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Title: Wonderful Balloon Ascents; Or, The Conquest of the Skies
 - A History of Balloons and Balloon Voyages
Author: Marion, Fulgence
Language: English
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or, the Conquest of the Skies

A History of Balloons and Balloon Voyages.

By F. Marion



“Let posterity know, and knowing be astonished, that on the fifteenth
day of September, 1784, Vincent Lunardi of Lucca, 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, on this spot revisited the earth. In this rude monument for
ages be recorded this wondrous enterprise successfully achieved by
the powers of chemistry and the fortitude of man, this improvement in
science which the great Author of all Knowledge, patronising by his
Providence the inventions of mankind, hath graciously permitted, to
their benefit and his own eternal glory.”

The stone upon which the above inscription was carved, stands, or stood
recently, near Collier’s End, in the parish of Standon, Hertfordshire;
and it will possibly afford the English reader a more accurate idea of
the feelings with which the world hailed the discovery of the balloon
than any incident or illustration drawn from the annals of a foreign

The work which we now introduce to our readers does not exaggerate the
case when it declares that no discovery of modern times has aroused so
large an amount of enthusiasm, has excited so many hopes, has appeared
to the human race to open up so many vistas of enterprise and research,
as that for which we are mainly indebted to the Brothers Montgolfier.
The discovery or the invention of the balloon, however, was one of those
efforts of genius and enterprise which have no infancy. It had reached
its full growth when it burst upon the world, and the ninety years which
have since elapsed have witnessed no development of the original idea.
The balloon of to-day--the balloon in which Coxwell and Glaisher have
made their perilous trips into the remote regions of the air--is in
almost every respect the same as the balloon with which “the physician
Charles,” following in the footsteps of the Montgolfiers, astonished
Paris in 1783. There are few more tantalising stories in the annals of
invention than this. So much had been accomplished when Roziers made his
first aerial voyage above the astonished capital of France that all the
rest seemed easy. The new highway appeared to have been thrown open
to the world, and the dullest imagination saw the air thronged with
colossal chariots, bearing travellers in perfect safety, and with more
than the speed of the eagle, from city to city, from country to
country, reckless of all the obstacles--the seas, and rivers, and
mountains--which Nature might have placed in the path of the wayfarer.
But from that moment to the present the prospect which was thus opened
up has remained a vision and nothing more. There are--as those who
visited the Crystal Palace two years ago have reason to know--not a few
men who still believe in the practicability of journeying by air. But,
with hardly an exception, those few have abandoned all idea of utilising
the balloon for this purpose. The graceful “machine” which astonished
the world at its birth remains to this day as beautiful, and as useless
for the purposes of travel, as in the first hour of its history. The day
may come when some one more fortunate than the Montgolfiers may earn the
Duke of Sutherland’s offered reward by a successful flight from the Mall
to the top of Stafford House; but when this comes to pass the balloon
will have no share in the honour of the achievement. Not the less,
however, is the story of this wonderful invention worthy of being
recorded. It deserves a place in the history of human enterprise--if
for nothing else--because of the daring courage which it has in so
many cases brought to light. From the days of Roziers down to those of
Coxwell, our aeronauts have fearlessly tempted dangers not less terrible
than those which face the soldier as he enters the imminent deadly
breach; and, as one of the chapters in this volume mournfully proves,
not a few of their number have paid the penalty of their rash courage
with their lives. All the more is it to be regretted that so little
practical good has resulted from their labours and their sacrifices; and
that so many of those who have perished in balloon voyages have done
so whilst serving to better end than the amusement of a holiday crowd.
There is, however, another aspect which makes at least the earlier
history of the balloon well worth preserving. This is the influence
which the invention had upon the generation which witnessed it. As
these pages show, the people of Europe seem to have been absolutely
intoxicated by the success of the Montgolfiers’ discovery. There is
something bitterly suggestive in our knowledge of this fact. Whilst
pensions and honours and popular applause were being showered upon
the inventors of the balloon, Watt was labouring unnoticed at his
improvements of the steam-engine--a very prosaic affair compared with
the gilded globe which Montgolfier had caused to rise from earth amidst
the acclamations of a hundred thousand spectators, but one which had
before it a somewhat different history to that of the more startling
invention. England, when it remembers the story of the steam-engine,
has little need to grudge France the honour of discovering the balloon.
After all, however, Great Britain had its share in that discovery. The
early observations of Francis Bacon and Bishop Wilkins paved the way for
the later achievement, whilst it was our own Cavendish who discovered
that hydrogen gas was lighter than air; and Dr. Black of Edinburgh, who
first employed that gas to raise a globe in which it was contained from
the earth. The Scotch professor, we are told, thought that the discovery
which he made when he sent his little tissue-paper balloon from his
lecture-table to the ceiling of his classroom, was of no use except as
affording the means of making an interesting experiment. Possibly our
readers, after they have perused this volume, may think that Dr Black
was not after all so far wrong as people once imagined. Be this as it
may, however, in these pages is the history of the balloon, and of
the most memorable balloon voyages, and we comprehend the story to our
readers not the less cordially that it comes from the land where the
balloon had its birth.

London, January, 1870.



Chapter I. Introduction.

The title of our introduction to aeronautics may appear ambitious to
astronomers, and to those who know that the infinite space we call the
heavens is for ever inaccessible to travellers from the earth; but
it was not so considered by those who witnessed the ardent enthusiasm
evoked at the ascension of the first balloon. No discovery, in the
whole range of history, has elicited an equal degree of applause and
admiration--never has the genius of man won a triumph which at first
blush seemed more glorious. The mathematical and physical sciences
had in aeronautics achieved apparently their greatest honours, and
inaugurated a new era in the progress of knowledge. After having
subjected the earth to their power; after having made the waves of the
sea stoop in submission under the keels of their ships; after having
caught the lightning of heaven and made it subservient to the ordinary
purposes of life, the genius of man undertook to conquer the regions of
the air. Imagination, intoxicated with past successes, could descry no
limit to human power; the gates of the infinite seemed to be swinging
back before man’s advancing step, and the last was believed to be the
greatest of his achievements.

In order to comprehend the frenzy of the enthusiasm which the first
aeronautic triumphs called forth, it is necessary to recall the
appearance of Montgolfier at Versailles, on the 19th of September, 1783,
before Louis XVI, or of the earliest aeronauts at the Tuileries. Paris
hailed the first of these men with the greatest acclaim, “and then, as
now,” says a French writer, “the voice of Paris gave the cue to France,
and France to the world!” Nobles and artisans, scientific men and
badauds, great and small, were moved with one universal impulse. In the
streets the praises of the balloon were sung; in the libraries models
of it abounded; and in the salons the one universal topic was the great
“machine.” In anticipation, the poet delighted himself with bird’s-eye
views of the scenery of strange countries; the prisoner mused on what
might be a new way of escape; the physicist visited the laboratory in
which the lightning and the meteors were manufactured; the geometrician
beheld the plans of cities and the outlines of kingdoms; the general
discovered the position of the enemy or rained shells on the besieged
town; the police beheld a new mode in which to carry on the secret
service; Hope heralded a new conquest from the domain of nature, and the
historian registered a new chapter in the annals of human knowledge.

“Scientific discoveries in general,” says Arago, “even those from
which men expect the most advantage, like those of the compass and the
steam-engine, were greeted at first with contempt, or at the best with
indifference. Political events, and the fortunes of armies monopolised
almost entirely the attention of the people. But to this rule there
are two exceptions--the discoveries of America and of aerostatics, the
advents of Columbus and of Montgolfier.” It is not here our duty
to inquire how it happened that the discoveries made by these two
personages are classed together. Air-travelling may be as unproductive
of actual good to society as filling the belly with the “east wind” is
to the body, while every one knows something of the extent to which the
discovery of Columbus has influenced the character, the civilisation,
the destinies, in short, of the human race. We are speaking at present
of the known and well-attested fact, that the discovery of America
and the discovery of the method of traversing space by means of
balloons--however they may differ in respect of results to man--rank
equally in this, that of all other discoveries these two have attracted
the greatest amount of attention, and given, in their respective eras,
the greatest impulse to popular feeling. Let the reader recall the marks
of enthusiasm which the discovery of the islands on the east coast of
America excited in Andalusia, in Catalonia, in Aragon and Castile--let
him read the narrative of the honours paid by town and village, not only
to the hero of the enterprise, but even to his commonest sailors, and
then let him search the records of the epoch for the degree of sensation
produced by the discovery of aeronautics in France, which stands in the
same relationship to this event as that in which Spain stands to the
other. The processions of Seville and Barcelona are the exact prototypes
of the fetes of Lyons and Paris. In France, in 1783, as in Spain two
centuries previously, the popular imagination was so greatly excited by
the deeds performed, that it began to believe in possibilities of
the most unlikely description. In Spain, the conquestadores and their
followers believed that in a few days after they had landed on American
soil, they would have gathered as much gold and precious stones, as were
then possessed by the richest European Sovereigns. In France, each one
following his own notions, made out for himself special benefits to flow
from the discovery of balloons. Every discovery then appeared to be only
the precursor of other and greater discoveries, and nothing after that
time seemed to be impossible to him who attempted the conquest of the
atmosphere. This idea clothed itself in every form. The young embraced
it with enthusiasm, the old made it the subject of endless regrets. When
one of the first aeronautic ascents was made, the old Marechal Villeroi,
an octogenarian and an invalid, was conducted to one of the windows of
the Tuileries, almost by force, for he did not believe in balloons. The
balloon, meanwhile, detached itself from its moorings; the physician
Charles, seated in the car, gaily saluted the public, and was then
majestically launched into space in his air-boat; and at once the old
Marechal, beholding this, passed suddenly from unbelief to perfect faith
in aerostatics and in the capacity of the human mind, fell on his knees,
and, with his eyes bathed in tears, moaned out pitifully the words,
“Yes, it is fixed! It is certain! They will find out the secret of
avoiding death; but it will be after I am gone!”

If we recall the impressions which the first air-journeys made, we shall
find that, among people of enthusiastic temperament, it was believed
that it was not merely the blue sky above us, not merely the terrestrial
atmosphere, but the vast spaces through which the worlds move, that
were to become the domain of man--the sea of the balloon. The moon,
the mysterious dwelling-place of men unknown, would no longer be an
inaccessible place. Space no longer contained regions which man could
not cross! Indeed, certain expeditions attempted the crossing of the
heavens, and brought back news of the moon. The planets that revolve
round the sun, the far-flying comets, the most distant stars--these
formed the field which from that time was to lie open to the
investigations of man.

This enthusiasm one can well enough understand. There is in the simple
fact of an aerial ascent something so bold and so astonishing, that the
human spirit cannot fail to be profoundly stirred by it. And if this is
the feeling of men at the present day, when, after having been witnesses
of ascents for the last eighty years, they see men confiding themselves
in a swinging car into the immensities of space, what must have been the
astonishment of those who, for the first time since the commencement
of the world, beheld one of their fellow-creatures rolling in space,
without any other assurance of safety than what his still dim perception
of the laws of nature gave him?

Why should we be obliged here to state that the great discovery that
stirred the spirits of men from the one end of Europe to the other,
and gave rise to hopes of such vast discoveries, should have failed
in realising the expectations which seemed so clearly justified by the
first experiments? It is now eighty-six years since the first aerial
journey astonished the world, and yet, in 1870, we are but little
more advanced in the science than we were in 1783. Our age is the most
renowned for its discoveries of any that the world has seen. Man is
borne over the surface of the earth by steam; he is as familiar as the
fish with the liquid element; he transmits his words instantaneously
from London to New York; he draws pictures without pencil or brush, and
has made the sun his slave. The air alone remains to him unsubdued. The
proper management of balloons has not yet been discovered. More
than that, it appears that balloons are unmanageable, and it is to
air-vessels, constructed more nearly upon the model of birds, that we
must go to find out the secret of aerial navigation. At present, as in
former times, we are at the mercy of balloons--globes lighter than the
air, and therefore the sport and the prey of tempests and currents.
And aeronauts, instead of showing themselves now as the benefactors of
mankind, exhibit themselves mainly to gratify a frivolous curiosity, or
to crown with eclat a public fete.

Chapter II. Attempts in Ancient Times to Fly in the Air.

Before contemplating the sudden conquest of the aerial kingdom, as
accomplished and proclaimed at the end of the last century, it is at
once curious and instructive to cast a glance backward, and to examine,
by the glimmering of ancient traditions, the attempts which have been
made or imagined by man to enfranchise himself from the attraction of
the earth.

“The greater number of the arts and sciences can be traced along a
chronological ladder of great length: some, indeed, lose themselves in
the night of time.” The accomplishment of raising oneself in the air,
however, had no actual professors in antiquity, and the discovery
of Montgolfier seems to have come into the world, so to speak,
spontaneously. By this it is to be understood that, unlike Copernicus
and Columbus, Montgolfier could not read in history of any similar
discovery, containing the germ of his own feat. At least, we have no
proof that the ancient nations practiced the art of aerial navigation
to any extent whatever. The attempts which we are about to cite do not
strictly belong to the history of aerostatics.

Classic mythology tells us of Daedalus, who, escaping with his son
Icarus from the anger of Minos, in the Isle of Crete, saved himself from
the immediate evil by the aid of wings, which he made for himself and
his son, and by means of which they were enabled to fly in the air. The
wings, it appears, were soldered with wax, and Icarus, flying too high,
was struck by a ray of the sun, which melted the wax. The youth fell
into the sea, which from him derived its name of Icarian. It is possible
that this fable only symbolisms the introduction of sails in navigation.

Coming down through ancient history, we note a certain Archytas, of
Tarentum, who, in the fourth century B. C., is said to have launched
into the air the first “flying stag,” and who, according to the Greek
writers, “made a pigeon of wood, which flew, but which could not
raise itself again after having fallen.” Its flight, it is said, “was
accomplished by means of a mechanical contrivance, by the vibrations of
which it was sustained in the air.”

In the year 66 A.D., in the time of Nero, Simon, the magician--who
called himself “the mechanician”--made certain experiments at Rome of
flying at a certain height. In the eyes of the early Christians this
power was attributed to the devil, and St. Peter, the namesake of this
flying man, is said to have prayed fervently while Simon was amusing
himself in space. It was possibly in answer to his prayers that the
magician failed in his flight, fell upon the Forum, and broke his neck
on the spot.

From the summit of the tower of the hippodrome at Constantinople, a
certain Saracen met the same fate as Simon, in the reign of the Emperor
Comnenus. His experiments were conducted on the principle of the
inclined plane. He descended in an oblique course, using the resistance
of the air as a support. His robe, very long and very large, and of
which the flaps were extended on an osier frame, preserved him from
suddenly falling.

The inclined plane probably suggested to Milton the flight of the angel
Uriel, in “Paradise Lost,” who descended in the morning from heaven to
earth upon a ray of the sun, and ascended in the evening from earth to
heaven by the same means. But we cannot quote here the fancies of
pure imagination, and we will not speak of Medeus the magician, of the
enchantress Armida, of the witches of the Brocken, of the hippogriff
of Zephyrus with the rosy wings, or of the diabolical inventions of the
middle ages, for many of which the stake was the only reward.

Roger Bacon, in the thirteenth century, inaugurated a more scientific
era. In his “Treaty of the Admirable Power of Art and Nature,” he puts
forth the idea that it is possible “to make flying-machines in which the
man, being seated or suspended in the middle, might turn some winch or
crank, which would put in motion a suit of wings made to strike the
air like those of a bird.” In the same treatise he sketches a
flying-machine, to which that of Blanchard, who lived in the eighteenth
century, bears a certain resemblance. The monk, Roger Bacon, was worthy
of entering the temple of fame before his great namesake the Lord
Chancellor, who in the seventeenth century inaugurated the era of
experimental science.

Jean Baptiste Dante, a mathematician of Perugia, who lived in the latter
part of the fifteenth century, constructed artificial wings, by means of
which, when applied to thin bodies, men might raise themselves off
the ground into the air. It is recorded that on many occasions he
experimented with his wings on the Lake Thrasymenus. These experiments,
however, had a sad end. At a fete, given for the celebration of the
marriage of Bartholomew d’Alvani, Dante, who must not be confounded with
the poet, whose flights were of quite another kind--offered to exhibit
the wonder of his wings to the people of Perugia. He managed to raise
himself to a great height, and flew above the square; but the iron
with which he moved one of his wings having been bent, he fell upon the
church of the Virgin, and broke his thigh.

A similar accident befell a learned English Benedictine Oliver of
Malmesbury. This ecclesiastic was considered gifted with the power of
foretelling events; but, like other similarly circumstanced, he does
not seem to have beer able to divine the fate which awaited himself.
He constructed wings after the model of those which according to Ovid,
Daedalus made use of. These he attached to his arms and his feet, and,
thus furnished, he threw himself from the height of a tower. But the
wings bore him up for little more than a distance of 120 paces. He fell
at the foot of the tower, broke his legs, and from that moment led a
languishing life. He consoled himself, however, in his misfortune
by saying that his attempt must certainly have succeeded had he only
provided himself with a tail.

Before going further, let us take notice that the seventeenth century
is, par excellence, the century distinguished for narratives of
imaginary travels. It was then that astronomy opened up its world of
marvels. The knowledge of observers was vastly increased, and from that
time it became possible to distinguish the surface of the moon and of
other celestial bodies. Thus a new world, as it were, was revealed for
human thought and speculation. We learned that our globe was not, as we
had supposed, the centre of the universe. It was assigned its place far
from that centre, and was known to be no more than a mere atom, lost
amid an incalculable number of other globes. The revelations of the
telescope proved that those who formerly were considered wise actually
knew nothing. Quickly following these discoveries, extraordinary
narratives of excursions through space began to be given to the world.

Those scientific romances were simply wild exaggerations, based upon the
thinnest foundation of scientific facts. In order, however, to describe
a journey among the stars, it was necessary to invent some mode of
locomotion in these distant regions. In former times Lucian had been
content with a ship which ascended to the rising moon upon a waterspout;
but it was now necessary to improve upon this very primitive mode, as
people began to know something more of the forces of nature. One of the
first of these travellers in imagination to the moon in modern times was
Godwin (1638), and his plan was more ingenious than that of Lucian. He
trained a great number of the wild swans of St. Helena to fly constantly
upward toward a white object, and, having succeeded in thus training
them, one fine night he threw himself off the Peak of Teneriffe, poised
upon a piece of board, which was borne upward to the white moon by a
great team of the gigantic swans. At the end of twelve days he arrived,
according to his story, at his destination. A little later another
writer of this peculiar kind of fiction, Wilkins, an Englishman,
professed to have made the same ascent, borne up by an eagle. Alexandre
Dumas, who recently wrote a short romance upon the same subject, only
made a translation of an English work by that author. Wilkins’ work is
entitled, “The Discovery of a New World.” One chapter of the book bears
the title, “That ‘tis possible for some of our posterity to find out a
conveyance to this other world; and, if there be inhabitants there, to
have commerce with them.” It is thus that the right reverend philosopher

“If it be here inquired what means there may be conjectured for our
ascending beyond the sphere of the earth’s mathematical vigour, I
answer.--1. ‘Tis not possible that a man may be able to fly by the
application of wings to his own body, as angels are pictured, as
Mercury and Daedalus are feigned, and as hath been attempted by divers,
particularly by a Turk in Constantinople, a Busbequius relates. 2. If
there be such a great duck in Madagascar as Marcus Polus, the Venetian,
mentions, the feathers of whose wings are twelve feet long, which can
scoop up a horse and his rider, or an elephant, as our kites do a mouse;
why, then, ‘Tis but teaching one of these to carry a man, and he may
ride up thither, as Ganymede does upon an eagle. 3. Or if neither of
these ways will serve yet I do seriously, and upon good grounds, affirm
it is possible to make a flying chariot, in which a man may sit and
give such a motion to it as shall convey him through the air. And this,
perhaps, might be made large enough to carry divers men at the same
time, together with food for their viaticum, and commodities for
traffic. It is not the bigness of anything in this kind that can hinder
its motion if the motive faculty be answerable “hereunto. We see that;
great ship swims as well as a small cork, and an eagle flies in the air
as well as a little gnat. This engine may be contrived from the same
principles by which Archytas made a wooden dove, and Regiomontanus
a wooden eagle. I conceive it were no difficult matter (if a man had
leisure) to show more particularly the means of composing it. The
perfecting of such an invention would be of such excellent use that it
were enough, not only to make a man famous but the age wherein he lives.
For, besides the strange discoveries that it might occasion in this
other world, it would be also of inconceivable advantage for travelling,
above any other conveyance that is now in use. So that, notwithstanding
all these seeming impossibilities, it is likely enough that there may be
a means invented of journeying to the moon; and how happy shall they be
that are first successful in this attempt!”

Afterwards comes Cyrano of Bergerac, who promulgates five different
means of flying in the air. First, by means of phials filled with dew,
which would attract and cause to mount up. Secondly, by a great bird
made of wood, the wings of which should be kept in motion. Thirdly, by
rockets, which, going off successively, would drive up the balloon by
the force of projection. Fourthly, by an octahedron of glass, heated by
the sun, and of which the lower part should be allowed to penetrate the
dense cold air, which, pressing up against the rarefied hot air, would
raise the balloon. Fifthly, by a car of iron and a ball of magnetised
iron, which the aeronaut would keep throwing up in the air, and which
would attract and draw up the balloon. The wiseacre who invented these
modes of flying in the air seems, some would say, to have been more in
want of very strict confinement on the earth than of the freedom of the

In 1670 Francis Lana constructed the flying-machine shown on the next
page. The specific lightness of heated air and of hydrogen gas not
having yet been discovered, his only idea for making his globes rise was
to take all the air out of them. But even supposing that the globes were
thus rendered light enough to rise, they must inevitably have collapsed
under the atmospheric pressure.

As for the idea of making use of a sail to direct the balloon, as one
directs a vessel, that also was a delusion; for the whole machine,
globes and sails, being freely thrown into the air, would infallibly
follow the direction of the wind, whatever that might be. When a ship
lies in the sea, and its sails are inflated with the wind, we must
remember that there are two forces in operation--the active force of
the wind and the passive force of the resistance of the water; and in
working these forces the one against the other, the sailor can turn
within a point of any direction he pleases. But when we are subjected
wholly to a single force, and have no point of support by the use of
which to turn that force to our own purposes, as is the case with the
aeronaut, we are entirely at the mercy of that force, and must obey it.

After the flying-machine of Lana there was constructed by Galien (who,
like the former, was an ecclesiastic) an air-boat, less chimerical in
its form, looked at in view of the conditions of aerial navigation,
but much more singular. Galien describes his air-boat, in 1755, in his
little work entitled, “The Art of Sailing in the Air.” His project was
a most extraordinary one, and its boldness is only equalled by the
seriousness of the narrative. According to him, the atmosphere is
divided into two horizontal layers, the upper of which is much lighter
than the lower. “But,” says Galien, “a ship keeps its place in the water
because it is full of air, and air is much lighter than water. Suppose,
then, that there was the same difference of weight between the upper and
the lower layer of air as there is between the lower stratum and water;
and suppose, also, a boat which rested upon the lower layer of air, with
its bulk in the lighter upper layer--like a ship which has its keel in
the water but its bulk in the air--the same thing would happen with the
air-ship as with the water-ship--it would float in the denser layer of

Galien adds that in the region of hail there was in the air a separation
into two layers, the weights of which respectively are as 1 to 2.
“Then,” says he, “in placing an air-boat in the region of hail, with its
sides rising eighty-three fathoms into the upper region, which is much
more light, one could sail perfectly.”

But how to get this enormous air-boat up to the region of hail? This is
a minor detail, respecting which Galien is not clear.

From the labours of Lana and Galien, with their impossible flying
machines, the inventor of the balloon could derive no benefit whatever;
nor is his fame to be in the least diminished because many had laboured
in the same field before him. Nor can the story of the ovoador,
or flying man, a legend very confused, and of which there are many
versions, have given to Montgolfier any valuable hints. It appears that
a certain Laurent de Guzman, a monk of Rio Janeiro, performed at Lisbon
before the king, John V., raising himself in a balloon to a considerable
height. Other versions of the story give a different date, and assign
the pretended ascent to 1709. The above engraving, extracted from the
“Bibliotheque de la Rue de Richelieu,” is an exact copy of Guzman’s
supposed balloon.

In 1678 a mechanician of Salle, in Maine, named Besnier invented a
flying-machine. The machine consisted of four great wings, or paddles,
mounted at the extremities of levers, which rested on the shoulders of
the man who guided it, and who could move them alternately by means of
his hands and feet. The following description of the machine is given in
the Journal de Paris by an eye-witness:

“The ‘wings’ are oblong frames, covered with taffeta, and attached to
the ends of two rods, adjusted on the shoulders The wings work up and
down. Those in front are worked by the hands; those behind by the feet,
which are connected with the ends of the rods by strings. The movements
were such that when the right hand made the right wing descend in front,
the left foot made the left wing descend behind; and in like manner
the left hand in front and the right foot behind acted together
simultaneously. This diagonal action appeared very well contrived; it
was the action of most quadrupeds as well as of man when walking; but
the contrivance, like others of the same kind, failed in not being
fitted with gearing to enable the air traveller to proceed in any other
direction than that in which the wind blew him. The inventor first flew
down from a stool, then from a table, afterwards from a window, and
finally from a garret, from which he passed above the houses in the
neighbourhood, and then, moderating the working of his machine, he
descended slowly to the earth.”

Tradition records that under Louis XIV. a certain rope-dancer, named
Alard, announced that on a certain day he would perform the feat of
flying in the air. We have no description of his wings. It is recorded,
however, that he set out on his adventurous flight; but he had not
calculated all the necessities of the case, and, falling to the ground,
he was dangerously hurt.

Leonardo da Vinci might have known the art of flying in the air, and
might even have practiced it. A statement to this effect, at least, is
found in several historians. We have, however, no direct proof of the

The Abbe Deforges, of Etampes, announced in the journals in 1772 that
he would perform the great feat. On the appointed day multitudes of the
curious flocked to Etampes. The abbe’s machine was a sort of gondola,
seven feet long and about two feet deep. Gondola conductor, and baggage
weighed in all 213 pounds. The pious man believed that he had provided
against everything. Neither tempest nor rain should mar his flight,
and there was no chance of his being upset; whilst the machine, he had
decided, was to go at the rate of thirty leagues an hour.

The great day came, and the abbe, entering his air-boat amidst the
applause of the spectators, began to work the wings with which it was
provided with great rapidity. “But,” says one who witnessed the feat,
“the more he worked, the more his machine cleaved to the earth, as if it
were part and parcel of it.”

Retif de la Bretonne, in his work upon this subject, gives the
accompanying picture of a flying man, furnished with very artistically
designed wings, fitting exactly to the shoulders, and carrying a basket
of provisions, suspended from his waist; and the frontispiece of the
“Philosophic sans Pretention” is a view of a flying-machine. In the
midst of a frame of light wood sits the operator, steadying himself with
one hand, and with the other fuming a cremaillere, which appears to
give a very quick rotatory movement to two glass globes revolving upon
a vertical axis. The friction of the globes is supposed to develop
electricity to which his power of ascending is ascribed.

To wings, however, aerial adventurers mostly adhered. The Marquis de
Racqueville flew from a window of his hotel, on the banks of the
Seine, and fell into a boat full of washerwomen on the river. All
these unfortunate attempts were lampooned, burlesqued on the stage, and
pursued with the mockery of the public.

Up to this time, therefore, the efforts of man to conquer the air had
miscarried. They were conducted on a wrong principle, the machinery
employed being heavier than the air itself But, even before the time
of Montgolfier, the principles of aerostation began to be recognised,
though nothing was actually done in the way of acting upon them. Thus,
in 1767, Professor Black, of Edinburgh, announced in his class that a
vessel, filled with hydrogen, would rise naturally in the air; but
he never made the experiment, regarding the fact as capable of being
employed only for amusement. Finally, Cavallo, in 1782, communicated
to the Royal Society of London the experiments he had made, and which
consisted in filling soap-bubbles with hydrogen. The bubbles rose in the
atmosphere, the gas which filled them being lighter than air.

Chapter III. The Theory of Balloons.

A certain proposition in physics, known as the “Principle of
Archimedes,” runs to the following effect:--“Every body plunged into a
liquid loses a portion of its weight equal to the weight of the fluid
which it displaces.” Everybody has verified this principle, and knows
that objects are much lighter in water than out of it; a body plunged
into water being acted upon by two forces--its own weight, which tends
to sink it, and resistance from below, which tends to bear it up. But
this principle applies to gas as well as to liquids--to air as well as
to water. When we weigh a body in the air, we do not find its absolute
weight, but that weight minus the weight of the air which the body
displaces. In order to know the exact weight of an object, it would be
necessary to weigh it in a vacuum.

If an object thrown into the air is heavier than the air which it
displaces, it descends, and falls upon the earth; if it is of equal
weight, it floats without rising or falling; if it is lighter, it
rises until it comes to a stratum of air of less weight or density than
itself. We all know, of course, that the higher you rise from the earth
the density of the air diminishes. The stratum of air that lies upon the
surface of the earth is the heaviest, because it supports the pressure
of all the other strata that lie above. Thus the lightest strata are the

The principle of the construction of balloons is, therefore, in perfect
harmony with physical laws. Balloons are simply globes, made of a light,
air-tight material, filled with hot air or hydrogen gas which rise in
the air because (they are lighter than the air they displace).

The application of this principle appeared so simple, that at the time
when the news of the invention of the balloon was spread abroad the
astronomer Lalande wrote--“At this news we all cry, ‘This must be! Why
did we not think of it before?’” It had been thought of before, as we
have seen in the last chapter, but it is often long after an idea is
conceived that it is practically realised.

The first balloon, Montgolfier’s, was simply filled with hot air; and it
was because Montgolfier exclusively made use of hot air that balloons
so filled were named Montgolfiers. Of course we see at a glance that
hot air is lighter than cold air, because it has become expanded and
occupies more space--that is to say, a volume of hot air contains
actually less air than a volume of the same size of air that has not
been heated. The difference between the weight of the hot air and the
cold which it displaced was greater than the weight of tire covering of
the balloon. Therefore the balloon mounted.

And, seeing that air diminishes in density the higher we ascend, the
balloon can rise only to that stratum of air of the same density as the
air it contains. As the warm air cools it gently descends. Again, as the
atmosphere is always moving in currents more or less strong, the balloon
follows the direction of the current of the stratum of air in which it
finds itself.

Thus we see how simply the ascent of Montgolfiers, and their motions,
are explained. It is the same with gas-balloons. A balloon, filled with
hydrogen gas, displaces an equal volume of atmospheric air; but as the
gas is much lighter than the air, it is pushed up by a force equal to
the difference of the density of air and hydrogen gas. The balloon then
rises in the atmosphere to where it reaches layers of air of a density
exactly equal to its own, and when it gets there it remains poised in
its place. In order that it may descend, it is necessary to let out a
portion of the hydrogen gas, and admit an equal quantity of atmospheric
air; and the balloon does not come to the ground till all, or nearly
all, the gas has been expelled and common air taken in. Balloons
inflated with hydrogen gas are almost the only ones in use at the
present day. Scarcely ever is a Montgolfier sent up. There are
aeronauts, however, who prefer a journey in a Montgolfier to one in a
gas-balloon. The air voyager in this description of balloon had formerly
many difficulties to contend with. The quantity of combustible material
which he was bound to carry with him; the very little difference that
there is between the density of heated and of cold air; the necessity
of feeding the fire, and watching it without a moment’s cessation, as it
hangs in the rechaud over the middle of the car, rendered this sort of
air travelling subject to many dangers and difficulties. Recently, M.
Eugene Godard has obviated a portion of this difficulty by fitting a
chimney, like that which is found of such incalculable service in the
case of the Davy lamp. It is principally on account of this improvement
that the Montgolfiere has risen so highly in popular esteem.

Generally it is not pure hydrogen that is made use of in the inflation
of balloons. Aeronauts content themselves with the gas which we burn in
our streets and houses, and thus it suffices, in inflating the balloon,
to obtain from the nearest gas-works the quantity of gas necessary, and
to lead it, by means of a pipe or tube, from the gasometer to the mouth
or neck of the machine.

The balloon is made of long strips of silk, sewn together, and rendered
air-tight by means of a coating of caoutchouc. A valve is fitted to the
top, and by means of it the aeronaut can descend to the earth at will,
by allowing some quantity of the gas to escape. The car in which he
sits is suspended to the balloon by a network, which covers the whole
structure. Sacks of sand are carried in this car as ballast, so
that, when descending, if the aeronaut sees that he is likely to be
precipitated into the sea or into a lake, he throws over the sand, and
his air-carriage, being thus lightened, mounts again and travels away to
a more desirable resting-place. The idea of the valve, as well as that
of the sand ballast, is due to the physician Charles. They enable the
aeronaut to ascend or descend with facility. When he wishes to mount,
he throws over his ballast; when he wants to come down, he lets the gas
escape by the valve at the roof of the balloon. This valve is worked by
means of a spring, having a long rope attached to it, which hangs down
through the neck to the car, where the aeronaut sits.

The operation of inflating a balloon with pure hydrogen is represented
in the engraving on the next page.

Shavings of iron and zinc, water, and sulphuric acid, occupy a number of
casks, which communicate, by means of tubes, with a central cask, which
is open at the bottom, and is plunged in a copper full of water. The gas
is produced by the action of the water and the sulphuric acid upon the
zinc and the iron this is hydrogen mixed with sulphuric acid. In passing
through the central copper, or vat, full of water, the gas throws off
all impurities, and comes, unalloyed with any other matter, into the
balloon by a long tube, leading from the central vats. In order to
facilitate the entrance of the gas into the balloon two long poles
are erected. These are furnished with pulleys, through which a rope,
attached also to a ring at the top of the balloon, passes. By means
of this contrivance the balloon can be at once lightly raised from the
ground, and the gas tubes easily joined to it. When it is half full it
is no longer necessary to suspend the balloon; on the contrary, it has
to be secured, lest it should fly off. A number of men hold it back by
ropes; but as the force of ascension is every moment increasing, the
work of restraining the balloon is most difficult and exciting. At
length, all preparations being complete, the car is suspended, the
aeronaut takes his seat, the words “Let go all!” are shouted, and away
goes the silken globe into space.

The balloon is never entirely filled, for the atmospheric pressure
diminishing as it ascends, allows the hydrogen gas to dilate, in virtue
of its expansive force, and, unless there is space for this expansion,
the balloon is sure to explode in the air.

An ordinary balloon, with a lifting power sufficient to carry up three
persons, with necessary ballast and materiel, is about fifty feet high,
thirty-five feet in diameter’ and 2,250 cubic feet in capacity. Of such
a balloon, the accessories--the skin, the network, the car--would weigh
about 335 lbs.

To find out the height at which he has arrived, the aeronaut consults
his barometer. We know that it is the pressure of the air upon the cup
of the barometer that raises the mercury in the tube. The heavier the
air is, the higher is the barometer. At the level of the sea the column
of mercury stands at 32 inches; at 3,250 feet--the air being at this
elevation lighter--the mercury stands at 28 inches; at 6,500 feet above
sea level it stands at 25 inches; at 10,000 feet it falls to 22 inches;
at 20,000 feet to 15 inches. These, however, are merely the theoretic
results, and are subject to some slight variation, according to
locality, &c.

Sometimes the aeronaut makes his descent by means of the parachute,
a separate and distinct contrivance. If, from any cause, it appears
impracticable to effect a descent from the balloon itself, the parachute
may be of the greatest service to the voyager at the present day it is
chiefly used to astonish the public, by showing them the spectacle of
a man who, from a great elevation in the air, precipitates himself into
space, not to escape dangers which threaten him in his balloon, but
simply to exhibit his courage and skill. Nevertheless, parachutes are
often of great actual use, and aeronauts frequently attach them to their
balloons as a precautionary measure before setting out on an aerial

The shape of a parachute, shown on the previous page, very much
resembles that of the well-known all serviceable umbrella. The strips of
silk of which it is formed are sewn together, and are bound at the top
around a circular piece of wood. A number of cords, stretching away from
this piece of wood, support the car in which the aeronaut is carried. At
the summit is contrived an opening, which permits the air compressed
by the rapidity of the descent to escape without causing damage to the
parachute from the stress to which it is subjected.

The rapidity of the descent is arrested by the large surface which the
parachute presents to the air. When the aeronaut wishes to descend by
the parachute, all that is required is, after he has slipped down from
the car of the balloon to that of the parachute, to loosen the rope
which binds the latter to the former, which is done by means of a
pulley. In an instant the aeronaut is launched into space with a
rapidity in comparison with which the wild flights of the balloon are
but gentle oscillations. But in a few moments, the air rushing into
the folds of the parachute, forces them open like an umbrella, and
immediately, owing to the wide surface which this contrivance presents
to the atmosphere, the violence of the descent is arrested, and the
aeronaut falls gently to the ground, without receiving too rude a shock.

The virtues of the parachute were first tried upon animals. Thus,
Blanchard allowed his dog to fall in one from a height of 6,500 feet.
A gust of wind caught the falling parachute, and swept it away up above
the clouds. Afterwards, the aeronaut in his balloon fell in with the dog
in the parachute, both of them high up in the cloudy reaches of the
sky, and the poor animal manifested by his barking his joy at seeing his
master. A new current separated the aerial voyagers, but the parachute,
with its canine passenger, reached the ground safely a short time after
Blanchard had landed from his balloon.

Experience has proved that, in the case of a descending parachute, if
the rapidity of the descent is doubled the resistance of the air is
quadrupled; if the rapidity is triple the resistance is increased
ninefold; or, to speak in language of science, the resistance of the air
is increased by the square of the swiftness of the body in motion. This
resistance increases in proportion as the parachute spreads, and thus
the uniformity of its fall is established a minute after it has been
disengaged from the balloon. We can, therefore, check the descent of a
body by giving it a surface capable of distension by the action of the

Garnerin, in the year 1802, conceived the bold design of letting himself
fall from a height of 1,200 feet, and he accomplished the exploit before
the Parisians. When he had reached the height he had fixed beforehand,
he cut the rope which connected the parachute with the balloon. At first
the fall was terribly rapid; but as soon as the parachute spread out
the rapidity was considerably diminished. The machine made, however,
enormous oscillations. The air, gathering end compressed under it, would
sometimes escape by one side sometimes by the other, thus shaking and
whirling the parachute about with a violence which, however great, had
happily no unfortunate effect.

The origin of the parachute is more remote than is generally supposed,
as there was a figure of one which appeared among a collection of
machines at Venice, in 1617.

Another species of parachute, less perfect, to be sure; than that of
Garnerin, but still a practical machine, was described 189 years before
the great aeronaut’s feat at Paris. We read in the narrative of the
ambassador of Louis XIV at Siam, at the end of the seventeenth century,
the following passage--“A mountebank at the court of the King of Siam
climbed to the top of a high bamboo-tree, and threw himself into the air
without any other support than two parasols. Thus equipped, he abandoned
himself to the winds, which carried him, as by chance, sometimes to
the earth, sometimes on trees or houses, and sometimes into the river,
without any harm happening to him.”

Is not this the idea of our parachutes?

Chapter IV. First Public Trial of the Balloon.

(Montgolfier’s Balloon Annonay, 5th of June of 1783.)

We are accustomed to rank the brothers Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier
as equally distinguished in the field of science. The reason for thus
associating these two names seems to have been the fraternal friendship
which subsisted in an extraordinary degree in the Montgolfier family,
rather than any equality of claim which they had to the notice of
posterity. After special investigation, we find that Joseph Montgolfier
was very superior to his brother, and that it is to him principally, if
not exclusively, that we owe the invention of aerostation. Nevertheless,
we shall not insist upon this fact; and seeing that a sacred amity
always cemented a perfect union in the Montgolfier family, we will
regard that union as unbroken in any sense, and will not insinuate that
the brother of Montgolfier was undeserving of the honoured rank which in
his lifetime he held.

In 1783, the sons of Pierre Montgolfier, a rich papermaker at Annonay
department of Ardeche, were already in the prime of life, and it is
related of them that their principal occupation was experimenting in the
physical sciences. Joseph Montgolfier, after being convinced by a number
of minor experiments made in 1782 and 1783, that a heat of 180 degrees
rarefied the air and made it occupy a space of TWICE the extent it
occupied before being heated--or, in other words, that this degree of
heat diminished the weight of air by one half--began to speculate on
what might be the shape and the material of a structure which being
filled with air thus heated, would be able to raise itself from the
earth in spite of the weight of its own covering.

His first balloon was a small parallelopiped in very thin taffeta,
containing less than seventy-eight cubic inches of air. He made it rise
to the roof of his apartment in November, 1782--at Avignon, where he
then happened to be. Having returned some little time after to Annonay,
Joseph and his brother performed the same experiment, together in the
open air with perfect success. Certain, then, of the new principle, they
made a balloon of considerable size, containing upwards of sixty-five
feet of heated air.

This machine likewise rose, tore away the cords by which it was at first
held down, and mounting in the air to the height of from two to three
hundred feet, fell upon the neighbouring hills after a considerable
flight. The brothers Montgolfier then made a very large and strong
balloon, with which they wished to bring their discovery before the

The appointed day was the 5th of June, 1783 and the nobility of the
vicinity were invited to be present at the experiment. Faujas de
Saint Fond, author of “La Description des Experiences de la Machine
Aerostatique,” published the same year, gives the following account of

“What,” says Saint Fond, “was the general astonishment when the
inventors of the machine announced that immediately it should be full
of gas, which they had the means of producing at will by the most simple
process, it would raise itself to the clouds. It must be granted that,
in spite of the confidence in the ingenuity and experience of the
Montgolfiers, this feat seemed so incredible to those who came to
witness it, that the persons who knew most about it--who were, at the
same time, the most favourably predisposed in its favour--doubted of its

“At last the brothers Montgolfier commenced their work. They first
of all began to make the smoke necessary for their experiment. The
machine--which at first seemed only a covering of cloth, lined with
paper, a sort of sack thirty-five feet high--became inflated, and grew
large even under the eyes of the spectator, took consistence, assumed a
beautiful form, stretched itself on all sides, and struggled to escape.
Meanwhile, strong arms were holding it down until the signal was given,
when it loosened itself, and with a rush rose to the height of 1,000
fathoms in less than ten minutes.” It then described a horizontal line
of 7,200 feet, and as it had lost a considerable amount of gas, it began
to descend quietly. It reached the ground in safety; and this first
attempt, crowned with such decisive success, secured for ever to
the brothers Montgolfier the glory of one of the most astonishing

“When we reflect for a moment upon the numberless difficulties which
such a bold attempt entailed, upon the bitter criticism to which it
would have exposed its projectors had it failed through any accident,
and upon the sums that must have been spent in carrying it out, we
cannot withhold the highest admiration for the men who conceived the
idea and carried it out to such a successful issue.”

Etienne Montgolfier has left us a description of this first balloon.
“The aerostatic machine,” he says, “was constructed of cloth lined with
paper, fastened together on a network of strings fixed to the cloth.
It was spherical; its circumference was 110 feet, and a wooden frame
sixteen feet square held it fixed at the bottom. Its contents were about
22,000 cubic feet, and it accordingly displaced a volume of air weighing
1,980 1bs. The weight of the gas was nearly half the weight of the air,
for it weighed 990 lbs., and the machine itself, with the frame, weighed
500: it was, therefore, impelled upwards with the force of 490 lbs. Two
men sufficed to raise it and to fill it with gas, but it took eight
to hold it down till the signal was given. The different pieces of
the covering were fastened together with buttons and button-holes.
It remained ten minutes in the air, but the loss of gas by the
button-holes, and by other imperfections, did not permit it to continue
longer. The wind at the moment of the ascent was from the north. The
machine came down so lightly that no part of it was broken.”

Chapter V. Second Experiment.

(Charles’s Balloon, Paris, Champ de Mars, 27th of August, 1783.)

The indescribable enthusiasm caused by the ascent of the first balloon
at Annonay, spread in all directions, and excited the wondering
curiosity of the savants of the capital. An official report had been
prepared, and sent to the Academy of Sciences in Paris, and the result
was that the Academy named a commission of inquiry. But fame, more rapid
than scientific commissions, and more enthusiastic than academies,
had, at a single flight, passed from Annonay to Paris, and kindled the
anxious ardour of the lovers of science in that city. The great desire
was to rival Montgolfier, although neither the report nor the
letters from Annonay had made mention of the kind of gas used by that
experimenter to inflate his balloon. By one of the frequent coincidences
in the history of the sciences, hydrogen gas had been discovered six
years previously by the great English physician Cavendish, and it had
hardly even been tested in the laboratories of the chemists when it all
at once became famous. A young man well versed in physics, Professor
Charles, assisted by two practical men, the brothers Robert, threw
himself ardently into the investigation of the modes of inflating
balloons with this gas, which was then called INFLAMMABLE AIR. Guessing
that it was much lighter than that which Montgolfier had been obliged to
make use of in his third-rate provincial town, Charles leagued himself
with his two assistants to constrict a balloon of taffeta, twelve feet
in diameter, covered with india-rubber, and to inflate it with hydrogen.

The thing thus arranged, a subscription was opened. The projected
experiment having been talked of all over Paris, every one was struck
with the idea, and subscriptions poured in. Even the most illustrious
names are to be found in the list, which may be called the first
national subscription in France. Nothing had been written of the
forthcoming event in any public paper, yet all Paris seemed to flock to
contribute to the curious experiment.

The inflation with hydrogen was effected in a very curious manner. As
much as 1,125 lbs. of iron and 560 lbs. of sulphuric acid were found
necessary to inflate a balloon which had scarcely a lifting power of
22 lbs., and the process of filling took no less than four hours. At
length, however, at the end of the fourth hour, the balloon, composed of
strips of silk, coated with varnish, floated, two-thirds full, from the
workshop of the brothers Robert.

On the morning of the 26th of August, the day before the ascent was
to be made, the balloon was visited at daybreak, and found to be in
a promising state. At two o’clock on the following morning its
constructors began to make preparations to transport it to the Champ
de Mars, from which place it was to be let loose. Skilled workmen were
employed in its removal, and every precaution was taken that the gas
with which it was charged should not be allowed to escape. In the
meantime the excitement of the people about this wonderful structure
was rising to the highest pitch. The wagon on which it was placed
for removal was surrounded on all sides by eager multitudes, and the
night-patrols, both of horse and foot, which were set to guard the
avenues leading to where it lay, were quite unable to stem the tide of
human beings that poured along to get a glimpse of it.

The conveyance of the balloon to the Champ de Mars was a most singular
spectacle. A vanguard, with lighted torches, preceded it; it was
surrounded by special attendants, and was followed by detachments of
night-patrols on foot and mounted. The size and shape of this structure,
which was escorted with such pomp and precaution--the silence that
prevailed--the unearthly hour, all helped to give an air of mystery
to the proceedings. At last, having passed through the principal
thoroughfares, it arrived at the Champ de Mars, where it was placed in
an enclosure prepared for its reception.

When the dawn came, and the balloon had been fixed in its place by
cords, attached around its middle and fixed to iron rings planted in the
earth, the final process of inflation began.

The Champ de Mars was guarded by troops, and the avenues were also
guarded on all sides. As the day wore on an immense crowd covered the
open space, and every advantageous spot in the neighborhood was crowded
with people. At five o’clock the report of a cannon announced to the
multitudes, and to scientific men who were posted on elevations to make
observations of the great event, that the grand moment had come. The
cords were withdrawn, and, to the vast delight and wonder of the crowd
assembled, the balloon shot up with such rapidity that in two minutes it
had ascended 488 fathoms. At this height it was lost in a cloud for an
instant, and, reappearing, rose to a great height, and was again lost
in higher clouds. The ascent was a splendid success. The rain that fell
damped neither the balloon nor the ardor of the spectators.

This balloon was 12 feet in diameter, 38 feet in circumference, and had
a capacity of 943 cubic feet. The weight of the materials of which it
was constructed was 25 lbs., and the force of ascension was that of 35

The fall of the balloon was caused by the expansion and consequent
explosion of the hydrogen gas. This event took place some distance out
in the country, close to a number of peasants, whose terror at the
sight and the sound of this strange monster from the skies was beyond
description. The people assembled, and two monks having told them that
the burst balloon was the hide of a monstrous animal, they immediately
began to assail it vigorously with stones, flails, and pitchforks. The
cure of the parish was obliged to walk up to the balloon to reassure his
terrified flock. They finally attached the burst envelope to a horse’s
tail, and dragged it far across the fields.

Many drawings and engravings of the period represent the peasants armed
with pitchforks, flails, and scythes, assailing it, a dog snapping at
it, a garde-champetre firing at it, a fat priest preaching at it, and a
troop of young people throwing stones at the unfortunate machine.

The news of this fiasco came to Paris, but too late. When search was
made for the covering, scarcely a fragment could be found.

A somewhat humorous result of all this was the issue of a communication
from government to the people, entitled, “Warning to the People on
kidnapping Air-balloons.” This document, duly signed and approved of,
describes the ascents at Annonay and at Paris, explains the nature and
the causes of the phenomena, and warns the people not to be alarmed when
they see something like a “black moon” in the sky, nor to give way to
fear, as the seeming monster is nothing more than a bag of silk filled
with gas.

This first ascent in Paris was an important event. Every one, from the
smallest to the greatest, was deeply interested in it, while to the man
of science it was one of the most exciting of incidents. For the purpose
of observing the altitude to which the balloon rose, and the course it
took, Le Gentil was on the observatory, Prevost was on one of the towers
of Notre Dame, Jeaurat was on La Place Louis XV., and d’Agelet was on
the Champ de Mars. It was only Lalande that frowned as he witnessed
the success of the experiment. He had predicted the year before that
air-navigation was impossible.

Chapter VI. Third Experiment.

(Montgolfier’s Balloon, Paris, Faubourg St. Antoine.)

As we have seen, the triumph of aerostation was sudden and complete. The
young Montgolfier had arrived in Paris prior to the experiment of the
27th of August, and was present as a simple spectator on that occasion.
immediately afterwards he set to work upon a balloon, which was to
be made use of when the Academy should investigate the phenomenon at
Versailles in presence of the king, Louis XVI.

It was at this time (September, 1783) that those small balloons, made
of gold-beaters’ skin, which are used as children’s toys to the present
day, were first made. The whole of Paris amused itself with them,
repeating in little the phenomenon of the great ascent. The sky of the
capital found itself all at once traversed by a multitude of small rosy
clouds, formed by the hand of man.

Faujas de Saint Fond says that at first an attempt was made to construct
balloons of fine, light paper; but this material being permeable, and
the gas being inflammable, balloons thus made did not succeed. It
was necessary to seek a material less porous, and, if possible, still

The Journal de Paris, of the 11th of September, 1783, informed the
public that the Baron de Beaumanoir, “who cultivated the sciences and
the fine arts with as much success as zeal,” would send up a balloon
eighteen inches in diameter. At noon of the same day he made this
experiment in presence of a numerous assembly in the garden in front of
the Hotel de Surgeres.. The little balloon mounted freely, but was held
in, like a kite, by means of a silk thread. In the course of the same
afternoon, the baron took down the balloon and filled it anew with
hydrogen, and then let it off. The spectators had the pleasure of seeing
it rise to a great height, and pass away in the direction of Neuilly,
and it is said to have been found at a distance of several leagues, by

However trifling this experiment may appear at first sight, it added
a new fact to the science of aerostation. The material employed by
the baron was lighter and better than paper. It was what is called
gold-beaters’ skin. This skin is simply the interior lining of the
large bowel of the ox. It is carefully prepared, is relieved of the fat,
stringy and uneven parts, is dried, and is afterwards softened. Little
balloons of this material came to be the fashion, and they are still
frequently seen.

At the same time, Montgolfier was busy constructing, at the request
of the Academy of Sciences, a balloon seventy feet high and forty
in diameter, with which it was proposed to repeat the experiment of
Annonay. He took up his quarters in the magnificent gardens of his
friend Reveillon, proprietor of the royal manufactory of stained paper
in the Faubourg St. Antoine. The new balloon was of a very singular
shape: the upper part represented a prism, twenty-four feet high the top
was a pyramid of the same height; the lower part was a truncated cone,
twenty feet in depth. It was made of packing-cloth, lined with good
paper, both inside and out.

The gossipping and prolix Faujas de Saint Fond thus describes this
machine:--“It was painted blue, represented a sort of tent, and was
richly ornamented with gold Its height was seventy feet; its weight
1,000 lbs.; the air which it displaced was 4,500 lbs. in volume, and the
vapor with which it was filled was half the weight of ordinary air. The
approach of the equinox having brought rain, all the conditions under
which this balloon was constructed and exhibited were unfavourable. The
structure was so large that it was impossible to get it together
and stitch it, except in the open air--in the garden, in fact, where
Montgolfier commenced its construction. It was a great labour to turn
and fold this heavy covering, while the liability of the thick paper
to crack was an additional difficulty. Not less than twenty men were
required to move it, and they were obliged to use all their skill, and
every precaution, not to destroy it. No balloon had ever given so much
trouble. On the 11th of September the weather improved, and the balloon
was entirely completed and prepared for the first experiment. In the
evening the attempt was made. It was with admiration that the beholders
saw the beautiful machine filling itself in the short space of nine
minutes, swelling out on all sides and showing the full symmetry of its
artistic form. It was firmly held in hand, or it would have risen to a
great height. On the following day the actual ascent was to take place,
and the commissioners of the Academy of Sciences were invited to be
present. In the morning thick clouds covered the horizon, and a tempest
was expected; but as there was an ardent desire that the ascent should
take place without delay, and as all the gearing was in order, it was
resolved to proceed.

“Fifty pounds of dry straw were fired in parcels under the balloon, and
upon the fire were thrown at intervals several pounds of wool. This fuel
produced in ten minutes such a volume of smoke that the huge balloon was
speedily filled. It rose, with a weight of 500 lbs. holding it down, to
some height above the ground, and had the ropes by which it was attached
to the ground been cut, it would have mounted to a great height.
Meantime the storm broke, rain descended, and the wind blew with great
force. The most likely means of saving the balloon was to let it fly
but as it was to ascend again on another occasion, at Versailles, the
greatest efforts were made to bring it down, and these, together with
the damage caused by the storm, eventually rent it into numberless
fragments and tatters. It withstood the storm for twenty-four hours;
then, however, the paper came peeling off, and this beautiful structure
was a wreck.”

Chapter VII. Fourth Experiment.

(Versailles, 19th September, 1783, in presence of Louis of XVI.)

Of course another balloon was wanted for the fete at Versailles. The
king had demanded an ascent for the 19th, a week after the disaster at
the Faubourg St. Antoine. Already the possibility of a man going up with
the balloon was discussed, and people indulged in visions of splendid
aerial trips; but the king would not hear of the proposal. Balloons were
novelties, not offering sufficient security, and he was unwilling that
any of his subjects should risk their lives in attempting the unknown.
He consented, however, to a proposal that animals might be sent up in
the first instance, by way of experiment, suspended in an osier cage
attached to the neck of the balloon.

Montgolfier at once began a new balloon. A few days only were at his
disposal; but, assisted by friends, he worked with such ardour
and success that he was able, on the date appointed, to produce
a magnificent spherical balloon, much stronger than the former,
constructed of good strong cotton cloth, and painted in distemper.

It is proper here to remark that the first balloons were much more
elegant in appearance than those afterwards made. The coloured prints
and engravings of the period enable us to form an opinion of the
splendour of their ornamentation and the beauty of their design.
Sometimes the figures painted upon them represented scenes from
the heathen mythology, and sometimes historical scenes; while rich
embroideries, royal insignia, and gaily-coloured draperies added much
to the general effect. The Versailles balloon was painted blue, with
ornaments of gold, and it presented the form of a richly decorated tent.
It was fifty-seven feet in height, and sixty-seven in diameter.

It was first tried at Paris, and succeeded perfectly. On the morning of
the 19th it was carried to Versailles, where due preparation had been
made for its reception In the great court of the castle a sort of
theatre had been temporarily erected with a scaffolding, covered
throughout with tapestry In the middle was an opening more than fifteen
feet in diameter, in which was spread a banquet for those who had
constructed the balloon. A numerous guard formed a double cordon around
the structure. A raised platform was used for the fire by means of which
the balloon was to be inflated; a covered funnel or chimney of strong
cloth, painted, was suspended over the fire-place, and received the hot
smoke as it arose. Through this funnel the heated air ascended straight
up into the balloon.

At six in the morning, the road from Paris to Versailles was covered
with carriages. Crowds came from all parts, and at noon the avenues,
the square of the castle, the windows, and even the roofs of the houses,
were crowded with spectators. The noblest, the most illustrious, and
most learned men in France were present, and the splendour of the scene
was complete when their majesties and the royal family entered within
the enclosure, and went forward to inspect the balloon, and to make
themselves familiar with the preparations for the ascent.

In a short time the fire was lit, the funnel extended over it, and the
smoke rose inside, while the balloon, unfolding, gradually swelled to
its full size, and then, drawing after it the cage, in which a sheep
and some pigeons were enclosed, rose majestically into the air. Without
interreruption, it ascended to a vast height, where, inclining toward
the north, it seemed to remain stationary for a few seconds, showing
all the beauty of its form, and then, as though possessed of life, it
descended gently upon the wood of Vaucresson, 10,200 feet from the point
of its departure. Its highest elevation, as estimated by the astronomers
Le Gentil and M. Jeaurat, Jeaurat, was about 1,700 feet.

Chapter VIII. Men and Balloons.

It is not natural that the human mind should stop upon the way to the
solution of a problem, especially when it seems to be on the point of
arriving at a satisfactory conclusion to its labours. The osier cage
of Versailles very soon transformed itself into a car, bearing human
passengers, and the age of the “Thousand and One Nights” was expected
to come back again. It was resolved to continue experiments, with the
direct object of finding out whether it was impossible or desperately
dangerous for man to travel in balloons. Montgolfier returned from
Versailles, and constructed a new machine in the gardens of the Faubourg
St. Antoine. It was completed on the 10th of October Its form was oval,
its height 70 feet, its diameter 46 feet and its capacity 60,000 cubic
feet. The upper part, embroidered with fleurs-de-lis, was further
ornamented with the twelve signs of the zodiac, worked in gold. The
middle part bore the monogram of the king, alternating with figures of
the sun, while the lower part was garnished with masks, garlands, and
spread eagles. A circular gallery made of osiers and festooned with
draperies and other ornaments, was attached by a set of cords to the
bottom of the structure. The gallery was three feet wide, and was
protected by a parapet over three feet in height. It did not in any way
interfere with the opening at the neck of the balloon, under which
was suspended a grating of iron wire upon which the occupants of the
gallery, who were to be provided with dried straw and wool, could in
a few minutes kindle a fire and create fresh smoke, when that in the
balloon began to be exhausted. The machine weighed, in all, 1,600 lbs.
The public had previously been warned, in the Journal de Paris de Paris,
that the approaching experiments were to be of a strictly scientific
character; and as they would be only interesting to savants, they would
not afford amusement for the merely curious. This announcement was
necessary, to abate in some degree the excitement of the people until
some satisfactory results should be obtained; it was also necessary for
those engaged in the work, whose firmness of nerve might have suffered
from the enthusiastic cries of excited spectators. On Wednesday, the
15th of October, Pilatre des Roziers, who had on other occasions given
proofs of his intelligence and courage in performing dangerous feats,
and who had already signalised himself in connection with balloons,
offered to go up in the new machine. His offer was accepted; the balloon
was inflated; stout ropes, more than eighty feet long, were attached
to it, and it rose from the ground to the height to which this tackle
allowed it. At this elevation it remained four minutes twenty-five
seconds; and it is not surprising to hear that Roziers suffered no
inconvenience from the ascent. What was really the interesting thing in
this experiment was, that it showed how a balloon would fall when the
hot air became exhausted, this being the point which caused the greatest
amount of disquietude among men of science. In this instance the balloon
fell gently; its form distended at the same time, and, after touching
the ground, it rose again a foot or two, when its human passenger had
jumped out.

On Friday, the 17th of October, this experiment was repeated, and the
excitement of the public on this occasion was unbounded. “All the world”
 came to see. Roziers was again lifted up in the balloon, to the height
of eighty feet; but so strong was the wind, and the strain on the ropes
was so great, that the balloon was somewhat unsteady, and the exhibition
was not on the whole such a splendid success as that of the preceding

On Sunday, Montgolfier chose a fine day for the following
ascents:--“First Ascent: On the 19th of October, 1783, at half-past
four, in presence of two thousand spectators, ‘the machine’ was filled
with gas in five minutes, and Roziers, being placed in the gallery with
a counterbalancing weight of 110 lbs. in the other side of the gallery,
was carried up to the height of 200 feet. The machine remained six
minutes at this elevation without any fire in the grating. Second
Ascent: The machine carried Roziers and the counterbalancing
weight--fire being in the grating--to the height of 700 feet. At this
height it remained stationary eight and a half minutes As it was drawn
back, a wind from the east bore it against a tuft of very tall trees in
a neighbouring garden, where it got entangled, without, however, losing
its equilibrium. The gas was renewed by Roziers, and the balloon
again rising, extricated itself from among the branches, and soared
majestically into the air, followed by the acclamations of the public.
This second ascent was very instructive, for it had been often asserted
that if ever a balloon fell upon a forest it would be destroyed, and
would place those who travelled in it in the greatest peril. This
experiment proved that the balloon does not FALL it DESCENDS; that it
does not overturn; that it does not destroy itself on trees; that it
neither causes death, nor even damage, to its passengers; that, on the
contrary, the latter, by making new gas, give it the power of detaching
itself from the trees; and that it can resume its course after such an
event. The intrepid Roziers gave in this ascent a further proof of the
facility he had in descending and ascending at will. When the machine
had risen to the height of 200 feet it began to descend lightly, and
just before it came to the earth the aeronaut very cleverly and quickly
threw on more fuel and produced more smoke, at which the balloon, to
the astonishment of every one, suddenly soared away again to its
former elevation. Third Ascent: The balloon rose again with Roziers,
accompanied this time by another aeronaut, Gerond de Villette; and as
the cords had been lengthened, the adventurers were carried up to the
height of 324 feet. At this elevation the balloon rested in perfect
equilibrium for nine minutes. It was the first time that human beings
had ever been carried to an equal elevation, and the spectators were
astonished to find that they could remain there without danger and
without alarm. The balloon had a superb effect at this elevation; it
looked down upon the whole town, and was seen from all the suburbs. Its
size seemed hardly diminished in the least, though the men themselves
were barely visible. By the aid of glasses, Roziers could be seen calmly
and industriously making new gas. When the balloon descended the two men
declared that they had not experienced the slightest inconvenience from
the elevation. They received the universal applause which their zeal and
courage so well deserved. The Marquis d’Arlandes, a major of infantry,
afterwards went up with Roziers, and this latter experiment was as
successful as the former.”

Some days after these experiments the conductors of the Journal de Paris
who described them, received a letter from Montgolfier, and also one
from Gerond de Villette. The latter only is of interest here. Gerond
de Villette says: “I found myself in the space of a quarter of a minute
raised 400 feet above the surface of the earth. Here we remained six
minutes. My first employment was to watch with admiration my intelligent
companion. His intelligence, his courage and agility in attending to the
fire, enchanted me. Turning round, I could behold the Boulevards, from
the gate of St. Antoine to that of St. Martin, all covered with people,
who seemed to me a flat band of flowers of various colours. Glancing at
the distance, I beheld the summit of Montmartre, which seemed to me much
below our level. I could easily distinguish Neuilly, St. Cloud, Sevres,
Issy, Ivry, Charenton, and Choisy. At once I was convinced that this
machine, though a somewhat expensive one, might be very useful in war
to enable one to discover the position of the enemy, his manoeuvres,
and his marches; and to announce these by signals to one’s own army. 1
believe that at sea it is equally possible to make use of this machine.
These prove the usefulness of the balloon, which time will perfect
for us. All that I regret is that I did not provide myself with a

Chapter IX. The First Aerial Voyage--Roziers and Arlandes.

     These experiments had only one aim--the application of
     Montgolfier’s discovery to aerial navigation.  The knowledge
     gained in the Faubourg St. Antoine having led to the most
     favourable conclusions, it was resolved that a first aerial
     voyage should be attempted.

“If,” says Linguet, “there existed an autograph journal, written by
Columbus, descriptive of his first great voyage with what jealous care
it would be preserved, with what confidence it would be quoted! We
should delight to follow the candid account which he gave of his
thoughts, his hopes, his fears; of the complaints of his followers, of
his attempts to calm them, and, finally, of his joy in the moment
which, ratifying his word and justifying his boldness, declared him the
discoverer of a new world All these details have been transmitted to us,
but by stranger hands; and, however interesting they may be, one cannot
help feeling that this circumstance makes them lose part of their

The narrative of the first aerial voyage, written by one of the two
first aeronauts, exists, and we are in a position to place it before our
readers. Such an enterprise certainly demanded great courage in him who
was the first to dare to confide himself to the unknown currents of the
atmosphere It threatened him with dangers, perhaps with death by a fill,
by fire, by cold, or by straying into the mysterious cloud-land. Two men
opposed the first attempt. Montgolfier temporised, the king forbade it,
or rather only gave his permission on the condition that two condemned
criminals should be placed in the balloon! “What!” cried Roziers, in
indignation at the king’s proposal, “allow two vile criminals to have
the first glory of rising into the sky! No, no; that will never do!”
 Roziers conjured, supplicated, agitated in a hundred ways for permission
to try the first voyage. He moved the town and the court; he addressed
himself to those who were most in favour at Versailles; he pleaded with
the Duchess de Polignac, who was all-powerful with the king. She
warmly supported his cause before Louis. Roziers dispatched the Marquis
d’Arlandes, who had been up with him, to the king. Arlandes asserted
that there was no danger, and, as proof of his conviction, he offered
himself to accompany Roziers. Solicited on all sides, Louis at last

The gardens of La Muette, near Paris, were fixed upon as the spot from
which this aerial expedition should start. The Dauphin and his suite
were present on the occasion. It was on the 21st of October, 1783, at
one o’clock p.m., that Roziers and Irelands took their leave of the
earth for the first time. The following is Arlandes’ narrative of the
expedition, given in the form of a letter, addressed by the marquis to
Faujas de Saint Fond:--“You wish, my dear Faujas, and I consent most
willingly to your desires, that, owing to the number of questions
continually addressed to me, and for other reasons, I should gratify
public curiosity and fix public opinion upon the subject of our aerial

“I wish to describe as well as I can the first journey which men have
attempted through an element which, prior to the discovery of MM.
Montgolfier, seemed so little fitted to support them.

“We went up on the 21st of October, 1783, at near two o’clock, M.
Roziers on the west side of the balloon, I on the east. The wind was
nearly north-west. The machine, say the public, rose with majesty; but
really the position of the balloon altered so that M. Roziers was in the
advance of our position, I in the rear.

“I was surprised at the silence and the absence of movement which
our departure caused among the spectators, and believed them to be
astonished and perhaps awed at the strange spectacle; they might well
have reassured themselves I was still gazing, when M. Roziers cried to

“‘You are doing nothing, and the balloon is scarcely rising a fathom.’

“‘Pardon me,’ I answered, as I placed a bundle of straw upon the fire
and slightly stirred it. Then I turned quickly, but already we had
passed out of sight of La Muette. Astonished, I cast a glance towards
the river. I perceived the confluence of the Oise. And naming the
principal bends of the river by the places nearest them, I cried,
‘Passy, St. Germain, St. Denis, Sevres!’

“‘If you look at the river in that fashion you will be likely to bathe
in it soon,’ cried Roziers. ‘Some fire, my dear friend, some fire!’

“We travelled on; but instead of crossing the river, as our direction
seemed to indicate, we bore towards the Invalides, then returned upon
the principal bed of the river, and travelled to above the barrier of La
Conference, thus dodging about the river, but not crossing it.

“‘That river is very difficult to cross,’ I remarked to my companion.

“‘So it seems,’ he answered; ‘but you are doing nothing I suppose it is
because you are braver than I, and don’t fear a tumble.’

“I stirred the fire, I seized a truss of straw with my fork; I raised
it and threw it in the midst of the flames. An instant afterwards I felt
myself lifted as it were into the heavens.

“‘For once we move,’ said I.

“‘Yes, we move,’ answered my companion.

“At the same instant I heard from the top of the balloon a sound which
made me believe that it had burst. I watched, yet I saw nothing.
My companion had gone into the interior, no doubt to make some
observations. As my eyes were fixed on the top of the machine I
experienced a shock, and it was the only one I had yet felt. The
direction of the movement was from above downwards I then said--

“‘What are you doing? Are you having a dance to yourself?’

“‘I’m not moving.’

“‘So much the better. It is only a new current which I hope will carry
us from the river,’ I answered.

“I turned to see where we were, and found we were between the Ecole
Militaire and the Invalides.

“‘We are getting on.’ said Roziers.

“‘Yes, we are travelling.’

“‘Let us work, let us work,’ said he.

“I now heard another report in the machine, which I believed was
produced by the cracking of a cord. This new intimation made me
carefully examine the inside of our habitation. I saw that the part that
was turned towards the south was full of holes, of which some were of a
considerable size.

“‘It must descend,’ I then cried.


“‘Look!’ I said. At the same time I took my sponge and quietly
extinguished the little fire that was burning some of the holes within
my reach; but at the same moment I perceived that the bottom of the
cloth was coming away from the circle which surrounded it.

“‘We must descend,’ I repeated to my companion.

“He looked below.

“‘We are upon Paris,’ he said.

“‘It does not matter,’ I answered ‘Only look! Is there no danger? Are
you holding on well?’


“I examined from my side, and saw that we had nothing to fear. I then
tried with my sponge the ropes which were within my reach. All of them
held firm. Only two of the cords had broken.

“I then said, ‘We can cross Paris.’

“During this operation we were rapidly getting down to the roofs. We
made more fire, and rose again with the greatest ease. I looked down,
and it seemed to me we were going towards the towers of St. Sulpice;
but, on rising, a new current made us quit this direction and bear more
to the south. I looked to the left, and beheld a wood, which I believed
to be that of Luxembourg. We were traversing the boulevard, and I cried
all at once--

“‘Get to ground!’

“But the intrepid Roziers, who never lost his head, and who judged more
surely than I, prevented me from attempting to descend. I then threw a
bundle of straw on the fire. We rose again, and another current bore us
to were now close to the ground, between two mills. As soon to the
left. We as we came near the earth I raised myself over the gallery,
and leaning there with my two hands, I felt the balloon pressing softly
against my head. I pushed it back, and leaped down to the ground.
Looking round and expecting to see the balloon still distended, I was
astonished to find it quite empty and flattened. On looking for Roziers
I saw him in his shirt-sleeves creeping out from under the mass of
canvas that had fallen over him. Before attempting to descend he had
put off his coat and placed it in the basket. After a deal of trouble we
were at last all right.

“As Roziers was without a coat I besought him to go to the nearest
house. On his way thither he encountered the Duke of Chartres, who
had followed us, as we saw, very closely, for I had had the honour of
conversing with him the moment before we set out.”

The following report of this first aerial voyage was drawn up by
scientific observers, among other signatures to it being that of
Benjamin Franklin.

“Today 21st of October, 1783, at the Chateau de la Muette, an experiment
was made with the aerostatic machine of M. Montgolfier. The sky was
clouded in many parts, clear in others--the wind north-west. At mid-day
a signal was given, which announced that the balloon was being filled.
Soon after, in spite of the wind, it was inflated in all its parts, and
the ascent was made. The Marquis d’Arlandes and M. Pilatre des Roziers
were in the gallery. The first intention was to raise the machine and
pull it back with ropes, to test it, to find out the exact weight which
it could carry, and to see if everything was properly arranged before
the actual ascent was attempted. But the machine, driven by the wind,
far from rising vertically, was directed upon one of the walks of
a garden, and the cords which held it shook with so much force that
several rents were made in the balloon. The machine, being brought back
to its place, was repaired in less than two hours. Being again inflated,
it rose once more, bearing the same persons, and when it had risen
to the height of 250 feet, the intrepid voyagers, bowing their heads,
saluted the spectators. One could not resist a feeling of mingled fear
and admiration. Soon the aeronauts were lost to view, but the balloon
itself, displaying its very beautiful shape, mounted to the height of
3,000 feet, and still remained visible. The voyagers, satisfied with
their experience, and not wishing to make a longer course, agreed to
descend, but, perceiving that the wind was driving them upon the houses
of the Rue de Sevres, preserved their self-possession, renewed the hot
air, rose anew and continued their course till they had passed Paris.

“They then descended tranquilly in the country, beyond the new
boulevard, without having experienced the slightest inconvenience,
having still the greater part of their fuel untouched. They could, had
they desired, have cleared a distance three times as great as that which
they traversed. Their flight was nearly 30,000 feet, and the time it
occupied was from twenty to twenty-five minutes. This machine was 70
feet high, 46 feet in diameter, and had a capacity of 60,000 cubic

It is reported that Franklin, more illustrious in his humility than the
most brilliant among the lords of the court, when consulted respecting
the possible use of balloons, answered simply, “C’est l’enfant qui vient
de naitre?”

Chapter X. The Second Arial Voyage.

(1st December 1783.--Charles and Robert at the Tuileries.)

The first ascent of Roziers and Arlandes was a feat of hardihood almost
unique. The men’s courage was, so to speak, their only guarantee. Thanks
to the balloon, however, they accomplished one of the most extraordinary
enterprises ever achieved by our race.

On the day after the experiment of the Champ de Mars (27th of August),
Professor Charles--who had already acquired celebrity at the Louvre, by
his scientific collection and by his rank as an official instructor--and
the Brothers Robert, mechanicians, were engaged in the construction of
a balloon, to be inflated with hydrogen gas, and destined to carry a car
and one or two passengers. For this ascent Charles may be said to have
created all at once the art of aerostation as now practiced, for he
brought it at one bound to such perfection that since his day scarcely
any advance has been made upon his arrangements. His simple yet complete
invention was that of the valve which gives escape to the hydrogen gas,
and thus renders the descent of the balloon gentle and gradual; the car
that carries the travellers; the ballast of sand, by which the ascent is
regulated and the fall is moderated; the coating of caoutchouc, by means
of which the material of the balloon is rendered airtight and prevents
loss of gas; and, finally, the use of the barometer, which marks at
every instant, by the elevation or the depression of the mercury, the
position in which the aeronaut finds himself in the atmosphere. Charles
created all the contrivances, or, in other words, all the ingenious
precautions which make up the art of aerostation.

On the 26th of November, the balloon, fitted with its network, and
having the car attached to it, was sent away from the hall of the
Tuileries, where it had been exhibited. The ascent was fixed for the 1st
of December, 1783, a memorable day for the Parisians.

At noon upon that day, the subscribers, who had paid four louis for
their seats, took their places within the enclosure outside the circle,
in which stood the casks employed for making the gas. The humbler
subscribers, at three francs a-head, occupied the rest of the garden.
The number of spectators, as we read underneath the numerous coloured
prints which represent this spectacle, was 600,000; but though, without
doubt, the gardens of the Tuileries are very large, it is probable this
figure is a considerable overstatement, for this number would have been
three-fourths of the whole population of Paris.

The roofs and windows of the houses were crowded, whilst the Pont Royal
and the square of Louis XV. were covered by an immense multitude. About
mid-day a rumour was spread to the effect that the king forbade the
ascent. Charles ran to the Chief Minister of State, and plainly told him
that his life was the king’s, but his honour was his own: his word was
pledged to the country and he would ascend. Taking this high ground,
the bold professor gained an unwilling permission to carry out his

A little afterwards the sound of cannon was heard. This was the signal
which announced the last arrangements and thus dissipated all doubt as
to the rising of the balloon, There had during the day been considerable
disturbance among the crowd, between the partisans of Charles and
Montgolfier; each party extolled its hero, and did everything possible
to detract from the merits of the rival inventor. But whatever
ill-feeling might have existed was swept away by Professor Charles with
a compliment. When he was ready to ascend, he walked up to Montgolfier,
and, with the true instinct of French politeness, presented him with a
little balloon, saying at the same time--

“It is for you, monsieur, to show us the way to the skies.”

The exquisite taste and delicacy of this incident touched the bystanders
as with an electric shock, and the place at once rang out with the most
genuine and hearty applause The little balloon thrown up by Montgolfier
sped away to the north-east, its beautiful emerald colour showing to
fine effect in the sun.

From this point let us follow the narrative of Professor Charles

“The balloon,” he says, “which escaped from the hands of M. Montgolfier,
rose into the air, and seemed to carry with it the testimony of
friendship and regard between that gentleman and myself, while
acclamations followed it. Meanwhile, we hastily prepared for departure.
The stormy weather did not permit us to have at our command all the
arrangements which we had contemplated the previous evening; to do so
would have detained us too long upon the earth. After the balloon and
the car were in equilibrium, we threw over 19 lbs. of ballast, and we
rose in the midst of silence, arising from the emotion and surprise felt
on all sides.

“Nothing will ever equal that moment of joyous excitement which filled
my whole being when I felt myself flying away from the earth. It was not
mere pleasure; it was perfect bliss. Escaped from the frightful torments
of persecution and of calumny, I felt that I was answering all in rising
above all.

“To this sentiment succeeded one more lively still--the admiration of
the majestic spectacle that spread itself out before us. On whatever
side we looked, all was glorious; a cloudless sky above, a most
delicious view around. ‘Oh, my friend,’ said I to M. Robert, ‘how great
is our good fortune! I care not what may be the condition of the earth;
it is the sky that is for me now. What serenity! what a ravishing scene!
Would that I could bring here the last of our detractors, and say to the
wretch, Behold what you would have lost had you arrested the progress of

“Whilst we were rising with a progressively increasing speed, we
waved our bannerets in token of our cheerfulness, and in order to give
confidence to those below who took an interest in our fate. M.
Robert made an inventory of our stores; our friends had stocked our
commissariat as for a long voyage--champagne and other wines, garments
of fur and other articles of clothing.

“‘Good,’ I said; ‘throw that out of the window.’ He took a blanket and
launched it into the air, through which it floated down slowly, and fell
upon the dome of l’Assomption.

“When the barometer had fallen 26 inches, we ceased to ascend. We were
up at an elevation of 1,800 feet. This was the height to which I had
promised myself to ascend; and, in fact, from this moment to the time
when we disappeared from the eyes of our friends, we always kept a
horizontal course, the barometer registering 26 inches to 26 inches 8

“We required to throw over ballast in proportion as the almost
insensible escape of the hydrogen gas caused us to descend, in order to
remain as nearly as possible at the same elevation. If circumstances had
permitted us to measure the amount of ballast we threw over, our course
would have been almost absolutely horizontal.

“After remaining for a few moments stationary, our car I changed its
course, and we were carried on at the will of the wind. Soon we passed
the Seine, between St. Ouen and Asnieres. We traversed the river a
second time, leaving Argenteuil upon the left. We passed Sannois,
Franconville, Eau-Bonne, St. Leu-Taverny, Villiers, and finally, Nesles.
This was about twenty-seven miles from Paris, and we had I reached this
distance in two hours, although there was so little wind that the air
scarcely stirred.

“During the whole course of this delightful voyage, not the slightest
apprehension for our fate or that of our machine entered my head for a
moment. The globe did not suffer any alteration beyond the successive
changes of dilatation and compression, which enabled us to mount and
descend at will. The thermometer was, during more than an hour, between
ten and twelve degrees above zero; this being to some extent accounted
for by the fact that the interior of the car was warmed by the rays of
the sun.

“At the end of fifty-six minutes, we heard the report of the cannon
which informed us that we had, at that moment, disappeared from view at
Paris. We rejoiced that we had escaped, as we were no longer obliged
to observe a horizontal course, and to regulate the balloon for that

“We gave ourselves up to the contemplation of the views which the
immense stretch of country beneath us presented. From that time, though
we had no opportunity of conversing with the inhabitants, we saw
them running after us from all parts; we heard their cries, their
exclamations of solicitude, and knew their alarm and admiration.

“We cried, ‘Vive le Roi!’ and the people responded. We heard, very
distinctly--‘My good friends, have you no fear? Are you not sick? How
beautiful it is! Heaven preserve you! Adieu, my friends.’

“I was touched to tears by this tender and true interest which our
appearance had called forth.

“We continued to wave our flags without cessation, and we perceived
that these signals greatly increased the cheerfulness and calmed the
solicitude of the people below. Often we descended sufficiently low to
hear what they shouted to us. They asked us where we came from, and at
what hour we had started.

“We threw over successively frock-coats, muffs, and habits. Sailing on
above the Ile d’Adam, after having admired the splendid view, we made
signals with our flags, and demanded news of the Prince of Conti. One
cried up to us, in a very powerful voice, that he was at Paris, and
that he was ill. We regretted missing such an opportunity of paying our
respects, for we could have descended into the prince’s gardens, if we
had wished, but we preferred to pursue our course, and we re-ascended.
Finally, we arrived at the plain of Nesles.

“We saw from the distance groups of peasants, who ran on before us
across the fields. ‘Let us go,’ I said, and we descended towards a vast

“Some shrubs and trees stood round its border. Our car advanced
majestically in a long inclined plane. On arriving near the trees, I
feared that their branches might damage the car, so I threw over two
pounds of ballast, and we rose again. We ran along more than 120 feet,
at a distance of one or two feet from the ground, and had the appearance
of travelling in a sledge. The peasants ran after us without being able
to catch us, like children pursuing a butterfly in the fields.

“Finally, we stopped, and were instantly surrounded. Nothing could equal
the simple and tender regard of the country people, their admiration,
and their lively emotion.

“I called at once for the cures and the magistrates. They came round
me on all sides: there was quite a fete on the spot. I prepared a short
report, which the cures and the syndics signed. Then arrived a company
of horsemen at a gallop. These were the Duke of Chartres, the Duke of
Fitzjames, and M. Farrer. By a very singular chance, we had come down
close by the hunting-lodge of the latter. He leaped from his horse and
threw himself into my arms, crying, ‘Monsieur Charles, I was first!’

“Charles adds that they were covered with the caresses of the prince,
who embraced both of them. He briefly narrated to the Duke of Chartres
some incidents of the voyage.

“‘But this is not all, monseigneur. I am going away again,’ added

“‘What! Going away!’ exclaimed the duke.

“‘Monseigneur, you will see. When do you wish me to come back again?’ I

“‘In half an hour.’

“‘Very well: be it so. In half an hour I shall be with you again.’

“M. Robert descended from the car, and I was alone in the balloon.

“I said to the duke, ‘Monseigneur, I go.’ I said to the peasants who
held down the balloon, ‘My friends, go away, all of you, from the car
at the moment I give the signal.’ I then rose like a bird, and in
ten minutes I was more than 3,000 feet above the ground. I no longer
perceived terrestrial objects; I only saw the great masses of nature.

“In going away, Charles had taken his precautions against the possible
explosion of the balloon, and made himself ready to make certain
observations. In order to observe the barometer and the thermometer,
placed at different extremities of the car, without endangering the
equilibrium, he sat down in the middle, a watch and paper in his left
hand, a pen and the cord of the safety-valve in his right.

“I waited for what should happen,” continues he. “The balloon, which
was quite flabby and soft when I ascended, was now taut, and fully
distended. Soon the hydrogen gas began to escape in considerable
quantities by the neck of the balloon, and then, from time to time, I
pulled open the valve to give it two issues at once; and I continued
thus to mount upwards, all the time losing the inflammable air, which,
rushing past me from the neck of the balloon, felt like a warm cloud.

“I passed in ten minutes from the temperature of spring to that of
winter; the cold was keen and dry, but not insupportable. I examined all
my sensations calmly; _I_ COULD HEAR MYSELF LIVE, so to speak, and I am
certain that at first I experienced nothing disagreeable in this sudden
passage from one temperature to another.

“When the barometer ceased to move I noted very exactly eighteen inches
ten lines. This observation is perfectly accurate The mercury did not
suffer any sensible movement.

“At the end of some minutes the cold caught my fingers; I could hardly
hold the pen, but I no longer had need to do so. I was stationary, or
rather moved only in a horizontal direction.

“I raised myself in the middle of the car, and abandoned myself to the
spectacle before me. At my departure from the meadow the sun had sunk to
the people of the valleys; soon he shone for me alone, and came again to
pour his rays upon the balloon and the car. I was the only creature in
the horizon in sunshine--all the rest of nature was in shade. Ere long,
however, the sun disappeared, and thus I had the pleasure of seeing him
set twice in the same day. I contemplated for some moments the mists and
vapours that rose from the valley and the rivers The clouds seemed to
come forth from the earth, and to accumulate the one upon the other.
Their colour was a monotonous grey--a natural effect, for there was no
light save that of the moon.

“I observed that I had tacked round twice, and I felt currents which
called me to my senses. I found with surprise the effect of the wind,
and saw the cloth of my flag: extended horizontally.

“In the midst of the inexpressible pleasure of this state of ecstatic
contemplation, I was recalled to myself by a most extraordinary pain
which I felt in the interior of the ears and in the maxillary glands.
This I attributed to the dilation of the air contained in the cellular
tissue of the organ as much as to the cold outside. I was in my vest,
with my head uncovered. I immediately covered my head with a bonnet of
wool which was at my feet, but the pain only disappeared with my descent
to the ground.

“It was now seven or eight minutes since I had arrived at this
elevation, and I now commenced to descend. I remembered the promise I
had made to the Duke of Chartres, to return in half an hour. I quickened
my descent by opening the valve from time to time. Soon the balloon,
empty now to one half, presented the appearance of a hemisphere.

“Arrived at twenty-three fathoms from the earth, I suddenly threw over
two or three pounds of ballast, which arrested my descent, and which I
had carefully kept for this purpose. I then slowly descended upon the
ground, which I had, so to speak, chosen.”

Such is the narrative of the second aerial voyage. After such a
memorable ascent one is astonished to learn that Professor Charles never
repeated his experiment. It has been said that, in descending from
his car, he had vowed that he would never again expose himself to such
perils, so strong had been the alarm he felt when the peasants ceasing
to hold him down he shot up into the sky with the rapidity of an arrow.
But after him a thousand others have followed the daring example he set.
With this ascent the memorable year 1783 closed, and the seed which had
been sown soon began to be productive.


Chapter I. The History of Aerostation from the Year 1783.

     The Open Route--Travels and Travellers--Great Increase in
     the Number of Air Voyages--Lyons, Ascent of “Le Flesselles--
     Milan, Ascent of Adriani--Flight of a Balloon from London--
     Lost Balloons in the Chief Towns of Europe

From the year 1783, in which aerostation had its birth, and in which
it was carried to a degree of perfection, beside which the progress
of aeronauts in our days seems small, a new route was opened up for
travellers. The science of Montgolfier, the practical art of Professor
Charles, and the courage of Roziers, subdued the scepticism of those who
had not yet given in their adhesion to the possible value of the great
discovery, and throughout the whole of France a feverish degree of
enthusiasm in the art manifested itself Aerial excursions now became
quite fashionable. Let it be understood that we do not here refer to
ascents in fixed balloons, that is, in balloons which were attached to
the earth by means of ropes more or less long.

M. Biot narrates that, in his young days, when aeronautic ascents were
less known than they are in these times, there was in the plain of
Grenelle, at the mill of Javelle, an establishment where balloons were
constantly maintained for the accommodation of amateurs of both sexes
who wished to make ascents in what were called “ballons captifs,” or
balloons anchored, so to speak, to the earth by means of long ropes They
were for a considerable time the rage of fashionable society, and it is
not recorded that any accidents resulted from the practice. Of course
it may be easily understood with these safe balloons the adventurous
aeronauts never ascended to any great height. The reader will find this
subject treated under the chapter of military aerostation.

We are at present specially engaged with the narrative of the first
attempts in aerostation--the first experiments in the new discovery.
We have followed with interest the exciting details of the first
adventurous ascents, in which the genius of man first essayed the
unexplored paths of the heavens. Yet a continued record of aerial
voyages would not be of the same interest. The results of subsequent
expeditions, and the impressions of subsequent aeronauts are the same
as those already described, or differ from them only in minor points. No
important advance is recorded in the art. We shall therefore endeavour
not to confine ourselves to the narrative of a dry and monotonous
chronology, but to select from the number of ascents that have taken
place within the last eighty years, only those whose special character
renders them worthy of more detailed and severe investigation.

In order to give an idea of the rapid multiplication of aeronautic
experiments, it will suffice to state that the only aeronauts of
1783 are Roziers, the Marquis d’Arlandes, Professor Charles, his
collaborateur the younger Robert, and a carpenter, named Wilcox, who
made ascents at Philadelphia and London.

A number of balloons were remarkable for the beauty and elegance which
we have already spoken of. Among the most beautiful we may mention the
“Flesselles” balloon and Bagnolet’s balloon.

Of the ascents which immediately succeeded those that have been treated
in the first part of our volume, and which are the most memorable in
the early annals of aerostation, that of the 17th of January, 1784, is
remarkable. It took place at Lyons. Seven persons went into the car on
this occasion--Joseph Montgolfier, Roziers, the Comte de Laurencin, the
Comte de Dampierre, the Prince Charles de Ligne, the Comte de Laporte
d’Anglifort, and Fontaine, who threw himself into the car when it had
already begun to move.

A most minute account of this experiment is given in a letter of Mathon
de la Cour, director of the Academy of Sciences at Lyons:--“After the
experiments of the Champ de Mars and Versailles had become known,”
 he says, “the citizens of this town proposed to repeat them and a
subscription was opened for this purpose. On the arrival of the elder
Montgolfier, about the end of September, M. de Flesselles, our director,
always zealous in promoting whatever might be for the welfare of the
province and the advancement of science and art, persuaded him to
organise the subscription. The aim of the experiment proposed by
Montgolfier was not the ascent of any human being in the balloon. The
prospectus only announced that a balloon of a much larger size than any
that had been made would ascend--that it would rise to several thousand
feet, and that, including the animals that it was proposed it should
carry, it would weigh 8,000 lbs. The subscription was fixed at L12, and
the number of subscribers was 360.”

It was on these conditions that Montgolfier commenced his balloon of 126
feet high and 100 feet in diameter, made of a double envelope of cotton
cloth, with a lining of paper between. A strength and consistency was
given to the structure by means of ribbons and cords.

The work was nearly finished when Roziers went up in his fire-balloon
from La Muette. Immediately the Comte de Laurencin pressed Montgolfier
to allow him to go up in the new machine. Montgolfier was only too glad
of the opportunity--refused up to this time by the king--of going up
himself. From thirty to forty people made application to go with the
aeronauts; and on the 26th of December, 1678, Roziers, the Comte de
Dampierre, and the Comte de Laporte, arrived in Lyons with the same
intention. Prince Charles also arrived; and as his father had taken one
hundred subscriptions, his claim to go up could not be refused.

But while the public papers were full of ascents at Avignon, Marseilles,
and Paris, it is impossible to describe the vexation of Roziers, when
he discovered that Montgolfier’s new balloon was not intended to carry
passengers, and had not been, from the first, constructed with that
view. He suggested a number of alterations, which Montgolfier adopted at

On the 7th of January, 1784, all the pieces of which the balloon was
composed were carried out to the field called Les Brotteaux, outside the
town, from which the ascent was to be made. This event was announced to
take place on the 10th and at five o’clock on the morning of that day;
but unexpected delays occurred, and in the necessary operations the
covering was torn in many places.

On the 15th the balloon was inflated in seventeen minutes, and the
gallery was attached in an hour--the fire from which the heated air was
obtained requiring to be fed at the rate of 5 lbs. of alder-wood per
minute; but the preparations had occupied so much time, that it was
found, when everything was complete, that the afternoon was too far
advanced for the ascent to be made. This machine was destined to suffer
from endless misfortunes. It took fire while being inflated, and,
several days afterwards, it was damaged by snow and rain. Put nothing
discouraged Roziers and his companions. Places had been arranged in the
gallery for six persons. After the balloon was at last inflated,
Prince Charles and the Comes de Laurencin, Dampierre, and Laporte threw
themselves into the gallery. They were all armed, and were determined
not to quit their places to whoever might come. Roziers, who wished at
the last to enjoy a high ascent, proposed to reduce the number to three,
and to draw lots for the purpose. But the gentlemen would not descend.
The debate became animated. The four voyagers cried to cut the ropes.
The director of the Academy, to whom application was made in this
emergency, admiring the resolution and the courage of the four
gentlemen, wished to satisfy them in their desire. Accordingly the ropes
were cut; but at that moment M. Montgolfier and Roziers threw themselves
into the gallery. At the same time a certain M. Fontaine, who had
had much to do in the construction of the machine, threw himself in,
although it had not previously been arranged that he should be of the
party. His boldness in jumping in was pardoned, on the ground of his
services and his zeal.

In going away the machine turned to the south-west, and bent a little.
A rope which dragged along the ground seemed to retard its ascent; but
some intelligent person having cut this with a hatchet, it began to
right itself and ascend. At a certain height it turned to the north
east. The wind was feeble, and the progress was slow, but the imposing
effect was indescribable. The immense machine rose into the air as by
some effect of magic. Nearly 100,000 spectators were present, and they
were greatly excited at the view. They clapped their hands and stretched
their arms towards the sky; women fainted away, or (for some reasons
best known to themselves) found relief for their excitement in tears;
while the men, uttering cries of joy, waved their handkerchiefs, and
threw their hats into the air.

The form of the machine was that of a globe, rising from a reversed and
truncated cone, to which the gallery was attached. The upper part was
white, the lower part grey; and the cone was composed of strips of stuff
of different colours. On the sides of the balloon were two paintings,
one of which represented History, the other Fame. The flag bore the arms
of the director of the Academy, and above it were inscribed the words
“Le Flesselles.”

The voyagers observed that they did not consume a fourth of the quantity
of combustibles after they had risen into the air, which they consumed
when attached to the earth. They were in the gayest humour, and they
calculated that the fuel they had would keep them floating till late
in the evening. Unfortunately, however, after throwing more wood on the
fire, in order to get up to a greater altitude, it was discovered that
a rent had been made in the covering, caused by the fire by which the
balloon had been damaged two or three days previously. The rent was four
feet in length; and as the heated air escaped very rapidly by it, the
balloon fell, after having sailed above the earth for barely fifteen

The descent only occupied two or three minutes, and yet the shock was
supportable. It was observed that as soon as the machine had touched the
earth all the cloth became unfolded in a few seconds, which seemed to
confirm the opinion of Montgolfier, who believed that electricity had
much to do in the ascent of balloons. The voyagers were got out of the
balloon without accident, and were greeted with the most enthusiastic

On the day of the ascent, the opera of “Iphigenia in Aulis” was given,
and the theatre was thronged by a vast assemblage, attracted thither
in the hope of seeing the illustrious experimentalists. The curtain had
risen when M. and Madame de Flesselles entered their box, accompanied
by Montgolfier and Roziers. At sight of them the enthusiasm of the house
rose to fever pitch. The other voyagers also entered, and were greeted
with the same demonstrations. Cries arose from the pit to begin the
opera again, in honour of the visitors. The curtain then fell, and when
it again rose, after a few moments, the actor who filled the role of
Agamemnon advanced with crowns, which he handed to Madame de Flesselles,
who distributed them to the aeronauts. Roziers placed the crown that had
been given to him upon Montgolfier’s head.

When the actress who played the part of Clytemnestra, sung the passage

“I love to see these flattering honours paid.”

The audience at once applied her song to the circumstances, and
re-demanded it, which request the actress complied with, addressing
herself to the box in which the distinguished visitors sat. The
demonstrations of admiration were continued after the opera was over;
and during the whole of the night the gentlemen of the balloon ascent
were serenaded.

Two days afterwards, Roziers having appeared at a ball, received further
proofs of admiration and honours; and when, on the 22nd of January, he
departed for Dijon on his return to Paris, he was accompanied as in a
triumph by a numerous cavalcade of the most distinguished young men of
the city.

There was, however, at Paris, much discontent with the ascent of
“Le Flesselles;” and the Journal de Paris de Paris, which notices so
enthusiastically the other ascents of that epoch, speaks slightingly of
that at Lyons.

The next great ascent took place at Milan, on the 25th of February,
1784, under the direction of the Chevalier Paul Andriani, who had a
balloon constructed by the Brothers Gerli, at his own expense. We read
that this balloon was 66 feet in diameter, and that the envelope was
composed of cloth, lined in the interior with fine paper.

The balloon was not in all respects constructed like that which rose at
Lyons. The grating which supported the fire that kept up the supply of
hot air was placed at the mouth of the opening. It was made of copper,
was six feet in diameter, and was secured by a number of transverse
beams of wood. M. Andriani thought it best to place his fire--contrary
to general usage--a little way above the mouth of the opening, and he
found out that the activity of the fire was in proportion with that of
the air which entered and fed it.

In place of making use of a gallery like that employed by Montgolfier,
as much to manage the fire as to carry the traveller and the fuel, he
substituted a wide basket, suspended by cords to the edge of the opening
of the balloon, at such a distance that fuel could be thrown on with the
hand without being inconvenienced by the heat.

Everything being in readiness, the machine was carried to Moncuco, the
splendid domain of Andriani, where the first experiments were made; for
this gentlemen knew that as the populace are impatient, they are also
often un-reasonable, and jump to the hastiest and most inconsiderate
conclusion when, in witnessing scientific experiments, any of the
arrangements happen to be imperfect, and the results in any respect
prove unsuccessful.

Andriani did not deceive himself, for, sure enough, his first attempt
did not come up to expectation. The reasons for this failure were the
too great quantity of air which the fire drew in, and the unsuitable
character of the fuel used.

On the 25th of February, 1784, a second attempt was made. The fire was
lighted under the machine, at first with dry birch-wood and afterwards
with a bituminous composition, ingeniously concocted by one of the
Brothers Gerli. In less than four minutes the balloon was completely
inflated, and the men employed to hold it down with ropes perceived that
it was on the point of rising. The aeronauts then gave the order to
let go. Scarcely was the balloon let off, when it gently rose a short
distance, and then flew in a horizontal direction towards a palace in
the neighbourhood. In order that the structure should not be destroyed
on the walls and the roof of the palace, the voyagers heaped on the
fuel, and the spectators, who had gathered together from the surrounding
villages, then saw this strange vessel of the air rising with rapidity
to a surprising height. Such a phenomenon was so astonishing, that those
who beheld it could hardly believe their own eyes; and when the balloon
disappeared from view, the delight they had manifested was dashed with
fear for the fate of the bold aeronauts. The latter, seeing that the
balloon was driving through the air towards a range of rocky hills in
the neighbourhood, and perceiving, on the other hand, that their stock
of combustibles was nearly exhausted, judged it prudent to descend. They
diminished their fire, and came gradually down, warning the multitude
below of their intention by means of a speaking-trumpet.

In the course of the descent the balloon alighted upon a large tree, to
the great peril of the travellers; but as soon as the fire was increased
it again mounted and got clear from the branches while the people below,
grasping the cords that were hung out to them, guided the machine to the
spot which the voyagers indicated. To descend to terra firma was then
a comparatively easy matter, and it was safely accomplished. The fire,
which in the case of the French balloons had dried, calcined, and almost
consumed the upper part of the balloon, had no evil effect upon that of
Andriani, which came down looking as fresh as if it had never been used.

The new idea had now passed the frontiers of France, in which it was
originally conceived, and among the other nations, as at first in
France, the power of the inflated balloon came to be tested everywhere
by the construction of small toy globes.

It was just about five months after the first experiment at
Annonay--viz., on the 25th of November, 1783--that the first balloon
ascended in London. We are informed, in the History of Aerostation by
Tiberius Cavallo, that an Italian, Count Zambeccari, who was staying in
the English capital, made a balloon of silk, covered with a varnish of
oil. Its diameter was ten feet, and its weight eleven pounds. It was
gilded for the double purpose of enhancing its appearance and preventing
the escape of air. After having been exposed to public inspection for
several days, it was filled three parts full of hydrogen gas, a tin
bottle was suspended from it, containing an address to whoever might
find it when it should fall, and it was let off from the Artillery
Ground, in presence of a vast assembly.

On the 11th of December, 1783, a little balloon, made of gold-beaters’
skin, was let off publicly at Turin. This was an experiment similar to
that which had been tried at Paris in September. The balloon was seen
to penetrate the clouds, then to mount still higher, and finally to
disappear entirely in five minutes fifty-four seconds from the time when
it was set free.

It was natural, after the experiments made long before with electric
paper kites, to employ the balloon in the investigation of the electric
conditions of the atmosphere. The first to use it for this purpose was
the Abbe Berthelon de Montpellier. He sent up a number of balloons, to
which he had attached pieces of metal, long and narrow, and terminating
in a cylinder of glass, or other substance suitable for the purpose
of isolation, and he obtained sufficient electricity by these means
to demonstrate the phenomena of attraction and repulsion, as well as
electric sparks.

Cavallo mentions an accident which took place in England about this
time, and which served as a warning to all who had to do with balloons
filled with hydrogen gas. A balloon thus inflated had been sent up
at Hopton, near Matlock, and was found by two men near Cheadle, in
Staffordshire. These ingenious persons carried it within doors, and
having wished to fully inflate it--half the gas having by this time
escaped--they applied a pair of bellows to its mouth. By this means they
only forced out the volume of the hydrogen gas that was left; and this
gas, coming in contact with a candle that had been placed too near,
exploded. The report was louder than that of a cannon, and so powerful
was the shock that the men were thrown down, the glass blown out of the
windows, and the house otherwise damaged. The men suffered severely,
their hair, beards, and eyebrows being completely burnt away, and their
faces severely scorched.

At Grenoble, in Dauphine, De Baron let off a balloon on the 13th of
January, 1784. It rose, and at first took a northern direction;
but, having encountered a current of air, it was carried away in a
south-easterly direction, and after flying a distance of three-quarters
of a mile, it fell, having traversed this distance in fifteen minutes.

A society, under the presidency of the Abbe de Mably, having constructed
a balloon thirty-seven feet high and twenty feet in diameter, sent it
off from the court of the Castle of Pisancon, near Romano, on the same
day, the 13th of February. At first it was carried to the south by
a strong north wind, but after it had risen to 1,000 feet above the
surface, its course was changed towards the north. It was calculated
that, in less than five minutes, this balloon rose to the height of
6,000 feet.

On the 16th of the same month the Count d’Albon threw off from his
gardens at Franconville a balloon inflated with gas, and made of silk,
rendered air-tight by a solution of gum-arabic. It was oblong, and
measured twenty-five feet in height, and seventeen feet in diameter.
To this balloon a cage, containing two guinea-pigs and a rabbit,
was suspended. The cords were cut, and the inflated globe rose to an
enormous height with the greatest rapidity. Five days afterwards it was
found at the distance of eighteen miles, and it is remarkable that, in
spite of the cold of the season, and particularly of the elevated region
through which the balloon had been passing, the animals were not only
living, but in good condition.

On the 3rd of February, 1784, the Marquis de Bullion sent up a paper
balloon, of about fifteen feet in diameter. A flat sponge, about a foot
square, placed in a tin dish and drenched with a pint of spirits of
wine, was the only apparatus made use of to create a supply of heated
air. It rose at Paris, and three hours afterwards it was found near
Basville, about thirty miles from the capital.

On the 15th of the same month Cellard de Chastelais sent up a paper
balloon. Heated air was supplied on this occasion by a paper roll,
enclosing a sponge, and soaked in oil, spirits of wine, and grease.
A cage, which contained a cat, was attached to this air globe. In
thirty-five minutes it had mounted so high that it looked but like the
smallest star, and in two hours it had flown a distance of forty-six
miles from the place where it was thrown off. The cat was dead, but it
was not discovered from what cause.

The first balloon that traversed the English channel was sent off at
Sandwich, in Kent, on the 22nd of February, 1784. It was five feet in
diameter, and was inflated with hydrogen gas. It rose rapidly, and was
carried toward France by a north-west wind. Two hours and a half after
it had been let off it was found in a field about nine miles from Lille.
The balloon carried a letter, instructing the finder of the balloon to
communicate with William Boys, Esq., Sandwich, and to state where and at
what time it was found. This request was complied with.

On the 19th of February a similar balloon, five feet in diameter, was
sent up from Queen’s College, Oxford. It was spherical, and was made of
Persian silk, coated with varnish. It was the first balloon sent up from
that city.

De Saussure makes mention, in a letter dated from Geneva, the 26th
of March, 1784, of certain experiments made in that town with the
electricity of the atmosphere by means of fixed balloons--i.e., balloons
attached to the earth by ropes, which gave forth sparks and positive

Mention is also made of a certain M. Argand, of Geneva, who had the
honour of making balloon experiments at Windsor in the presence of King
George III., Queen Charlotte, and the royal family. About this time
(1784) balloons became “the fashion,” and frequent instances occur of
their being raised by day and night, by means of spirit-lamps, to the
great delight of multitudes of spectators.

A letter from Watt to Dr. Lind, of Windsor, dated from Birmingham, 25th
December, 1784, narrates an experiment made the summer preceding with
a balloon inflated with hydrogen. The balloon was made of fine paper
covered with a varnish of oil and filled two-thirds with hydrogen gas,
and one-third common air. To the neck of the balloon was attached a sort
of squib two feet long, the fuse of which was ignited when the balloon
was inflated. The night was calm and dark, and a great multitude was
assembled to witness the ascent, which was accomplished with a success
that gave delight to all; for, at the end of six minutes the fuse
communicated with the squib, and the explosion was like the sound of
thunder. The men who saw it from a distance, but were not present at
its ascent, took it for a meteor. “Our intention,” says Watt, “was, if
possible, to discover whether the reverberating sound of thunder was
due to echoes or to successive explosions. The sound occasioned by the
detonation of the hydrogen gas of the balloon in this experiment, does
not enable us to form a definite judgment; all that we can do is to
refer to those who were near the balloon, and-who affirm that the sound
was like that of thunder.”

Chapter II. Experiments and Studies--Blanchard at Paris--Guyton de
Morveau at Dijon.

The most popular name in aerostation during the Revolution and the
Consulate in France is, without doubt, that of Blanchard. We have
already referred to him in the chapter which treats of experiments made
prior to the discovery of Montgolfier, and we now have to speak of his
famous ascent from the Champ de Mars, on the 2nd of March 1784, and of
the ascents which followed.

We have seen that he constructed a sort of flying boat, a machine
furnished with oars and rigging, with which he managed to sustain
himself some moments in the air at the height of eighty feet. This
curious machine was exhibited in 1782 in the gardens of the great
hotel of the Rue Taranne. But a little time afterwards Montgolfier’s
discoveries quite altered the conditions under which the aerostatic art
was to be pursued. It had no sooner become known than it became public
property. The idea was too simple in its grandeur, and was of too easy
a kind not to call up a host of imitators. Of these Blanchard was one
of the first; but this mechanician was anxious to incorporate his own
invention with that of Montgolfier, and he arranged that on the 2nd
of March, 1784, he should make an ascent in what he still called his
“flying vessel,” which he furnished with four wings.

Blanchard and his companion, Pesch, a Benedictine priest, were prevented
from going up in the balloon, as represented in our illustration, which
was drawn before the event it was intended to commemorate. A certain
Dupont de Chambon persisted in accompanying the voyagers. Pushed back by
them, he drew his sword, leaped into the car or boat, wounded Blanchard,
cut the rigging, and broke the oars or wings. The aeronaut was
consequently compelled to have his machine partly re-fitted in great
haste, and in the course of a few hours he made the ascent alone in the
usual way. Blanchard should have known the uselessness of oars, though
he did not abandon their employment in subsequent ascents. The Brothers
Montgolfier had dreamed of the employment of oars as a means of
guidance, but had ultimately rejected the idea. Joseph wrote to his
brother Etienne, about the end of the year 1783:

“For my sake, my good friend, reflect; calculate well before you employ
oars. Oars must either be great or small; if great, they will be heavy;
if small, it will be necessary to move them with great rapidity. I
know no sufficient means of guidance, except in the knowledge of the
different currents of air, of which it is necessary to make a study; and
these are generally regulated by the elevation.” The two brothers often
recurred to this idea.

The pictures of the first ascent of Blanchard from the Champ de Mars on
the 2nd of March, 1784, in the presence of a vast multitude, show us the
oars and the mechanism of his flying-machine fitted to a balloon. The
design which we here give seems to us deserving of being considered only
as one of the caricatures of the time, especially when we look at
the personage dressed in the fool’s head-gear, who sits behind and
accompanies the triumphant ascent of the aeronaut with music.

It was not with this apparatus that Blanchard effected his ascent, for
we have seen that the gearing of his vessel was broken by the infuriated
Dupont de Chambon. Yet the aeronaut pretends to have been, to some
extent, assisted by his mechanical contrivances. The following is his

“I rose to a certain height over Plassy, and perceiving Villette,
which I did not despair of reaching in spite of the misfortune that had
happened to me, I attached a rope of my rigging to my leg, not being
able to make use of my left hand, which I had wrapped in my handkerchief
on account of the sword-wound it had received. I fixed up a piece of
cloth, and thus made a sort of sail with which I hugged the wind. But
the rays of the sun had so heated and rarefied the inflammable air
that soon I forgot my rigging in thinking of the terrible danger that
threatened me.”

Going on to narrate the dangers that beset him, Blanchard describes a
number of most extraordinary experiences, which would be better worthy
of a place here if they were more like the truth. His curious narrative
is thus brought to a close:--

“Escaped from these impetuous and contrary winds, during which I had
felt a great degree of cold, I mounted perpendicularly. The cold became
excessive. Being hungry I ate a morsel of cake. I wished to drink, but
in searching the car nothing was to be seen but the debris of bottles
and glasses, which my assailant had left behind him when we were about
to depart. Afterwards all was so calm that nothing could be seen or
heard. The silence became appalling, and to add to my alarm I began to
lose consciousness. I now wished to take snuff, but found I had left my
box behind me. I changed my seat many times; I went from prow to stern,
but the drowsiness only ceased to assail me when I was struck by two
furious winds, which compressed my balloon to such an extent that its
size became sensibly diminished to the eye. I was not sorry when I began
to descend rapidly upon the river, which at first seemed to me a white
thread, afterwards a ribbon, and then a piece of cloth. As I followed
the course of the river, the fear that I should have to descend into
it, made me agitate the oars very rapidly. I believe that it is to these
movements that I owe my being able to cross the river transversely, and
get above dry land. When I saw myself upon the plain of Billancourt, I
recognised the bridge of Sevres, and the road to Versailles. I was then
about as high as the towers above the plain, and I could hear the words
and the cries of joy of the people who were following me below. At
length I came to a plain about 200 feet in extent. The people then
assisted me and brought my vessel to anchor. Immediately I was
surrounded by gentlemen and foot passengers who had run together from
all parts.”

This voyage lasted one hour and a quarter. The most important incident
of it was that the balloon was very nearly burst by the expansion of the
hydrogen gas. No balloon, as we have already seen, should be entirely
inflated at the beginning of a journey. Blanchard had a narrow escape
from being the victim of his ignorance of physics, and it is a wonder
he was not left to the mercy of fate in a burst balloon, at several
thousand feet above the earth.

Biot, the savant, who had watched the experiment, declared that
Blanchard did not stir himself, and that the variations of his course
are alone to be attributed to the currents of air that he encountered.
As he had inscribed upon his flags, his balloons, and his entrance
tickets, from which he realised a considerable sum, the ambitious
legend, Sic itur ad astra, the following epigram was produced respecting

     From the Field of Mars he took his flight:
     In a field close by he tumbled;
     But our money having taken
     He smiled though sadly shaken,
     As Sic itur ad astra he mumbled.

What is most important to examine in each of the great aerial voyages
that have been made, is the special character which distinguishes them
from average experiments. All our great voyages are rendered special
and particular by the ideas of the men who undertook them, and the aims
which they severally meant to achieve by them. The early ascents of
Montgolfier had for their aim the establishment of the fact that any
body lighter than the volume of air which it displaces will rise in the
atmosphere; those of Roziers were undertaken to prove that man can apply
this principle for the purpose of making actual aerial voyages; those
of Robertson, Gay-Lussac, &c., were undertaken for the purpose of
ascertaining certain meteorological phenomena; those of Conte Coutelle
applied aerostation to military uses. A considerable number were made
with the view of organising a system of aerial navigation analogous
to that of the sea-steerage in a certain direction by means of oars or
sails--in a word, to investigate the possibility of sailing through
the air to any point fixed upon. It was with this object that the
experiments at Dijon took place, and these were the most serious
attempts down to our times that have been made to steer balloons.

At the middle of the globe of the balloon were placed four oars, two
sails, and a helm and these were under the management of the voyagers,
who sat in the car and worked them by means of ropes. The car was also
furnished with oars. The report of Guyton de Morveau to the Academy at
Dijon informs us that these different paraphernalia were not altogether
useless. The following extracts are from this report:--

“The very strong wind which arose immediately before our departure, had
driven us down to tee ground many times, making us fear for the safety
of our oars, &c., when we resolved to throw over as much ballast as
would enable us to rise against the wind. The ballast, including from 70
to 80 lbs. of provisions, was thrown over, and then we rose so rapidly
that all the objects around were instantly passed and were very soon
lost to view. The swelling form of our balloon told us that the gas
inside had expanded under the heat of the sun and the lessening density
of the surrounding air. We opened the two valves, but even this outlet
was insufficient, and we had to cut a hole about seven or eight inches
long in the lower part of the balloon, through which the gas might
escape. At five minutes past five we passed above a village which we did
not know, and here we let fall a bag filled with bran, and carrying with
it a flag and a written message to the effect that we were all well, and
that the barometer was recording 20 inches 9 lines, and the thermometer
one degree and a half below zero.”

Very keen cold attacked the ears, but this was the only inconvenience
experienced, until the voyagers were lost in a sea of clouds that shut
them out from the view of the earth. The sun at length began to descend,
and they then perceived, by a slackening in the lower part of the
balloon, that it was time for them to think of returning to the earth.
Judging from the compass that they were not far from the town of
Auxonne, they resolved to use all their endeavours to reach that place.
The sailing appliances had been considerably damaged by the rough
weather at starting. The rigging being disarranged, one of the oars had
got broken, another had become entangled in the rigging, so that there
remained only two of the four oars, and these, being on the same side,
were absolutely useless during the greatest part of the voyage. The
adventurers, however, assert that they made them work from eight to
nine minutes with the greatest ease, making use of them to tack to the

“We hoped then to be able to descend near where we judged Auxonne to
be,” the writer continues, “but we lost much gas by the opening in
the balloon, and descended more rapidly than we expected or wished. We
looked to our small stock of ballast with anxiety, but there was no need
of it, and we came very softly down upon a slope.”

When the aeronauts arrived at Magny-les-Auxonne, the inhabitants gazed
upon them in terror, and two men and three women fell down on their
knees before them.

Here is an extract from the report of the experiment of the 12th of
June, the principal object of which was the attempt to discover the
means of steering in a certain direction:--

“M. de Verley and myself mounted in the balloon,” says Guyton
de Morveau, “at seven o’clock. We rose rapidly and in an almost
perpendicular direction. The fall of the mercury in the barometer
was scarcely perceptible when the dilation of the hydrogen gas in the
balloon had become considerable. The globe swelled out, and a light
vapour around the mouth announced to us that the gas was commencing
to escape by the safety-valve. We assisted its escape by pulling the

“Having reduced the dilation sufficiently for our purposes, we resolved
to attempt the working of the balloon before the whole town and to turn
it from the east to the north. We saw with pleasure that our machinery
answered By the working of the helm, the prow of our air-boat was
turned in the direction we desired. The oars, working only on one side,
supported the helm, and altogether we got on as we wished. We described
a curve, crossing the road from Dijon to Langres. The mercury had
descended to 24 inches 8 lines, which announced that we were gradually
rising. We attempted for some time to follow the route to I Langres, but
the wind drove us off our course in spite of all our efforts. At nine
o’clock our barometer informed us that we had ascended to the height of
6,000 feet. M. de Verley took advantage of this elevation to put some
touch wood to a burning-glass 18 lines in diameter, and the touch wood
lighted immediately.”

The aeronauts decided to direct their course for Dijon. After re-setting
the helm with this intention, they worked their oars, and proceeded in
that direction more than 1,000 feet. But heat and fatigue obliged them
to suspend their endeavours, and the current drove them upon Mirebeau,
where, throwing out the last of their ballast and regulating their
descent, they came softly down upon a corn-field.

The adventurers were cordially welcomed by the ecclesiastics and the
magistrates of the place, and after a time they, with their balloon,
were carried back on men’s shoulders to Dijon.

Chapter III.

     Experiment in Montgolfiers--Roziers and Proust--The Duke of
     Chartres--The Comte d’Artois--Voyage of the Abbe Carnus to

The longest course travelled by Montgolfiere balloons, and the highest
elevation reached by them, were achieved by Roziers and Proust with the
Montgolfiere la Marie Antoinette, at Versailles, on the 23rd of June,
1784. Roziers himself has left us a picturesque narrative of this
excursion from Versailles to Compiegne. He says:--

“The Montgolfiere rose at first very gently in a diagonal line,
presenting an imposing spectacle. Like a vessel which has just been
precipitated from the stocks, this astonishing machine hung balanced
in the air for some time, and seemed to have got beyond human control.
These irregular movements intimidated a portion of the spectators, who,
fearing that, should there be a fall, their lives would be in danger,
scattered away with great speed from under us. After having fed my fire,
I saluted the people, who answered me in the most cordial manner. I
had time to remark some faces, in which there was a mixed expression
of apprehension and joy. In continuing our upward progress, I perceived
that an upper current of air made the Montgolfiere bend, but on
increasing the heat, we rose above the current. The size of objects on
the earth now began perceptibly to diminish, which gave us an idea of
the distance at which we were from them. It was then that we became
visible to Paris and its suburbs, and so great was our elevation that
many in the capital thought we were directly over their heads.

“When we had arrived among the clouds, the earth disappeared from our
view. Now a thick mist would envelop us, then a clear space showed us
where we were, and again we rose through a mass of snow, portions of
which stuck to our gallery. Curious to know how high we could ascend, we
resolved to increase our fire and raise the heat to the highest degree,
by raising our grating, and holding up our fagots suspended on the ends
of our forks.

“Having gained these snowy elevations, and not being able to mount
higher, we wandered about for some time in regions which we felt were
now visited by man for the first time. Isolated and separated entirely
from nature, we perceived beneath us only enormous masses of snow,
which, reflecting the sunshine, filled the firmament with a glorious
light. We remained eight minutes at this elevation, 11,732 feet above
the earth. This situation, however agreeable it might have been to the
painter or the poet, promised little to the man of science in the way
of acquiring knowledge; and so we determined, eighteen minutes after our
departure, to return through the clouds to the earth. We had hardly left
this snowy abyss, when the most pleasant scene succeeded the most
dreary one. The broad plains appeared before our view in all their
magnificence. No snow, no clouds were now to be seen, except around the
horizon, where a few clouds seemed to rest on the earth. We passed in a
minute from winter to spring. We saw the immeasurable earth covered
with towns and villages, which at that distance appeared only so many
isolated mansions surrounded with gardens. The rivers which wound about
in all directions seemed no more than rills for the adornment of these
mansions; the largest forests looked mere clumps or groves, and the
meadows and broad fields seemed no more than garden plots. These
marvellous tableaux, which no painter could render, reminded us of the
fairy metamorphoses; only with this difference, that we were beholding
upon a mighty scale what imagination could only picture in little. It is
in such a situation that the soul rises to the loftiest height, that the
thoughts are exalted and succeed each other with the greatest rapidity.
Travelling at this elevation, our fire did not demand continual
attention, and we could easily walk about the gallery. We were as much
at peace upon our lofty balcony as we should have been upon the terrace
of a mansion, enjoying all the pictures which unrolled themselves before
us continually, without experiencing any of the giddiness which has
disturbed so many persons. Having broken my fork in my exertions to
raise the balloon, I went to obtain another one. On my way to get it, I
encountered my companion, M. Proust. We ought never to have been on
the same side of the balloon, for a capsize and the escape of all our
hydrogen gas might have been the result. As it was, so well was the
machine ballasted, that the only effect of our being on the one side
made the balloon incline a little in that direction. The winds, although
very considerable, caused us no uneasiness, and we only knew the
swiftness of our progress through the air by the rapidity with which the
villages seemed to fly away from under our feet; so that it seemed, from
the tranquillity with which we moved, that we were borne along by the
diurnal movement of the globe. Often we wished to descend, in order
to learn what the people were crying to us the simplicity of our
arrangements enabled us to rise, to descend, to move in horizontal or
oblique lines, as we pleased and as often as we considered necessary,
without altogether landing.”

When they came to Luzarche, the delighted aeronauts resolved to land.
Already the people were testifying their pleasure at seeing them. Men
came running together from all directions, while all the animals rushed
away with equal precipitation, no doubt taking the balloon for some
wild beast. Finding that their course would lead them straight against
certain houses, the aeronauts again increased their fire, and, slightly
rising, escaped the buildings that had been in their way. Shortly
afterwards they safely landed forty miles from the spot from which they
had started.

It was not only the man of science or the mechanician that devoted
himself to the task of taking possession of the new empire, but the
nobles gave their hands to the aeronauts, and humbly asked the favour of
an ascent. The king had addressed letters to the Brothers Montgolfier,
and the marvellous invention had become an affair of state. The princes
of the blood and the nobles of the court considered it an honour to
count among the number of their friends a celebrated aeronaut.

The Count d’Artois, afterwards Charles X., and the Duke de Chartres,
father of Louis Philippe, made experiments in aerial navigation. The
chemists Alban and Vallet made a magnificent balloon for the Count, who
went up many times in it, with several persons of all ranks.

Already at St. Cloud, the Duke of Chartres, afterwards Philippe Egalite,
had, on the 15th of July, 1784, made, with the Brothers Robert, an
ascent which put their courage to terrible tests. The hydrogen gas
balloon was oblong, sixty feet high and forty feet in diameter, and
it had been constructed upon a plan supplied by Meunier. In order to
obviate the use of the valve, he had placed inside the balloon a smaller
globe, filled with ordinary air. This was done on the supposition that,
when the balloon rose high, the hydrogen being rarefied would compress
the little globe within, and press out of it a quantity of ordinary air
equal to the amount of its dilation.

At eight o’clock, the Brothers Robert--Collin and Hullin--and the Duke
of Chartres, ascended in presence of an immense multitude. The nearest
ranks kneeled down to allow those behind to have a view of the departure
of the balloon, which disappeared among the clouds amid the acclamations
of the prostrate multitude. The machine, obedient to the stormy and
contrary winds which it met, turned several times completely round. The
helm, which had been fitted to the machine, and the two oars, gave such
a purchase to the winds that the voyagers, already surrounded by the
clouds, cut them away. But the oscillations continued, and the little
globe inside not being suspended with cords, fell down in such an
unfortunate manner as to close up the opening of the large balloon, by
means of which provision had been made for the egress of the gas now
dilated by the heat of the sun, which poured down its rays, a sudden
gust having cleared the space of the clouds. It was feared that the case
of the balloon would crack, and the whole thing collapse, in spite of
the efforts of the aeronauts to push back the smaller balloon from the
opening. Then the Duke of Chartres seized one of the flags they carried,
and with the lance-head pierced the balloon in two places. A rent of
about nine feet was the consequence, and the balloon began to descend
with amazing rapidity. They would have fallen into a lake had they not
thrown over 60 lbs. of ballast, which caused them to rise a little, and
pass over to the shore, where they got safely to the earth.

The expedition lasted only a few minutes. The Duke of Chartres was
rallied by his enemies, who accused him of cowardice; and Monjoie, his
historian, making allusion to the combat of Ouessant, says that he had
given proofs of his cowardice in the three elements--earth, air, and

M. Gray, professor at the seminary of Rodez, presented us some years ago
with the following letter from the Abbe Carnus, upon the aerial voyage
which he undertook, August 6th, 1784:--

“The progress of the Montgolfiere was so sudden that one might almost
have believed that it arose all inflated and furnished out of some chasm
in the earth The air was calm, the sky without clouds, the sun
very strong. Our fuel and instruments were put into the gallery, my
companion, M. Louchet, was at his post, and I took mine. At twenty
minutes past eight the cords were loosened, we waved a farewell to the
spectators, and while two cannon-shots announced our departure, we were
already high above the loftiest buildings.

“To the general acclamations of the crowd succeeded a profound silence.
The spectators, half in fear, half in admiration, stood motionless, with
eyes fixed, and gazing eagerly at the superb machine, which rose almost
vertically with rapidity and also with grandeur. Some women, and even
some men, fainted away; others raised their hands to heaven; others shed
tears; all grew pale at the sight of our bright fire.

“‘We have quitted the earth,’ said I to my companion.

“‘I compliment you on the fact,’ he answered; ‘keep up the fire!’

“A truss of hay, steeped in spirits of wine accelerated the swiftness of
our ascent. I cast my glance upon the town, which seemed to flee rapidly
from under our feet. Terrestrial objects had already lost their shape
and size. The burning heat which I felt at first now gave place to a
temperature of the most agreeable kind, and the air which we breathed
seemed to contain healthful elements unknown to dwellers on the lower

“‘How well I am!’ I said to Louchet; ‘how are you?’

“‘As well as can be. Would that I could dispatch a message to the

“Immediately I threw over a roll of paper on which I had written the
words, ‘All well on board the City of Rodez.’

“At thirty-two minutes past eight our elevation was at least 6,000 feet
above sea level. A flame from our fire, rising from eighteen to twenty
feet, sent us up another 1,000 feet. It was then that our machine was
seen by every spectator within a circuit of nine miles, and it appeared
to be right over the heads of all of them.

“‘Send us up out of sight,’ said my adventurous confrere.

“I had to moderate his ardour--a larger fire would have burnt our

“From our moving observatory the most splendid view developed itself.
The boundaries of the horizon were vastly extended. The capital of the
Rouergue appeared to be no more than a group of stones, one of which
seemed to rise to the height of two or three feet. This was no other
than the superb tower of the cathedral. Fertile slopes, agreeable
valleys, lofty precipices, waste lands, ancient castles perched upon
frowning rocks, these form the endlessly varied spectacle which the
Rouergue and the neighbouring provinces present to the view of those who
traverse the surface of the earth. But how different is the scene to the
aerial voyager! We could perceive only a vast country, perfectly round,
and seemingly a little elevated in the middle, irregularly marked with
verdure, but without inhabitants, without towns, valleys, rivers, or
mountains. Living beings no longer existed for us; the forests were
changed into what looked like grassy plains; the ranges of the
Cantal and the Cevennes had disappeared; we looked in vain for the
Mediterranean, and the Pyrenees seemed only a long series of piles
of snow, connected at their bases. Our own balloon, which from Rodez
appeared about the size of a marble, was the only object that for us
retained its natural dimensions. What wonderful sensations then arose
within us! I had often reflected upon the works of nature; their
magnificence had always filled me with admiration. In this soul-stirring
moment how beautiful did nature seem--how grand! With what majesty did
it strike my imagination. Never did man appear to me before such an
excellent being His latest triumph over the elements recalled to my mind
his other conquests of nature. My companion was animated with the same
sentiments, and more than once we cried out, ‘Vive Montgolfier! Vive
Roziers! Vivent ceux qui ont du courage et de la constance!’

“In the meantime our fuel was getting near the end. In eighteen minutes
we had run a distance of 12,000 feet. ‘Make your observations while I
attend to the fire,’ said my companion to me. I examined the barometer,
the thermometer, and the compass, and having sealed up a small bottle of
the air at this elevation, I asked my companion to reduce the fire. We
descended 1,800 feet, and at this height I filled another bottle with

“Afterwards we felt the refreshing breath of a slight breeze, which
carried us gently toward the south-east. In six minutes we had run
18,000 feet. Then, having only sufficient fuel to enable us to choose
the place of our descent, we considered whether we should not bring our
aerial voyage to a termination. We had neither lake nor forest to fear,
and we were secure against danger from fire, as we could detach the
grating at some distance from the earth. At fifty-eight minutes past
eight all our fuel was exhausted, except two bundles of straw, of
four pounds each, which we reserved for our descent. The balloon came
gradually down, and terrestrial objects began again to resume their
proper forms and dimensions. The animals fled at the sight of our
balloon, which seemed likely to crush them in its fall. Horsemen were
obliged to dismount and lead their frightened horses. Terrified by such
an unwonted sight, the labourers in the fields abandoned their work. We
were not more than 600 feet from the earth. We threw on the two bundles
of straw, but still gradually descended. The grating was then detached,
and I had no difficulty in leaping to the ground. But now a most
surprising and unlooked-for event happened. M. Louchet had not been able
to descend at the same moment as myself, and the balloon, now free from
my weight, immediately re-ascended with the speed of a bird, bearing
away my companion. I followed him with my eyes, and it was to my
agreeable surprise that I heard him crying to me, ‘All is well; fear
not!’ though it was not without a species of jealousy that I saw him
mounting up to the height of 1,400 or 1,500 feet. The balloon, after
having run a distance of 3,600 feet in a horizontal direction, began
gently to descend at four minutes past nine, at the village of Inieres,
after having travelled 42,000 feet from the point of departure. When it
had touched the ground it bumped up again two or three feet. M. Louchet
jumped out, and seized one of the ropes, but had much difficulty in
holding the balloon in hand. He cried to the frightened peasants to come
and help him. But they seemed to regard him as a dangerous magician,
or as a monster, and they feared to touch the ropes lest they might be
swallowed up by the balloon. Soon afterwards I came to the rescue. The
balloon was in as thorough repair as when we began our journey. We then
pressed out the hot air, folded up the envelope, placed it upon a small
cart drawn by two oxen, and drove off with it.”

Chapter IV.

     Serio-Comic Aspect of the Subject--The Public Duped--The
     Abbes Miolan and Janninet at the Luxembourg--Caricatures--
     The “Minerva” of Robertson, and its Voyage Round the World.

The discovery like that of balloons could not be made public in France
without being travestied, and without offering some comic side for
the amusement of the wits of the day. Under some old coloured prints,
designed with the intention of satirising such unfortunate aeronauts
as had collected their money from the spectators, but had failed in
inflating their balloons, is written, “The Infallible Means of Raising
Balloons”--the infallible means consisting of ropes and pulleys.

While caricature was thus turning its irony upon the efforts of
believers in the new idea, serious pamphlets were being written and
published with the same object. One of these declares that the discovery
is IMMORAL, I. Because since God has not given wings to man, it is
impious to try to improve his works, and to encroach upon his rights as
a Creator; 2. Because honour and virtue would be in continual danger,
if balloons were permitted to descend, at all hours of the night, into
gardens and close to windows; 3. Because, if the highway of the air were
to remain open to all and sundry, the frontiers of nations would vanish,
and property national and personal would be invaded, &c. We do not wish
to gather together here the stones which critics threw against the new
discovery, unaware all the time that these stones were falling upon
their own heads.

It is only fair to state that after the first ascents the public were
often duped by pretending aeronauts, whose single aim was to sell their
tickets, and who disappeared when the time came for ascending. The
result of these frauds was that sometimes honest men were made to suffer
as rogues. Even in our own day, when an ascent, seriously intended,
fails to succeed, owing to some unforeseen circumstances, the public
frequently manifests a decided ill-will to the aeronaut, who is
perfectly honest, and only unfortunate.

The famous ascent of the Abbes Miolan and Janninet, at the Luxembourg,
may be cited as among the failures which suffered most from the satire
of the time. Their immense balloon, constructed at great expense at the
observatory, was expected to rise beyond the clouds, and a multitude,
each of whom had paid dearly for his ticket, had assembled at the
Luxembourg. The morning had been occupied in removing the balloon from
the observatory to the place of ascent, and at midday the inflation of
it began. The rays of a burning July sun--and one knows what that is in
the Luxembourg in Paris--streamed down on the heads of the thousands of
spectators. From six in the morning till four in the evening they had
waited to see the unheard-of wonder; the ascent, however, was to be so
imposing, that nothing could be lost by waiting for it.

But at five in the afternoon the heavy machine was still
motionless--inert upon the ground. We need not attempt to describe the
scene which took place as the impatience of the multitude increased.
Sneers of derision made themselves heard on all sides. A universal
murmur, rapidly developing into a clamour, arose amongst the multitude;
then, wild with disappointment, the frenzied populace threw themselves
upon the barricade, broke it, attacked the gallery of the balloon, the
instruments, the apparatus, trampling them under foot, and smashing them
in bits. They then rushed upon the balloon and fired it. There was then
a general melee. Far from fleeing the fire, every one struggled to seize
and carry off a bit of the balloon, to preserve as a relic. The two
abbes escaped as they best could, under protection of a number of

After this there fell a perfect shower of lampoons and caricatures. The
Abbe Miolan was represented as a cat with a band round its neck, while
Janninet appeared as a donkey; and in a coloured print the cat and
the ass are shown arriving in triumph upon their famous balloon at the
Academy of Montmartre, and are received at the hill of Moulins-a-Vent
by a solemn assembly of turkey-cocks and geese in different attitudes.
Numerous songs and epigrams, of which the unfortunate abbes were the
subjects, also appeared at this time. The letters which composed the
words “l’Abbe Miolan” were found to form the anagram, Ballon abime--“the
balloon swallowed up.”

The most extravagant balloon project was that of Robertson, who
published a scheme for making a tour of the world. He called it “La
Minerva, an aerial vessel destined for discoveries, and proposed to
all the Academies of Europe, by Robertson, physicist” (Vienna, 1804;
reprinted at Paris, 1820), Robertson dedicated his project to Volta, and
in his dedication he does not scruple to say: “In our age, my friendship
seeks only one gratification, that we should both live a sufficiently
long time together to enable you to calculate and utilise the results
of this great machine, while I take the practical direction of it.” The
following is this aeronaut’s prospectus:--

“There is no limit to the sciences and the arts, which cultivation does
not overstep. We have everything to hope and to expect from time,
from chance, and from the genius of man. The difference which there
is between the canoe of the savage and the man-of-war of 124 guns is
perhaps as great as that of balloons as they now are and as they will
be in the course of a century. If you ask of an aeronaut why he cannot
command the motions of his balloon, he will ask of you in his turn why
the inventor of the canoe did not immediately afterwards construct a
man-of-war. It must be recollected that there have not yet elapsed forty
years since the discovery of the balloon, and that to perfect it would
be a work of difficulty, as much from the increased knowledge which such
a work would demand, as from the pecuniary sacrifices and the personal
devotion which it would involve.

“Thus this invention, after having at first electrified all savants
from the one end of the world to the other, has suffered the fate of all
discoveries--it was all at once arrested. Did not astronomy wait long
for Newton, and chemistry for Lavoisier, to raise them to something like
the splendour they now enjoy? Was not the magnet a long time a toy
in the hands of the Chinese, without giving birth to the idea of the
compass? The electric fluid was known in the time of Thales, but
how many ages did we wait for the discovery of galvanism? Yet these
sciences, which may be studied in silent retreats, were more likely to
yield fruit to the discoverer than aerostatics, which demand courage
and skill, and of which the experiments, which are always public, are
attended with great cost.”

Robertson’s proposed machine was to be 150 feet in diameter, and would
be capable of carrying 150,000 lbs. Every precaution was to be taken in
order to make the great structure perfect. It was to accommodate sixty
persons to be chosen by the academics, who should stay in it for several
months should rise to all possible elevations, pass through all
climates in all seasons, make scientific observations, &c. This balloon,
penetrating deserts inaccessible by other means of travel, and visiting
places which travellers have never penetrated, would be of immense use
in the science of geography: and when under the line, if the heat near
the earth should be inconvenient, the aeronauts would, of course, easily
rise to elevations where the temperature is equal and agreeable. When
their observations, their needs, or their pleasures demanded it, they
could descend to within a short distance of the earth, say ninety feet,
and fix themselves in their position by means of an anchor. It might,
perhaps, be possible, by taking the advantage of favourable winds, to
make the tour of the world. “Experience will perhaps demonstrate that
aerial navigation presents less inconvenience and less dangers than the
navigation of the seas.”

The immensity of the seas seemed to be the only source of insurmountable
difficulties; “but,” says Robertson, “over what a vast space might
not one travel in six months with a balloon fully furnished with the
necessaries of life, and all the appliances necessary for safety?
Besides, if, through the natural imperfection attaching to all the works
of man, or either through accident or age, the balloon, borne above the
sea, became incapable of sustaining the travellers, it is provided with
a boat, which can withstand the waters and guarantee the return of the

Such were the ideas promulgated regarding the “Minerva.” The following
is the serious description given of the machine. The numbers correspond
with those on the illustration.

“The cock (3) is the symbol of watchfulness; it is also the highest
point of the balloon. An observer, getting up through the interior to
the point at which the watchful fowl is placed, will be able to command
the best view to be had in the ‘Minerva.’ The wings at the side (1 and
2) are to be regarded as ornamental. The balloon will be 150 feet in
diameter, made expressly at Lyons of unbleached silk, coated within and
without with indict-rubber. This globe sustains a ship, which contains
or has attached to it all the things necessary for the convenience, the
observations, and even the pleasures of the voyagers.

“(a) A small boat, in which the passengers might take refuge in case
of necessity, in the event of the larger vessel falling on the sea in a
disabled state.

“(b) A large store for keeping the water, wine, and all the provisions
of the expedition.

“(cc) Ladders of silk, to enable the passengers to go to all parts of
the balloon.

“(e) Closets.

“(h) Pilot’s room.

“(1) An observatory, containing the compasses and other scientific
instruments for taking the latitude.

“(g) A room fitted up for recreations, walking, and gymnastics.

“(m) The kitchen, far removed from the balloon. It is the only place
where a fire shall be permitted.

“(p) Medicine room.

“(v) A theatre, music room, &c.

“--The study.

“(x) The tents of the air-marines, &c. &c.”

This balloon is certainly the most marvellous that has ever been
imagined--quite a town, with its forts, ramparts, cannon, boulevards,
and galleries. One can understand the many squibs and satires which so
Utopian a notion provoked.

Chapter V. First Aerial Voyage in England--Blanchard Crosses the Sea in
a Balloon.

In spite of their known powers of industry and perseverance, the English
did not throw themselves with any great ardour into the exploration
of the atmosphere. From one cause or another it is the French and the
Italians that have chiefly distinguished themselves in this art. The
English historian of aerostation gives some details of the first aerial
voyage made in this country by the Italian, Vincent Lunardy.

The balloon was made of silk covered with a varnish of oil, and painted
in alternate stripes--blue and red. It was three feet in diameter. Cords
fixed upon it hung down and were attached to a hoop at the bottom, from
which a gallery was suspended. This balloon had no safety-valve--its
neck was the only opening by which the hydrogen gas was introduced, and
by which it was allowed to escape.

In September, 1784, it was carried to the Artillery Ground and filled
with gas. After being two-thirds filled, the gallery was attached with
its two oars or wings, and Lunardy, accompanied by Biggin and Madame
Sage, took his place; but it was found that the balloon had not
sufficient lifting power to carry up the whole three, and Lunardy went
up alone, with the exception of the pigeon, the cat, and the dog, that
were with him.

The balloon rose to the height of about twenty feet, then followed a
horizontal line, and descended. But the gallery had no sooner touched
the earth than Lunardy threw over the sand that served as ballast, and
mounted triumphantly, amid the applause of a considerable multitude of
spectators. After a time he descended upon a common, where he left the
cat nearly dead with cold, ascended, and continued his voyage. He says,
in the narrative which he has left, that he descended by means of the
one oar which was left to him, the other having fallen over; but, as he
states that, in order to rise again, he threw over the remainder of his
ballast, it is natural to believe that the descent of the balloon was
caused by the loss of gas, because, if he descended by the use of the
oar, he must have re-ascended when he stopped using it. He landed in the
parish of Standon, where he was assisted by the peasants.

He assures us again that he came down the second time by means of the
oar. He says:--“I took my oar to descend, and in from fifteen to twenty
minutes I arrived at the earth after much fatigue, my strength being
nearly exhausted. My chief desire was to escape a shock on reaching
the earth, and fortune favoured me.” The fear of a concussion seems to
indicate that he descended more because of the weight of the balloon
than by the action of the oar.

It appears that the only scientific instrument he had was a thermometer
which fell to 29 degrees. The drops of water which had attached
themselves to the balloon were frozen.

The second aerial journey in England was undertaken by Blanchard and
Sheldon. The latter, a professor of anatomy in the Royal Academy, is
the first Englishman who ever went up in a balloon. This ascent was made
from Chelsea on the 16th October, 1784.

The same balloon which Blanchard had used in France served him on this
occasion, with the difference that the hoop which went round the
middle of it, and the parasol above the car, were dispensed with. At the
extremity of his car he had fitted a sort of ventilator, which he was
able to move about by means of a winch. This ventilator, together with
the wings and the helm, were to serve especially the purpose of steering
at will, which he had often said was quite practicable as soon as a
certain elevation had been reached.

The two aeronauts ascended, having with them a number of scientific and
musical instruments, some refreshments, ballast, &c. Twice the ascent
failed, and eventually Sheldon got out, and Blanchard went up again

Blanchard says that, on this second ascent, he was carried first
north-east, then east-south-east of Sunbury in Middlesex. He rose so
high that he had great difficulty in breathing, the pigeon he had with
him escaped, but could hardly maintain itself in the rarefied air of
such an elevated region, and finding no place to rest, came back
and perched on the side of the car. After a time, the cold becoming
excessive, Blanchard descended until he could distinguish men on the
earth, and hear their shouting. After many vicissitudes he landed upon
a plain in Hampshire, about seventy-five miles from the point of
departure. It was observed that, so long as he could be clearly seen, he
executed none of the feats with his wings, ventilator, &c., which he had
promised to exhibit.

Enthusiasm about aerial voyages was now at its climax; the most
wonderful deeds were spoken of as commonplace, and the word “impossible”
 was erased from the language. Emboldened by his success, Blanchard one
day announced in the newspapers that he would cross from England to
France in a balloon--a marvellous journey, the success of which depended
altogether upon the course of the wind, to the mercy of which the bold
aeronaut committed himself.

A certain Dr. Jeffries offered to accompany Blanchard. On the 7th of
January the sky was calm, in consequence of a strong frost during
the preceding night, the wind which was very light, being from the
north-north-west. The arranged meets were made above the cliffs of
Dover. When the balloon rose, there were only three sacks of sand of 10
lbs. each in it. They had not been long above ground when the barometer
sank from 29.7 to 27.3. Dr. Jeffries, in a letter addressed to the
president of the Royal Society, describes with enthusiasm the spectacle
spread out before him: the broad country lying behind Dover, sown with
numerous towns and villages, formed a charming view; while the rocks on
the other side, against which the waves dashed, offered a prospect that
was rather trying.

They had already passed one-third of the distance across the Channel
when the balloon descended for the second time, and they threw over
the last of their ballast; and that not sufficing, they threw over some
books, and found themselves rising again. After having got more than
half way, they found to their dismay, from the rising of the barometer,
that they were again descending, and the remainder of their books were
thrown over. At twenty-five minutes past two o’clock they had passed
three-quarters of their journey, and they perceived ahead the inviting
coasts of France. But, in consequence either of the loss or the
condensation of the inflammable gas, they found themselves once more
descending. They then threw over their provisions, the wings of the car,
and other objects. “We were obliged,” says Jeffries, “to throw out the
only bottle we had, which fell on the water with a loud sound, and sent
up spray like smoke.”

They were now near the water themselves, and certain death seemed to
stare them in the face. It is said that at this critical moment Jeffries
offered to throw himself into the sea, in order to save the life of his

“We are lost, both of us,” said he; “and if you believe that it will
save you to be lightened of my weight, I am willing to sacrifice my

This story has certainly the appearance of romance, and belief in it is
not positively demanded.

One desperate resource only remained--they could detach the car and hang
on themselves to the ropes of the balloon. They were preparing to carry
out this idea, when they imagined they felt themselves beginning to
ascend again. It was indeed so. The balloon mounted once more; they were
only four miles from the coast of France, and their progress through the
air was rapid. All fear was now banished. Their exciting situation, and
the idea that they were the first who had ever traversed the Channel in
such a manner, rendered them careless about the want of certain articles
of dress which they had discarded. At three o’clock they passed over the
shore half-way between Cape Blanc and Calais. Then the balloon, rising
rapidly, described a great arc, and they found themselves at a greater
elevation than at any part of their course. The wind increased in
strength, and changed a little in its direction. Having descended to the
tops of the trees of the forest of Guines, Dr. Jeffries seized a branch,
and by this means arrested their advance. The valve was then opened, the
gas rushed out, and the aeronauts safely reached the ground after the
successful accomplishment of this daring and memorable enterprise.

A number of horsemen, who had watched the recent course of the balloon,
now rode up, and gave the adventurers the most cordial reception. On the
following day a splendid fete was celebrated in their honour at Calais.
Blanchard was presented with the freedom of the city in a box of gold,
and the municipal body purchased the balloon, with the intention of
placing it in one of the churches as a memorial of this experiment, it
being also resolved to erect a marble monument on the spot where the
famous aeronauts landed.

Some days afterwards Blanchard was summoned before the king, who
conferred upon him an annual pension of 1,200 livres. The queen, who
was at play at the gambling table, placed a sum for him upon a card, and
presented him with the purse which she won.

Chapter VI. Zambeccari’s Perilous Trip Across the Adriatic Sea.

There is not in the whole annals of aerostation a more moving
catastrophe than that of the unfortunate Comte Zambeccari, who, during
an aerial journey on October the 7th, 1804, was cast away on the waves
of the Adriatic.

The history of Zambeccari is dramatic throughout. After having been
taken by the Turks and thrown into the Bay of Constantinople, from which
he with difficulty escaped, he devoted himself to the study and practice
of aerial navigation. He fancied he could make use of a lamp supplied
with spirits of wine, the flame of which he could direct at will, in the
hope of thus being able to steer the balloon in whatever direction he
chose. One day his balloon damaged itself against a tree at Boulogne,
and the spirits of wine set his clothes on fire. The flames with which
the aeronaut was covered only served to increase the ascending power of
the balloon, and the frightened spectators, among whom were Zambeccari’s
young wife and children, saw him carried up into the clouds out of
sight. He succeeded, however, in extinguishing the fire which surrounded

In 1804, he organised a series of experiments at Milan, for which he
received, in advance, the sum of 8,000 crowns; but the experiments
failed, in consequence of the inclemency of the weather, the treachery
of his assistants, and the malice of his rivals.

At length, on the 7th of October, after a fall of rain which lasted
forty-eight hours, and which had delayed the announced ascent, he
resolved, whatever might happen, to carry it out, though all the chances
were against him. Eight young men whom he had instructed, and who had
promised him their assistance in filling the balloon, failed him at the
critical moment. Still, however, he continued his labours, with the
help of two companions, Andreoli and Grassetti. Wearied with his
long-continued efforts, dis-appointed and hungry, he took his place in
the car.

The two companions whom we have named went with him. They rose gently at
first, and hovered over the town of Bologna. Zambeccari says, “The lamp,
which was intended to increase our ascending force, became useless. We
could not observe the state of the barometer by the feeble light of a
lantern. The insupportable cold that prevailed in the high region to
which we had ascended, the weariness and hunger arising from my having
neglected to take nourishment for twenty-four hours, the vexation
that embittered my spirit--all these combined produced in me a total
prostration, and I fell upon the floor of the gallery in a profound
sleep that was like death. ‘The same misfortune overtook my companion
Grassetti. Andreoli was the only one who remained awake and able for
duty--no doubt because he had taken plenty of food and a large quantity
of rum. Still he suffered from the cold, which was excessive, and his
endeavours to wake me were for a long time vain. Finally, however, he
succeeded in getting me to my feet, but my ideas were confused, and I
demanded of him, like one newly awaking from a dream, ‘What is the news?
Where are we? What time is it? How is the wind?’

“It was two o’clock. The compass had been broken, and was useless; the
wax light in the lantern would not burn in such a rarefied atmosphere.
We descended gently across a thick layer of whitish clouds, and when
we had got below them, Andreoli heard a sound, muffled and almost
inaudible, which he immediately recognised as the breaking of waves in
the distance. Instantly he announced to me this new and fearful danger.
I listened, and had not long to wait before I was convinced that he was
speaking the truth. It was necessary to have light to examine the state
of the barometer, and thus ascertain what was our elevation above the
sea level, and to take our measures in consequence. Andreoli broke five
phosphoric matches, without getting a spark of fire. Nevertheless, we
succeeded, after very great difficulty, by the help of the flint
and steel, in lighting the lantern. It was now three o’clock in the
morning--we had started at midnight. The sound of the waves, tossing
with wild uproar, became louder and louder, and I suddenly saw the
surface of the sea violently agitated just below us. I immediately
seized a large sack of sand, but had not time to throw it over before we
were all in the water, gallery and all. In the first moment of fright,
we threw into the sea everything that would lighten the balloon--our
ballast, all our instruments, a portion of our clothing, our money, and
the oars. As, in spite of all this, the balloon did not rise, we threw
over our lamp also. After having torn and cut away everything that did
not appear to us to be of indispensable necessity, the balloon, thus
very much lightened, rose all at once, but with such rapidity and to
such a prodigious elevation, that we had difficulty in hearing each
other, even when shouting at the top of our voices. I was ill, and
vomited severely. Grassetti was bleeding at the nose; we were both
breathing short and hard, and felt oppression on the chest. As we were
thrown upon our backs at the moment when the balloon took such a sudden
start out of the water and bore us with such swiftness to those high
regions, the cold seized us suddenly, and we found ourselves covered all
at once with a coating of ice. I could not account for the reason why
the moon, which was in its last quarter, appeared on a parallel line
with us, and looked red as blood.

“After having traversed these regions for half an hour, at an
immeasurable elevation, the balloon slowly began to descend, and at
last we fell again into the sea, at about four in the morning I cannot
determine at what distance we were from land when we fell the second
time. The night was very dark, the sea rolling heavily, and we were in
no condition to make observations. But it must have been in the middle
of the Adriatic that we fell. Although we descended gently, the gallery
was sunk, and we were often entirely covered with water. The balloon
being now more than half empty, in consequence of the vicissitudes
through, which we had passed, gave a purchase to the wind, which pressed
against it as against a sail, so that by means of it we were dragged
and beaten about at the mercy of the storm and the waves. At daybreak
we looked out and found ourselves opposite Pesaro, four miles from the
shore. We were comforting ourselves with the prospect of a safe landing,
when a wind from the land drove us with violence away over the open sea.
It was now full day, but all we could see were the sea, the sky, and the
death that threatened us. Certainly some boats happened to come within
sight; but no sooner did they see the balloon floating and striping upon
the water than they made all sail to get away from it. No hope was then
left to us but the very small one of making the coasts of Dalmatia,
which were opposite, but at a great distance from us. Without the
slightest doubt we should have been drowned if heaven had not mercifully
directed towards us a navigator who, better informed than those we had
seen before, recognised our machine to be a balloon and quickly sent his
long-boat to our rescue. The sailors threw us a stout cable, which we
attached to the gallery, and by means of which they rescued us when
fainting with exposure. The balloon thus lightened, immediately rose
into the air, in spite of all the efforts of the sailors who wished to
capture it. The long boat received a severe shock from its escape,
as the rope was still attached to it, and the sailors hastened to cut
themselves free. At once the balloon mounted with incredible rapidity,
and was lost in the clouds, where it disappeared for ever from our view.
It was eight in the morning when we got on board. Grassetti was so ill
that he hardly showed any signs of life. His hands were sadly mutilated.
Cold, hunger, and the dreadful anxiety had completely prostrated me. The
brave captain of the vessel did everything in his power to restore us.
He conducted us safely to Ferrara, whence we were carried to Pola, where
we were received with the greatest kindness, and where I was compelled
to have my fingers amputated.”

Chapter VII. Garnerin--Parachutes--Aerostation at Public Fetes.

“On the 22nd October, 1797,” says the astronomer Lalande, “at
twenty-eight minutes past five, Citizen Garnerin rose in a balloon from
the park of Monceau. Silence reigned in the assembly, anxiety and fear
being painted on the visages of all. When he had ascended upwards of
2,000 feet, he cut the cord that connected his parachute and car
with the balloon. The latter exploded, and Garnerin descended in his
parachute very rapidly. He made a dreadful lurch in the air, that forced
a sudden cry of fear from the whole multitude, and made a number of
women faint. Meanwhile Citizen Garnerin descended into the plain of
Monceau; he mounted his horse upon the spot, and rode back to the park,
attended by an immense multitude, who gave vent to their admiration for
the skill and talent of the young aeronaut. Garnerin was the first to
undertake this most daring and dangerous venture. He had conceived the
idea of this feat while lying a prisoner of state in Buda, Hungary.”
 Lalande adds that he went and announced his success at the Institute
National, which was assembled at the time, and which listened to him
with the greatest interest.

Robertson conducted an experiment of descending by means of a parachute
at Vienna, in 1804, in which he received all the glory, without
partaking of any of the danger. He made the public preparations for an
ascent in the balloon, his pupil, Michaud, however, took his place in
the car, and made the ascent.

Robertson says that on this occasion he yielded to the entreaties of a
young man who was his pupil, and had begged to be allowed to make his
debut before such a great multitude. In this case a slight improvement
was made in the parachute. The car was surrounded by a cloth of silk,
which, when the aeronaut cut himself away from the balloon, spread
itself out in such a way as to form a second parachute.

Robertson made all the preparations, and Michaud had no more to do than
place himself in the car. Loud applause arose on all sides. Michaud
had ascended 900 feet above the earth when the signal for his cutting
himself clear of the balloon was given, by the firing of a cannon. He
at once cut the two strings, and the balloon soared away into the upper
regions, whilst he was left for one terrible moment to fate. The fall
was at first rapid, but the two parachutes soon opened themselves
simultaneously, and presented a majestic appearance. In a few seconds
the aeronaut had traversed the space that intervened between him and
the assembly, and found himself safely landed on the ground, at a short
distance from the place whence he had set out, while the whole air
was rent with shouts of applause. This experiment was deemed a most
extraordinary one. Compliments were showered upon Robertson from all
sides, and the court presented him with rich presents.

Balloons have always formed a prominent feature at the fetes of
Paris, for the celebration of the chief events of the Revolution, the
Consulate, and the Empire--the first of these epochs being that in which
these aerial vessels were held in highest esteem.

Jacques Garnerin had played a brilliant role as aeronaut under the
Directory, the Consulate, and the Empire; and it was he who after the
coronation of the Emperor Napoleon I., was charged with the raising of a
monster balloon, which was arranged to ascend, with the accompaniment of
fireworks, on the evening of the 16th of December, 1804.

An uncommon incident connected with this event serves to show us the
spirit of fatalism with which the character of Napoleon I. was infected.
“The Man of Destiny” believed in the destiny of man; he had faith in
his star alone; and from the height of his greatness the new ruler,
consecrated emperor and king by the Pope, beheld a presage of misfortune
in a chance circumstance, insignificant to all but himself, in the
experiment of which we are about to recount the history.

The fete given by the city of Paris to their majesties embraced the
whole town, from the Champs Elysees to the Barriere du Trone, on the
square of the Hotel de Ville. Upon the river throughout its length
between the Isle of St. Louis and the bridge of Notre Dame, an immense
display of fireworks was to take place. The scene to be represented was
the passage of Mont St. Bernard. Garnerin was stationed with his balloon
in front of the gate of the church of Notre Dame. At eleven o’clock in
the evening, at the moment when the first discharge of fireworks made
the air luminous with a hundred thousand stars, Garnerin threw off his
immense balloon. The chief feature of it was the device of a crown,
designed in coloured lanterns arranged round the globe. It rose
splendidly, and with the most perfect success.

On the following morning the inhabitants of Rome were astounded to
behold advancing toward them from the horizon a luminous globe, which
threatened to descend upon their city. The excitement was intense.
The balloon passed the cupola of St. Peter’s and the Vatican; then
descending, it touched the ground, but rose again, and finally it sank
into the wafers of Lake Bracciano.

It was drawn from the water, and the following inscription, emblazoned
in letters of gold upon its vast circumference, was printed, published,
and read throughout the whole of Italy--“Paris, 25eme Primaire, an
XIII., couronnement de l’empereur Napoleon, 1er par S.S. Pie VII.”

In touching the earth, the balloon happened to strike against the tomb
of the Emperor Nero, and, owing to the concussion, a portion of the
crown was left upon this ancient monument. The Italian journals, which
were not so strictly under the supervision of the government as were the
journals of France, gave the full particulars of these minor events; and
certain of them, connecting the names of Nero and Napoleon, indulged in
malicious remarks at the expense of the French emperor. These facts
came to the ear of the great general, who manifested much indignation,
dismissed the innocent Garnerin from his post, and appointed Madame
Blanchard to the supervision of all the balloon ascents which took place
at the public fetes.

The balloon was preserved in the vaults of the Vatican in Rome,
accompanied with an inscription narrating its travels and wonderful
descent--minus the circumstance of the tomb. It was removed, as might be
supposed, in 1814. From this time the ascents of balloons took place
for the most part only on the occasions of coronations and other great
public fetes.

Chapter VIII. Green’s Great Journey Across Europe.

It is probable that at the origin of navigation, man, before he had
invented oars and sails, made use of trunks of trees upon which he
trusted himself, leaving the rest to the winds and the currents of
the water, whether these were known or unknown. There is some analogy
between such rude rafts, the first discovered means of navigation on
water, and balloons, the first discovered means of navigation in air.
But unquestionably the advantage is with the latter. No means have yet
been found of directly steering balloons, but by allowing the gas to
escape the aeronaut can descend at will, and by lightening his car of
part of the ballast he carries he can ascend as readily. It must also be
remembered that the currents of air vary in their directions, according
to their elevation, and were the aeronaut perfectly acquainted with
aerial currents, he might, by raising or lowering himself, find a wind
blowing in the direction in which he wished to proceed, and the last
problem of aerostation would be solved. That any such knowledge can ever
be acquired it is impossible to say; but this much may with safety be
advanced, that distant journeys may frequently be taken with balloons
for useful purposes.

One of the most remarkable excursions of this kind was that
superintended by Green, in 1836, from London to Germany. This journey,
1,200 miles in length, is the longest that has been yet accomplished.
Green set out from London on the 7th of November, 1836, accompanied by
two friends--Monk-Mason, the historian of the journey, and a gentleman
named Molland. Not knowing to what quarter of the globe he might be
blown, Green provided himself with passports to all the states of
Europe, and with a quantity of provisions sufficient to last him for
some time, should he be driven by the wind over the sea. Shortly after
mid-day the balloon rose with great grandeur, and, urged by a light
breeze, floated to the south-east, over the plains of Kent. At four
o’clock the voyagers sighted the sea.

“It was forty-eight minutes past four,” says Monk-Mason, “that we first
saw the line of waves breaking on the shores beneath us. It would
have been impossible to have remained unmoved by the grandeur of the
spectacle that spread out before us. Behind us were the coasts of
England, with their white cliffs half lost in the coming darkness.
Beneath us on both sides the ocean spread out far end wide to where the
darkness closed in the scene. Opposite us a barrier of thick clouds
like a wall, surmounted all along its line with projections like so many
towers, bastions, and battlements, rose up from the sea as if to stop
our advance. A few minutes afterwards we were in the midst of this
cloudy barrier, surrounded with darkness, which the vapours of the night
increased. We heard no sound. The noise of the waves breaking on the
shores of England had ceased, and our position had for some time cut us
off from all the sounds of earth.”

In an hour the Straits of Dover were cleared, the lights of Calais shone
out toward the voyagers, and the sound of the town drums rose up toward
them. “Darkness was now complete,” continues the writer, “and it was
only by the lights, sometimes isolated, sometimes seen in masses, and
showing themselves far down on the earth beneath us, that we could form
a guess of the countries we traversed, or of the towns and villages
which appeared before us every moment. The whole surface of the earth
for many leagues round showed nothing but scattered lights, and the
face of the earth seemed to rival the vault of heaven with starry fires.
Every moment in the earlier part of the night before men had betaken
themselves to repose, clusters of lights appeared indicating large
centres of population.

“Those on the horizon gave us the notion of a distant conflagration. In
proportion as we approached them, these masses of lights appeared to
increase, and to cover a greater space, until, when right over them,
they seemed to divide themselves into different parts, to stretch out in
long streets, and to shine in starry quadrangles round the squares, so
that we could see the exact plan of each city, given as on a small map.
It would be difficult to give an idea of what sort of effect such a
scene in such circumstances produces. To find oneself transported in
the darkness of night, in the midst of vast solitudes of air, unknown,
unperceived, in secret and in silence, exploring territories, traversing
kingdoms, watching towns which come into view, and pass out of it
before one can examine them in detail--these circumstances are enough
in themselves to render sublime a science which, independent of these
adjuncts, would be so interesting. If you add to this the uncertainty
which, increasing as we went on into the night, began to assail us
respecting our voyage, our ignorance of where we were, and what were the
objects we were attempting to discover, you may form some idea of our
singular position.”

About midnight, the travellers found themselves above Liege. Situated
in the midst of a thickly-peopled country, full of foundries, smelting
works, and forges, this town was quite a blaze of light. The gas-lamps
with which this town is so well lighted, clearly marked out for our
travellers the main streets, the squares, and the public buildings. But
after midnight, at which time the lamps in continental towns are mostly
put out, the whole of the under world disappeared from the view of the

“After the turn of the night,” says Mason, “the moon did not show
itself, and the heavens, always more sombre when regarded from great
altitudes, seemed to us to intensify the natural darkness. On the
other hand, by a singular contrast, the stars shone out with unusual
brilliancy, and seemed like living sparks sown upon the ebony vault that
surrounded us. In fact, nothing could exceed the intensity of the night
which prevailed during this part of our voyage. A black profound abyss
surrounded us on all sides, and, as we attempted to penetrate into the
mysterious deeps, it was with difficulty we could beat back the idea and
the apprehension that we were making a passage through an immense mass
of black marble, in which we were enclosed, and which, solid to within a
few inches of us, appeared to open up at our approach.”

Until three o’clock the voyagers were in this state. The height of the
balloon, as calculated by the barometer, was 2,000 feet. They had not
then anything to fear from a disastrous encounter, when all at once a
sudden explosion was heard, the silk of the balloon quivered, the car
received a violent shock, and seemed to be shot suddenly into the gloomy
abyss. A second explosion and a third succeeded, accompanied each time
by this fearful shock to the car. The travellers soon found out that,
owing to the great altitude, the gas had expanded, and the rope which
surrounded it, saturated with water, and frozen with the intense cold,
had yielded to the pressure, in jerks which caused the report and the

“From time to time,” continues Mason, “vast masses of clouds covered the
lower regions of the atmosphere, and spread a thick, whitish veil over
the earth, intercepting our view, and leaving us for some time uncertain
if this was not a continuation of the same plains covered with snow
which we had already noticed. From these masses of vapour, there seemed
more than once during the night to come a sound as of a great fall of
water, or the contending waves of the sea; and it required all the force
of our reason, joined to our knowledge--such as it was--of the direction
of our route, to repress the idea that we were approaching the sea, and
that, driven by the wind, we had, been carried along the coasts of
the North Sea or the Baltic. As the day advanced these apprehensions
disappeared. In place of the unbroken surface of the sea, we gradually
made out the varied features of a cultivated country, in the midst of
which flowed a majestic river, which lost itself, at both extremities,
in the mist that still lay on the horizon.”

This river was the Rhine, and as the neighbourhood seemed suitable for
a descent, and as the travellers did not wish to be carried too far into
the heart of Europe, they allowed a portion of the gas to escape, came
gradually down, and dropped their anchor.

It was then half-past seven in the morning. It was only then that
the inhabitants, who had hitherto held themselves aloof, watching the
movements of the strangers from under the brushwood, began to assemble
from all sides. A few words in German spoken from the balloon dissipated
their fears, and, recovering from their mistrust, they hastened
immediately to lend assistance to the aeronauts The latter were now
informed that the place they had selected for their descent was in the
Duchy of Nassau. The town of Wiberg, where Blanchard had descended,
after his ascent at Frankfort in 1785 was, by a singular chance, only
two leagues distant. The three aeronauts received a most flattering
reception, and, in memory of the event, they placed the flag which they
had borne in their car during their adventurous excursion in the ducal
palace, side by side with that of Blanchard.

“Thus,” says Mason, “terminated an expedition which, whether we regard
the extent of the journey, the length of time occupied in it, or
the results which were the objects of the experiment, may justly be
considered as one of the most interesting and most important ever
undertaken. The best answer which one could give to those who would be
disposed to criticise the employment of the peculiar means which we
made use of, or to doubt their efficiency, would be to state that, after
having traversed without hindrance, without either danger or difficulty,
so large a portion of the European continent, we arrived at our
destination still in possession of as much force as, had we wished it,
might have carried us round the whole world.”

Chapter IX. The “Geant” Balloon.

Not a few of our readers will remember the ascent of Nadar’s colossal
balloon from Paris, on Sunday, the 18th of October, 1863. This balloon
was remarkable as having attached to it a regular two-story house for a
car. Its ascent was witnessed by nearly half a million of persons. The
balloon, after passing over the eastern part of France, Belgium, and
Holland, suffered a disastrous descent in Hanover the day after it
started on its perilous journey. It was a fool-hardy enterprise to
construct such a gigantic and unmanageable balloon, presenting such an
immense surface to the atmosphere, and being so susceptible to adverse
aerial currents as to become the helpless prey of the elements; and it
was still more fool-hardy to place the lives of its passengers at the
mercy of such terrible and ungovernable forces. A large section of the
public laboured under the delusion that Nadar’s balloon was one capable
of being steered. In reality, however, the ‘Geant’ was unquestionably
the most rebellious and unruly specimen of its class that has been made
since the days of Montgolfier. The object in view when this formidable
monster was designed and constructed was to create the means to collect
sufficient funds to form a “Free Association for Aerial Navigation
by means of MACHINES HEAVIER THAN AIR,” and for the construction of
machines on this principle. The receipts from the exhibition of the
“Geant” were intended to form the first capital of the association. The
hopes, however, of the promoters have not been realised in this respect;
for while the expenses of the construction of the balloon have amounted,
directly and indirectly, to the sum of L8,300, its two ascents in Paris
and its exhibition in London produced only L3,300.

Space forbids us to enter at length on the various stages of the idea of
aerial navigation by means of an apparatus heavier than the atmosphere.
The idea is not, however, by any means so absurd as it appears at first
sight. Those who, like Arago, declare that the word “impossible”
 does not exist, except in the higher mathematics, and those who look
hopefully to the future instead of resting content with the past, will
join in applauding the spirit which dictated the manifesto of aerial
locomotion to the founder of the association which we are about to
describe. M. Babinet, speaking on this subject before the French
Polytechnic Association, said: “It is absurd to talk of guiding
balloons. How will you set about it? How is it possible that a
balloon--say, for instance, like the Flesselles, whose diameter measures
120 feet--can resist and manoeuvre against opposing winds or currents
of air? It would require a power equal to 400 horses for the sails of a
ship to struggle on equal terms with the wind. Suppose an impossibility,
namely, that a balloon could carry with it a force equal to 400
horse-power; this result would be of little use, for under the immense
weight the fragile covering of the balloon would instantly collapse. If
all the horses of a regiment were harnessed to the car of a balloon by
means of a long rope, the result would be that the balloon would fly
into shivers, being too fragile to withstand these two opposing forces.
Man must seek to raise himself in the air by another mode of operation
altogether, if he wish to guide himself at the same time. Some time
ago I bought a play thing, very much in vogue at that time, called a
Stropheor. This toy was composed of a small rotating screw propeller,
which revolved on its own support when the piece of string wound round
it was pulled sharply. The screw was rather heavy, weighing nearly a
quarter of a pound, and the wings were of tin, very broad and thick.
This machine, however, was rather too eccentric for parlour use, for its
flight was so violent that it was continually breaking the pier glass,
if there was one in the room; and, failing this, it next attacked the
windows. The ascending force of this machine is so great that I have
seen one of them fly over Antwerp Cathedral, which is one of the highest
edifices in the world. The air from underneath the machine is exhausted
by the action of the screw, which, passing under the wings, causes a
vacuum, while the air above it replenishes and fills this void, and
under the influence of these two causes the apparatus mounts from the
earth. But the problem is not solved by means of this plaything, whose
motive power is exterior to it. Messrs. Nadar, Ponton, D’Amecourt, and
De la Landelle teach us better than this, although the wings of their
different models are entirely unworthy of men who desire to demonstrate
a truth to short-lived mortals. We have only arrived as yet at the
infancy of the process, but we have made a good beginning, for, having
once proved that a machine capable of raising itself in the air, wholly
unaided from without, can be made, we have overcome with this apparently
small result the whole difficulty. The principle of propulsion by means
of a screw is by no means a novelty. It was first utilised in windmills,
whose sails are nothing more nor less than an immense screw which is
turned by the action of the wind on its surface. In the case of turbine
water-wheels, where perhaps 970 cubic feet of water are utilised by
means of a mechanism not larger than a hat, we see another illustration
of it, with this difference, that water takes the place of wind as the
motive power.

“The aerial screw is beset with great difficulties, but if we can
succeed through its agency in raising even the smallest weight, we may
be confident of being able to raise a heavier one, for a large machine
is always more powerful in proportion to its size than a small one.

“Mlle. Garnerin once made a bet that she would guide herself in her
descent from a considerable altitude towards a fixed spot on the earth
at some distance, with no other help than the parachute; and she was
really able to guide herself to within a few feet of the specified spot,
by simply altering the inclination of the parachute.

“From observations in mountainous districts, where large birds of prey
may be seen to the best advantage hovering with outstretched wings, I
have come to the conclusion that they first of all attain the requisite
height and then, extending their wings in the form of a parachute,
let themselves glide gradually towards the desired spot. Marshal Niel
confirms this opinion by his experience in the mountains of Algeria.
It is, therefore, clear from these examples that we should possess the
power of transporting ourselves from place to place if we could only
discover a means of raising a weight perpendicularly in the air, which
would then act as a capital of power, only requiring to be expended at

From the foregoing remarks we may gather an idea of the importance which
may be attached to aerial locomotion notwithstanding the successive
failures of all those who have hitherto taken up the subject. We come
now to the description of the memorable ascent of the ‘Geant.’

We learn from the very interesting account of the ‘Geant,’ published at
the time, all the mishaps and adventures it outlived from the time of
the first stitch in its covering to its final inflation with gas. We
must, however, be content to take up the narrative at the point at which
the ‘Geant,’ with thirteen passengers on board, had, in obedience to
the order to “let go,” been released from the bonds which held it to
the earth. The narrative is, as our readers will perceive, written in
somewhat exaggerated language:--

“The ‘Geant’ gave an almost imperceptible shake on finding itself
free, and then commenced to rise. The ascent was slow and gradual at
first--the monster seemed to be feeling its way. An immense shout rose
with it from the assembled multitude. We ascended grandly, whilst the
deafening clamour of two hundred thousand voices seemed to increase.
We leant over the edge of the car, and gazed at the thousands of faces
which were turned towards us from every point of the vast plain, in
every conceivable angle of which we were the common apex. We still
ascended. The summits of the double row of trees which surround the
Champ de Mars were already under us. We reached the level of the cupola
of the Military School. The tremendous uproar still reached us. We
glided over Paris in an easterly direction, at the height of about six
hundred feet. Every one took up the best possible position on the six
light cane stools, and on the two long bunks at either end of the car,
and contemplated the marvellous panorama spread out under us, of which
we never grew weary.

“There is never any dizziness in a balloon, as is often erroneously
supposed, for in it you are the only point in space without any
possibility of comparison with another, and therefore the means of
becoming giddy are not at hand.”

A very experienced aeronaut, who numbers his ascents by hundreds, has
assured me that he never knew of a single case of dizziness.

“The earth seems to unfold itself to our view like an immense and
variegated map, the predominant colour of which is green in all its
shades and tints. The irregular division of the country into fields made
it resemble a patchwork counterpane. The size of the houses, churches,
fortresses, was so considerably diminished as to make them resemble
nothing so much as those playthings manufactured at Carlsruhe. This was
the effect produced by a microscopic train, which whistled very faintly
to attract our attention, and which seemed to creep along at a snail’s
pace, though doubtless going at the rate of thirty miles an hour, and
was enveloped in a minute cloud of smoke. What a lasting impression this
microscopic neatness makes on us! What is that white puff I see down
there? the smoke of a cigar? No: it is a cloud of mist. It must be a
perfect plain that we are looking at, for we cannot distinguish between
the different altitudes of a bramble-bush and an oak a hundred years

“It is one of the delights of an aeronaut to gaze on the familiar scenes
of earth from the immense height of the car of a balloon! What earthly
pleasure can compare with this! Free, calm, silent, roving through this
immense and hospitable space, where no human form can harm me, I despise
every evil power; I can feel the pleasure of existence for the first
time, for I am in full possession, as on no other occasion, of perfect
health of mind and body. The aeronauts of the ‘Geant’ will scarcely
condescend to pity those miserable mortals whom they can only faintly
recognise by their gigantic works, which appear to them not more
dignified than ant-hills!

“The sun had already set behind the purple horizon in our rear. The
atmosphere was still quite clear round the ‘Geant,’ although there was
a thick haze underneath, through which we could occasionally see lights
glimmering from the earth. We had attained a sufficient altitude to be
only just able to hear noises from villages that we left beneath us, and
were beginning to enjoy the delicious calm and repose peculiar to aerial

“There is, however, a talk about dinner, or rather supper, and night is
now fast approaching. Every one eats with the best possible appetite.
Hams, fowls and dessert only appear to disappear with an equal
promptitude, and we quench our thirst with bordeaux and champagne. I
remind our companions of the pigeons we brought with us, and which are
hanging in a cage outside the railing. I knew there was no danger of
their flying away, so fearlessly opened the cage. The three or four
birds I had put in the car seemed struck with terror. They flew
awkwardly towards the centre of our party, tumbling among the plates and
dishes and under our feet. It was not a case of hunger with them, and I
ought to have remembered that their feeding time was long since past. I
replaced them in their cage.

“Meanwhile, the sun has left us for some time. Our longing gaze followed
it behind the dark clouds in the horizon, whose edges it tipped with a
glorious purple. Its last rays shone on us, and then came a bluish-grey
twilight. Suddenly we are enveloped in a dense fog. We look around,
above us. Everything has disappeared in the mist. The balloon itself is
no longer visible. We can see nothing except the ropes which suspend
us, and these are only visible for a few feet above our heads, when they
lose themselves in the fog. We are alone with our wickerwork house in an
unfathomable vault.

“We still ascend, however, through the compact and terrible fog, which
is so solid-looking as to seem capable of being carved into forms with
a knife. As we were without a moon, and had no light at all, in fact,
we were unable to distinguish nicely the different shades of colour in
these thick clouds. Now and then, when the clouds seemed to be
lighter, they had a bluish tinge; but the thicker ones were dirty and
muddy-looking. Dante must have seen some like these.

“Water trickled down our faces, hands, and clothes, and the ropes and
sides of our car.

“The water did not fall in rain-drops or in flakes, as it sometimes
does in the tropics; but we were as completely saturated by this heavy,
penetrating mist as if we had been under a waterfall. We still continued
to traverse these rainy regions. The thick fog which the balloon
dislodged in forcing a passage closed immediately after it. At one
moment I thought I felt something press against my cheek, which could
only be compared to the points of a thousand needles, or to floating
particles of ice. We were all of us too much absorbed with our situation
to think of the hour or of the height to which we had attained. Suddenly
the Prince of Wittgenstein, who was standing at my left hand, cried out
under his breath--

“‘Look at the balloon, sir! look at the balloon!’

“I raised my eyes, in company with several others, and shall never
forget the magnificent sight which awaited them. I saw the balloon,
for which I had been searching in vain a few minutes before. It had
undergone a transformation. It looked now as if coated with silver,
and floating in a pale phosphorescent glimmer. All the ropes and cords
seemed to be of new, bright, and liquid silver, like mercury, caused
by the mist which had rested on them becoming suddenly congealed. Two
luminous arcs intervened between us, in a sea of mother-of-pearl and
opal, the lower one being the colour of red ochre and the upper one
orange. Both of them, blinding in their brilliancy, seemed about to
embrace one another.

“‘How far are they off?’ thought I to myself. ‘Can I touch them with
my hand, or are they separated from me by an immense space?’ We are not
capable of forming ideas of perspective, floating as we are in the midst
of such a glimmering splendour.

“Above and around us are nothing but thick fogs and enormous black
clouds, whose ragged edges and backs are relieved by a pale silver
coating. They undulate ceaselessly to and fro, and either usurp
quietly the place of others, or disappear only to be superseded by more
formidable ones. But the last ray of reflected light has died out, and
we plunge into this chaos of dreadful forms. Monsters seem to wish to
approach us, and to envelop us in their dark embraces. One of them, on
my right hand, looks like a deformed human arm in a menacing attitude,
writhing its jagged top like a blind serpent feeling its way. The vague
monster has disappeared; but the momentary splendour being followed
by the original gloom, we plunge once more into a darkness that can be

“The water which had collected on the balloon during its ascent now
began to take effect, and caused it to descend with such rapidity into
the dark abyss that the ballast, which was immediately thrown overboard,
was overtaken in its descent and fell on our heads again.

“I hear exclamations and voices near me. My companions are evidently
agitated, and with good reason, too; for the lights which we could see a
long way below us approach with terrible rapidity. We reached the earth
rather quicker than we left it.

“Suddenly we feel a dreadful shock, followed by ominous crackings. The
car has grounded. The ‘Geant’ has made its descent. But in what part of
the habitable globe, and under what zone? At Meaux!”

To employ an expression of M. Nadar’s it seems that these gentlemen
never before experienced such a “knock-down blow.”

After all these preparations, all this trouble, all the energy employed
in the undertaking--sufficient, indeed, wherewith to attempt to cross
the Atlantic--to “descend at Meaux!”

The ‘Geant,’ however, had its revenge. Its second ascent gave it this
revenge. We shall be as brief as possible in relating this voyage; but
the details are all so very interesting that we regret extremely our
being unable to give more than extracts from the narrative.

Our travellers committed themselves again to the mercy of the air.
The Emperor, following the example of a former King of France, took
considerable interest in the construction of this aerial monster, and
wished the aeronaut “Bon voyage” at starting. The passengers endeavoured
to pass the night as comfortably as possible, having first instituted a
four hours’ watch, as on board ship.

The aerial vessel glided rapidly through the air. “We repeatedly,” said
Nadar, “passed over some manufacturing centre, whose lights were not yet
extinguished. I either hailed them with my speaking-trumpet or rang our
two bells. Sometimes we received a reply from below, in the shape of a
shout, for, although we still had no moon, the night was occasionally
clear enough for people to distinguish us; and sometimes we heard a peal
of laughter from out of the atmosphere in which we were travelling. It
was another party of aeronauts in a smaller balloon, who left at the
same time as we did, and who would persist in keeping the ‘Geant’
company. We are passing over a small town; we hear the usual shouting
and the report of a gun. Our first thoughts are--Was it loaded with shot
or ball? The inhuman brute who fired will say, ‘Certainly not;’ but as
balloons have often been damaged in this way, we may be confident there
was more than powder in this one. It would be satisfactory, at any rate,
if the name of the person could be ascertained who favoured us with this
welcome. But it is rather late to make inquiries on this subject. It was
between a quarter and half-past nine o’clock when this occurred. ‘The
sea!’ cried Jules; ‘look at the revolving lights of the lighthouses.
There: one has just disappeared: it will flash out again in a
moment!’ But what is this? Before us, as far as our eyes can reach,
we distinguish faint lights, which in this case are neither lamps nor
torches. As we continue to draw nearer we get a better view of these
numerous, violent, and smoking furnaces. Loud and ringing sounds strike
on our ear at the same time. Am I right in my conjectures? Is this not
that splendid country I love more than ever now? It must be Erquelines!
And the dignified Custom-house official, had it been possible, would
have added thereto ‘Belgium!’

“We still continue to pass over fires, forges, tall chimneys, and coal
mines at frequent intervals. Not long after we distinguish a large town
on our right hand, which, by its size and brilliant lighting by gas,
we recognise as Brussels. There could be no mistake, for close by, more
modest in size and appearance, we see Catholic Malines. We have left it
behind us.

“Onward! Onward! Behind us the fires fade gradually away, and disappear
one after another. Before us nothing at present visible. We seemed to
drift on for about one hundred or one hundred and fifty yards more. We
cannot distinguish a single point in front of us on which to fix our
gaze. But we still continue our course in silence.

“This mournful darkness, this endless shroud, in which we can discover
neither rent nor spangle, still continues. Where are we? Over what
strange country, possessing neither cities, towns, nor villages, are
we hovering in the tomb-like silence of this interminable darkness? We
seem, indeed, to have been carried by a puff of wind towards the west.

“But something seems to approach us. What are those pale rays of light
which we can faintly see a long, long way before us--rays pale and soft,
quite unlike those flaming fires we have left behind us? Surely these
do not denote the presence of human activity! As we continue to advance,
these pale flakes of light--resembling nothing so much in appearance as
molten lead--which at first were scanty and isolated, gradually expand,
and leave only narrow strips of darkness to divide them into fantastic
shapes. By their help we discovered we were passing over the immense
marshes of Holland, which extended to and lost themselves in the hazy
horizon. On our right hand we hear a deep moan, still distant, but
rapidly approaching every moment. It is undoubtedly the rushing of the
wind. A fresh breeze for five minutes would bring us to the sea.

“We experienced another shock not less formidable than the first. The
‘Geant’ is trembling from its effects. The cable of our first anchor
has just broken like a piece of thread. We could not hope for a better
result. The violence of the wind which is carrying us along seems to be
redoubled. A bump: another and another--then shock after shock.

“‘The second dead men!’

“Our swift pace was shock after shock.

“‘The anchor is lost,’ cries Jules; ‘we are all dead men!

“This truth is too palpable to all of us to require expressing in so
many words, for we are just commencing that furious, tearing course
called ‘trailing.’

“Our swift pace was considerably accelerated by the lower part of
the balloon, which--limp, empty, and forming nearly a third of the
whole--had been set free at the first shock, and flapped against the
distended part, acting as a sail. The shocks continued to multiply so
fast that it was impossible to count them. The car continued to rebound
from these shocks to the height of five, ten, sometimes thirty, forty,
and even fifty feet, for all the world like an India-rubber ball from
the hands of an indefatigable player. Unfortunately, all our human
freight, terror stricken and without advice, had crowded into one side
of the car; and as this happened to be the side on which we invariably
bumped, we experienced all the worst effects of the joltings.

“What a dizzy whirl! What a succession of breathless shocks! What a
strain on both muscles and nerves! By the least negligence or slip,
or by the loss of presence of mind for one moment, we should have been
thrown out and dashed to atoms.

“Every collision tries our muscles and strains our wrists or our
shoulders; and every rebound dashes us one against the other,
constituting each individual a tormentor and victim at the same time.
Our flight is so rapid that we can only distinguish an occasional
glimpse of anything. Far, far in the distance we distinguish an isolated
tree. We approach it like lightning, and we break it as though it were a

“Two terrified horses, with manes and tails erect, endeavour to fly from
us. But we consume distances; we leave them behind immediately. We skip
over a flock of affrighted sheep in one of our bounds. But now comes the
real danger.

“At this moment, when we were perfectly benumbed with fear, and had lost
all power of articulation, we saw a locomotive, drawing two carriages,
running along an embankment at right angles to our course. A few more
revolutions of the wheels, and it will be all over with us, for we seem
to be fated to meet with geometrical precision at one spot!

“What will happen?

“Travelling at our present hurricane pace, we shall undoubtedly lift
up and overturn the machine and what it is drawing. But shall we not be
crushed ourselves? A few paces still intervene between us and our foe,
and we give vent to a shout of terror.

“It is heard, and the locomotive answers it by a whistle, then slackens
its pace, and after seeming to hesitate an instant backs quickly and
only just in time to give us a free passage, whilst the driver, waving
his cap, salutes us with--

“‘Look out for the wires!’

“The caution was well timed, for we had not noticed the four telegraph
wires which we rapidly approached. We energetically ducked our heads on
seeing them, but fortunately we escaped any more damage than having two
or three of our ropes cut. These we continued to drag after us like the
tail of a ragged comet, having the telegraph-wires and the posts which
lately supported them attached to us.”

After having been dragged thus for some time at the mercy of a hurricane
which they ought to have been able to avoid, these aerial navigators at
last got entangled in the outskirts of a wood near Rethem, in Hanover.
A few broken arms and legs paid for their temerity in meddling with this
monster, and one and all of the passengers have reason to be thankful
that it will be unnecessary for us to proclaim their virtues and their
fate in our next chapter.

Chapter X. The Necrology of Aeronautic

We will conclude this second part by giving a brief notice of some
of those who, in the early days of aerostation, fell martyrs to their
devotion to the new cause, and sometimes victims to their own want of
foresight and their inexperience.

First among these is Pilatre des Roziers, with whose courage and
ingenuity our readers are already familiar. After the passage of
Blanchard from England over to France this hero, who was the first to
trust himself to the wide space of the sky, resolved to undertake the
return voyage from France to England--a more difficult feat, owing to
the generally adverse character of the winds and currents. In vain did
Roziers’ friends attempt to make him understand the perils to which this
enterprise must expose him; his only reply was that he had discovered
a new balloon which united in itself all the necessary conditions of
security, and would permit the voyager to remain an unusually long time
in the air. He asked and obtained from government the sum of 40,000
livres, in order to construct his machine. It then became clear what
sort of balloon he had contrived. He united in one machine the two modes
previously made use of in aerostation. Underneath a balloon filled with
hydrogen gas, he suspended a Montgolfiere, or a balloon filled with
hot air from a fire. It is difficult to understand what was his precise
object in making this combination, for his ideas seem to have been
confused upon the subject. It is probable that, by the addition of a
Montgolfiere, he wished to free himself from the necessity of having to
throw over ballast when he wished to ascend and to let off this gas when
he wished to descend. The fire of the Montgolfiere might, he probably
supposed, be so regulated as to enable him to rise or fall at will.

This mixed system has been justly blamed. It was simply “putting fire
beside powder,” said Professor Charles to Roziers; but the latter would
not listen, and depended for everything on his own intrepidity and
scientific skill of which he had already given so many proofs. There
were, perhaps, other reasons for his unyielding obstinacy. The court
that had furnished him with the funds for the construction of the
balloon pressed him, and he himself was most ambitious to equal the
achievement of Blanchard, who was the first to cross the Channel, on the
7th of January, 1785.

The fact was that at this time the prevailing fear in France was, that
Great Britain should bear off all the honours and profits of aerostation
before any of these had been won by France. It was thus that with an
untried machine, and under conditions the most unfavourable for his
enterprise, Roziers prepared to risk his life in this undertaking, which
was equally dangerous and useless.

The double balloon was alternately inflated and emptied. While under
cover it was assailed by the rats that gnawed holes in it, and when
brought out of its place it was exposed to the tempests, so that the
longer the experiment was delayed, the worse chance there was of
getting through it successfully. At length Roziers went to Boulogne, and
announced the day of his departure; but, as if by a special Providence,
his attempt was delayed by unfavourable weather. For many weeks in
succession the little trial balloons thrown up to show the course of the
wind were driven back upon the shores of France. During all these trials
the impatient Roziers continued to chafe and torment himself.

At last, on the 13th and 14th of June, 1785, the Aero-Montgolfiere
remained inflated, waiting a favourable moment for departure. On the
15th at four in the morning, a little pilot balloon that had been
thrown up fell back on the spot from which it had been thrown free, thus
showing that there was no wind. Seven hours later Roziers, accompanied
by his brother Romain, one of the constructors of the balloon, appeared
in the gallery. A nobleman present threw a purse of 200 louis into the
car, and was preparing to follow it and join in the adventure. Roziers
forbade him to enter, gently but firmly.

“The experiment is too unsafe,” he said, “for me to expose to danger the
life of another.”

“Finally,” says a narrative of the time, “the Aero-Montgolfiere rose in
an imposing manner. The sound of cannon signalised the departure, the
voyagers saluted the crowd, who responded with loud shouts. The balloon
advanced until it began to traverse the sea, and every one with eyes
fixed upon the fragile machine, regarded it with fear. It had traversed
upwards of a league of its journey, and had reached the height of 700
feet above sea level, when a wind from the west drove it back toward the
shore, after having been twenty-seven minutes in the air.

“At this moment the crowd beneath perceived that the voyagers were
showing signs of alarm. They seemed suddenly to lower the grating of the
Montgolfiere. But it was too late. A violet flame appeared at the top
of the balloon, then spread over the whole globe, and enveloped the
Montgolfiere and the voyagers. “The unfortunate men were suddenly
precipitated from the clouds to the earth, in front of the Tour de Croy,
upwards of a league from Boulogne, and 300 feet from the sea beach.

“The dead body of Roziers was found burnt in the gallery, many of the
bones being broken. His brother was still breathing, but he was not able
to speak, and in a few minutes he expired.”

De Maisonfort, who, against his own will, was left on the earth, was
witness of this sad event. He has given the following explanation of

“Some minutes after their departure the voyagers were assailed by
contrary winds, which drove them back again upon the land. It is
probable that then, in order to descend and seek a more favourable
current of air, which would take them out again to sea, Roziers opened
the valve of the gas balloon; but the cord attached to this valve
was very long, it worked with difficulty, and the friction which it
occasioned tore the valve. The stuff of the balloon, which had suffered
much from many preliminary attempts, and from other causes, was torn to
the extent of several yards, and the valve fell down inside the balloon,
which at once emptied itself.”

According to this narrative, there was no conflagration of the gas in
the middle of the atmosphere, nor is it stated precisely whether the
grating of the Montgolfiere was lighted.

Maisonfort ran to the spot when the travellers fell, found them covered
with the cloth of the balloon, and occupying the same positions which
they had taken up on departing.

By a sad chance, that seems like irony, they were thrown down only a few
paces from the monument which marks the spot where Blanchard descended.
At the present day Frenchmen going to England via Calais do not fail to
visit at the forest of Guines the monument consecrated to the expedition
of Blanchard. A few paces from this monument the cicerone will point out
with his finger the spot where his rivals expired.

“Such was the end of the first of aeronauts, and the most courageous of
men,” says a contemporaneous historian. “He died a martyr to honour and
to zeal. His kindness, amiability, and modesty endeared him to all who
knew him. She who was dearest to him--a young English lady, who boarded
at a convent at Boulogne, and whom he had first met only a few days
prior to his last ascent--could not support the news of his death.
Horrible convulsions seized her and she expired, it is said, eight days
after the dreadful catastrophe. Roziers died at the age of twenty-eight
and a half years.”

Olivari perished at Orleans on the 25th of November, 1802. He had
ascended in a Montgolfiere made of paper, strengthened only by some
bands of cloth. His car, made of osiers, and loaded with combustible
matter, was suspended below the grating; and when at a great elevation
it became the prey of the flames. The aeronaut, thus deprived of his
support, fell, at the distance of a league from the spot from which he
had risen.

Mosment made his last ascent at Lille on the 7th of April, 1806. His
balloon was made of silk, and was filled with hydrogen gas. Ten minutes
after his departure he threw into the air a parachute with which he had
provided himself. It is supposed that the oscillations consequent on the
throwing off of the parachute were the cause of they aeronaut’s fall.
Some pretend that Mosment had foretold his death, and that it was caused
by a willful carelessness. However this may be, the balloon continued
its flight alone, and the body of the aeronaut was found partly buried
in the sand of the fosse which surrounds the town.

Bittorff made a great many successful ascents. He never used any machine
but the Montgolfiere. At Manheim, on the 17th of July, the day of his
death his balloon, which was of paper, sixteen metres in diameter, and
twenty in height, took fire in the air, and the aeronaut was thrown down
upon the town. His fall was mortal.

Harris, an old officer of the English navy, together with another
English aeronaut, named Graham, had made a great many ascents. He
conceived the idea of constructing a balloon upon an original plan; but
his alterations do not seem to have been improvements. In May, 1824, he
attempted an ascent from London, which had much apparent success, but
which terminated fatally. When at a great elevation, it seems, the
aeronaut, wishing to descend, opened the valve. It had not been well
constructed, and after being opened it would not close again. The
consequent loss of gas brought the balloon down with great force. Harris
lost his life with the fall; but the young lady who had accompanied him
received only a trifling wound.

Sadler, a celebrated English aeronaut, who, in one of his many
experiments, had crossed the Irish Channel between Dublin and Holyhead,
lost his life miserably near Bolton, on the 28th of September, 1824.
Deprived of his ballast, in consequence of his long sojourn in the air,
and forced at last to descend, at a late hour, upon a number of high
buildings, the wind drove him violently against a chimney. The force of
the shock threw him out of his car, and he fell to the earth and died.
His prudence and knowledge were unquestionable, and his death is to be
ascribed alone to accident. It was an aerial shipwreck.

Cocking had gone up twice in Mr. Green’s balloon as a simple amateur.
He took it into his head to go up a third time. He wished to attempt a
descent in a parachute of his own construction, which he believed was
vastly superior to the ordinary one. He altered the form altogether,
though that form had been proved to be satisfactory. In place of a
concave surface, supporting itself on a volume of air, Cocking used
an inverted cone, of an elaborate construction, which, instead of
supporting him in the air, only accelerated his fall. Unhappily, Green
participated in this experiment. The two made an ascent from Vauxhall,
on the 27th of September, 1836, Green having suspended Cocking’s
wretched contrivance from the car of his balloon. Cocking held on by a
rope, and at the height of from 1,000 to 1,200 feet the amateur,
with his patent parachute, were thrown off from the balloon. A moment
afterwards Green was soaring away safely in his machine, but Cocking was
launched into eternity.

“The descent was so rapid,” says one who witnessed it, “that the mean
rate of the fall was not less than twenty yards a second. In less than a
minute and a half the unfortunate aeronaut was thrown to the earth, and
killed by the fall.”

Madame Blanchard, thinking to improve upon Garnerin, who had decorated
the balloon which ascended in celebration of the coronation of Napoleon
I. with coloured lights, fixed fireworks instead to hers. A wire rope
ten yards long was suspended to her car; at the bottom of this wire
rope was suspended a broad disc of wood, around which the fireworks were
ranged. These consisted of Bengal and coloured lights. On the 6th
of July, 1819, there was a great fete at Tivoli, and a multitude had
assembled around the balloon of Madame Blanchard. Cannon gave the signal
of departure, and soon the fireworks began to show themselves. The
balloon rose splendidly, to the sound of music and the shoutings of the
people. A rain of gold and thousands of stars fell from the car as
it ascended. A moment of calm succeeded, and then to the eyes of the
spectators, still fixed on the balloon, an unexpected light appeared.
This light did not come from under the balloon, where the crown of
fireworks was already extinguished, but shone in the car itself. It
was evident that the lady aeronaut, although now so high above the
spectators, was busy about something. The light increased, then
disappeared suddenly; then appeared again, and showed itself finally at
the summit of the balloon, in the form of an immense jet of gas. The
gas with which the balloon was inflated had taken fire, and the terrible
glare which the light threw around was perceived from the boulevards,
and all the Quartier Montmartre.

It was at this moment--a frightful one for those who perceived what had
taken place--that a general sentiment of satisfaction and admiration
among the spectators found vent in cries of “Brava! Vive Madame
Blanchard!” &c. The people thought the lady was giving them an
unexpected treat. Meantime, by the light of the flame, the balloon was
seen gradually to descend. It disappeared when it reached the houses,
like a passing meteor, or a train of fire which a blast of wind suddenly
extinguishes. A number of workmen and other persons, who had perceived
that some accident had taken place, ran in the direction in which the
balloon appeared to descend. They arrived at a house in the Rue de
Provence. On the roof of this house the balloon had fallen, and the
unfortunate Madame Blanchard, thrown out of the car by the shock, was
killed by her fall to the earth.

This news spread rapidly from Tivoli, where it occasioned a stupefying
surprise. It was the first time that a fall of the kind had taken place
from the sky at Paris. Fireworks were from this time discontinued, the
fete came to an end, and a subscription was rapidly organised, producing
some thousands of francs, which shortly afterwards were employed in
erecting a monument to the lady, which is now to be seen in the cemetery
of Pere-la-Chaise.

Madame Blanchard had wished to surpass the ordinary spectacle of an
aerial ascent; she had really prepared a SURPRISE for the spectators.
She had prepared and she took with her a small parachute of about
two yards in diameter. After the extinction of the crown or star of
fireworks, she intended to throw this little parachute loose; and as it
was terminated by another supply of fireworks, it was supposed that the
effect would be as beautiful as surprising.

The unhappy lady was small in stature, and very light, and unfortunately
made use of a very small balloon. That of the 6th of July, 1819, was
only seven metres in diameter; and to make it ascend with the weight
it carried it had to be filled to the neck with inflammable air. In
quitting the earth some of this gas escaped, and rising above the
balloon, formed a train like one of powder, which would certainly flash
into a blaze the moment it came in contact with the fire. But on this
day it was she who with her own hand fired this train. At the moment
when, detaching the little parachute from her car, she took the light
for the fireworks in her other hand, she crossed this train with the
light and set it on fire. Then the brave woman, throwing away the
parachute and the match, strove to close the mouth of the balloon, and
to stifle the fire. These efforts being unavailing, Madame Blanchard was
distinctly seen to sit down in her car and await her fate.

The burning of the hydrogen lasted several minutes, during which time
the balloon gradually descended. Had it not been that it struck on the
roof of the house Madame Blanchard would have been saved. At the moment
of the shock she was heard to cry out, “A moi.” These were her last
words. The car, going along the roof of the house, was caught by an
iron bar and overturned, and the lady was thrown head foremost upon the

When she reached the ground she immediately expired. Her head and
shoulders were slightly burnt, otherwise she exhibited no marks of the
fire which had destroyed the balloon.

PART III. Scientific Experiments--Applications of Ballooning.

Chapter I. Experiments of Robertson, Lhoest, Saccarof, &c.

Robertson is regarded by many as a sort of mountebank; yet such men as
Arago have put themselves to the trouble of examining the aerostatic
feats of this aeronaut, and of examining the results of his

“The savant Robertson,” says Arago, “performed at Hamburg on the 18th
of July, 1803, with his countryman, Lhoest, the first aeronautic voyage
from which science has been able to draw useful deductions. The two
aeronauts remained suspended in the air during five hours, and came
down near Hanover, twenty-five leagues from the spot from which they set

The first time that Robertson appears in the annals of aerostation is in
1802, on the occasion of the sale of the balloon used at the battle
of Fleurus, of which mention will be made in the chapter on military
aerostation. But three years previously he had been instructed to make
a balloon of an original form, which should ascend in honour of the
Turkish ambassador at the garden of Tivoli. The fete was completely
successful. Turks, Chinese, Persians, and Bedouins will always be
welcome, as on this occasion, at Paris, appearing as they do only at
rare intervals, and for a short time.

The fete took place on the 2nd of July. Robertson presented himself at
the house of Esseid-Ali, to obtain his autograph. The Turkish ambassador
willingly granted the request, and wrote his name in letters, each of
which was two inches in height, on a sheet of paper. He then offered the
aeronaut coffee and comfits, and promised to be present to witness the
balloon ascent. His name was painted in large characters on a balloon
fifteen feet in diameter, and on the form of which was the figure of a
crescent. The experiment delighted the ambassador, and was well received
by the public.

Jacques Garnerin, when he came to make his debut as an aeronaut, made an
attempt with the parachute, the following August, at the garden of the
Hotel de Biron. The ambassador was asked to honour the fete, but he
declined, saying that he had “made up his mind that man was not intended
for flying--Mahomet had not so willed it.”

Of one of Robertson’s more interesting ascents he himself has left us
the following sketch:--

“I rose in the balloon at nine a.m., accompanied by my fellow-student
and countryman, M. Lhoest. We had 140 lbs. of ballast. The barometer
marked twenty-eight inches; the thermometer sixteen degrees Reaumur. In
spite of some slight wind from the north-west, the balloon mounted so
perpendicularly that in all the streets each of the spectators believed
we were mounting straight up above his head. In order to quicken our
ascent I discharged a parachute made of silk, and weighted in a way to
prevent oscillations. The parachute descended at the rate of two feet
per second, and its descent was uniform. From the moment when the
barometer began to sink we became very careful of our ballast, as we
wished to test from experience the different temperatures through which
we were about to pass.

“At 10.15, the barometer was at nineteen inches, and the thermometer
at three above zero. We now felt all the inconvenience of an extremely
rarefied atmosphere coming upon us, and we commenced to arrange some
experiments in atmospheric electricity. Our first attempts did not
succeed. We threw over part of our ballast, and mounted up till the
cold and the rarefaction of the air became very troublesome. During
our experiments we experienced an illness throughout our whole system.
Buzzing in the cars commenced, and went on increasing. The pain we felt
was like that which one feels when he plunges his head in water. Our
chests seemed to be dilated, and failed in elasticity. My pulse was
quickened, M. Lhoest’s became slower; he had, like me, swelled lips and
bleeding eyes; the veins seemed to come out more strongly on the hands.
The blood ran to the head, and occasioned a feeling as if our hats were
too tight. The thermometer continued to descend, and, as we ascended,
our illness increased, and we could with difficulty keep awake. Fearing
that my travelling companion might go to sleep, I attached a cord to my
thigh and to his, and we held the extremities of the cord in our hands.
Thus trammelled, we had to commence the experiments which I had proposed
to make.

“At this elevation, the glass, the brimstone, and the Spanish wax were
not electrified in a manner to show any signs under friction--at least,
I obtained no electricity from the conductors or the electrometer.

“I had in my car a voltaic pile, consisting of sixty couples--silver
and zinc. It worked very well on the occasion of our departure from the
earth, and gave, without the condenser, one degree to the electrometer.
At our great elevation, the pile gave only five-sixths of a degree to
the same electrometer. The galvanic flame seemed more active at this
elevation than on the earth.

“I took two birds with me on coming into the balloon--one of these was
now dead, the other appeared stupefied. After having placed it upon the
brink of the gondola, I tried to frighten it to make it take to flight.
It moved its wings, but did not leave the spot; then I left it to
itself, and it fell perpendicularly and with great rapidity. Birds are
certainly not able to maintain themselves at such elevations.

“It is notable that the atmosphere, which was of a perfect purity near
the earth, was grey and misty above our heads, and the beautiful blue
sky seen from the surface did not exist for us, although the weather was
calm and serene, and the day the most beautiful that could be. The sun
did not seem dazzling to us, and its heat was diminished owing to our

“At half-past eleven, the balloon was no longer visible from Hamburg.
The heavens were so pure beneath us that everything was distinctly seen
by us, though very much diminished by distance. At 11.40, the town of
Hamburg seemed only a red point in our eyes; the Elbe looked like
a straight ribbon. I wished to make use of an opera-glass, but what
surprised me was that when I lifted it up it was so cold that I had to
wrap my handkerchief around it to enable me to hold it.

“Not being able to support our position any longer, we descended, after
having used up much gas and ballast. Our descent caused that degree
of terror among the inhabitants which the size of our balloon was
calculated to inspire in a country where such machines had never before
been seen. We descended above a poor village called Radenburg, a place
amid the heaths of Hanover. Our appearance caused great alarm, and even
the beasts of the field fled from us.

“While our balloon rapidly approached the earth, we waved our hats and
flags, and shouted to the inhabitants, but our voices only increased
their terror. The villagers rushed away with cries of terror, leaving
their herds, whose bellowings increased the general alarm. When the
balloon touched the ground, every man had shut himself up in his own
house. Having appealed in vain, and fearing that the villagers might do
us some injury, we resolved to re-ascend.

“In making this second ascent, we threw over all our ballast; but in
this we were imprudent, for after sailing about at a great height, and
having lost much gas, I perceived that our descent would be very
rapid, and to provide against accident, I gathered together all the
instruments, the bread, the ropes, and even such money as we had with
us, and placed them in three sacks, to which I attached a rope of a
hundred feet in length. This precaution saved us a shock. The weight,
amounting to thirty pounds, reached the ground before us, and the
balloon, thus lightened, came softly to the ground between Wichtenbech
and Hanover, after having run twenty-five leagues in five and a half

After this ascent Robertson became acquainted with some savants of
Hamburg, and amongst others with Professor Pfaff, who was interested
in aerial travelling as a means of settling certain meteorological
problems. Some days after Robertson’s ascent, the professor wrote to

“You speak of a certain height at which the hydrogen gas will find
itself in equilibrium in the air of the atmosphere. I believe that this
height is the extremity of the atmosphere itself; for as the gas has an
elasticity much greater than that of the air, it will go on dilating as
it mounts into the higher regions of the atmosphere, and its specific
weight will diminish as the weight of atmospheric air diminishes; and it
will not cease to mount until it rises above the atmosphere itself, if
two conditions be completely fulfilled--1, the condition that the gas
may be allowed to dilate without leaving the balloon as it rises; 2,
the condition that the gas shall not be allowed to mix at all with the
atmospheric air.”

Another ascent was arranged for the 14th of August, in which Robertson
was to be accompanied by the professor, but the latter, yielding to the
entreaties of his family, did not go. “I went up with my friend Lhoest,”
 says Robertson, “at forty-two minutes past twelve midday. In a minute or
two we rose up between two masses of cloud, which seemed to open up and
offer us a passage. The upper surfaces of these clouds are not uniformly
level, like the under sides seen from the earth, but they are of a
conical or pyramidal shape. These imposing masses seem to precipitate
themselves upon the earth, as if to engulf it, but this optical illusion
was due to the apparent immobility of the balloon, which at the moment
was rising at the rate of about twenty feet per second.

“The fear of losing the view of the Baltic, which we perceived between
the clouds at intervals, obliged us to renounce the project of rising as
high as on the last occasion. The barometer was at fifteen inches, and
the thermometer one degree below zero, when I let off two pigeons.

“One descended in a diagonal direction, its wings half open but not
moving, with a swiftness which seemed that of a fall. The other flew
for an instant, and then placed itself upon the car, and did not wish to
quit us. Acting on the hint of Dr. Reimarus, I tried the same experiment
with butterflies, but the air was too much rarefied for them; they
attempted in vain to raise themselves by their wings, but they did not
forsake the car.

“The wind continuing to carry me towards the sea, I resolved to bring
my observations to an end. I effected my descent in a meadow, near the
village of Rehorst, in Holstein, after having run sixteen leagues from
France in sixty-five minutes.”

At the commencement of the year 1804, Laplace, at the Institute,
proposed to take advantage of the means offered by aerostation to verify
at great heights certain scientific points--as, for example, those which
concern magnetism. This proposition was made at a favourable time, and
was, so far, carried out in the best possible way. The aeronauts who
were appointed to carry out the expedition were Biot and Gay-Lussac, the
most enthusiastic aeronauts of the period.

The following is their report:--

“We observed the animals we had with us at all the different heights,
and they did not appear to suffer in any manner. For ourselves, we
perceived no effect any more then a quickening of the pulse. At 10,000
feet above the ground we set a little green-finch at liberty. He flew
out at once, but immediately returning, settled upon our cordage;
afterwards, setting out again, he flew to the earth, describing a very
tortuous line in his passage. We followed him with our eyes till he was
lost in the clouds. A pigeon, which we set free at the same elevation,
presented a very curious spectacle. Placed at liberty on the edge of the
car, he remained at rest for a number of instants, as if measuring the
length of his flight; then he launched himself into space, flying about
irregularly, as if to try his wings. Afterwards he began his descent
regularly, sweeping round and round in great circles, ever reaching
lower, until he also was lost in the clouds.”

As to the voyagers themselves, this is how they speak of their situation
at the height of 3,000 yards:--

“About this elevation we observed our animals. They did not appear
to suffer from the rarity of the air, yet the barometer was at twenty
inches eight lines.. We were much surprised that we did not suffer from
the cold; on the contrary, the sun warmed us much. We had thrown aside
the gloves which had been put on board, and which were of no use to us.
Our pulses were very quick; that of M. Gay-Lussac, which is 62 in the
minute on ordinary occasions, now gave 80; and mine, which is ordinarily
89, gave 111. This acceleration was felt by both of us in nearly the
same proportion. Nevertheless, our respiration was in no way interfered
with, we experienced no illness, and our situation seemed to us
extremely agreeable.”

The following is their report to the Galvanic Society--

“We have known for a long time that no animal can with safety pass into
an atmosphere much more dense or much more rare than that to which it
has been accustomed. In the first case it suffers from the outer air,
which presses upon it severely; in the second case there are liquids or
fluids in the animal’s body which, being less pressed against than
they should be, become dilated, and press against their coverings or
channels. In both cases the symptoms are nearly the same--pain, general
illness, buzzing in the ears, and even haemorrhage. The experience of
the diving-bell has long made us familiar with what aeronauts suffer.
Our colleague (Robertson), and his companion, have experienced these
effects in great intensity. They had swelled lips, their eyes bled,
their veins were dilated, and, what is very remarkable, they both
preserved a brown or red tinge which astonished those that had seen them
before they made the ascent. This distension of the blood-vessels would
necessarily produce an inconvenience and a difficulty in the muscular

Chapter II. Ascent of M. Gay-Lussac Alone--Excursions of MM. Barral and

Respecting this ascent, Arago states that M. Gay-Lussac has reduced to
their proper value the narratives of the physical pains which aeronauts
say they suffer in lofty aerial ascents.

M. Gay-Lussac says:--“Having arrived at the most elevated point of
my ascent, 21,000 feet above sea level, my respiration was rendered
sensibly difficult, but I was far from experiencing any illness of a
kind to make me descend. My pulse and my breathing were very quick;
breathing very frequently in an extremely dry atmosphere, I should not
have been surprised if my throat had been so dry as to make it painful
to swallow bread.”

After having finished his observations, which referred chiefly to the
magnetic needle, with all the tranquillity of a doctor in his study,
Gay-Lussac descended to the earth between Rouen and Dieppe, eighty
leagues from Paris.

After the names of Robertson, Gay-Lussac, and Biot, science has
registered those of Barral and Bixio, two men whose aeronautic
achievements have enriched meteorology with more important discoveries,
perhaps, than any we have yet mentioned.

These gentlemen had conceived the project of rising by means of a
balloon to a great height, in order to study, with the assistance of the
very best instruments in use in their day, a multitude of phenomena then
imperfectly known. The subjects to which they were specially to direct
their attention, were the law of the decrease of temperature in progress
upwards, the discovery of whether the chemical composition of the
atmosphere is the same throughout all its parts, the comparison of the
strength of the solar rays in the higher regions of the atmosphere
and on the surface of the earth, the ascertaining whether the light
reflected and transmitted by the clouds is or is not polarised, &c.

All the preparations having been made in the garden of the Observatory
at Paris, the ascent took place on the 29th of June, 1850, at 10.27
a.m., the balloon being filled with hydrogen gas. The first ascent was a
signal failure. It was found that the weather being bad, the envelope
of the balloon was torn in several places, and had to be mended in all
haste. Immediately preceding the moment of ascent, a torrent of rain
fell. But the voyagers were determined to ascend. They placed themselves
in the car, and, when thrown off from the fastenings, they rose through
the air with the speed of an arrow. The height to which the balloon
reached made it suddenly dilate, and the network, which was much too
small, was stretched to the utmost. The balloon was forced down upon
them by the dilation, and one of them, in the endeavour to work the
valve, made a rent in the lower part of the globe, from which the gas
escaping almost over the heads of the travellers, nearly choked them.
The escape of the gas had the usual result--the balloon descended
rapidly, and fell in a vineyard near Lugny, where they were found by
the peasants holding on to the trees by their legs and arms, and thus
attempting to stop the horizontal advance of the car. They had risen to
the height of over 17,000 feet, and they had descended from this height
in from four to five minutes.

For all practical purposes, the ascent was a failure, and the aeronauts
immediately commenced preparations for a new voyage, which took place a
month afterwards. They rose to very great altitudes, but experienced no
illness from the rarefied air. M. Bixio did not feel the sharp pains in
the ears from which he had suffered on the former occasion. They passed
through a mass of cloud 15,000 feet in thickness, and they had not yet
passed quite through it, when at the height of over 21,000 feet from the
ground, they began to descend, their descent being caused by a rent in
the envelope of the balloon, from which the gas escaped. They might, in
throwing out the last of their ballast, have, perhaps, prolonged for a
little their sojourn in space, but the circumstances in which they were
placed did not permit them to make many more scientific observations
than those they had made, and thus they were obliged to submit to their
fate. When they had reached their greatest height, there seemed to open
up in the midst of the vaporous mass a brilliant space, from which they
could see the blue of heaven. The polariscope, directed towards this
region, showed an internal polarisation, but, when pointed to the side
where the mist still prevailed, there was no polarisation.

An optical phenomenon of a remarkable kind was witnessed when the
voyagers had attained their highest point. They saw the sun through the
upper mists, looking quite white, as if shorn of its strength; and, at
the same time, below the horizontal plane, below their horizon, and at
an angular distance from the plane equal to that of the sun above it,
they saw a second sun, which resembled the reflection of the actual sun
in a sheet of water. It is natural to suppose that the second sun was
formed by the reflection of the sun’s rays upon the horizontal faces of
the ice crystals floating in this high cloud.

Chapter III. Ascents of the Mssrs. Welsh, Glaisher and Coxwell.

The most recent balloon ascents in England deserving attention have been
undertaken for scientific objects, and in this country, more than in
any other, it may be said that the conquest of the air has been made to
serve a practical end.

In July, 1852, the Committee of the Kew Observatory resolved to
undertake a number of balloon voyages. This resolution was approved
of by the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and the
necessary instruments for making a number of meteorological observations
were prepared. The balloon employed was that of Mr. Green, who was
accompanied in his ascents by Mr. Welsh. The greatest height to which
Mr. Welsh rose was on the fourth ascent which took place on the 10th of
November, 1852. The balloon rose 22,930 feet, and the lowest temperature
observed was 26 degrees below zero.

It is to Mr. Glaisher and Mr. Coxwell, however, that the highest
honours of scientific aerostation belong. The ascents made by these
gentlemen--Mr. Glaisher being the scientific observer, and Mr. Coxwell
the practical aeronaut--have become matters of history. Not only did
they, in the course of a large number of ascents undertaken under the
auspices of the British Association, succeed in gathering much valuable
meteorological information, but they reached a greater height than that
ever gained on any previous or subsequent occasion, and penetrated into
that distant region of the skies in which it has been satisfactorily
proved that no life can be long maintained. It was on the 5th of
September, 1862, that Mr. Glaisher and Mr. Coxwell made the famous
ascent in which they reached the greatest height ever attained by an
aeronaut, and were so nearly sacrificed to their unselfish daring. Mr.
Glaisher has given an admirable account of this ascent, which took place
from Wolverhampton. He says:--“Our ascent had been delayed, owing to the
unfavourable state of the weather. It commenced at three minutes past
one p.m., the temperature of the air being 59 degrees, and the dew-point
48 degrees. At the height of one mile the temperature was 41 degrees
and the dew-point 38 degrees. Shortly after wards clouds were entered
of about 1,100 feet in thickness. Upon emerging from them at seventeen
minutes past one, I tried to take a view of their surface with the
camera, but the balloon was ascending too rapidly and spiraling too
quickly to allow me to do so. The height of two miles was reached at
twenty-one minutes past one. The temperature of the air had fallen to
32 degrees and the dew-point to 26 degrees. The third mile was passed
at twenty-eight minutes past one, with an air temperature of 18 degrees,
and a dew-point of 13 degrees. The fourth mile was passed at thirty-nine
minutes past one, with an air temperature of 8 degrees, and a dew-point
of minus 6 degrees and the fifth mile about ten minutes later, with an
air temperature minus 5 degrees, and a dew-point minus 36 degrees.

“Up to this time I had experienced no particular inconvenience. When at
the height of 26,000 feet I could not see the fine column of the mercury
in the tube; then the fine divisions on the scale of the instrument
became invisible. At that time I asked Mr. Coxwell to help me to read
the instruments, as I experienced a difficulty in seeing them. In
consequence of the rotary motion of the balloon, which had continued
without ceasing since the earth was left, the valve line had become
twisted, and he had to leave the car, and to mount into the ring above
to adjust it. At that time I had no suspicion of other than temporary
inconvenience in seeing. Shortly afterwards I laid my arm upon the
table, possessed of its full vigour; but directly after, being
desirous of using it, I found it powerless. It must have lost its power
momentarily. I then tried to move the other arm, but found it powerless
also. I next tried to shake myself, and succeeded in shaking my body. I
seemed to have no legs. I could only shake my body. I then looked at the
barometer, and whilst I was doing so my head fell on my left shoulder. I
struggled, and shook my body again, but could not move my arms. I got
my head upright, but for an instant only, when it fell on my right
shoulder; and then I fell backwards, my back resting against the side of
the car, and my head on its edge. In that position my eyes were directed
towards Mr. Coxwell in the ring. When I shook my body I seemed to have
full power over the muscles of the back, and considerable power over
those of the neck, but none over my limbs. As in the case of the arms,
all muscular power was lost in an instant from my back and neck. I dimly
saw Mr. Coxwell in the ring, and endeavoured to speak, but could not
do so; when in an instant intense black darkness came over me, and the
optic nerve lost power suddenly. I was still conscious, with as active a
brain as whilst writing this. I thought I had been seized with asphyxia,
and that I should experience no more, as death would come unless we
speedily descended. Other thoughts were actively entering my mind when I
suddenly became unconscious, as though going to sleep. I could not
tell anything about the sense of hearing: the perfect stillness of the
regions six miles from the earth--and at that time we were between six
and seven miles high--is such that no sound reaches the ear. My last
observation was made at 29,000 feet, about fifty-four minutes past
one. I suppose two or three minutes elapsed between my eyes becoming
insensible to seeing the fine divisions and fifty-four minutes past one,
and that other two or three minutes elapsed before I became unconscious;
therefore I think that took place about fifty-six or fifty-seven
minutes past one. Whilst powerless I heard the words ‘temperature,’ and
‘observation,’ and I knew Mr. Coxwell was in the car, speaking to me,
and endeavouring to rouse me; and therefore consciousness and hearing
had returned. I then heard him speak more emphatically, but I could not
speak or move. Then I heard him say, ‘Do try; now do!’ Then I saw the
instruments dimly, next Mr. Coxwell, and very shortly I saw clearly. I
rose in my seat and looked round, as though waking from sleep, and said
to Mr. Coxwell, ‘I have been insensible.’ He said, ‘Yes; and I too, very
nearly.’ I then drew up my legs, which had been extended out before
me, and took a pencil in my hand to note my observations. Mr. Coxwell
informed me that he had lost the use of his hands, which were black, and
I poured brandy over them. I resumed my observations at seven minutes
past two. I suppose three or four minutes were occupied from the time of
my hearing the words ‘temperature’ and ‘observation,’ until I began to
observe. If so, then returning consciousness came at four minutes past
two, and that gives about seven minutes of total insensibility. Mr.
Coxwell told me that in coming from the ring he thought for a moment
that I had laid back to rest myself; that he spoke to me without
eliciting a reply; that he then noticed that my legs projected, and my
arms hung down by my side. That my countenance was serene and placid,
without earnestness or anxiety, he had noticed before going into the
ring. It then struck him that I was insensible. He wished then to
approach me, but could not, and he felt insensibility coming over
himself. He became anxious to open the valve, but, in consequence of
having lost the use of his hands, he could not; and ultimately he did
so by seizing the cord with his teeth and dipping his head two or three
times. No inconvenience followed our insensibility. When we dropped it
was in a country where no accommodation of any kind could be obtained,
so that we had to walk between seven and eight miles. At the time of
ceasing our observations the ascent was at the rate of 1,000 feet per
minute, and on resuming observations the descent was at the rate of
2,000 feet per minute. These two positions must be connected, having
relation to the interval of time which elapsed between them; and they
can scarcely be connected at a point less than 36,000 or 37,000 feet
high. Again, a very delicate minimum thermometer was found to read
minus 12 degrees, and that reading would indicate an elevation exceeding
36,000 feet. There cannot be any doubt that the balloon attained the
great height of seven miles--the greatest ever reached. In this ascent
six pigeons were taken up. One was thrown out at three miles. It
extended its wings, and dropped like a piece of paper. A second at four
miles, and it flew with vigour. A third between four and five miles, and
it fell downwards. A fourth was thrown out at four miles in descending,
and it alighted on the top of the balloon. Two were brought to the
ground. One was dead, and the other was ill, but recovered so as to fly
away in a quarter of an hour.”

The results gathered by Mr. Glaisher from his numerous ascents are very
interesting. He found that in no instance did the temperature of the air
decrease uniformly with the increase of height. In fact, the decrease
in the first mile is double that in the second, and nearly four times as
great as the change of temperature in the fifth mile. The distribution
of aqueous vapour in the air is no less remarkable. The temperature
of the dew-point on leaving the earth decreases less rapidly than
the temperature of the air; so that the difference between the two
temperatures becomes less and less, till the vapour or cloud plane is
reached, when they are usually together, and always most nearly approach
each other, and that point is usually at about the height of one mile.
On leaving the upper surface of cloud, the dew point decreases more
rapidly than the air, and at extremely high situations the difference
between the two temperatures is wonderfully great, indicating an
extraordinary degree of dryness, and an almost entire absence of water.
Under these circumstances, the presence of cirrus clouds far above this
dry region, apparently as much above as when viewed from the earth, is
very remarkable, and leads to the conclusion that they are not composed
of water.

In the propagation of sound, M. Glaisher made many curious experiments.
In one ascent (July 17th) he found, when at a distance of 11,800 feet
above the earth, that a band was heard; at a height of 22,000 feet, a
clap of thunder was heard; and at a height of 10,070 feet, the report of
a gun was heard. On one occasion, he heard the dull hum of London at
a height of 9,000 feet above the city, and on another occasion, the
shouting of many thousands of persons could not be heard at the height
of 4,000 feet.

Chapter IV. Balloons Made Useful in Warfare.

     Wars of the French Republic--Company of “Ballooneers”--
     Battle of Fleurus--The Balloons of Egypt--Napoleon--Modern
     Services War in Italy--War in America--Conclusion.

We will conclude our work with a glance at aerostation as applied to
warfare. Scarcely had the first ascents astonished the world, than the
more adventurous spirits began to use the new discovery for a thousand
purposes directly useful to man. The first point of view in which
aerostation was regarded, was in that of its practical utility If one
refers to the pre-occupations of the time--to the great events then
occurring in the history of France, one will easily understand that the
Committee of Public Safety soon thought of employing balloons in the
observation of the forces and the movements of hostile troops. In
1794, the idea was practically carried out, and the French armies were
provided with two companies of aeronauts. The command of one of these
companies was given to Captain Coutelle, a young physicist of great
talent, who rendered memorable services at the battle of Fleurus. The
balloons were not thrown free, but were retained attached by means
of long cords. In this way they took up, so to speak, aerial posts of
observation. Placed in his car, the captain transmitted his instructions
to his men below by means of coloured flags. Coutelle has left us a
lively narrative of certain incidents connected with one of the grand
days of the old Republic. He had been commissioned by the Committee of
Public Safety to go to Maubeuge, where Jourdan’s army was encamped,
and to offer him the use of his balloon. The representative to whom the
young doctor presented his commission, knew nothing about balloons,
and not being able to understand the order of the Committee of Public
Safety, it suddenly dawned upon him that Coutelle, with his trumpery
forgery about balloons, was nothing else than a spy, and he was about to
have him shot. The genuineness of the order from the Committee, however,
was proved, and Coutelle’s case was listened to.

“The army was at Beaumont,” says Coutelle, “and the enemy, placed at a
distance of only three miles, could attack at any moment. The general
told me this fact, and engaged me to return and communicate it to the
Committee. This I did. The Commission then felt the necessity of making
an experiment with a balloon that could raise two persons, and the
minister placed at my service the garden and the little mansion of
Meudon. Many of the members of the Commission came to witness the first
ascent of a balloon held in hand, like a kite, by means of two cords.
The Commissioners ordered me to place myself in the car, and instructed
me as to a number of signals which I must repeat, and observations which
I must make. I raised myself to the full length of the cord, a height
of 1,500 feet, and at this height, with the help of a glass, I could
distinctly see the seven bends of the river Seine. On returning to the
earth, I received the compliments of the Commission.

“Arrived at Maubeuge, my first care was to find a suitable spot to erect
my furnace, and to make every preparation for the arrival of my balloon
from Meudon. Each day my observations contained something new either in
the works which the Austrians had thrown up during the night, or in the
arrangement of their forces. On the fifth day a piece of cannon had been
brought to bear upon the balloon, and shots were fired at me as soon as
I appeared above the ramparts. None of the shots took effect, and on the
following day the piece was no longer in position. Experience enforced
upon me the necessity of forming some provision against these unexpected
attacks. I employed the night in fixing cords all round the middle of my
balloon. Each of the aerostiers had charge of one of the ropes, and
by means of them I could easily move about, and thus get myself out
of range of any gun that had been trained to bear against me. I was
afterwards ordered to make a reconnaissance at Mayence, and I posted
myself between our lines and the enemy at half range of cannon. When the
wind, which was tempestuous at first, became calmer, I was able to count
the number of cannon on the ramparts, as well as the troops that marched
through the streets and in the squares.

“Generally the soldiers of the enemy, all who saw the observer watching
them and taking notes, came to the idea that they could do nothing
without being seen. Our soldiers were of the same opinion, and
consequently they regarded us with great admiration and trust. On the
heavy marches they brought us prepared food and wine, which my men were
hardly able to get for themselves, so closely did they require to attend
to the ropes. We were encamped upon the banks of the Rhine at Manheim
when our general sent me to the opposite bank to parley. As soon as the
Austrian officers were made aware that I commanded the balloon, I was
overwhelmed with questions and compliments.

“What causes an impression which, till one is accustomed to it, is very
alarming, is the noise which the balloon makes when it is struck by
successive gales of wind. When the wind has passed, the balloon, which
has been pressed into a concave form by the wind, suddenly resumes its
globular form with a loud noise heard at a great distance. The silk of
the balloon would often burst in a case of this kind, were it not for
the restraining power of the network.”

After the days of Coutelle we do not read that balloons were made much
use of in warfare. The only ascent in the Egypt campaign was that of
a tricolor balloon thrown up to commemorate a fete. That Napoleon knew
full well the value of the scientific discoveries of his time is clear
from the following conversation with a learned Mohammedan, which took
place in the great pyramid of Cheops:--

Mussamed. “Noble successor of Alexander, honour to shine invincible
arms, and to the unexpected lightning with which your warriors are

Bonaparte. “Do you believe that that lightning is the work of the
children of men? Allah has placed it in our hands by means of the genius
of war.”

Mussamed. “We recognised by your arms that it is Allah that has sent
you--the Delta and all the neighbouring countries are full of thy
miracles. But would you be a conqueror if Allah did not permit you?”

Bonaparte. “A celestial body will point by my orders to the dwelling of
the clouds, and lightning will descend towards the earth, along a rod of
metal from which I can call it forth.”

Napoleon did not favour the use of balloons in war. Perhaps it was
because he himself had such a splendid genius for war that he depended
alone upon himself, and scorned assistance. Perhaps it was because if
balloons were discovered to be of real utility, his enemies might make
use of them as well as himself, and France retain no special advantage
in them. But however this may be, on his return from Egypt he sold
the balloon of Fleurus to Robertson. The company of ballooneers was
dissolved, and the balloons themselves disappeared in smoke.

During the war in America, the role which the balloon played was a more
important one. The Government of the United States conferred the title
of aeronautic engineer upon Mr. Allan, of Rhode Island, who originated
the idea of communicating by a telegraphic wire from the balloon to
the camp. The first telegraphic message which was transmitted from
the aerial regions is that of Professor Love, at Washington, to the
President of the United States. The following is this despatch:--

“WASHINGTON, Balloon the ‘Enterprise.’

“SIR,--The point of observation commands an extent of nearly fifty miles
in diameter. The city, with its girdle of encampments, presents a superb
scene. I have great pleasure in sending you this despatch--the first
that has been telegraphed from an aerial station--and to know that I
should be so much encouraged, from having given the first proof that the
aeronautic science can render great assistance in these countries.”

In the month of September, 1861, one of the most hardy aeronauts (La
Mountain) furnished important information to General M’Clellan. The
balloon of La Mountain, which arose from the northern camp upon the
Potomac, passed above Washington. La Mountain then cut the cord that
connected his balloon with the earth, and rising rapidly to the height
of a mile and a half, he found himself directly above his enemies’
lines. There he was able to observe perfectly their position and their
movements. He then threw over ballast, and ascended to the height of
three miles. At this height he encountered a current which carried him
in the direction of Maryland, where he descended in safety. General
M’Clellan was so much satisfied with the observations taken in the
balloon, that, at his request, the order was given to the War Department
to construct four new balloons.

If this volume of “The Library of Wonders” had not had for its single
object “balloons and their history,” we would have devoted a chapter
to the numerous attempts made to steer balloons. We shall only say here
that aerial navigation should be divided into two kinds with balloons,
and without balloons. In the first case, it is limited to the study of
aerial currents, and to the art of rising to those currents which suit
the direction of the voyage undertaken. The balloon is not the master
of the atmosphere; on the contrary, it is its powerless slave. In the
second case, the discovery of Montgolfier is useless; and the question
is, to find out a new machine capable of flying in the air, and at
the same time heavier than the air. Birds are, without doubt, the best
models to study. But with what force shall we replace LIFE? The air-boat
of M. Pline seems to us one of the best ideas; but the working of it
presents many difficulties. Let us find a motive power at once light
and powerful (aluminium and electricity, for example), and we will have
definitively conquered the empire of the air.

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 - A History of Balloons and Balloon Voyages" ***

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