The Dominion of the Air
J. M. Bacon

Part 4 out of 5

aeronaut Trichet, actually got away, in company with another
balloon, they were vigorously fired at with shot and shell
before they had cleared St. Denis. Farther out over the German
posts they were again under fire, and escaped by discharging
ballast, not, however, before Gambetta had been grazed by a
bullet. Yet once more they were assailed by German volleys
before, about 3 p.m., they found a haven near Montdidier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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