few days later the
Admiralty wrote, "For the present no need is seen for the use of a
captive balloon to detect submarines."

Among many and varied ballooning incidents which have occurred to the
writer, there are some which may not unprofitably be compared with
certain experiences already recorded of other aeronauts. Thunderstorms,
as witnessed from a balloon, have already been casually described,
and it may reasonably be hoped that the observations which have, under
varying circumstances, been made at high altitudes may throw some
additional light on this familiar, though somewhat perplexing,

To begin with, it seems a moot point whether a balloon caught in a
thunderstorm is, or is not, in any special danger of being struck. It
has been argued that immunity under such circumstances must depend upon
whether a sufficiently long time has elapsed since the balloon left the
earth to allow of its becoming positively electrified by induction from
the clouds or by rain falling upon its surface. But there are many other
points to be considered. There is the constant escape of gas from the
mouth; there is the mass of pointed metal in the anchor; and, again, it
is conceivable that a balloon rapidly descending out of a thunderstorm
might carry with it a charge residing on its moistened surface which
might manifest itself disastrously as the balloon reached the earth.

Instances seem to have been not infrequent of balloons encountering
thunderstorms; but, unfortunately, in most cases the observers have not
had any scientific training, or the accounts which are to hand are those
of the type of journalist who is chiefly in quest of sensational copy.

Thus there is an account from America of a Professor King who made an
ascent from Burlington, Iowa, just as a thunderstorm was approaching,
with the result that, instead of scudding away with the wind before the
storm, he was actually, as if by some attraction, drawn into it. On
this his aim was to pierce through the cloud above, and then follows a
description which it is hard to realise:--"There came down in front of
him, and apparently not more than 50 feet distant, a grand discharge of
electricity." Then he feels the car lifted, the gas suddenly expands
to overflowing, and the balloon is hurled through the cloud with
inconceivable velocity, this happening several times, with tremendous
oscillations of the car, until the balloon is borne to earth in a
torrent of rain. We fancy that many practical balloonists will hardly
endorse this description.

But we have another, relating to one of the most distinguished
aeronauts, M. Eugene Godard, who, in an ascent with local journalists,
was caught in a thunderstorm. Here we are told--presumably by the
journalists--that "twice the lightning flashed within a few yards of the
terror-stricken crew."

Once again, in an ascent at Derby, a spectator writes:--"The lightning
played upon the sphere of the balloon, lighting it up and making things
visible through it." This, however, one must suppose, can hardly apply
to the balloon when liberated.

But a graphic description of a very different character given in the
"Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society" for January,
1901, is of real value. It appears that three lieutenants of the
Prussian Balloon Corps took charge of a balloon that ascended at Berlin,
and, when at a height of 2,300 feet, became enveloped in the mist,
through which only occasional glimpses of earth were seen. At this point
a sharp, crackling sound was heard at the ring, like the sparking of
a huge electrical machine, and, looking up, the voyagers beheld sparks
apparently some half-inch thick, and over two feet in length,
playing from the ring. Thunder was heard, but--and this may have
significance--only before and after the above phenomenon.

Another instructive experience is recorded of the younger Green in an
ascent which he made from Frankfort-on-the-Maine. On this occasion he
relates that he encountered a thunderstorm, and at a height of 4,400
feet found himself at the level where the storm clouds were discharging
themselves in a deluge. He seems to have had no difficulty in ascending
through the storm into the clear sky above, where a breeze from another
quarter quickly carried him away from the storm centre.

This co-existence, or conflict of opposite currents, is held to be the
common characteristic, if not the main cause, of thunderstorms, and
tallies with the following personal experience. It was in typical July
weather of 1900 that the writer and his son, accompanied by Admiral Sir
Edmund Fremantle and Mr. Percival Spencer, made an evening ascent from
Newbury. It had been a day of storms, but about 5 p.m., after what
appeared to be a clearing shower, the sky brightened, and we sailed up
into a cloudless heaven. The wind, at 3,000 feet, was travelling at some
thirty miles an hour, and ere the distance of ten miles had been covered
a formidable thunder pack was seen approaching and coming up dead
against the wind. Nothing could be more evident than that the balloon
was travelling rapidly with a lower wind, while the storm was being
borne equally rapidly on an upper and diametrically opposite current. It
proved one of the most severe thunderstorms remembered in the country.
It brooded for five hours over Devizes, a few miles ahead. A homestead
on our right was struck and burned to the ground, while on our left two
soldiers were killed on Salisbury Plain. The sky immediately overhead
was, of course, hidden by the large globe of the balloon, but around and
beneath us the storm seemed to gather in a blue grey mist, which quickly
broadened and deepened till, almost before we could realise it, we found
ourselves in the very heart of the storm, the lightning playing all
around us, and the sharp hail stinging our faces.

The countrymen below described the balloon as apparently enveloped by
the lightning, but with ourselves, though the flashes were incessant,
and on all sides, the reverberations of the thunder were not remarkable,
being rather brief explosions in which they resembled the thunder claps
not infrequently described by travellers on mountain heights.

The balloon was now descending from a double cause: the weight of
moisture suddenly accumulated on its surface, and the very obvious
downrush of cold air that accompanied the storm of pelting hail. With
a very limited store of ballast, it seemed impossible to make a further
ascent, nor was this desirable. The signalling experiments on which we
were intent could not be carried on in such weather. The only course
was to descend, and though this was not at once practicable, owing to
Savernake Forest being beneath us, we effected a safe landing in the
first available clearing.

As has been mentioned, Mr. Glaisher and other observers have recorded
several remarkable instances of opposite wind currents being met with
at moderate altitudes. None, however, can have been more noteworthy or
surprising than the following experience Of the writer on Whit Monday of
1899. The ascent was under an overcast sky, from the Crystal Palace at
3 p.m., at which hour a cold drizzle was settling in with a moderate
breeze from the east. Thus, starting from the usual filling ground near
the north tower, the balloon sailed over the body of the Palace, and
thence over the suburbs towards the west till lost in the mist. We then
ascended through 1,500 feet of dense, wetting cloud, and, emerging in
bright sunshine, continued to drift for two hours at an average altitude
of some 3,000 feet; 1,000 feet below us was the ill-defined, ever
changing upper surface of the dense cloud floor, and it was no longer
possible to determine our course, which we therefore assumed to have
remained unchanged. At length, however, as a measure of prudence, we
determined to descend through the clouds sufficiently to learn something
of our whereabouts, which we reasonably expected to be somewhere in
Surrey or Berks. On emerging, however, below the cloud, the first object
that loomed out of the mist immediately below us was a cargo vessel,
in the rigging of which our trail rope was entangling itself. Only
by degrees the fact dawned upon us that we were in the estuary of the
Thames, and beating up towards London once again with an cast wind. Thus
it became evident that at the higher level, unknown to ourselves, we had
been headed back on our course, for two hours, by a wind diametrically
opposed to that blowing on the ground.

Two recent developments of the hot-air war balloon suggest great
possibilities in the near future. One takes the form of a small captive,
carrying aloft a photographic camera directed and operated electrically
from the ground. The other is a self-contained passenger balloon of
large dimensions, carrying in complete safety a special petroleum burner
of great power. These new and important departures are mainly due to the
mechanical genius of Mr. J. N. Maskelyne, who has patented and perfected
them in conjunction with the writer.


Some fair idea of the conditions prevailing in the upper air may have
been gathered from the many and various observations already recorded.
Stating the case broadly, we may assert that the same atmospheric
changes with which we are familiar at the level of the earth are to
be found also at all accessible heights, equally extensive and equally

Standing on an open heath on a gusty day, we may often note the rhythmic
buffeting of the wind, resembling the assault of rolling billows of
air. The evidence of these billows has been actually traced far aloft in
balloon travel, when aeronauts, looking down on a wind-swept surface of
cloud, have observed this surface to be thrown into a series of rolls
of vapour, which were but vast and veritable waves of air. The interval
between successive crests of these waves has on one occasion been
estimated at approximately half a mile. We have seen how these air
streams sometimes hold wide and independent sway at different levels.
We have seen, too, how they sometimes meet and mingle, not infrequently
attended with electrical disturbance

Through broad drifts of air minor air streams would seem often literally
to "thread" their way, breaking up into filaments or wandering rills of
air. In the voyage across Salisbury Plain lately described, while the
balloon was being carried with the more sluggish current, a number of
small parachutes were dropped out at frequent intervals and carefully
watched. These would commonly attend the balloon for a little while,
until, getting into some minor air stream, they would suddenly and
rapidly diverge at such wide angles as to suggest that crossing our
actual course there were side paths, down which the smaller bodies
became wafted.

On another occasion the writer met with strongly marked and altogether
exceptional evidence of the vehemence and persistence of these minor
aerial streamlets. It was on an occasion in April weather, when a heavy
overcast sky blotted out the upper heavens. In the cloud levels the wind
was somewhat sluggish, and for an hour we travelled at an average speed
of a little over twenty miles an hour, never higher than 3,000 feet.
At this point, while flying over Hertfordshire, we threw out sufficient
ballast to cause the balloon to rise clear of the hazy lower air, and
coming under the full influence of the sun, then in the meridian, we
shot upwards at considerable speed, and soon attained an altitude of
three miles. But for a considerable portion of this climb--while, in
fact, we were ascending through little less than a mile of our upward
course--we were assailed by impetuous cross currents, which whistled
through car and rigging and smote us fairly on the cheek. It was
altogether a novel experience, and the more remarkable from the fact
that our main onward course was not appreciably diverted.

Then we got above these currents, and remained at our maximum level,
while we floated, still at only a moderate speed, the length of a
county. The descent then began, and once again, while we dropped
through the same disturbed region, the same far-reaching and obtrusive
cross-current assailed us. It was quite obvious that the vehement
currents were too slender to tell largely upon the huge surface of the
balloon, as it was being swept steadily onwards by the main wind, which
never varied in direction from ground levels up to the greatest height

This experience is but confirmation of the story of the wind told by the
wind gauges on the Forth Bridge. Here the maximum pressure measured on
the large gauge of 300 square feet is commonly considerably less than
that on the smaller gauge, suggesting that the latter must be due to
threads of air of limited area and high velocity.

Further and very valuable light is thrown on the peculiar ways of
the wind, now being considered, by Professor Langley in the special
researches of his to which reference has already been made. This
eminent observer and mathematician, suspecting that the old-fashioned
instruments, which only told what the wind had been doing every hour,
or at best every minute, gave but a most imperfect record, constructed
delicate gauges, which would respond to every impulse and give readings
from second to second.

In this way he established the fact that the wind, far from being a
body of even approximate uniformity, is under most ordinary conditions
irregular almost beyond conception. Further, that the greater the speed
the greater the fluctuations, so that a high wind has to be regarded as
"air moving in a tumultuous mass," the velocity at one moment perhaps
forty miles an hour, then diminishing to an almost instantaneous calm,
and then resuming. "In fact, in the very nature of the case, wind is not
the result of one simple cause, but of an infinite number of impulses
and changes, perhaps long passed, which are preserved in it, and which
die only slowly away."

When we come to take observations of temperature we find the conditions
in the atmosphere above us to be at first sight not a little complex,
and altogether different in day and night hours. From observations
already recorded in this volume--notably those of Gay Lussac, Welsh, and
Glaisher--it has been made to appear that, in ascending into the sky in
daytime, the temperature usually falls according to a general law; but
there are found regions where the fall of temperature becomes arrested,
such regions being commonly, though by no means invariably, associated
with visible cloud. It is probable, however, that it would be more
correct not to interpret the presence of cloud as causing manifestation
of cold, but rather to regard the meeting of warm and cold currents as
the cause of cloud.

The writer has experimented in the upper regions with a special form
of air thermometer of great sensibility, designed to respond rapidly
to slight variations of temperature. Testing this instrument on one
occasion in a room of equable warmth, and without draughts, he was
puzzled by seeing the index in a capillary tube suddenly mounting
rapidly, due to some cause which was not apparent, till it was noticed
that the parlour cat, attracted by the proceedings, had approached near
the apparatus. The behaviour of this instrument when slung in the clear
some distance over the side of the balloon car, and carefully watched,
suggests by its fitful, sudden, and rapid changes that warmer currents
are often making their way in such slender wandering rills as have been
already pictured as permeating the broader air streams. During night
hours conditions are reversed. The warmer air radiated off the earth
through the day has then ascended. It will be found at different
heights, lying in pools or strata, possibly resembling in form, could
they be seen, masses of visible cloud.

The writer has gathered from night voyages instructive and suggestive
facts with reference to the ascent of air streams, due to differences
of temperature, particularly over London and the suburbs, and it is
conceivable that in such ascending streams may lie a means of dealing
successfully with visitations of smoke and fog.

One lesson taught by balloon travel has been that fog or haze will come
or go in obedience to temperature variations at low levels. Thus thick
haze has lain over London, more particularly over the lower parts, at
sundown. Then through night hours, as the temperature of the lower air
has become equalised, the haze has completely disappeared, but only to
reassert itself at dawn.

A description of the very impressive experience of a night sail
over London has been reserved, but should not be altogether omitted.
Glaisher, writing of the spectacle as he observed it nearly forty years
ago, describes London seen at night from a balloon at a distance as
resembling a vast conflagration. When actually over the town, a main
thoroughfare like the Commercial Road shone up like a line of brilliant
fire; but, travelling westward, Oxford Street presented an appearance
which puzzled him. "Here the two thickly studded rows of brilliant
lights were seen on either side of the street, with a narrow, dark space
between, and this dark space was bounded, as it were, on both sides by
a bright fringe like frosted silver." Presently he discovered that this
rich effect was caused by the bright illumination of the shop lights on
the pavements.

London, as seen from a balloon on a clear moonlight night in August
a year ago (1901), wore a somewhat altered appearance. There were the
fairy lamps tracing out the streets, which, though dark centred, wore
their silver lining; but in irregular patches a whiter light from
electric arc lamps broadened and brightened and shone out like some
pyrotechnic display above the black housetops. Through the vast town
ran a blank, black channel, the river, winding on into distance, crossed
here and there by bridges showing as bright bands, and with bright
spots occasionally to mark where lay the river craft. But what was most
striking was the silence. Though the noise of London traffic as heard
from a balloon has diminished of late years owing to the better paving,
yet in day hours the roar of the streets is heard up to a great height
as a hard, harsh, grinding din. But at night, after the last 'bus has
ceased to ply, and before the market carts begin lumbering in, the
balloonist, as he sails over the town, might imagine that he was
traversing a City of the Dead.

It is at such times that a shout through a speaking trumpet has a most
startling effect, and more particularly a blast on a horn. In this case
after an interval of some seconds a wild note will be flung back from
the house-tops below, answered and re-answered on all sides as it echoes
from roof to roof--a wild, weird uproar that awakes suddenly, and then
dies out slowly far away.

Experiments with echoes from a balloon have proved instructive. If, when
riding at a height, say, of 2,000 feet, a charge of gun-cotton be fired
electrically 100 feet below the car, the report, though really as loud
as a cannon, sounds no more than a mere pistol shot, possibly partly
owing to the greater rarity of the air, but chiefly because the sound,
having no background to reflect it, simply spends itself in the air.
Then, always and under all conditions of atmosphere soever, there ensues
absolute silence until the time for the echo back from earth has fully
elapsed, when a deafening outburst of thunder rises from below, rolling
on often for more than half a minute. Two noteworthy facts, at least,
the writer has established from a very large number of trials: first,
that the theory of aerial echoes thrown back from empty space, which
physicists have held to exist constantly, and to be part of the cause of
thunder, will have to be abandoned; and, secondly, that from some cause
yet to be fully explained the echo back from the earth is always behind
its time.

But balloons have revealed further suggestive facts with regard to
sound, and more particularly with regard to the varying acoustic
properties of the air. It is a familiar experience how distant
sounds will come and go, rising and falling, often being wafted over
extraordinary distances, and again failing altogether, or sometimes
being lost at near range, but appearing in strength further away. A free
balloon, moving in the profound silence of the upper air, becomes an
admirable sound observatory. It may be clearly detected that in certain
conditions of atmosphere, at least, there are what may be conceived to
be aerial sound channels, through which sounds are momentarily conveyed
with abnormal intensity. This phenomenon does but serve to give an
intelligible presentment of the unseen conditions existing in the realm
of air.

It would be reasonable to suppose that were an eye so constituted as to
be able to see, say, cumulus masses of warmer air, strata mottled with
traces of other gases, and beds of invisible matter in suspension,
one might suppose that what we deem the clearest sky would then appear
flecked with forms as many and various as the clouds that adorn our
summer heavens.

But there is matter in suspension in the atmosphere which is very far
from invisible, and which in the case of large towns is very commonly
lying in thick strata overhead, stopping back the sunlight, and forming
the nucleus round which noisome fogs may form. Experimenting with
suitable apparatus, the writer has found on a still afternoon in May, at
2,000 feet above Kingston in Surrey, that the air was charged far more
heavily with dust than that of the London streets the next day; and,
again, at half a mile above the city in the month of August last dust,
much of it being of a gross and even fibrous nature, was far more
abundant than on grass enclosures in the town during the forenoon of the
day following.

An attempt has been made to include England in a series of international
balloon ascents arranged expressly for the purpose of taking
simultaneous observations at a large number of stations over Europe, by
which means it is hoped that much fresh knowledge will be forthcoming
with respect to the constitution of the atmosphere up to the highest
levels accessible by balloons manned and unmanned. It is very much to
be regretted that in the case of England the attempt here spoken of has
rested entirely on private enterprise. First and foremost in personal
liberality and the work of organisation must be mentioned Mr. P. Y.
Alexander, whose zeal in the progress of aeronautics is second to none
in this country. Twice through his efforts England has been represented
in the important work for which Continental nations have no difficulty
in obtaining public grants. The first occasion was on November 8th,
1900, when the writer was privileged to occupy a seat in the balloon
furnished by Mr. Alexander, and equipped with the most modern type of
instruments. It was a stormy and fast voyage from the Crystal Palace to
Halstead, in Essex, 48 miles in 40 minutes. Simultaneously with this,
Mr. Alexander dismissed an unmanned balloon from Bath, which ascended
8,000 feet, and landed at Cricklade. Other balloons which took part in
the combined experiment were two from Paris, three from Chalais Meudon,
three from Strasburg, two from Vienna, two from Berlin, and two from St.

The section of our countrymen specially interested in aeronautics--a
growing community--is represented by the Aeronautical Society, formed in
1865, with the Duke of Argyll for president, and for thirty years under
the most energetic management of Mr. F. W. Brearey, succeeding whom
as hon. secs. have been Major Baden-Powell and Mr. Eric S. Bruce. Mr.
Brearey was one of the most successful inventors of flying models.
Mr. Chanute, speaking as President of the American Society of Civil
Engineers, paid him a high and well-deserved compliment in saying that
it was through his influence that aerial navigation had been cleared of
much rubbish and placed upon a scientific and firm basis.

Another community devoting itself to the pursuit of balloon trips and
matters aeronautical generally is the newly-formed Aero Club, of whom
one of the most prominent and energetic members is the Hon. C. S. Rolls.

It had been announced that M. Santos-Dumont would bring an air ship
to England, and during the summer of the present year would give
exhibitions of its capability. It was even rumoured that he might circle
round St. Paul's and accomplish other aerial feats unknown in England.
The promise was fulfilled so far as bringing the air ship to England was
concerned, for one of his vessels which had seen service was deposited
at the Crystal Palace. In some mysterious manner, however, never
sufficiently made clear to the public, this machine was one morning
found damaged, and M. Santos-Dumont has withdrawn from his proposed

In thus doing he left the field open to one of our own countrymen, who,
in his first attempt at flight with an air ship of his own invention and
construction, has proved himself no unworthy rival of the wealthy young

Mr. Stanley Spencer, in a very brief space of time, designed and built
completely in the workshops of the firm an elongated motor balloon, 75
feet long by 20 feet diameter, worked by a screw and petrol motor. This
motor is placed in the prow, 25 feet away from, and in front of, the
safety valve, by which precaution any danger of igniting the escaping
gas is avoided. Should, however, a collapse of the machine arise from
any cause, there is an arrangement for throwing the balloon into the
form of a parachute. Further, there is provided means for admitting air
at will into the balloon, by which the necessity for much ballast is

Mr. Spencer having filled the balloon with pure hydrogen, made his
first trial with this machine late in an evening at the end of June.
The performance of the vessel is thus described in the Westminster
Gazette:--"The huge balloon filled slowly, so that the light was rapidly
failing when at last the doors of the big shed slid open and the ship
was brought carefully out, her motor started, and her maiden voyage
commenced. With Mr. Stanley Spencer in the car, she sailed gracefully
down the football field, wheeled round in a circle--a small circle,
too--and for perhaps a quarter of an hour sailed a tortuous course over
the heads of a small but enthusiastic crowd of spectators. The ship was
handicapped to some extent by the fact that in their anxiety to make the
trial the aeronauts had not waited to inflate it fully, but still it did
its work well, answered its helm readily, showed no signs of rolling,
and, in short, appeared to give entire satisfaction to everybody
concerned--so much so, indeed, that Mr. Stanley Spencer informed the
crowd after the ascent that he was quite ready to take up any challenge
that M. Santos Dumont might throw down." Within a few weeks of this his
first success Mr. Spencer was able to prove to the world that he had
only claimed for his machine what its powers fully justified. On a still
September afternoon, ascending alone, he steered his aerial ship in an
easy and graceful flight over London, from the Crystal Palace to Harrow.


The future development of aerostation is necessarily difficult to
forecast. Having reviewed its history from its inception we have to
allow that the balloon in itself, as an instrument of aerial locomotion,
remains practically only where it was 120 years ago. Nor, in the nature
of the case, is this to be wondered at. The wind, which alone guides the
balloon, is beyond man's control, while, as a source of lifting power, a
lighter and therefore more suitable gas than hydrogen is not to be found
in nature.

It is, however, conceivable that a superior mode of inflation may yet
be discovered. Now that the liquefaction of gases has become an
accomplished fact, it seems almost theoretically possible that a
balloonist may presently be able to provide himself with an unlimited
reserve of potential energy so as to be fitted for travel of indefinite
duration. Endowed with increased powers of this nature, the aeronaut
could utilise a balloon for voyages of discovery over regions of the
earth which bar man's progress by any other mode of travel. A future
Andree, provided with a means of maintaining his gas supply for six
weeks, need have no hesitation in laying his course towards the North
Pole, being confident that the winds must ultimately waft him to some
safe haven. He could, indeed, well afford, having reached the Pole, to
descend and build his cairn, or even to stop a week, if he so desired,
before continuing on his way.

But it may fairly be claimed for the balloon, even as it now is, that
a great and important future is open to it as a means for exploring
inaccessible country. It may, indeed, be urged that Andree's task
was, in the very nature of the case, well nigh impracticable, and his
unfortunate miscarriage will be used as argument against such a method
of exploration. But it must always be remembered that in Andree's case
the rigours of climate which he was compelled to face were the most
serious of all obstacles to balloon travel. The extreme cold would
not only cause constant shrinkage of the gas, but would entail the
deposition of a weight of moisture, if not of snow, upon the surface of
the balloon, which must greatly shorten its life.

It would be entirely otherwise if the country it were sought to explore
were in lower latitudes, in Australia, or within the vast unknown belt
of earth lying nearer the equator. The writer's scheme for exploring the
wholly unknown regions of Arabia is already before the public. The
fact, thought to be established by the most experienced aeronauts of
old times, and already referred to in these pages, that at some height
a strong west wind is to be found blowing with great constancy all
round the globe, is in accordance with the view entertained by modern
meteorologists. Such a wind, too, may be expected to be a fairly fast
wind, the calculation being that, as a general rule, the velocity of
currents increases from the ground at the rate of about three miles
per hour for each thousand feet of height; thus the chance of a balloon
drifting speedily across the breadth of Arabia is a strong one, and,
regarded in this light, the distance to be traversed is certainly
not excessive, being probably well within the lasting power of such a
balloon as that employed by Andree. If, for the sake of gas supply, Aden
were chosen for the starting ground, then 1,200 miles E.N.E. would carry
the voyager to Muscat; 1,100 miles N.E. by E. would land him at Sohar;
while some 800 miles would suffice to take him to the seaboard if his
course lay N.E. It must also be borne in mind that the Arabian sun by
day, and the heat radiated off the desert by night, would be all in
favour of the buoyancy of the balloon.

But there are other persistent winds that, for purposes of exploration,
would prove equally serviceable and sure. From time immemorial the
dweller on the Nile has been led to regard his river in the light of a
benignant deity. If he wished to travel down its course he had but to
entrust his vessel to the stream, and this would carry him. If, again,
he wished to retrace his course, he had but to raise a sail, and the
prevalent wind, conquering the flood, would bear him against the stream.
This constant north wind, following the Nile valley, and thence trending
still southward towards Uganda, has been regarded as a means to hand
well adapted for the exploration of important unsurveyed country by
balloon. This scheme has been conceived and elaborated by Major B.F.S.
Baden-Powell, and, so far, the only apparent obstacle in the way has
proved the lack of necessary funds.

It will be urged, however, that for purposes of exploration some form of
dirigible balloon is desirable, and we have already had proof that where
it is not sought to combat winds strongly opposed to their course such
air ships as Santos-Dumont or Messrs. Spencer have already constructed
acquit themselves well; and it requires no stretch of imagination to
conceive that before the present century is closed many great gaps in
the map of the world will have been filled in by aerial survey.

But, leaving the balloon to its proper function, we turn to the flying
machine properly so called with more sanguine hopes of seeing the real
conquest of the air achieved. It was as it were but yesterday when the
air ship, unhampered by huge globes of gas, and controlled by mechanical
means alone, was first fairly tried, yet it is already considered by
those best able to judge that its ultimate success is assured.

This success rests now solely in the hands of the mechanical engineer.
He must, and surely can, build the ship of such strength that some
essential part does not at the critical moment break down or carry away.
He may have to improve his motive power, and here, again, we do not
doubt his cunning. Motor engines, self-contained and burning liquid
fuel, are yet in their infancy, and the extraordinary emulation now
existing in their production puts it beyond doubt that every year will
see rapid improvement in their efficiency.

We do not expect, nor do we desire, that the world may see the
fulfilment of the poet's dream, "Argosies of magic sails" or "Airy
navies grappling in the central blue." We would not befog our vision of
the future with any wild imaginings, seeking, as some have done, to see
in the electricity or other hidden power of heaven the means for its
subjugation by man; but it is far from unreasonable to hope that but
a little while shall pass, and we shall have more perfect and reliable
knowledge of the tides and currents in the vast ocean of air, and when
that day may have come then it may be claimed that the grand problem of
aerial navigation will be already solved.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Dominion of the Air; the story of aerial navigation" ***

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