The Baldwin Library
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DROPPED FROM THE SKY.
[See page 107,
'THE DARING DEEDS" LIBRARY, "THE HEROINES' LIBRARY,
THE SUNDAY SCHOOL UNION
57 AND 59 LUDGATE HILL, E.C.
IN the following pages will be found brief narratives
of some of the more famous incidents and exciting
episodes which mark the history of ballooning. No
attempt has been made at a consecutive account of
the progress of aerostation, and as far as possible no
technical terms have been used, except those which
were found to be absolutely essential to exactness
in description. In the choice of incidents I have been
chiefly guided by the presence of adventure, and by
the relative importance of the incident to the subject
as a whole.
I. THE FIRST BALLOONS 11
II. EARLY ASCENTS 18
III. THE FIRST ASCENT IN ENGLAND 26
IV. ACROSS THE CHANNEL 34
V. FLOOD AND FIRE 41
VI. THE FATHER OF MODERN BALLOONING 47
VII. OVER THE ALPS 62
VIII. STRANGE ADVENTURES 66
IX. SEVEN MILES HIGH 80
X. A TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE 89
XI. TWIXTT SEA AND SKY 99
XII. DROPS FROM CLOUDLAND 108
XIII. TRAGIC ADVENTURES '. 118
XIV. WHICH WAY DOES THE WIND ,BLOW 129
XV. BURNABY'S TRAVELS IN THE AIR. 135
XVI. WITH ANDRE ACROSS THE BALTIC 149
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
DROPPED FROM THE SKY rontisiece
THE BROTHERS MONTGOLFIER 13
CHARLES'S BALLOON ON ITS WAY TO THE CHAMP DE hMAIS 15
OSIER'S BALLOON 20
M. BLANCHARD' 35
BLANCHARD'S BALLOON 38
DEATH OF AN AERONAUT 51
A TERRIBLE MOMENT 69
MESSRS. GLAISHER AND COXWELL IN THEIR BALLOON. 81
THE "ZENITH'I SHOT UPWARDS 85
THE "GANT" 91
THE WRECK OF THE "G]EANT 95
"WE FOUND OURSELVES IN THICK CLOUDS" 125
COLONEL BURINABY STARTING ON HIS TRIP 137
DEPARTURE OF THE "EAGLE" 155
THE FIRST BALLOONS.
"Oh, what a dainty pleasure 'tis
To sail in the air I"
I1-1HO first navigated the air ? is a question
Which it is by no means easy to
answer. The desire to partake of
this dainty pleasure" seems to have
taken a strong hold upon the human mind at a very
remote period, as shown by the story of Daedalus, the
celebrated Grecian sculptor and architect. While
imprisoned in Crete he made wings for himself and
his son Icarus, with which to fly across the sea. He
is said to have accomplished the flight in safety; but
Icarus flew too near the sun, the heat of which melted
12 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
the wax with which his wings were fastened on, and
he fell headlong into the .Egean Sea.
In subsequent ages, the idea of flying was the basis
of all attempts to make a passage through the air.
Men thought that by elongating their arms with a
broad mechanical covering, they could convert them
into wings, and fly like birds; but they forgot that
birds possess air cells which they can inflate, that
their bones are full of air instead of marrow, and in
their ignorance they launched themselves from towers
and other high places, and came crashing to the earth.
Some paid the penalty of death for their wild and
daring adventure; others, like the Monk of Malmesbury,
of whom Milton tells, lived to attribute their failure
entirely to their having forgotten to put on a broad
tail of feathers.
To the brothers Stephen and Joseph Montgolfier
belongs the honour of having solved the problem of
aerial navigation. They were paper-makers by trade,
and in their experiments naturally fixed upon paper
as the most suitable material for making balloons.
After many trials, they at length succeeded in 1783
in raising a balloon, thirty-five feet in diameter, to a
height of fifteen hundred feet. It was nearly spherical
in shape, and was made of linen cloth covered with
paper. The gas which caused the balloon to ascend
THE FIRST BALLOONS 13
was made by burning .moist straw and wool on an iron
brazier, placed beneath the opening.
The news of this marvellous achievement spread
quickly throughout France, and so great was the
excitement that a subscription was raised in Paris to
,, r- ', ,
THE BROTHERS MONTGOLFIER.
construct a "Montgolfiere," as the first balloon was
called. There lived at this time in the French capital
a young scientist named Professor Charles, and he
determined to share the glory and wealth which
seemed likely to fall to the share of the Montgolfiers.
r4 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
He accordingly constructed a spherical balloon of
varnished silk which he inflated with hydrogen gas.
On the 27th of August 1783 it ascended from the
Champs de Mars in the presence of three hundred
thousand spectators. About an hour later it fell in a
field at Gonesse, about fifteen miles off.
The consternation which its descent caused is thus
"It is supposed by many to have come from
another world; many fly, others, more sensible, think
it is a monstrous bird. After it has alighted, there is
still motion in it from the gas it still contains. A
small crowd gains courage from numbers, and for an
hour approaches by gradual steps, hoping meanwhile
the monster will take flight. At length, one bolder
than the rest takes his gun, stalks carefully to within
shot, fires, witnesses the monster shrink, gives a
shout of triumph, and the crowd rushes in with
flails and pitchforks. One tears what he thinks
to be the skin, and causes a poisonous stench;
again all retire. Shame, no doubt, now urges them
on, and they tie the cause of alarm to a horse's
tail, who gallops across the country, tearing it to
Absurd as it seems to us, the Government caused
a proclamation to be sent throughout the country
CHARLES'S BALLOON ON ITS WAY TO TIH CHAMP BE MARS.
_-.~_ --u;~~nar*oTPW~E ~~ C .~ I)~laa~c~e~lgy~gif~g
THE FIRST BALLOONS
explaining to the inhabitants the nature of balloons,
and begging them not to be alarmed.
In the following month, Montgolfier exhibited his
fire-balloon before the king at Versailles. The per-
formance was but a qualified success. The balloon
descended only two miles away, and was much slower
in its motions than that of Charles. The ascent,
however, had a certain scientific value. The great
discussion of the time was whether it would be
possible to breathe at a certain distance from the
earth. Montgolfier accordingly sent up a sheep, a
cock, and a duck in a cage attached to his balloon.
They came down in safety, and without having
sustained any injury on the voyage. These were
the first aerial travellers.
The balloon, or large ball," was now an accomplished
fact, and serious discussion followed as to whether it
could be adapted for service as an air-ship for bearing
men aloft as passengers. How this was done, and the
subsequent advances in the adventurous science of
aerostation, we propose to show in the following pages.
[ T iT is remarkable that the man who was
gifted with the ingenuity to make the
first balloon had not the daring to
trust his life to his own invention, and
the honour of being the first in the long list of
adventurers in the air fell to a stranger. The man
whose name was thus destined to be famous was
Pilatre de Rosier, a professor in the French Museum.
He made the acquaintance of Montgolfier, and
suggested to him what was at that time a most
daring project-to attach himself underneath one of
the fire-balloons. Seeing in this a means to gain the
popularity which Charles had deprived him of, Mont-
golfier gladly consented, and preparations were set on
foot forf the sensational performance.
For this experiment Montgolfier constructed a
special balloon, forty-six feet in circumference, and
sixty-six feet high. It was richly decorated with
drawings of eagles and wreaths. From it was
suspended a circular gallery by a multitude of cords.
In the middle of the lower opening of the balloon a
kind of grate was suspended. In this were placed
straw and rags moistened with spirits of wine.
The details of the first attempt, though insignificant
in comparison with what has since been accomplished
are not without interest. The MontgolfiBre, we are
told, ascended as high as the ropes-purposely placed
to detain it-would allow, which was about eighty-
four feet from the ground. He remained at this
altitude for four minutes and twenty-five seconds, by
throwing straw and cloth into the grate, and setting
them on fire before the eyes of the dismayed spectators.
When "the intrepid adventurer returned from the
sky," the experiment was pronounced to have been a
Pilatre was by no means satisfied with his ex-
perience, and boldly announced his intention of
making a proper aerial voyage, in a free balloon.
Accordingly, on the 21st of November 1783, an
ascent was made from the Bois de Boulogne.
Pilatre was on this occasion accompanied by the
Marquis d'Arlandes, who afterwards wrote an account
of the first journey attempted by man through an
20 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
element which, previous to Montgolfier's discovery,
seemed but little fitted to support him."
The balloon rose majestically to the height of about
three hundred feet over Paris; but it would speedily
have descended had not the fire been constantly fed
with straw. -As they were sailing over the city, the
.. --- -7- --
with straw. As they were sailing over the city, the
aeronauts were startled by a loud report, and on
looking up to see what had caused the noise, they
were horrified to find that the balloon was on fire.
"I saw," says the marquis, that the part turned
towards the south was full of holes, some of which
were of a considerable size. At the same time, I
took my sponge and quietly extinguished the little
fire that was burning some of the holes within my
reach; but at the same moment I noticed that the
bottom of the cloth was coming away from the circle
which surrounded it.''
In spite of the insecure state of their machine, the
two daring travellers kept on their way till they
reached the outskirts of the city, when they descended
in safety. They had been among the clouds for
twenty-five minutes. Thus ended the first trip in a
But the year 1783, so fertile in the history of
ballooning, did not pass away without witnessing- a
more wonderful performance. Pilatre's ascent had
restored the Montgolfiers to the height of popularity,
and Professor Charles and his balloon were moment-
arily forgotten. He therefore made up his mind to
outshine his rivals, and set to work to prepare a
sensation for the people of Paris.
He constructed a balloon of alternate strips of red
and yellow silk, coated with indiarubber varnish.
The car was of basket-work, covered with cloth
painted in blue and gold, trimmed with tassels of
gold and cords of silk, and was suspended from a net
22 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
which covered the upper part of the balloon. A
valve was fitted at the top and worked by a cord from
below to allow the gas to escape when it became
necessary to descend, and ballast was carried in the
form of sand-bags. A barometer fastened to the car
completed the outfit of this the first complete aerial
machine. So detailed were the arrangements in the
Charlibre, as the hydrogen balloon was called, that
for a hundred years no essential change or improve-
ment took place on Professor Charles's invention.
On the 1st of December, Charles made an ascent
from the gardens of the Tuilleries, accompanied by a
friend named Robert. The balloon rose very gently
in a horizontal direction and quickly reached an
elevation of eighteen hundred feet.
Then the wind carried them towards Nesles.
Throughout the voyage, which occupied two hours,
the temperature was agreeable, and the aeronauts
had not the slightest apprehension for their safety.
"Finally," says Charles, "we arrived at the plain of
Nesles, twenty-seven miles from Paris, and prepared
to descend towards a vast meadow. Some trees and
shrubs stood round its border, and, fearing that their
branches might damage the car, I threw over two
pounds of ballast. We rose again, and ran along
more than a hundred yards at the distance of one or
two feet from the ground, so that we had the appear-
ance of travelling in a sledge. The peasants ran
after us without being able to catch us, like children
pursuing a butterfly in the fields. At last we stopped
and were instantly surrounded. Nothing could equal
the simple and tender regard of these country folk,
their admiration and their lively emotion."
The aeronauts alighted from the car to receive the
congratulations of those who hurried to the spot.
There was still a large quantity of gas in the balloon,
and Charles in the wild delight of success took it
into his head to ascend alone. He stepped into the
car, and ordered the peasants to let go their hold.
The balloon shot up into the air with lightning
rapidity, for he had forgotten to take in ballast to
compensate for the weight of his friend.
"I passed in ten seconds," he says, "from the
temperature of spring to that of winter. The cold
was keen and dry, but not insupportable. I examined
all my sensations calmly; I could hear myself live, so
to speak, and I am certain that at first I experienced
nothing disagreeable in this sudden passage from one
temperature to another."
Soon, however, he began to experience the intense
cold. His fingers became numbed, and he was
conscious of violent pains in his ears and face
24 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
"After being twenty-five minutes in the air, I began
to descend, and on arriving at twenty-three fathoms
from the earth, I suddenly threw over two or three
pounds of ballast, which I had carefully kept for this
purpose. I then slowly descended upon the ground
which I had, so to speak, chosen."
It is probable that in this ascent Charles reached
a height of four thousand yards, or rather more than
two miles, a height which, without being dangerous,
is quite sufficient to cause the aeronaut strange
feelings, especially if he has travelled at the speed of
an express train "rushing from the earth to the moon
and stopping at the first station." Strange to say,
Charles never again trusted himself in a balloon, and
for the remainder of his days rested contentedly on
the laurels he had won.
Far different was it with the intrepid Pilatre de
Rosier. In the following year he made an ascent
in a MontgolfiBre from Versailles, and alighted at
Compiegne, forty miles away. This was the longest
journey ever performed in a fire-balloon. During
this trip, he reached a height of 11,732 feet above
the earth. "We perceived beneath us only enormous
masses of snow, which, reflecting the sunshine, filled
the firmament with glorious light."
But Pilatre was more a man of science than an
adventurer, and he longed to devote his talent to some
other account than that of mere theatrical display.
By combining the CharliBre and the MontgolfiBre he
hoped to be able to take advantage of whichever
current of air would carry him to a fixed destination.
His idea was that the hydrogen balloon could support
the fire-balloon, while the latter with a small quantity
of fuel could cause an ascent or descent at will.
On the 15th of July 1785, Rosier ascended in his
aero-Montgolfiere, a fire-balloon ten feet in diameter
suspended from an air-balloon thirty-seven feet in
diameter. After being up for about half an hour, and.
when at a height of about three thousand feet, the
balloon exploded. The unfortunate aeronaut was
precipitated to the ground, a mangled mass. Thus
perished the first martyr to the science of ballooning,
and by a strange coincidence, he was the first mortal
to navigate the air."
THE FIRST ASCENT IN ENGLAND.
HE Chevalier Vincent Lunardi, a young
SItalian, is distinguished as the "first
i aerial traveller in the English atmo-
sphere." He made his famous voyage
on the 15th of September 1784. He was at this
time secretary to the Neapolitan Ambassador, and,
fired by an ambition to accomplish in England what
had already been done in France, he applied to Sir
George Howard, the governor of Chelsea Hospital,
for permission to launch his balloon from the grounds
of that institution, as from the altar of humanity to
ascend the skies."
He did not possess sufficient money to construct a
balloon, and in order to raise the necessary funds, he
proposed that each subscriber of one guinea should be
allowed to view the construction of his wonderful
machine on four different occasions, besides having a
THE FIRST ASCENT IN ENGLAND
chair near the globe on the day of ascending. Half
a guinea entitled the subscriber to view the con-
struction twice and to a seat on a bench near the
chairs. After all expenses had been paid, he further
suggested that the balance of the money obtained
should be divided among the pensioners at the
Hospital. The matter was submitted to King George
the Third, and he graciously gave permission for the
use of the grounds.
For a time all went well. Lunardi obtained the
support of several of the leading men of the day,
including Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal
Society. In the enthusiasm of the moment, Lunardi
wrote to a friend: "England is open to all the world,
either in war or peace; and a man of talent, whether
liberal or mechanic, cannot fail of support and
encouragement in proportion to his merits. When
once a circumstance in the situation or character of
a stranger has. attracted the attention of an
Englishman, and he has declared himself his protector
and friend, a reliance may be had on his sincerity,
and the friendship is permanent in duration as it is
slow in growth."
Shortly afterwards, however, he describes himself
as being overwhelmed with "anxiety, vexation, and
despair." A Frenchman named Moret had advertised
28 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
an ascent, and about sixty thousand people assembled
to witness it. They patiently waited for four hours
for the filling and ascension of the balloon; but in
spite of every attempt the globe absolutely refused to
rise. In their disappointment the people imagined
the whole affair to be an imposture, and they rushed
in and tore the balloon to pieces.
This unfortunate accident seriously affected
Lunardi's prospects. He too was a foreigner, and
was consequently regarded as a colleague of Moret,
and therefore an impostor. Fearing the consequences
of failure, the permission which had been given him
to use Chelsea Gardens was withdrawn. Nor could
he obtain leave to make an ascent from private
grounds, and it seemed as if the venture in the
meantime must be given up.
Though sorely disheartened, he continued his
attempts to obtain a site, and some idea of his tenacity
of purpose may be had from the fact that he declared
that, rather than be beaten, he would launch his
balloon from the street. At length the grounds of
the Honourable Artillery Company were placed at
his disposal, and he hurried on his preparations with
all possible speed.
On the appointed day a hundred and fifty thousand
spectators assembled to witness the great marvel.
THE FIRST ASCENT IN ENGLAND
The Prince of Wales was present, and watched the
filling of the balloon with the greatest interest, all
the time asking many questions and expressing
concern for the safety of the aeronaut. The
catastrophe which Lunardi had all along dreaded,
namely, that of some hitch in the proceedings which
might arouse popular indignation, was very nearly
The process by which the balloon was filled with
hydrogen gas was slow and elaborate, and at the time
fixed for the start the balloon was not half inflated.
For some considerable time the crowd waited
patiently, but then they became indignant at the
delay. Fearing to provoke the impatient and
impetuous people, Lunardi decided to ascend, though
the inflation,was not completed.
His balloon was made of oiled silk in alternate
strips of blue and red, and measured a hundred feet
in circumference. The car was simply a platform
surrounded by a railing about four feet high. The
balloon was provided with wings and oars; the wings
to give it motion, if becalmed, by agitating the air,
and the oars to raise or lower it at ,will, without
having to use the valve.
He took with him in the car a pigeon, a dog, and
a cat. At two o'clock the last cord which bound him
30 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
to earth was severed, and the balloon rose gracefully
from the Artillery Ground, amid the most unfeigned
acclamations and applause. The multitude were
more than satisfied, and passed at once from
incredulity and menace to the most extravagant
expressions of approbation and joy." Even among
those who did not witness the actual ascent, the
utmost enthusiasm prevailed. It is even stated that
the king, who was in conference with his ministers
when the balloon was reported to be passing, broke
up the council with the remark that they could
resume their deliberation later, but that they might
never have another chance of seeing Lunardi.
Shortly after having started, the pigeon escaped, and
one of the oars broke and fell to the ground. A
young lady who saw the oar fall thought it was the
body of the aeronaut, and was so affected that she died
the following day.
Lunardi describes his sensations with graphic
detail, and it is interesting to note that they are
exactly similar to those experienced by all aerial
travellers, .who naturally expect some extraordinary
sensation in rising from the earth. The ascending
motion was, however, altogether imperceptible, and
instead of the balloon going up, he felt as if the earth
had, by some unaccountable effort of nature, been
THE FIRST ASCENT IN ENGLAND
suddenly precipitated from its hold, and was gradually
sinking into the depths of some mighty abyss
As the earth gradually receded, the objects on it
became less and less, but as they diminished in size
they became more distinct and defined. The streets
appeared as lines all animated with dots, which were
really men and women. The great metropolis itself
appeared like a table set out with toys-baby houses,
pepper castors, extinguishers, with here and there a
dish-cover-things which are called domes and spires
and steeples. The Thames appeared as a small
winding rivulet; while the largest vessels were no
more than flat, pale decks, like pieces of driftwood on
Enraptured with the prospect, Lunardi wrote: "It
seemed as if I had left below all the cares and
passions which molest mankind. I had not the
slightest sense of motion in the machine. I knew
not whether it went, swiftly or slowly, whether it
ascended or descended, whether it was agitated or
tranquil; but by the appearance or disappearance of
objects on earth."
Shortly after three o'clock the balloon descended
in a cornfield on the common of South Mimms.
Here he landed the cat, as the poor animal had
32 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
suffered severely from cold. Having witnessed his
descent, some people came to his assistance; but,
wishing to obtain a second triumph, he ordered them
to stand clear. Then throwing out all his provisions
and ballast, he made a second ascent. He rose very
rapidly, and in a few minutes the car was fringed
"Floating clouds filled up all the space beneath.
Lovely colours outspread themselves, ever varying in
tone and form,-now sweeping in broad lines, now
rolling and heaving in huge, richly, yet softly tinted
billows,-while sometimes through a great opening,
rift, or break appeared a level expanse of grey or
blue fields at an infinite depth below. And all this
time there fell a noiseless cataract of snowy cloud-
rocks, falling swiftly on all sides of the car in great
fleecy masses, in small snow-white and glistening
fragments-all white and soft and swiftly rushing
past giddily and incessantly; down, down, and with
all the silence of a dream, strange, lustrous, majestic,
On this ascent Lunardi obtained his highest
elevation, and at twenty minutes past four descended
in a meadow near Ware in Hertfordshire. He called
on some labourers who were at work in a field to help
him to descend, but they were too much terrified to
THE FIRST ASCENT IN ENGLAND 33
do anything but stare at him open-mouthed. At
length a young woman took hold of one of the cords
which he had thrown out and called on the -men to
assist her. They had by this time got over their
astonishment and assisted to drag the balloon to the
The aeronaut was then taken to the house of Mr.
Baker, the member of Parliament for Hertford, who
treated him with frank and generous hospitality."
The voyage had terminated favourably, but Lunardi
had to pay the penalty of his success, in a severe fit
of sickness brought on by the reaction after the weeks,
of suspense, contempt, and fatigue which he had
undergone. When he recovered he was the star of
the hour." He was everywhere received with
applause, respect, and friendship. The Prince of
Wales presented him with a handsome watch, and he
was received at court by the king, who expressed a
warm interest in his adventures and personal safety.
Lunardi made several successful ascents after this
in different parts of the kingdom, and at a subsequent
period in Italy. The favourite of kings and princes,
however, died at Genoa in 1806 in a state of great
ACROSS THE CHANNEL.
IOWAPDS the close of the year 1784, the
inhabitants of the ancient port of Dover
S were in a state of great excitement, for
it was whispered about that an attempt
was to be made to cross from Dover to France by
balloon. At this time it was the chief ambition of
French aeronauts to achieve the first passage across
the Channel, and the remembrance of Lunardi's
ascent was. still fresh in men's minds, so that the
preparations for the daring undertaking were watched
by the townsfolk with more than usual interest.
In the courtyard of Dover Castle, a wooden staging
was erected to support the balloon, and arrangements
were,made for starting on the 1st of January 1785.
A few days before this date, the celebrated French
aeronaut. Blanchard, arrived to complete his prepara-
tions. He was accompanied by an American doctor
ACROSS THE CHANNEL
named Jeffries, who provided all the necessary funds,
in return for a seat in the car.
Blanchard was very anxious to make the ascent
alone, but the doctor was determined to accompany
him, even in spite of the clause which the aeronaut
introduced into their agreement in the hope of shaking
off the persistent medico. By it Jeffries bound him-
self, on his word of honour as a gentleman and an
officer, to jump out of the car the moment his further
36 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
presence and weight should jeopardise the success of
the venture and imperil Blanchard's life.
On the date fixed for the ascent, the wind was
blowing steadily from the east. It was therefore
impossible to start, and it was not until the 7th of
January that a favourable breeze was obtained. Then
Blanchard announced to the mayor of Dover that it
was his intention to start. In order to give notice to
the inhabitants, the governor of the castle ordered
three cannons to be fired at half-past eight in the
morning, and the whole population of Dover, together
with a great number of strangers, crowded down to
the beach in the greatest expectancy.
At ten o'clock the aeronauts made their final
preparations by testing the strength of the netting,
and the safe condition of the balloon itself. In the
car were nine little bags filled with sand, a barometer,
a thermometer, a compass, some provisions, and two
magnificent flags emblazoned with the arms of England
Three hours later, Blanchard and Jeffries entered
the car. They were dressed alike, "in a sort of
brown woollen slop, waistcoat of the same material,
knitted drawers covering the feet, and tight ankle
boots. They both wore leather gloves and a scarlet
woollen comforter twisted several times round their
ACROSS THE CHANNEL
necks. Blanchard had a cap of light grey plush,
covering his ears, Jeffries a thick sailor's cap. He
also wore a light girdle of silk, to which were fastened
his watch and his handkerchief, and beneath which
the form of his favourite snuff-box was evidently
At a quarter-past one the balloon was released
from its fastenings; but the weight of the car proved
too great, and it slowly sank instead of ascending.
By throwing overboard nearly all the ballast, however,
it rose gently, and drifted over the Channel, followed
by the cheers of the assembled spectators. The
crowd gazed after the balloon till it appeared as a
mere speck in the heavens, while those who were the
happy possessors of telescopes were eagerly questioned
as to what was going on. Suddenly the balloon
descended as it were into the sea, and when this was
made known, a cry of horror-arose; but it soon was
seen ascending, and shortly afterwards it quite dis-
appeared from view.
We will now accompany the aeronauts in their
adventurous flight across the Channel. For a time
all went well, and they greatly enjoyed the consterna-
tion which their appearance caused among the crews
of several vessels over which they passed. When
about a third of the journey was accomplished, they
38 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
found that they were rapidly descending, and at
once threw out the remainder of the ballast. The
advantage gained was but momentary, for shortly
afterwards the rising of the mercury in their
barometer denoted that they were again descending.
Again they lightened the car by throwing out their
books and provisions. The French coast was now in
sight, and success was well within their reach; but
again the balloon approached perilously near the
ACROSS THE CHANNEL
water. Hastily everything that remained in the car
was thrown out, and when this did not prove enough,
the aeronauts stripped themselves of all but their
most necessary garments. Then the balloon slowly
We can readily imagine the feelings which were
uppermost in Jeffries' mind at this moment. The
question "What shall be dispensed with next ?" must
have caused him to shudder. Fortunately he was not
called upon to sacrifice himself, for the balloon rose
rapidly, and exactly two hours from the time of
starting, passed over the high ground between Cape
Blanc Nez and Calais, and it is remarkable that the
balloon at this time rose very fast, so that it made a
In passing over the forest of Guines, the two
adventurers descended as low as the tops of the trees
and Dr. Jeffries seized hold of one of the uppermost
branches and brought the balloon to a standstill.
The great machine then became fast between a couple
of oaks, and the aeronauts got out of their car by the
aid of the branches. When they reached terra firm
their feelings seem quite to have overcome them, for,
we read, "they fell on each others' necks." They
were in a state of excitement closely bordering on
madness. After they had embraced one another,
40 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
Jeffries shouted out, Oh, look, look! you have how,
standing before you the two most celebrated men in
all France or England." And Blanchard added, Yes,
indeed, the most celebrated men in the whole world."
Their only audience was the trees.
Meanwhile two little boys who had witnessed the
descent ran off and aroused the inhabitants of the
village, who now came flocking to render assistance to
the daring men, and offer them hospitality, which was
very welcome, for both Blanchard and his companion
were suffering severely from cold and hunger. When
they were sufficiently refreshed they proceeded to
Calais, where they were welcomed as heroes. Every
honour, even to the freedom of the city, was conferred
on Blanchard. The King of France commanded him
to appear at court, and His Majesty awarded him a
pension of fifty pounds.
FLOOD AND FIRE.
\ NE of the most remarkable figures in
*' 'J the story of balloon experiment and
adventure is Count Zambeccari of
Bologna. A sailor by profession, he
fell into the hands of the Turks in 1787, and was
kept a close prisoner in the Bagnio at Constantinople
for three years. He had already made several un-
eventful voyages in the clouds, and during his long
captivity, he dreamed of means of guiding himself
once more upon the waves of air. His idea was
that by burning oil or spirits of wine under an
inverted parachute, a balloon could be made to
ascend ten times higher and ten times more rapidly
than by the simple method of throwing sand over-
Accordingly, when he regained his liberty, he
hastened to England in the hope of obtaining the
42 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
funds necessary for the experiment; but in this he
was disappointed. The danger of fire was a risk too
great to be overlooked in his proposals, and so his
scheme was not regarded with favour. But to such
a man as Zambeccari, fear did not exist. He there-
fore made his way to his native Italy. At Bologna
he succeeded in raising the money, and an ascent
was arranged in company with Dr. Grassetti and
The ascent took place at night, in a fire-balloon,
which Zambeccari had made more dangerous and
complicated than it was already, by the addition of
a rudder., The intention of the aeronauts was to
take advantage of the strong north-east wind which
was blowing and journey to Milan. They took with
them instruments and a lantern by which to make
The departure was badly regulated, and from the
first misfortune followed them. The lamp, which was
intended to increase their power of ascent, became
useless, and the light of their lantern was too feeble
to enable them to observe their instruments. The
balloon ascended with great rapidity, and in an in-
credibly short time they found themselves in a
region of excessive cold. The suddenness of the
change of temperature, coupled with the fact that
FLOOD AND FIRE
Zambeccari had scarcely broken his fast for twenty-
four hours, produced their natural result. He fell
on the floor of the car in a deathlike faint. Grassetti
also became unconscious. Andreoli alone preserved
his senses; but even he suffered excessively. His
whole attention was now occupied in trying to revive
his companions. Zambeccari was the first to recover,
and like a man newly awakened from a dream, asked
"What is the news ? Where are we? What
time is it ?"
Andreoli answered that the compass was broken
and their whereabouts was therefore a mystery; but
as he spoke, a sound, muffled and almost inaudible,
fell on his ear. "Ah, the breaking of waves!" he
cried. In fearful anxiety the two men listened. It
was now about three o'clock in the morning, and the
balloon was slowly descending through a layer of
whitish clouds. The noise of waves, tossing in wild
uproar, became louder and louder. The next instant
the horrified aeronauts saw the sea below them
violently agitated. Zambeccari seized a large bag
of sand; but, before he could throw it overboard, the
car touched the waves, and the waters of the Adriatic
poured through the slender basket-work.
The panic-stricken aeronauts blindly cast out
44 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
everything they could lay their hands on. Without
a word being spoken, without pausing to think what
would be the consequences, they threw into the sea
their money, instruments, ballast, and clothing. Still
the balloon did not rise. Then with knives they set
desperately to work, and cut away everything that
was not absolutely necessary to the balloon. Thus
lightened, they ascended with fearful rapidity to such
a prodigious elevation, that they had great difficulty
in hearing each other, even when shouting at the top
of their voices.
The adventurers suffered severely. They were
suddenly covered with a coating of ice; Zambeccari's
fingers were frozen and he could no longer make use
of his hands, Grassetti lay in the bottom of the car
hardly showing any signs of life, Andreoli bled pro-
fusely. On a parallel with them, the astonished men
saw the moon shining, red as blood. After travers-
ing these elevated, icy regions for about half an hour,
the balloon again fell into the sea. It was pitch
dark, and the aeronauts, worn out by what they had
already endured, abandoned themselves to the fate
which seemed inevitable. The balloon was now more
than half empty, and acted as a sail, which dragged
the car through the waves. Often it was entirely
covered with water.
FLOOD AND FIRE
At length the welcome daylight appeared, and
showed the half-drowned men that they were with-
in four miles of the shore, and rapidly driving
towards it. But they were again doomed to disap-
pointment. Suddenly a land wind sprang up, and
carried them out to sea. Some boats put off from
the shore, and for a time the hope of rescue lightened
their hearts; but when the sailors came near enough
to make out the curious object, they made all sail
to get away from the spot as quickly as possible.
"It was now," says Zambeccari, broad daylight,
but all we could see was the sea, the sky, and the
death that threatened us." Fortunately, at the last
moment a vessel hove in sight, and the captain', better
informed than the others, saw at once what had
happened, and sent his boat to their rescue. The
sailors threw the weary adventurers a stout rope,
which they had only sufficient strength to fasten to
the car. They were drawn on board fainting with
exposure. Their perilous voyage had occupied eight
Relieved of the weight of the aeronauts, the balloon
rose at once into the air, in spite of the efforts of the
sailors to capture it. The boat received a severe shock
from its ascent, as the rope was still attached to it, so
the sailors hastened to cut themselves free. At once
46 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
the balloon mounted with incredible rapidity, and was
lost in the clouds, where it disappeared for ever from
The captain of the vessel did everything in his
power to relieve the suffering of his guests. He
carried them to Ferrara, and they made their way to
Pola, where they were welcomed with great kindness.
Here Zambeccari had to have his frozen fingers
In spite of this terrible warning, the adventurous
sailor-aeronaut was determined to make another
experiment with his spirit-lamp. Accordingly, on the
21st of September 1812 he made an ascent from
Bologna, along with a companion named Signor
Bonaga. The upward journey was accomplished in
safety and without adventure. On descending, how-
ever, the grapnel caught suddenly in a tree. The
suddenness and violence of the shock overturned the
lamp and set the whole machine on fire. The two
men instantly jumped from the car. Bonaga was
picked up fearfully injured; but he escaped with his
life. Zambeccari was killed on the spot.
THE FATHER OF MODERN BALLOONING.
-,- HE most remarkable figure in connection
B/ with ballooning in England is that of
Charles Green. His career lasted for
thirty-six years, during which he made
fourteen hundred ascents. -Three times he crossed
the sea, and twice he fell into it. To him are due
two important improvements in the management of
balloons-the use of ordinary coal gas for inflation,
and the introduction of the guide-rope. This is a
rope several hundred feet long, which is allowed to
hang downwards from the car, and by means of
which the aeronaut is able to regulate the height to
which his balloon rises. If the balloon sinks very
low, a considerable length of the guide-rope rests on
the ground. The balloon, thus lightened, rises again.
If it ascends too high, the weight of the rope tends
to bring it down again, and so a uniform elevation is
48 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
Green with his unique experience reduced balloon-
ing to a routine, and few accidents attended his
ascents, which were not, however, without adventure.
The greatest of all the veteran's dangers, however,
was caused by a most malicious trick, the perpetrator
of.which was unfortunately never discovered.
In the year 1832 he ascended from Cheltenham.
The balloon rose from the ground steadily; but no
sooner was weight put on the car, than it fell over,
and the contents were thrown to the ground. Some
one had partially cut the ropes of the car in such a
way that the damage was not noticed till its effects
were experienced. The aeronaut and his companion
had only time to seize hold of the hoop to save
themselves from being dashed to the ground. The
balloon flew upwards with frightful velocity, and
before Green could obtain possession of the valve
string, which the first violence of the accident had
placed beyond his reach, an altitude of upwards of
ten thousand feet had been reached.
Their danger was terrific. They clung to the hoop
with desperate energy, not daring to trust any portion
of their weight upon the margin of the car, which
hung suspended .by a single cord beneath their feet.
Their only hope of safety lay in their ability to hang
on till the exhaustion of the gas made the balloon
THE FATHER OF MODERN BALLOONING 49
descend. To the horror of their situation a fresh
danger was added. Under the strain of the unequal
pressure the network which covered the globe began
to give way. Mesh after mesh broke with a suc-
cession of reports like the discharge of a pistol.
Through the opening thus created, the balloon began
to ooze slowly out, and presently took the form of
a huge hour-glass floating in the upper air. Truly a
singular and awful spectacle.
Thus the aeronauts hung for a considerable time,
expecting every moment to be hurled to the earth
by the escape of the balloon. At length they began
to descend. When within a few feet from the
ground, the catastrophe they had so long dreaded
took place--the balloon, forcing its way through the
netting, escaped with a loud explosion, and the
aeronauts fell to the earth insensible. It was at
first feared that they were dead; but with great
difficulty they were at length restored to consciousness
Green's balloon, one of the most famous and longest-
lived aerostats of which any record has been kept, was
called the "Great Nassau," and it received its name
after accomplishing a most remarkable journey from
London to Germany. It was constructed by Green
himself of the finest silk, specially spun, woven, and
50 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
dyed. It was pear-shaped, sixty feet in height, fifty
in breadth, and had a capacity of eighty-five thousand
cubic feet. The car measured nine feet long and
four broad. It was oval in shape, and the bottom
was fitted with a cushion, which could be used as a
bed if necessary.
On the 7th of November 1836, Green, accompanied
by two friends, Mason and Holland, set out. They
carried a fortnight's provisions, and, not knowing to
what quarter of the Continent they might be blown,
they had provided themselves with passports to every
country in Europe. Borne on a fresh breeze, the
balloon sailed in a south-easterly direction over Kent,
and at four o'clock, three hours after they started,
they came in sight of the sea. They now came
under the influence of a current setting towards the
north, which would inevitably have carried them out
over the open sea. A quantity of ballast was therefore
thrown out, and the balloon rose until a favourable
stream of south-western air was reached.
Without a thought of danger the voyagers left
England and floated above the Channel. Behind
them, the white cliffs sparkled with many lights;
below, the water was dotted here and there at great
distances with vessels whose lights glimmered and
twinkled like distant stars as the ships rose and fell
DEATH OF AN AERONAUT.
Ui= AME i~~--~--~~-
THE FATHER OF'MODERN BALLOONING 53
on the waves; before them hung a huge black cloud-
curtain, stretched from sea to sky as though to bar
their farther advance. Into its folds they plunged,
and then they heard nothing, saw nothing, till at the
end of an hour the well-known lights of Calais shone
Preparations were now made to pass the night in
as great safety and comfort as possible. A lamp was
lighted and hung so as to prevent all danger of explo-
sion, and the provisions were spread out. "With
many a joke," says Mason, "touching the high flavour
and exalted merits of our several viands, which, how-
ever agreeable under the circumstances, will not bear
repeating, we contrived to do ample justice to the
Darkness overhung the landscape, and for miles, as
far as the eye could reach, nothing could be seen but
clusters of lights indicating the, position of a town,
while away on the horizon glowed a dull red mist,
like the reflection of some mighty conflagration, which
when reached proved to be only the peaceful lights of
a busy town. Streets, squares, and the whole plan of
a town, drawn by the lamps, could be easily traced by
the voyagers as the balloon hurried them from point
"It would be difficult to give an idea of what sort
54 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
of effect such a scene in such circumstances produces.
To find oneself transported in the darkness of night,
in the midst of vast solitudes of air, unknown, unper-
ceived, in secret and in silence, exploring territories,
traversing kingdoms, watching towns which come into
view and pass away again before one can examine
them in detail, is grand-sublime."
Towards midnight all signs of life disappeared, and,
as is the custom in continental towns, the lights were
extinguished. There was no moon, and the brilliancy
of the stars served but to make the gloom more
apparent. To the voyagers it seemed as if they were
making their way through an interminable abyss.
The solitude was profound. This, together with their
ignorance of their whereabouts, heightened the novelty
of their situation. Thus they sailed on till three
o'clock in the morning, not, however, without consider-
able suffering from the cold, which froze all the liquors
in the car.
Shortly afterwards, the aeronauts were startled by
a sudden explosion. The silk quivered, and the car,
violently shaken, sunk into the gloomy abyss. There
was not time to ask "What's happened?" when a
second and a third shock followed, threatening to
wrench the basket from its fastenings. It was after-
wards found that one of the ropes, soaked with water
THE FATHER OF MODERN BALLOONING 55
and made rigid by the intense cold, had yielded to the
pressure of the expanding gas, and so caused the
When day dawned, the aeronauts looked anxiously
abroad, in the hope of discovering their position, but
without success. They accordingly decided to effect
a landing at the first suitable spot. Their first
attempt failed, for so great was the force of the wind
near the earth, that the balloon was swept towards a
wood, and accident was only averted by skilful
handling. Another attempt was successful, and about
seven o'clock in the morning the anchor held in a
valley near the town of Weilburg in the duchy of
Nassau. The journey of five hundred miles had
occupied eighteen hours.
The hospitable Germans welcomed the wanderers
with great enthusiasm, and before they left for
England, one of their lady admirers bestowed on the
trusty balloon the name of "The Great Balloon of
"Thus," says Mason, "ended an expedition which,
whether we regard the length of the journey or the
time occupied in it, may justly be considered as one
of the most interesting and most important ever
One of Green's favourite and most frequently
56 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
quoted sayings was-" The best parachute is a balloon;
the others are bad things to have to deal with;" and
indeed he had good grounds for his opinion. On the
24th of July 1837 he ascended from London for the
purpose of testing a new parachute. The inventor,
Robert Cocking, thought he had discovered the true
principle on which parachutes should be made.
Previous to his time, they had been constructed so as
to descend in a concave form, like that of an open
umbrella. The aeronaut came down in a basket, not, as
in more modern times, suspended from a ring, and the
swinging was so violent during the descent, that some-
times the basket was almost in a horizontal position.
Cocking determined to remedy this, and constructed a
parachute in the form of a large inverted cone. The
large upper rim was made of hollow tin, a most brittle
and therefore unsuitable material.
Experts were by no means satisfied with Cocking's
invention; but all they could say failed to shake his
confidence in his parachute. Accordingly on the
eventful day he went up dangling by a rope, fifty feet
long, from the bottom of the car of Green's Great
Nassau" balloon. Knowing well what would happen
the instant the great weight of the parachute was
detached, the aeronaut provided a small balloon inside
the car, filled with atmospheric air, and fitted with
THE FATHER OF MODERN BALLOONING 57
two mouthpieces for himself and the friend who
Green made the trip sorely against his better
judgment, and he was so ill at ease regarding the
termination of the adventure, that he refused to touch
the latch which was to free the parachute from the
balloon. This presented no obstacle to Cocking, who
procured a line of the required length and had it
fastened to the latch above and led down to the
basket of the parachute.
Considerable difficulty was experienced in rising to a
suitable height, partly owing to the resistance to the
air by the expanded parachute, and partly owing to
its weight, which was about half a ton. At length,
when the Great Nassau was over Greenwich at an
elevation of about a mile, Green called out, "How
do you feel, Mr. Cocking ?" Though a distance of
fifty feet separated the aeronauts, each syllable was
heard with perfect distinctness in the silence of that
region, of which they were for the time being the
"Never better in my life," replied Cocking.
"But perhaps you will alter your mind," suggested
"By no means," answered Cocking warmly; "but
how high are we ?"
58 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
"Upwards of a mile."
"I must go higher, Mr. Green. I must be taken
up two miles before I liberate the parachute."
The aeronaut replied that this was impossible if he
wished to descend by daylight.
"Very well," said Cocking; "if you will not really
take me any higher, I shall say good-bye."
Again Green tried to save his friend from what he
regarded as a foolish risk, and called out, Now, Mr.
Cocking, if your mind at all misgives you about your
parachute, I have provided a tackle up here, which I
can lower down to you, and haul you up into the car,
and nobody need be the wiser."
"Certainly not, thank you all the same. I shall
now make ready to pull the latch cord."
"Good-night, Mr. Cocking."
Good-night, Mr. Green. A pleasant voyage to
There was a silence, as awful as it was perfect, and
the aeronauts above felt a jerk upon the latch; but it
was not sufficient to detach the parachute. There
were a few seconds of intense suspense, then a
vigorous pull was given-the balloon bounded aloft,
and Cocking in his parachute descended slowly and
steadily towards the earth. So far his invention fully
realized his expectations. All went well for a few
THE FATHER OF MODERN BALLOONING 59
minutes, when suddenly those below who were watch-
ing with glasses gave a loud cry of horror.
The parachute leaned on- one side and then lurched
to the other. The tin tubing had evidently given way,
for the large upper circle collapsed. For a few
seconds it was hid in a cloud, and when it came in
sight again, the whole thing turned over, and then, like
a closed-up umbrella, it shot straight down to the earth.
"The descent was so rapid," says an eye-witness, that
the mean rate of the fall was not less than twenty
yards a second." Within three hundred feet from the
ground the basket became detached. This completed
the catastrophe. Cocking was found in a field at Lee,
quite insensible. On being lifted, he uttered a moan;
and in ten minutes he was dead.
Meanwhile, how had the aeronauts fared in the
Great Nassau ? With a sidelong swirl the balloon
sprang upward, the two men crouching down in the
car, while Green clung to the valve line to allow the
gas to escape. So rapid was their flight that the
resistance of the air prevented the gas from escaping
at the top, and it came rushing downwards. At once
they seized the mouthpieces of the atmospheric air
balloon, and to these they owed their lives, for the
gas continued to pour down upon them for so long a
time, and in such volume, that they would certainly
60 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
have been suffocated. As it was, they were com-
pletely blinded for some minutes. At length the
Great Nassau, having attained a height of nearly
twenty-four thousand feet, slowly descended, and the
aeronauts safely reached the ground near Maidstone.
Many pages might be filled with the thrilling
narrative of Green's adventures, but one other must
suffice. On one occasion, in company with a gentle-
man named Rush, he was blown out to sea in the
Great Nassau. Seeing some vessels from which he
knew he should obtain assistance, he commenced a
rapid descent in the direction of the Nore. The car
struck the water about two miles north of Sheerness.
The wind was blowing fresh, and, owing to the
buoyancy of the balloon, and the enormous surface it
presented, it was swept over the water at a speed
which left the boats that had come to the rescue far
behind. So great indeed was its progress, that the
aeronauts were dragged through every wave, and
there was every prospect of them being drowned.
Seeing that they could not be overtaken, Green by
a clever manoeuvre threw over his large grapnel.
Fortunately, in their course lay a sunken wreck, and
in its shell-covered sides the iron eventually got a
hold and arrested their headlong flight. A boat soon
came up and by means of ropes rescued the voyagers.
THE FATHER OF MODERN BALLOONING 61
The danger was not yet over, however, for no boat
could venture near the aerial monster, which struggled
and tossed, and bounded from side to side. It would
have capsized in an instant any boat that came near.
It was impossible to do anything till the services of
an armed boat's crew were obtained from a revenue
cutter. The men fired muskets loaded with ball
cartridge into the restive globe, and it sank down life-
less upon the waves; but not before the silk had been
riddled with twenty-six bullet-holes.
OVER THE ALPS.
N the early days of the year 1846 a
balloon rose slowly over the Alps,
I L that gigantic obstacle which even
the most daring aeronauts avoid with
unspeakable fear." In the car sat a solitary aeronaut,
a young man named Arban. Darkness came on,
bringing storm in its train, and the balloon was swept
into the midst of those lofty white-mantled peaks.
The moon came out from behind the clouds, spread-
ing a silvery shimmer over peak and pinnacle and
precipice of snow, and revealing to the gaze of the
daring adventurer a sight such as no mortal eye had
All night long the storm raged, and the aeronaut,
struggling against the almost overpowering influence
of the intense cold, doled out his ballast grain by grain.
Again and again he was in danger of being precipitated
OVER THE ALPS
into the immense crevices of the Mer de Glace, or
crushed against the towering peaks. In the midst of
this appalling situation he exulted in the knowledge
that he sailed among the mountains over which human
foot had never trod. Then occurred to him the curious
idea of throwing a bottle overboard, which might serve
as a witness to future centuries that a French aeronaut
had crossed there.
When day dawned, he found himself over the plains
of Piedmont, and shortly afterwards descended at a
small village four miles from Turin, to which city he
was carried by the enthusiastic people in a triumphal
A few months later Arban made an ascent from
Trieste. On this occasion the car was too heavy for
the balloon to raise. The wind was blowing a hurri-
cane; but this could not deter him from descending.
With the rapidity of thought, he detached the car
from the globe, and before the assembled people
realized what he was doing he flew upwards into
space. The wind carried him rapidly towards the
Adriatic, and as he disappeared from view, he was
seen standing upon the hoop, saluting the crowd
with one hand and holding on to the cords of the
balloon with the other.
Fearing disaster, a number of boats set out to aid
64 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
him; but they returned at nightfall without having
even had a sight of the balloon.
Meanwhile Arban, after reaching a great elevation,
gradually approached nearer and nearer to the waves.
He had no means of rising, and was soon immersed
in the stormy waters of the Adriatic. But the balloon,
though too weak to support his weight in the air, had
still sufficient buoyancy to drag him through the
water. For hours he was trailed over the sea, now
plunged in the waves, now carried over them, as
the balloon rose and fell with the varying wind.
Night came on. His limbs were stiff and cold.
Even his herculean frame could not long withstand
these rude shocks, and he felt his strength rapidly
failing. Still he clung to the hoop with indomitable
energy. His eyes closed, and he knew no more until
the sound of oars fell on his ear, and he cried
for help with all his remaining strength. His cry
was answered. Some sailors returning from the
Italian shore quickly rowed towards him and saved
This daring and impetuous aeronaut met his death
a few years later in an ascent from Barcelona. His
wife was to accompany him; but as the wind blew
off the land, Arban refused to expose her to so great
a danger, and set off alone. His car was last seen
OVER THE ALPS 65
like a mere speck in the heavens. The -Spaniards
waited for several days for tidings of the traveller;
but none came. His career had come to an end in
the depths of the Mediterranean.
N the summer of the year 1847,
the veteran aeronaut Henry Coxwell,
accomplished what is "without doubt
the most perilous descent in the
annals of aerostation." In the first half of the
present century there were numerous pleasure-gardens
in London, from which balloon ascents were of frequent
occurrence. Ever on the search for sensation, the
manager of one of these gardens arranged for a balloon
ascent by night with a firework display by the aeronaut.
A balloonist named Mr. Gypson undertook the
difficult and dangerous task, and invited Coxwell to
accompany him. The day chosen for the ascent gave
every indication of suitable weather. Not a breath of
wind stirred the trees. The balloon was successfully
inflated, and a framework was attached to which the
fireworks were fastened.
When all was in readiness for the start, the sky
became overcast, the atmosphere close and oppressive,
flashes of lightning were seen in the sky, and the
distant rumble of thunder gave warning of an approach-
ing storm. Then the question arose, Was the ascent
to take place or not ? Some were of the opinion that
to go up under such conditions was highly dangerous,
and would be sure to end in disaster; others thought
that the weather should make no difference, and that
there was no more danger in ascending then than at
any other time. Coxwell favoured the latter view,
and declared that if an immediate ascent was made,
and everything in order and managed properly, no
harm could possibly result.
The two aeronauts, accompanied by two friends,
accordingly entered the car. Coxwell jumped up
into the hoop to see that the neck of the balloon was
clear and to give notice to Gypson when the valve
required to be opened. The cable was slipped, and,
amid the shouts of the spectators, the balloon rose,
leaving behind it a train of fire in ever-changing
colours. All went well till they had attained an
altitude of some four thousand feet, when a blinding
flash of lightning appeared and a splitting thunder-
crash was heard apparently right over the balloon.
The crowds in the garden no less than the aeronauts
68 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
were impressed with the sudden and awful report, and
a profound silence reigned for a few minutes.
The balloon still ascended with great rapidity, and
Coxwell, from his seat in the hoop, saw that the silk
was greatly distended. On prompt and skilful conduct
alone depended their safety. A few more blinding
flashes followed. The globe seemed on the point of
bursting. Now was the time to open the valve and
allowsome gas to escape. Coxwell endeavoured by
signs to warn Gypson of the danger, but the aeronaut
paid no attention. At last Coxwell shouted out, "If
the valve is not opened the balloon will burst." As
he spoke, the car dropped several feet. In terror the
aeronauts looked up, fearing that the network had
given way, but it was so dark that they could see
nothing except the gaslit metropolis rushing up to
meet them at fearful speed. Their headlong fall was
suddenly stayed, and a vivid flash of lightning enabled
them to see what had happened. The view was by
no means reassuring. The silk was torn right across
for about sixteen feet. Death seemed inevitable.
All this time Coxwell had remained in the hoop,
and it was indeed fortunate that he did so. As they
fell, he noticed that the line which connected the neck
of the balloon was strained to its utmost tension, and
he thought that if he. cut it, the lower half of the
. TERRIBLE MOMENT.
balloon would expand and form a kind of parachute
which would moderate the rapidity of their descent.
Contrary to the wishes of his companions, he did so,
and at once their downward flight was checked; but
all danger was not yet over. Indeed, it seemed as if
they had only exchanged one danger for another still
more terrible, for "the sparks from the paper cases
shot up among the gas through the tear in the silk,
and once more the thunder roared, and the lightning
flashed, so that a more frightful descent to the earth
could not possibly be imagined."
As they neared the ground, ballast bags were
collected and the grapnel was got ready for use,
though there seemed but little chance of either being
effective among the thickly clustering houses and hard
pavements. Fortunately the balloon fell in a newly-
formed street in the west end of London, while the
network caught in some scaffold poles, so that the
force of their fall was greatly broken, and they all
reached the ground uninjured.
Another ascent which Coxwell made on the 16th
of October 1853 is also well worth recording, on
account of the amusing as well as the dangerous
aspect of the adventure, and as showing that after the
aeronaut had safely passed the perils of the air, he had
often others, no less real, to encounter on land.
72 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
On the day already mentioned, Coxwell had
arranged an ascent from one of the pleasure-gardens
in the east end of London. But the morning broke
wet and windy, and it was feared that the exhibition
would have to be postponed. As the day wore on,
the sun broke through the clouds, and the wind
moderated. All preparations were made, and every-
one stood at his place waiting for the signal from the
aeronaut to inflate the balloon.
It was late in the afternoon before the word was
given, and at six o'clock, the Sylph, as the balloon
was called, was not quite half full. This presented a
serious difficulty, for the wind had risen again, and
was blowing in fitful gusts,' which the balloon in its
present state was ill calculated to withstand. Owing
also to the lateness of the hour, only another half-
hour could be spent in inflating. Fortunately this
was sufficient to give the Sylph the necessary ascend-
The balloon rose rapidly; but a sudden gust of
wind, more violent than the rest, caught the machine,
and drove it along in a downward direction. Quickly
Coxwell threw out two bags of sand; but this was
not sufficient to enable the Sylph to rise, and to his
horror, he saw himself carried directly towards a tall
chimney. A collision was certain, and he had only
time to seize hold of the edge of the car when the
crash took place. Down hurtled the bricks and
mortar, while the balloon, undamaged, soared aloft on
the freshening breeze.
In a short time the barometer indicated an
immense elevation. As he did not wish to go any
higher, the aeronaut pulled the valve line; but no
amount of tugging would open the shutters. On
looking to see what was the cause of the hitch, he
found that, in the hurry of filling the balloon, a fold
had been allowed to form in the silk. This effect-
ually prevented the valve from working, so there was
nothing for it but to allow the balloon to take its
own course, and wait till the gas had exhausted itself,
sufficient to permit of a descent.
After attaining an elevation of two miles and a
half, the Sylph began to travel towards the earth.
" On the descent," says Coxwell, "I noticed a splendid
meteor, which was below the level of the car, and
apparently about six hundred feet distant. It was
blue and yellow, moving rapidly in a north-easterly
direction, and became extinguished without noise or
sparks-its size was half that of the moon. I could
not but feel that if such another visitor were to cross
my path, the end of the Sylph and its master would
be at hand."
74 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
Shortly after eight o'clock, the balloon descended
in a field near Basingstoke. It was by this time
quite dark, and as far as the eye could reach, there
was no sign of a dwelling. Not knowing where he
was, Coxwell shouted in the hope of attracting some
passer-by; but no answer was returned, and he began
to fear that he had landed in some very outlandish
place. He continued, however, to shout till he was
hoarse, but with no better result, so he reluct-
antly made up his mind to spend the night in the
After a supper of sandwiches, he lay down and
tried to sleep; but the thought that perhaps he might
be able to obtain assistance at no great distance kept
him awake, and he determined to explore the neigh-
bourhood. Crossing the field, he came to a gate
which led into a lane. Cautiously the aeronaut groped
his way by the side of the hedge, and in a quarter of
an hour he saw the welcome glimmer of a light in
the window of a farmhouse.
"Now my troubles are over," thought Coxwell as
he clambered over the stile; but they were only just
beginning. Hardly had he reached the top bar when
a great fierce Newfoundland dog rushed at him.
Without pausing to see whether the animal was
chained or not, he took to flight, nor did he pause or
look back till he had gained the safety of the field in
which his balloon lay.
Such an experience was not to be repeated, so he
lay down again in the car. Just as he was dozing
off, he heard voices coming in his direction, and
thinking that some villagers who might have seen the
balloon descend were coming to his assistance, he got
up and shouted, "Here I am, and the balloon all safe."
At once the talking ceased, and a gentle hush occurred,
followed by the sound of hurried footsteps in full
retreat. Coxwell shouted that they had nothing to
fear; but his voice only accelerated their flight.
He then came to the conclusion that there must be
houses at no great distance, and resolved to make one
more attempt to procure assistance. Arming himself
with a stout piece of iron, he sallied forth, and after
walking about two miles, he came to a number of
cottages. He strolled up the chief street of the
village, and in turning a corner suddenly, he found
himself face to face with a workman on his way
home. Coxwell lost no time in making known his
condition; but his story excited suspicion instead of
sympathy, and the only help he could get out of the
man was a recommendation to make known his wants
at the village inn.
He hurried off in the direction indicated, and on
76 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
the way met a policeman. Going up to the officer, he
asked him where he was, and explained the circum-
stances. Again he was met with distrust, and in reply
to his question, What county am I in ?" the constable
said, "You don't know what county you're in, don't
you ? Well, if you don't clear out of this, you'll know
that you're in the county gaol soon enough."
Finding that it was only wasting words to try and
get any information, Coxwell set off for the inn; but
when he arrived the whole place was in darkness, and
no answer was given to his repeated knocks. In
disgust he turned away and went back to his balloon
in the field, where he spent the night.
Early on the following morning some farm labourers
on their way to work across the field found the
balloon, and helped Coxwell to exhaust the gas. He
breakfasted with the farmer, and afterwards went
down to the inn, where the mysterious treatment of
the previous night was explained. A few days before
a gang of thieves had robbed many of the shops and
houses, and every stranger was looked upon with
distrust. The landlord said he had heard his knock-
ing; but he had been warned by the policeman that
there was a dangerous fellow about, so he did not open
the door. In expressing regret for the unfriendly
reception the aeronaut had had, the landlord said at
parting, "Another thing, you must not forget that you
have come among the Hampshire hogs, and that a
grunt or two is all in character."
In an ascent from the Crystal Palace on the 18th
of April 1863, Coxwell had a very narrow escape.
On this occasion he was accompanied by Glaisher the
scientist. The start did not augur well for a pleasant
voyage, for suddenly the rope which held the balloon
to the ground broke, and the aeronauts were started
on their trip sooner than they intended. The balloon
rose rapidly, and in less than a quarter of an hour
reached the height of ten thousand feet. Here they
encountered a strong southward current of iair which
bore the balloon along at a rapid pace. They were
shut in by the clouds, and had no idea of their
whereabouts; but as the barometer now indicated
an elevation of twenty-four thousand feet, there was
no cause for any uneasiness.
When the aeronauts had been in the air about an
hour and a half, they thought it advisable to descend
in order to find out their position. A rapid drop
brought them out of the clouds, and within ten
thousand feet of the earth. Suddenly Coxwell, who
was looking over the side of the car, cried out, What's
that ?" His companion joined him, and they were
not long in making out their position. There was not
78 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
a moment to spare, for below them lay the bold
promontory of Beachy Head, and they were almost
directly above the sea.
Quick !" shouted Coxwell; we must save the land
at all risks. Leave the instruments-everything."
Both men seized the valve line and hung on for
dear life; and with such energy that they not only
opened the valve, but also tore a large rent in the
surrounding silk. The balloon descended almost in
a straight line, and the car was dashed to the earth
with a shock that shattered- the instruments; but the
aeronauts' lives were saved. A few seconds more and
the balloon would have struck the sea.
Some idea of the speed of the fall may be formed
from the fact that ten thousand feet were passed in
Two years later Coxwell had a similar experience
in an ascent from Belfast. On this occasion he took
up with him a number of passengers. Seeing that the
balloon was approaching the sea, they became alarmed,
and one of their number seized the valve line with
such violence that it broke. The danger was now real,
so Coxwell gave the order for all to leave the car
together, the moment its downward tendency brought
it within a safe anchoring distance of the ground.
His commands were obeyed, as he thought, by every-
STRANGE ADVENTURES 79
one. Two persons were, however, left behind, and the
lightened balloon bounded upward for some distance.
Fortunately it came within reach again, and they were
The balloon again got free, and was afterwards
picked up on the shore of Lurgan Bay anchored with-
in a few paces of the sea.
SEVEN MILES HIGH.
1J HE highest ascent on record was accom-
Fi-J polished on the 5th of September 1862
by Mr. Coxwell, the hero of the previous
chapter, accompanied by the well-known
scientist, Mr. T. Glaisher. This was the most important
of the eight scientific ascents made on behalf of the
British Association at this time. The fittings of the
car were arranged with the utmost care. Glaisher
had a specially prepared table fixed in the basket,
on and attached to which were about thirty different
instruments, so placed that each could be easily con-
sulted. Indeed, nothing was left undone that was
likely to ensure the success of the voyage and the
accuracy of the observations.
Accordingly, on the day named, the balloon made a
rapid ascent from Wolverhampton, shortly after one
o'clock. All went well, and in about half an hour
SEVEN MILES HIGH
they had reached a height of four miles. Still the
balloon ascended. All this time Glaisher was fully
occupied with his observations; but suddenly he
became conscious of a dimness of sight, and soon
MESSRS. GLAISHER AND COXWELL IN THEIR BALLOON.
could not read any of the fine divisions of his
instruments. They were now over five miles high.
Alarming as was this experience, it was as nothing to
Wishing to enter an observation in his notebook,
82 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
Glaisher found that his right arm was powerless-a
moment before it had been possessed of full vigour.
He tried his left arm-it also was useless. He struggled
and shook his body; but he could not move his arms.
He looked at the barometer, and whilst doing so, his
head fell back, resting on the edge of the car. In this
position, he says, "I dimly saw Mr. Coxwell, and tried
to speak; but could not. In an instant, intense
darkness overcame me; but I was still conscious, with
as active a brain as at the present moment while
writing this." Then he became insensible.
At the moment Glaisher was seized with partial
blindness, the valve line became entangled, and
Coxwell had to leave the car and go up into the ring
to readjust it. The task was not easy. The cold was
intense, and hoar-frost had gathered all round the
neck of the balloon. When at length matters were
put right, and the aeronaut prepared to return to the
car, he found his hands were frozen. He had there-
fore to place his arms in the ring and drop down.
Glaisher was by this time lying insensible in the
bottom of the car. The looseness of his attitude and
the calm expression on his features alarmed Coxwell,
and he attempted to move forward to see if his com-
panion was still alive; but he too was powerless.
Unconsciousness was rapidly overtaking him. He
SEVEN MILES HIGH
knew that unless a descent was made, and that
speedily, they could not reach land alive. His hands
were powerless; but with the energy of determination
he seized the valve line in his teeth, and dipped his
head till the balloon began to descend.
He next turned his attention to his companion.
The first words of which Glaisher became conscious
were "temperature ".and observation "; but he could
neither see, speak, nor move. Gradually his faculties
returned, and he sat up and looked round like a man
who had just awakened from sleep. "I have been
insensible," he said.
You have," replied Coxwell; "and I too very
He then resumed his former position, and with note-
book and pencil in hand, continued his observations
as if nothing had happened. One cannot but admire
his heroic sense of duty. Even in this critical moment
he gave no thought to self, his whole mind being de-
voted to the obtaining of observations that would be
of value to science.
Slowly the balloon descended, and at last came to
the earth seven miles from Ludlow. No conveyance
could be obtained, and a long compulsory walk to that
town finished the day. Neither of the aeronauts
experienced any bad effects from their perilous adven-
84 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
ture. From careful observation and calculation,
Glaisher estimated that they reached the extraordinary
height of thirty-seven thousand feet, or upwards of
seven miles, and that too in little more than an hour.
The escape of Glaisher and Coxwell from death at
that tremendous elevation, marvellous as it was con-
sidered at the time, is rendered more remarkable by
the fate which befell three Frenchmen who attempted
a similar ascent twelve years later. This is one of the
saddest episodes in the history of ballooning.
The French Society of Aerial Navigation organised
an ascent for the purpose of testing the restorative
powers of oxygen when breathed instead of ordinary
air in a rarefied atmosphere. Accordingly a new and
large balloon, named the Zenith, was built and inflated
at La Vilette gasworks in Paris. On a bright spring
day in April 1874 the ascent was made. In the car
were three gentlemen, M. Sivel, captain of the balloon,
and two scientists, Croci Spinelli and Gaston
Tissandier. The latter had joined the expedition for
the purpose of analysing the dust of the air, and had
brought with him a large reservoir of petroleum oil,
which was fastened to the car by cords, so that it
might easily be cut away if its great weight should
imperil the safety of the balloon.
All went well till they had reached an elevation of
.. .. .. ..
9 MF -p ME
THE ZENITH 81IOT UPWARD.~,~-~- ~==i
SEVEN MILES HIGH
about twenty-three thousand feet, when they experi-
enced some difficulty in breathing. This was, however,
soon remedied by inhaling the oxygen they had
brought with them. They felt greatly invigorated,
and after a brief discussion, it was decided to attempt
an even greater altitude. A quantity of ballast was
thrown over, and the Zenith shot upward.
Soon afterwards Tissandier fainted and remained
unconscious for upwards of an hour, till he was
awakened by one of his companions, who warned him
that the balloon was descending. In a mechanical
sort of way, like one in a dream, Tissandier threw
over some ballast. Hardly had he done so than he
sank back exhausted and fell asleep.
A momentary panic seems at this point to have
prostrated the wits of his companions, who madly cut
away the reservoir, which weighed about eighty
pounds. Thus lightened, the balloon rushed upwards
at a fearful speed, and as it travelled, unconsciousness
overcame those in the car.
An hour later, Tissandier again roused himself.
The Zenith was descending rapidly, and there was no
more ballast left to break the force of the terrific
plunge. Turning to his companions for help, a
horrible sight met his gaze. They were lying in the
bottom of the car, black in the face and with blood
88 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
oozing from their mouths. They had been suffocated,
and were both dead.
The rapidity with which the balloon dropped
through space gave no time for thought, and the fate
which had befallen his friends numbed his action.
Soon he would be like them-dead-dashed to pieces.
It was a terrible position; but with the resource
which often comes to men in moments of the direst
peril, Tissandier saw a way of escape, and prepared to
avail himself of it. With the utmost coolness he cut
away the grapnel rope just as the car was about to
strike the ground. The balloon rose for a moment,
and was swept along by the force of the wind. He
tore open the silk to check its mad flight. It was at
last caught in a hedge at Ciron, a commune of Indre,
a hundred and ninety miles from Paris. The survivor
was found by some people in the neighbourhood, who
nursed him with every care till he was sufficiently
recovered to return home.
There are no records of the height that was reached
on this occasion; but it must have been very great.
A TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE.
-. --- HE Giant was the name appropriately
i '""j given to an immense balloon which
S was constructed in Paris in the year
S1863. It was made entirely of silk,
and was upwards of a hundred and twenty feet in
height. Underneath the globe was a smaller balloon
called the compensator, which was intended to prevent
loss of gas during the voyage. The car was perhaps
the most wonderful part of this gigantic machine.
In shape it was not unlike a small cottage. It had
two storeys, thirteen feet long by eight feet high,
with berths like a ship, and plentifully stocked with
The first ascent took place in Paris on the 4th of
October 1863, under the management of an aeronaut
named M. Nadar. The excursions of the Geant made
a great commotion. They were indeed almost as
90 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
sensational as the original Montgolfier and Charles
ascents, and an immense crowd assembled to witness
the departure of the balloon with its crew of thirteen
persons, each of whom carried a passport in nearly all
the languages of Europe.
The ascent was slow and gradual at first, as if the
giant machine was feeling its way to the clouds.
Then it rapidly descended, and it was not till several
bags of ballast had been thrown out that the Geant
took its flight to the upper air amid the cheers of the
spectators. Paris was passed over at the height of
about six hundred feet; but the voyage for which
the most elaborate preparations had been made, and
which was to bring about a new order of things in
the science of ballooning, ended at Meaux, distant
about thirty miles from Paris.
About a fortnight later a second attempt was made
to prove the G4ant worthy of the expectations to
which its construction had given rise. On this
occasion the balloon was carried in a north-easterly
direction, and was last seen by the inhabitants of
Paris making for the Belgian frontier. Soon after-
wards the sun set in purple majesty, and the aeronauts
from the roof of their osier house looked down in
admiration through the clear night air on the wonder-
ful panorama that was unfolded to their view
A TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE
Over cities, fires, forges, tall chimneys, and coal
mines they were carried in safety. Occasionally there
came loud shouting from below as the balloon became
92 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
clearly visible. Once, in passing over a small town,
someone in the excitement of the moment fired a gun,
and for a while the aeronauts were spellbound with
terror, not knowing if the gun was loaded, or if the
ball might pierce the globe; but nothing of the kind
happened. .Brilliant, gaslit Brussels was quickly
left behind, and then the balloon entered a region
of silence and darkness. So on through the night
the voyage was continued. All was silent in and
around the car, save when Nadar woke the echoes of
the slumbering earth with "titanic shouts" from a
speaking-trumpet worthy of his balloon.
At dawn all was going well, and the aeronauts had
a magnificent view of the sunrise. Suddenly, as
with a burst of joy, a flash of light darts through the
azure vault. It is the signal, re-echoed from the
most distant horizons, of the ushering in of day in all
its splendours." But the voyage, so fortunately begun
and so successful up to this point, was nearing a tragic
Away on the edge of the horizon, a white streak, as
of fog, was seen, which Nadar at once declared was
A sudden and unaccountable panic took possession
of the voyagers, in spite of the reassuring words of
their captain that there was no danger. Someone
A TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE
pulled open the valve. What followed was not a
descent; but a fall. Down went the balloon like a
stone. There was no time to speak, and no one had
sufficient presence of mind to act in this awful,
sudden emergency. The ground was within thirty
yards of them, and appeared to be rushing to meet
them with lightning rapidity. There were still twenty
sacks of ballast in the car, sufficient, had they been
thrown overboard, to arrest this headlong plunge to
earth, and give the aeronauts time to choose a suitable
landing-place; but they remained undisturbed, while
each and all sought the only possible safety in cling-
ing to the ropes of the balloon.
Fortunately, the wind blew with such terrific
violence near the ground that their fall was broken,
and instead of crashing to the earth, the balloon was
carried along a short distance. Hold on hold on !"
was the cry, as with a thundering shock the car
collided with a mound. Many were forced to let go
their hold, and were thrown on their heads. The
balloon rebounded with an immense spring. The
platform of the car was now a scene of confusion and
fear, as everyone rushed to his place again and held
on with the determined grip of despair.
Houses and fields flew pass with a rapidity which
almost rendered them unnoticeable. Another shock
94 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
caused the G6ant to rock and tremble. The rope of
the anchor, which had been thrown out in the vain
hope of arresting their progress, was snapped by the
force of the collision as if it had been made of pack-
thread. Onward they flew with redoubled speed
before the fury of an ever-increasing gale.
The shocks were now so frequent that it was
impossible to count them, and at each shock the car
rebounded like an indiarubber ball, sometimes to a
height of fifty feet. The terror-stricken crew had
crowded 'by this time to one side of the car, and
as this happened to be the side which struck the
ground, their sufferings- and dangers were increased
"By the least negligence or slip, or by the loss of
presence of mind for one moment, we should have
been thrown out and dashed to atoms. Every collision
tries our muscles and strains our wrists or our
shoulders, and every rebound dashes us one against
the other, constituting each individual a tormentor
and victim at the same time. Our flight is so rapid
that we can only distinguish an occasional glimpse of
anything. What a dizzy whirl! what a succession of
breathless shocks! Far in the distance, we dis-
tinguish an isolated tree. We approach it like
lightning, and we break it as if it were a straw.
THE WRECK OF THE GIANT.
A TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE
Two terrified horses, with manes and tails erect,
endeavour- to fly from us; but we consume distances,
and leave them behind immediately."
But a still greater danger was at hand. The path
of their flight was next crossed by a railway embank-
ment, along which a train was slowly travelling.
Benumbed with fear, the aeronauts clung to their
posts awaiting the catastrophe. They knew well
enough that one of two things must happen-either
they would be crushed by the locomotive, or the
balloon would in its hurricane speed overturn the
train. A few yards more and all will be decided.
So they thought; but they had reckoned without the
engine-driver. He, too, comprehended the danger,
and, after quickly bringing the train to a standstill,
backed just in time to allow the flying monster to
"Look out for the wires," cried the man, and those
in the car instantly lowered their heads in obedience
to the well-timed warning. No one was hurt, but
several of the ropes were cut. Still the Gdant kept
on her headlong course, trailing after her, like the
tail of a comet, the telegraph wires and the poles by
which they had lately been supported.
At length the car became entangled in a wood near
Rethem in Hanover, the adventurers were thrown
98 STORIES OF BALLOON ADVENTURE
out, and several of them had their limbs broken.
The blind King of Hanover treated the unfortunate
aeronauts with great hospitality, and entertained
them until they had sufficiently recovered to return