The Dominion of the Air
J. M. Bacon

Part 3 out of 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Following this is another significant sentence:--

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The courageous resolve of the great man caused much sensation
in Paris, the more so because, owing to contrary winds, the
departure had to be postponed from day to day. And when, at
length, on October 7th, Gambetta and his secretary, with the


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