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Title: A Voyage in a Balloon (1852)
Author: Verne, Jules, 1828-1905
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Voyage in a Balloon (1852)" ***



Jules Verne


From _Sartain's Union Magazine of Literature and Art_ (Philadelphia:
1849-1852): May 1852: VOL. X. No. 5: p. 389-395.

John Sartain (1808-1897) was an English artist and engraver skilled
in the art of mezzotint who emigrated to the United States; in 1848
he purchased a one-half interest in the "Union Magazine", a New York
periodical, which he transferred to Philadelphia. The name was changed
to "Sartain's Union Magazine", and during the four years of its
existence the journal became widely known, publishing works of Poe and
other literati. The article here is a translation of "La science en
famille / Un voyage en ballon. / (Réponse à l'énigme de juillet.)", In:
_Musée des Familles. Lectures du soir_, Paris, seconde série. vol. 8,
no. 11 (August 1851), pp. 329-336 (5 illustrations by A. de Bar, two
chapters). This is a different version from the one published by Hetzel;
"Un drame dans les airs", in: _Le Docteur Ox_, 19 October 1874, (ed. C &
D) (6 illustrations by Emile Bayard, only one chapter!).

In this early work we see the ingredients of Verne's later _Voyages
Extraordinaires_; characters brought or thrown together on a journey to
afar; introduction of new characters part way through the story; careful
scientific explanation of critical events (the ascension, filling
the balloon, rising and falling, ballast); use of dialogue to convey
scientific information (the history of ballooning); use of scientific
instruments (barometer, compass); chapter heads to presage the
story; escapes from perilous events caused by scientific or natural

One may also wonder why Hetzel removed the description of the inflation
of the balloon with hydrogen gas. In fact hydrogen is barely mentioned
in the revised story. Could it be that while Hetzel approved of Verne's
scientific descriptions of impossible undertakings, when it came to real
exploits such as ballooning he did not want his juvenile readers
experimenting with the "hogsheads of sulphuric acid and nails" to
produce explosive hydrogen? In fact in the Hetzel version the lifting
gas hydrogen is replaced with "illuminating gas", an inferior, though
lighter than air material, but one which his readers would find
difficult to use for deadly experimentation.

It may also be that Verne had little to do with this volume; Hetzel may
have edited the collection so that it would count as one of the required
volumes Verne was to produce annually. The correspondence archives may
shed some light.

Ms. Wilbur also translated other articles on ballooning from the French.
It is also interesting that she retained in her translation the original
units which Verne used (metre, feet, leagues), a practice forgotten
until recently. This may be the first appearance of a work by Jules
Verne in the English language.

Norman M. Wolcott
Rockville, Maryland




Translated from the French by Anne T. Wilbur



My Ascension at Frankfort--The Balloon, the Gas, the Apparatus, the
Ballast--An Unexpected Travelling Companion--Conversation in the
Air--Anecdotes--At 800 Metres[A]--The Portfolio of the Pale Young
Man--Pictures and Caricatures--Des Rosiers and d'Arlandes--At 1200
Metres--Atmospheric Phenomena--The Philosopher
Charles--Systems--Blanchard--Guyton-Morveaux--M. Julien--M. Petin--At
1500 Metres--The Storm--Great Personages in Balloons--The Valve--The
Curious Animals--The Aerial Ship--Game of Balloons.

[Footnote A: A metre is equal to 39.33 English inches.]

In the month of September, 1850, I arrived at Frankfort-on-the-Maine. My
passage through the principal cities of Germany, had been brilliantly
marked by aerostatic ascensions; but, up to this day, no inhabitant of
the Confederation had accompanied me, and the successful experiments at
Paris of Messrs. Green, Godard, and Poitevin, had failed to induce the
grave Germans to attempt aerial voyages.

Meanwhile, hardly had the news of my approaching ascension circulated
throughout Frankfort, than three persons of note asked the favour of
accompanying me. Two days after, we were to ascend from the Place de la
Comédie. I immediately occupied myself with the preparations. My
balloon, of gigantic proportions, was of silk, coated with gutta percha,
a substance not liable to injury from acids or gas, and of absolute
impermeability. Some trifling rents were mended: the inevitable results
of perilous descents.

The day of our ascension was that of the great fair of September, which
attracts all the world to Frankfort. The apparatus for filling was
composed of six hogsheads arranged around a large vat, hermetically
sealed. The hydrogen gas, evolved by the contact of water with iron and
sulphuric acid, passed from the first reservoirs to the second, and
thence into the immense globe, which was thus gradually inflated. These
preparations occupied all the morning, and about 11 o'clock, the balloon
was three-quarters full; sufficiently so;--for as we rise, the
atmospheric layers diminish in density, and the gas, confined within the
aerostat, acquiring more elasticity, might otherwise burst its envelope.
My calculations had furnished me with the exact measurement of gas
required to carry my companions and myself to a considerable height.

We were to ascend at noon. It was truly a magnificent spectacle, that of
the impatient crowd who thronged around the reserved enclosure,
inundated the entire square and adjoining streets, and covered the
neighbouring houses from the basements to the slated roofs. The high
winds of past days had lulled, and an overpowering heat was radiating
from an unclouded sky; not a breath animated the atmosphere. In such
weather, one might descend in the very spot he had left.

I carried three hundred pounds of ballast, in bags; the car, perfectly
round, four feet in diameter, and three feet in height, was conveniently
attached; the cord which sustained it was symmetrically extended from
the upper hemisphere of the aerostat; the compass was in its place, the
barometer suspended to the iron hoop which surrounded the supporting
cord, at a distance of eight feet above the car; the anchor carefully
prepared;--all was in readiness for our departure.

Among the persons who crowded around the enclosure, I remarked a young
man with pale face and agitated features. I was struck with his
appearance. He had been an assiduous spectator of my ascensions in
several cities of Germany. His uneasy air and his extraordinary
pre-occupation never left him; he eagerly contemplated the curious
machine, which rested motionless at a few feet from the ground, and
remained silent.

The clock struck twelve! This was the hour. My _compagnons du voyage_
had not appeared. I sent to the dwelling of each, and learned that one
had started for Hamburg, another for Vienna and the third, still more
fearful, for London. Their hearts had failed them at the moment of
undertaking one of those excursions, which, since the ingenious
experiments of aeronauts, are deprived of all danger. As they made, as
it were a part of the programme of the fête, they had feared being
compelled to fulfil their agreements, and had fled at the moment of
ascension. Their courage had been in inverse ratio to the square of
their swiftness in retreat.

The crowd, thus partly disappointed, were shouting with anger and
impatience. I did not hesitate to ascend alone. To re-establish the
equilibrium between the specific gravity of the balloon and the weight
to be raised, I substituted other bags of sand for my expected
companions and entered the car. The twelve men who were holding the
aerostat by twelve cords fastened to the equatorial circle, let them
slip between their fingers; the car rose a few feet above the ground.
There was not a breath of wind, and the atmosphere, heavy as lead,
seemed insurmountable.

"All is ready!" exclaimed I; "attention!"

The men arranged themselves; a last glance informed me that everything
was right.


There was some movement in the crowd which seemed to be invading the
reserved enclosure.

"Let go!"

The balloon slowly ascended; but I experienced a shock which threw me to
the bottom of the car. When I rose, I found myself face to face with an
unexpected voyager,--the pale young man.

"Monsieur, I salute you!" said he to me.

"By what right?"--

"Am I here? By the right of your inability to turn me out."

I was confounded. His assurance disconcerted me; and I had nothing to
say in reply. I looked at him, but he paid no regard to my astonishment.
He continued:

"My weight will disturb your equilibrium, Monsieur: will you permit

And without waiting for my assent, he lightened the balloon by two bags
of sand which he emptied into the air.

"Monsieur," said I, taking the only possible course, "you are
here,--well! you choose to remain,--well! but to me alone belongs the
management of the aerostat."

"Monsieur," replied he, "your urbanity is entirely French; it is of the
same country with myself! I press in imagination the hand which you
refuse me. Take your measures,--act as it may seem good to you; I will
wait till you have ended--"


"To converse with you."

The barometer had fallen to twenty-six inches; we had attained a height
of about six hundred metres, and were over the city; which satisfied me
of our complete quiescence, for I could not judge by our motionless
flags. Nothing betrays the horizontal voyage of a balloon; it is the
mass of air surrounding it which moves. A kind of wavering heat bathed
the objects extended at our feet, and gave their outlines an
indistinctness to be regretted. The needle of the compass indicated a
slight tendency to float towards the south.

I looked again at my companion. He was a man of thirty, simply clad; the
bold outlines of his features betokened indomitable energy; he appeared
very muscular. Absorbed in the emotion of this silent suspension, he
remained immovable, seeking to distinguish the objects which passed
beneath his view.

"Vexatious mist!" said he, at the expiration of a few moments.

I made no reply.

"What would you? I could not pay for my voyage; I was obliged to take
you by surprise."

"No one has asked you to descend!"

"A similar occurrence," he resumed, "happened to the Counts of Laurencin
and Dampierre, when they ascended at Lyons, on the 15th of January,
1784. A young merchant, named Fontaine, scaled the railing, at the risk
of upsetting the equipage. He accomplished the voyage, and nobody was

"Once on the earth, we will converse!" said I, piqued at the tone of
lightness with which he spoke.

"Bah! do not talk of returning!"

"Do you think then that I shall delay my descent?"

"Descent!" said he, with surprise. "Let us ascend!"

And before I could prevent him, two bags of sand were thrown out,
without even being emptied.

"Monsieur!" said I, angrily.

"I know your skill," replied he, composedly; "your brilliant ascensions
have made some noise in the world. Experience is the sister of practice,
but it is also first cousin to theory, and I have long and deeply
studied the aerostatic art. It has affected my brain," added he, sadly,
falling into a mute torpor.

The balloon, after having risen, remained stationary; the unknown
consulted the barometer, and said:

"Here we are at 800 metres! Men resemble insects! See, I think it is
from this height that we should always look at them, to judge correctly
of their moral proportions! The Place de la Comédie is transformed to an
immense ant-hill. Look at the crowd piled up on the quays. The Zeil
diminishes. We are above the church of Dom. The Mein is now only a white
line dividing the city, and this bridge, the Mein-Brucke, looks like a
white thread thrown between the two banks of the river."

The atmosphere grew cooler.

"There is nothing I will not do for you, my host," said my companion.
"If you are cold, I will take off my clothes and lend them to you."


"Necessity makes laws. Give me your hand, I am your countryman. You
shall be instructed by my company, and my conversation shall compensate
you for the annoyance I have caused you."

I seated myself, without replying, at the opposite extremity of the car.
The young man had drawn from his great coat a voluminous portfolio; it
was a work on aerostation.

"I possess," said he, "a most curious collection of engraving, and
caricatures appertaining to our aerial mania. This precious discovery
has been at once admired and ridiculed. Fortunately we have passed the
period when the Mongolfiers sought to make factitious clouds with the
vapour of water; and of the gas affecting electric properties, which
they produced by the combustion of clamp straw with chopped wool."

"Would you detract from the merit of these inventions?" replied I. "Was
it not well done to have proved by experiment the possibility of rising
in the air?"

"Who denies the glory of the first aerial navigators? Immense courage
was necessary to ascend by means of those fragile envelopes which
contained only warm air. Besides, has not aerostatic science made great
progress since the ascensions of Blanchard? Look, Monsieur."

He took from his collection an engraving.

"Here is the first aerial voyage undertaken by Pilatre des Rosiers and
the Marquis d'Arlandes, four months after the discovery of balloons.
Louis XVI. refused his consent to this voyage; two condemned criminals
were to have first attempted aerial travelling. Pilatre des Rosiers was
indignant at this injustice and, by means of artifice, succeeded in
setting out. This car, which renders the management of the balloon easy,
had not then been invented; a circular gallery surrounded the lower part
of the aerostat. The two aeronauts stationed themselves at the
extremities of this gallery. The damp straw with which it was filled
encumbered their movements. A chafing-dish was suspended beneath the
orifice of the balloon; when the voyagers wished to ascend, they threw,
with a long fork, straw upon this brazier, at the risk of burning the
machine, and the air, growing warmer, gave to the balloon a new
ascensional force. The two bold navigators ascended, on the 21st of
November, 1783, from the gardens of La Muette, which the Dauphin had
placed at their disposal. The aerostat rose majestically, passed the
Isle des Cygnes, crossed the Seine at the Barrière de la Conference,
and, directing its way between the dome of the Invalides and L'Ecole
Militaire, approached St. Sulpice; then the aeronauts increased the
fire, ascended, cleared the Boulevard, and descended beyond the Barrière
d'Enfer. As it touched the ground, the collapsed, and buried Pilatre des
Rosiers beneath its folds."

"Unfortunate presage!" said I, interested in these details, which so
nearly concerned me.

"Presage of his catastrophe," replied the unknown, with sadness. "You
have experienced nothing similar?"


"Bah! misfortunes often arrive without presage." And he remained silent.

We were advancing towards the south; the magnetic needle pointed in the
direction of Frankfort, which was flying beneath our feet.

"Perhaps we shall have a storm," said the young man.

"We will descend first."

"Indeed! it will be better to ascend; we shall escape more surely;" and
two bags of sand were thrown overboard.

The balloon rose rapidly, and stopped at twelve hundred metres. The cold
was now intense, and there was a slight buzzing in my ears.
Nevertheless, the rays of the sun fell hotly on the globe, and, dilating
the gas it contained, gave it a greater ascensional force. I was

"Fear nothing," said the young man to me.

"We have three thousand five hundred toises of respirable air. You need
not trouble yourself about my proceedings."

I would have risen, but a vigorous hand detained me on my seat.

"Your name?" asked I.

"My name! how does it concern you?"

"I have the honour to ask your name."

"I am called Erostratus or Empedocles,--as you please. Are you
interested in the progress of aerostatic science?"

He spoke with icy coldness, and I asked myself with whom I had to do.

"Monsieur," continued he, "nothing new has been invented since the days
of the philosopher Charles. Four months after the discovery of
aerostats, he had invented the valve, which permits the gas to escape
when the balloon is too full, or when one wishes to descend; the car,
which allows the machine to be easily managed; the network, which
encloses the fabric of the balloon, and prevents its being too heavily
pressed; the ballast, which is used in ascending and choosing the spot
of descent; the coat of caoutchouc, which renders the silk impermeable;
the barometer, which determines the height attained; and, finally, the
hydrogen, which, fourteen times lighter than air, allows of ascension to
the most distant atmospheric layers, and prevents exposure to aerial
combustion. On the 1st of December, 1783, three hundred thousand
spectators thronged the Tuileries. Charles ascended, and the soldiers
presented arms. He travelled nine leagues in the air: managing his
machine with a skill never since surpassed in aeronautic experiments.
The King conferred on him a pension of two thousand livres, for in those
days inventions were encouraged. In a few days, the subscription list
was filled; for every one was interested in the progress of science."

The unknown was seized with a violent agitation.

"I, Monsieur, have studied; I am satisfied that the first aeronauts
guided their balloons. Not to speak of Blanchard, whose assertions might
be doubted, at Dijon, Guyton-Morveaux, by the aid of oars and a helm,
imparted to his machines perceptible motions, a decided direction. More
recently, at Paris, a watchmaker, M. Julien, has made at the Hippodrome
convincing experiments; for, with the aid of a particular mechanism, an
aerial apparatus of oblong form was manifestly propelled against the
wind. M. Petin placed four balloons, filled with hydrogen, in
juxtaposition, and, by means of sails disposed horizontally and
partially furled, hoped to obtain a disturbance of the equilibrium,
which, inclining the apparatus, should compel it to an oblique path. But
the motive power destined to surmount the resistance of currents,--the
helice, moving in a movable medium, was unsuccessful. I have discovered
the only method of guiding balloons, and not an Academy has come to my
assistance, not a city has filled my subscription lists, not a
government has deigned to listen to me! It is infamous!"

His gesticulations were so furious that the car experienced violent
oscillations; I had much difficulty in restraining him. Meanwhile, the
balloon had encountered a more rapid current. We were advancing in a
southerly direction, at 1200 metres in height, almost accustomed to this
new temperature.

"There is Darmstadt," said my companion. "Do you perceive its
magnificent chateau? The storm-cloud below makes the outlines of objects
waver; and it requires a practised eye to recognise localities."

"You are certain that it is Darmstadt?"

"Undoubtedly; we are six leagues from Frankfort."

"Then we must descend."

"Descend! you would not alight upon the steeples!" said the unknown,

"No; but in the environs of the city."

"Well, it is too warm; let us remount a little."

As he spoke thus, he seized some bags of ballast. I precipitated myself
upon him; but, with one hand, he overthrew me, and the lightened balloon
rose to a height of 1500 metres.

"Sit down," said he, "and do not forget that Brioschi, Biot, and
Gay-Lussac, ascended to a height of seven thousand metres, in order to
establish some new scientific laws."

"We must descend;" resumed I, with an attempt at gentleness. "The storm
is gathering beneath our feet and around us; it would not be prudent."

"We will ascend above it, and shall have nothing to fear from it. What
more beautiful than to reign in heaven, and look down upon the clouds
which hover upon the earth! Is it not an honour to navigate these aerial
waves? The greatest personages have travelled like ourselves. The
Marquise and Comtesse de Montalembert, the Comtesse de Potteries, Mlle.
La Garde, the Marquis of Montalembert, set out from the Faubourg St.
Antoine for these unknown regions. The Duc de Chartres displayed much
address and presence of mind in his ascension of the 15th of July, 1784;
at Lyons, the Comtes de Laurencin and de Dampierre; at Nantes, M. de
Luynes; at Bordeaux, D'Arbelet des Granges; in Italy, the Chevalier
Andreani; in our days, the Duke of Brunswick; have left in the air the
track of their glory. In order to equal these great personages, we must
ascend into the celestial regions higher than they. To approach the
infinite is to comprehend it."

The rarefaction of the air considerably dilated the hydrogen, and I saw
the lower part of the aerostat, designedly left empty, become by degrees
inflated, rendering the opening of the valve indispensable; but my
fearful companion seemed determined not to allow me to direct our
movements. I resolved to pull secretly the cord attached to the valve,
while he was talking with animation. I feared to guess with whom I had
to do; it would have been too horrible! It was about three-quarters of
an hour since we had left Frankfort, and from the south thick clouds
were arising and threatening to engulf us.

"Have you lost all hope of making your plans succeed?" said I, with
great apparent interest.

"All hope!" replied the unknown, despairingly. "Wounded by refusals,
caricatures, those blows with the foot of an ass, have finished me. It
is the eternal punishment reserved for innovators. See these caricatures
of every age with which my portfolio is filled."

I had secured the cord of the valve, and stooping over his works,
concealed my movements from him. It was to be feared, nevertheless, that
he would notice that rushing sound, like a waterfall, which the gas
produces in escaping.

"How many jests at the expense of the Abbé Miolan! He was about to
ascend with Janninet and Bredin. During the operation, their balloon
took fire, and an ignorant populace tore it to pieces. Then the
caricature of _The Curious Animals_ called them _Maulant, Jean Mind, and

The barometer had began to rise; it was time! A distant muttering of
thunder was heard towards the south.

"See this other engraving," continued he, without seeming to suspect my
manoeuvres. "It is an immense balloon, containing a ship, large castles,
houses, &c. The caricaturists little thought that their absurdities
would one day become verities. It is a large vessel; at the left is the
helm with the pilot's box; at the prow, _maisons de plaisance_, a
gigantic organ, and cannon to call the attention of the inhabitants of
earth or of the moon; above the stern the observatory and pilot-balloon;
at the equatorial circle, the barracks of the army; on the left the
lantern; then upper galleries for promenades, the sails, the wings;
beneath, the cafés and general store-houses of provisions. Admire this
magnificent announcement. 'Invented for the good of the human race,
this globe will depart immediately for the seaports in the Levant, and
on its return will announce its voyages for the two poles and the
extremities of the Occident. Every provision is made; there will be an
exact rate of fare for each place of destination; but the prices for
distant voyages will be the same, 1000 louis. And it must be confessed
that this is a moderate sum, considering the celerity, convenience, and
pleasure of this mode of travelling above all others. While in this
balloon, every one can divert himself as he pleases, dancing, playing,
or conversing with people of talent. Pleasure will be the soul of the
aerial society.' All these inventions excited laughter. But before long,
if my days were not numbered, these projects should become realities."

We were visibly descending; he did not perceive it!

"See this game of balloons; it contains the whole history of the
aerostatic art. This game, for the use of educated minds, is played like
that of the Jew; with dice and counters of any value agreed upon, which
are to be paid or received, according to the condition in which one

"But," I resumed, "you seem to have valuable documents on aerostation?"

"I am less learned than the Almighty! That is all! I possess all the
knowledge possible in this world. From Phaeton, Icarus, and Architas. I
have searched all, comprehended all! Through me, the aerostatic art
would render immense services to the world, if God should spare my life!
But that cannot be."

"Why not?"

"Because my name is Empedocles or Erostratus!"


The Company of Aerostiers--The Battle of Fleurus--The Balloon over the
Sea--Blanchard and Jefferies--A Drama such as is rarely seen--3000
Metres--The Thunder beneath our Feet--Gavnerin at Rome--The Compass
gone--The Victims of Aerostation--Pilatre--At 4000 Metres--The Barometer
gone--Descents of Olivari, Mosment, Bittorf, Harris, Sadler, and Madame
Blanchard--The Valve rendered useless--7000 Metres--Zambecarri--The
Ballon (sic) Wrecked--Incalculable Heights--The Car
Overset--Despair--Vertigo--The Fall--The Dénouement.

I shuddered! Fortunately the balloon was approaching the earth. But the
danger is the same at 50 feet as at 5000 metres! The clouds were

"Remember the battle of Fleurus, and you will comprehend the utility of
aerostats! Coulee, by order of the government, organized a company of
aerostiers. At the siege of Maubeuge, General Jourdan found this new
method of observation so serviceable, that twice a day, accompanied by
the General himself, Coutelle ascended into the air; the correspondence
between the aeronaut and the aerostiers who held the balloon, was
carried on by means of little white, red, and yellow flags. Cannons and
carbines were often aimed at the balloon at the moment of its ascension,
but without effect. When Jourdan was preparing to invest Charleroi,
Coutelle repaired to the neighbourhood of that place, rose from the
plain of Jumet, and remained taking observations seven or eight hours,
with General Morelot. The Austrians came to deliver the city, and a
battle was fought on the heights of Fleurus. General Jourdan publicly
proclaimed the assistance he had received from aeronautic observations.
Well! notwithstanding the services rendered on this occasion, and during
the campaign with Belgium, the year which witnessed the commencement of
the military career of balloons, also saw it terminate. And the school
of Meuon, founded by government, was closed by Bonaparte, on his return
from Egypt. 'What are we to expect from the child which has just been
born?' Franklin had said. But the child was born alive! It need not
have been strangled!"

The unknown hid his forehead in his hands, reflected for a few moments,
then, without raising his head, said to me:

"Notwithstanding my orders, you have opened the upper valve!"

I let go the cord.

"Fortunately" continued he, "we have still two hundred pounds of

"What are your plans?" said I, with effort.

"You have never crossed the sea?"

I grew frightfully pale, terror froze my veins.

"It is a pity," said he, "that we are being wafted towards the Adriatic!
That is only a streamlet. Higher! we shall find other currents!"

And without looking at me, he lightened the balloon by several bags of

"I allowed you to open the valve, because the dilatation of the gas
threatened to burst the balloon. But do not do it again."

I was stupified.

"You know the voyage from Dover to Calais made by Blanchard and
Jefferies. It was rich in incident. On the 7th of January, 1785, in a
northeast wind, their balloon was filled with gas on the Dover side;
scarcely had they risen, when an error in equilibrium compelled them to
threw out their ballast, retaining only thirty pounds. The wind drifted
them slowly along towards the shores of France. The permeability of the
tissue gradually suffered the gas to escape, and at the expiration of an
hour and a half, the voyagers perceived that they were descending.
'What is to be done?' said Jefferies.--'We have passed over only
three-fourths of the distance,' replied Blanchard 'and at a slight
elevation. By ascending we shall expose ourselves to contrary winds.
Throw out the remainder of the ballast.' The balloon regained its
ascensional force, but soon re-descended. About midway of the voyage,
the aeronauts threw out their books and tools. A quarter of an hour
afterwards, Blanchard said to Jefferies: 'The barometer?'--'It is
rising! We are lost; and yet there are the shores of France!' A great
noise was heard. 'Is the balloon rent?' asked Jefferies.--'No! the
escape of the gas has collapsed the lower part of the balloon'--'But we
are still descending. We are lost! Everything not indispensable must be
thrown overboard!' Their provisions, oars and helm were thrown out into
the sea. They were now only 100 metres in height. 'We are remounting,'
said the Doctor.--' No, it is the jerk caused by the diminution of
weight. There is not a ship in sight! Not a bark on the horizon! To the
sea with our garments!' And the unfortunate men stripped, but the
balloon continued to descend. 'Blanchard,' said Jefferies, 'you were
to have made this voyage alone; you consented to take me; I will
sacrifice myself to you! I will throw myself into the water, and the
balloon, relieved, will re-ascend!'--' No, no, it is frightful.' The
balloon collapsed more and more, and its concavity forming a parachute,
forced the gas against its sides and accelerated its motion. 'Adieu, my
friend,' said the Doctor. 'May God preserve you!' He was about to have
taken the leap, when Blanchard detained him. 'One resource remains to
us! We can cut the cords by which the car is attached, and cling to the
network? perhaps the balloon will rise. Ready! But the barometer falls!
We remount! The wind freshens! We are saved!' The voyagers perceived
Calais! Their joy became delirium; a few moments later, they descended
in the forest of Guines. I doubt not," continued the unknown, "that in
similar circumstances you would follow the example of Doctor Jefferies."

The clouds were unrolling beneath our feet in glittering cascades; the
balloon cast a deep shadow on this pile of clouds, and was surrounded by
them as with an aureola! The thunder growled beneath our feet! All this
was frightful!

"Let us descend!" exclaimed I.

"Descend, when the sun is awaiting us yonder! Down with the bags!" And
he lightened the balloon of more than fifty pounds. At 3000 metres we
remained stationary. The unknown talked incessantly, but I scarcely
heard him; I was completely prostrated, while he seemed in his element.

"With a good wind, we shall go far, but we must especially go high!"

"We are lost!"

"In the Antilles there are currents of air which travel a hundred leagues
an hour! On the occasion of Napoleon's coronation, Gavnerin let off a
balloon illuminated with coloured lamps, at eleven o'clock in the
evening! The wind blew from the N.N.E.; the next morning at daybreak the
inhabitants of Rome saluted its passage above the dome of St. Peter's.
We will go farther."

I scarcely heard him; everything was buzzing around me! There was an
opening in the clouds!

"See that city, my host;" said the unknown. "It is Spire. Nothing else!"

I dared not lean over the railing of the car. Nevertheless I perceived a
little black spot. This was Spire. The broad Rhine looked like a riband,
the great roads like threads. Above our heads the sky was of a deep
azure; I was benumbed with the cold. The birds had long since forsaken
us; in this rarefied sir their flight would have been impossible. We
were alone in space, and I in the presence of a strange man!

"It is useless for you to know whither I am taking you," said he, and he
threw the compass into the clouds. "A fall is a fine thing. You know
that there have been a few victims from Pilatre des Rosiers down to
Lieutenant Gale, and these misfortunes have always been caused by
imprudence. Pilatre des Rosiers ascended in company with Remain, at
Boulogne, on the 13th of June, 1785. To his balloon, inflated with gas,
he had suspended a _mongolfier_ filled with warm air, undoubtedly to
save the trouble of letting off gas, or throwing out ballast. It was
like putting a chafing-dish beneath a powder-cask. The imprudent men
rose to a height of four hundred metres, and encountered opposing winds,
which drove them over the ocean. In order to descend, Pilatre attempted
to open the valve of the aerostat; but the cord of this valve caught in
the balloon, and tore it so that it was emptied in an instant. It fell
on the mongolfier, overturned it, and the imprudent men were dashed to
pieces in a few seconds. It is _frightful, is_ it not?" said the
unknown, shaking me from my torpor.

I could reply only by these words:

"In pity, let us descend! The clouds are gathering around us in every
direction, and frightful detonations reverberating from the cavity of
the aerostat are multiplying around us."

"You make me impatient!" said he. "You shall no longer know whether we
are ascending or descending."

And the barometer went after the compass, along with some bags of sand.
We must have been at a height of four thousand metres. Some icicles were
attached to the sides of the car, and a sort of fine snow penetrated to
my bones. Meanwhile a terrific storm was bursting beneath our feet. We
were above it.

"Do not fear," said my strange companion; "it is only imprudence that
makes victims. Olivari, who perished at Orleans, ascended in a
mongolfier made of paper; his car, suspended below the chafing-dish, and
ballasted with combustible materials, became a prey to the flames!
Olivari fell, and was killed. Mosment ascended at Lille, on a light
platform; an oscillation made him lose his equilibrium. Mosment fell,
and was killed. Bittorf, at Manheim, saw his paper balloon take fire in
the air! Bittorf fell, and was killed. Harris ascended in a balloon
badly constructed, the valve of which was too large to be closed again.
Harris fell, and was killed. Sadler, deprived of ballast by his long
stay in the air, was dragged over the city of Boston, and thrown against
the chimneys. Sadler fell, and was killed. Cocking descended with a
convex parachute which he pretended to have perfected. Cocking fell, and
was killed. Well, I love them, those noble victims of their courage! and
I will die like them! Higher! higher!"

All the phantoms of this necrology were passing before my eyes! The
rarefaction of the air and the rays of tile sun increased the dilatation
of the gas; the balloon continued to ascend! I mechanically attempted to
open the valve; but the unknown cut the cord a few feet above my head. I
was lost!

"Did you see Madame Blanchard fall?" said he to me. "I saw her, I--yes,
I was at Tivoli on the 6th of July, 1819. Madame Blanchard ascended in a
balloon of small size, to save the expense of filling; she was therefore
obliged to inflate it entirely, and the gas escaped by the lower
orifice, leaving on its route a train of hydrogen. She carried,
suspended above her car, by an iron wire, a kind of firework, forming an
aureola, which she was to kindle. She had often repeated this
experiment. On this occasion she carried, besides, a little parachute,
ballasted by a firework terminating in a ball with silver rain. Site was
to launch this apparatus, after having lighted it with a _lance à feu_,
prepared for the purpose. She ascended. The night was dark. At the
moment of lighting the firework, she was so imprudent as to let the
lance pass beneath the column of hydrogen, which was escaping from the
balloon. My eyes were fixed on her. Suddenly an unexpected flash
illuminated the darkness. I thought it a surprise of the skilful
aeronaut. The flame increased, suddenly disappeared, and re-appeared at
the top of the aerostat under the form of an immense jet of burning gas.
This sinister light projected over the Boulevard, and over the quarter
Montmartre. Then I saw the unfortunate woman rise, twice attempt to
compress the orifice of the balloon, to extinguish the fire, then seat
herself in the car and seek to direct its descent; for she did not fall.
The combustion of the gas lasted several minutes. The balloon,
diminishing by degrees, continued to descend, but this was not a fall!
The wind blew from the northeast, and drove her over Paris. There were,
at that time, in the neighbourhood of the house No. 16 Rue de Provence,
immense gardens. The aeronaut might have fallen there without danger.
But unhappily the balloon and the car alighted on the roof of the house.
The shock was slight. 'Help!' cried the unfortunate woman. I arrived in
the street at that moment. The car slid along the roof, and encountered
an iron hook. At this shock, Madame Blanchard was thrown out of the car,
and precipitated on the pavement! She was killed!"

These histories of fatal augury froze me with horror. The unknown was
standing upright, with bare head, bristling hair, haggard eyes.

Illusion was no longer possible. I saw at last the horrible truth. I had
to deal with a madman!

He threw out half the ballast, and we must have been borne to a height
of 7000 metres! Blood spouted from my nose and mouth.

"What a fine thing it is to be martyrs to science! They are canonized by

I heard no more. The unknown looked around him with horror, and knelt at
my ear.

"On the 7th of October, 1804, the weather had began to clear up a
little; for several days preceding, the wind and rain had been
incessant. But the ascension announced by Zambecarri could not be
postponed! His idiot enemies already scoffed at him. To save himself and
science from public ridicule, it became necessary for him to ascend. It
was at Bologna! No one aided him in filling his balloon; he rose at
midnight, accompanied by Andreoli and Grossetti. The balloon ascended
slowly; it had been rent by the wind, and the gas escaped. The three
intrepid voyagers could observe the state of the barometer only by the
aid of a dark lantern. Zambecarri had not eaten daring twenty-four
hours; Grossetti was also fasting.

"'My friends,' said Zambecarri, 'I am benumbed with the cold; I am
exhausted; I must die;' and he fell senseless in the gallery.

"It was the same with Grossetti. Andreoli alone remained awake. After
long efforts he succeeded in arousing Zambecarri from his stupor.

"'What is there new? Where are we going? In which direction is the wind?
What time is it?'

"' It is two o'clock!'

"' Where is the compass?'

"'It has fallen out.'

"' Great God! the lamp is extinguished!'

"' It could not burn longer in this rarefied air!' said Zambecarri.

"The moon had not risen; the atmosphere was plunged in horrible

"' I am cold, I am cold, Andreoli! What shall we do?'

"The unfortunate men slowly descended through a layer of white clouds.

"'Hush!' said Andreoli; 'do you hear--'

"' What?' replied Zambecarri.

"'A singular noise!'

"'You are mistaken!'

"'No!--Do you see those midnight travellers, listening to that
incomprehensible sound? Have they struck against a rower? Are they about
to be precipitated on the roofs? Do you hear it? It is like the sound of
the ocean!'


"' It is the roaring of the waves!'

"' That is true!--Light! light!'

"After five fruitless attempts, Andreoli obtained it. It was three
o'clock. The sound of the waves was heard with violence; they almost
touched the surface of the sea.

"' We are lost!' exclaimed Zambecarri, seizing a bag of ballast.

"' Help!' cried Andreoli.

"The car touched the water, and the waves covered them breast high. To
the sea with instruments, garments, money! The aeronauts stripped
entirely. The lightened balloon rose with frightful rapidity. Zambecarri
was seized with violent vomiting. Grossetti bled freely. The unhappy men
could not speak; their respiration was short. They were seized with
cold, and in a moment covered with a coat of ice. The moon appeared to
them red as blood. After having traversed these high regions during half
an hour, the machine again fell into the sea. It was four o'clock in the
morning: the bodies of the wretched aeronauts were half in the water,
and the balloon, acting as a sail, dragged them about during several
hours. At daybreak, they found themselves opposite Pesaro, five miles
from the shore; they were about to land, when a sudden flaw of wind
drove them back to the open sea. They were lost! The affrighted barks
fled at their approach. Fortunately, a more intelligent navigator hailed
them, took them on board; and they landed at Ferrara. That was
frightful! Zambecarri was a brave man. Scarcely recovered from his
sufferings, he recommenced his ascensions. In one of them, he struck
against a tree; his lamp, filled with spirits of wine, was spilled over
his clothes, and they caught fire; he was covered with flame his machine
was beginning to kindle, when he descended, half burned. The 21st
September, 1812, he made another ascension at Bologna; his balloon
caught in a tree; his lamp set fire to it. Zambecarri fell, and was
killed! And in presence of these high facts, shall we still hesitate?
No! The higher we go the more glorious will be our death"

The balloon, entirely unballasted, we were borne to incredible heights.
The aerostat vibrated in the atmosphere; the slightest sound re-echoed
through the celestial vaults; the globe, the only object which struck my
sight in immensity, seemed about to be annihilated, and above us the
heights of heaven lost themselves in the profound darkness!

I saw the unknown rise before me.

"This is the hour!" said he to me. "We must die! We are rejected by
men! They despise its! let us crush them!"

"Mercy!" exclaimed I.

"Let us cut the cords! let this car be abandoned in space! The
attractive force will change its direction, and we shall land in the

Despair gave me strength! I precipitated myself upon the madman, and a
frightful struggle took place! But I was thrown down! and while he held
me beneath his knee, he cut the cords of the car!

"One!" said he.

"Mercy! O, God!"

"Two! three!"

One cord more, and the car was sustained only on one side. I made a
superhuman effort, rose, and violently repulsed this insensate.

"Four!" said he.

The car was overset. I instinctively clung to the cords which held it,
and climbed up the outside.

The unknown had disappeared in space!

In a twinkling the balloon ascended to an immeasurable height! A
horrible crash was heard. The dilated gas had burst its envelope! I
closed my eyes. A few moments afterwards, a moist warmth reanimated me;
I was in the midst of fiery clouds! The balloon was whirling with
fearful rapidity! I felt myself swooning! Driven by the wind, I
travelled a hundred leagues an hour in my horizontal course; the
lightnings flashed around me!

Meanwhile my fall was not rapid. When I opened my eyes, I perceived the
country. I was two miles from the sea, the hurricane urging me on with
great force. I was lost, when a sudden shock made me let go; my hands
opened, a cord slipped rapidly between my fingers, and I found myself on
the ground. It was the cord of the anchor, which, sweeping the surface
of the ground, had caught in a crevice! I fainted, and my lightened
balloon, resuming its flight, was lost beyond the sea.

When I recovered my senses, I was in the house of a peasant, at
Harderwick, a little town of Gueldre, fifteen leagues from Amsterdam, on
the banks of the Zuyderzée.

A miracle had saved me. But my voyage had been but a series of
imprudences against which I had been unable to defend myself.

May this terrific recital, while it instructs those who read it, not
discourage the explorers of the routes of air.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Voyage in a Balloon (1852)" ***

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