Two get very high, and other hot air balloon related foolery

Saturday, January 29, 2005

High flight in 1875

Found this.........

In the spring of 1875, and with the co-operation of Frenchscientific societies, it was determined to make two experimental voyages in a balloon called the "Zenith," one ofthese to be of long duration, the other of great height. Thefirst of these had been successfully accomplished in a flightof twenty-four hours' duration from Paris to Bordeaux. It was now April the 15th, and the lofty flight was embarked upon byM. Gaston Tissandier, accompanied by MM. Croce-Spinelli and Sivel. Under competent advice, provision for respiration onemergency was provided in three small balloons, filled with amixture of air and oxygen, and fitted with indiarubber hosepipes, which would allow the mixture, when inhaled, to passfirst through a wash bottle containing aromatic fluid. Theexperiments determined on included an analysis of theproportion of carbonic acid gas at different heights by meansof special apparatus; spectroscopic observations, and thereadings registered by certain barometers and thermometers. Anovel and valuable experiment, also arranged, was that oftesting the internal temperature of the balloon as comparedwith that of the external air.Ascending at 11.30 a.m. under a warm sun, the balloon had by 1p.m. reached an altitude of 16,000 feet, when the external airwas at freezing point, the gas high in the balloon being 72degrees, and at the centre 66 degrees. Ere this height hadbeen fully reached, however, the voyagers had begun to breatheoxygen. At 11.57, an hour previously, Spinelli had written inhis notebook, "Slight pain in the ears--somewhat oppressed--itis the gas." At 23,000 feet Sivel wrote in his notebook, "I aminhaling oxygen--the effect is excellent," after which heproceeded to urge the balloon higher by a discharge of ballast. The rest of the terrible narrative has now to be taken from thenotes of M. Tissandier, and as these constitute one of the mostthrilling narratives in aeronautical records we transcribe themnearly in full, as given by Mr. Glaisher:--"At 23,000 feet we were standing up in the car. Sivel, who hadgiven up for a moment, is re-invigorated. Croce-Spinelli ismotionless in front of me.... I felt stupefied and frozen. Iwished to put on my fur gloves, but, without being conscious ofit, the action of taking them from my pocket necessitated aneffort that I could no longer make.... I copy, verbatim, thefollowing lines which were written by me, although I have novery distinct remembrance of doing so. They are traced in ahardly legible manner by a hand trembling with cold: 'My handsare frozen. I am all right. We are all all right. Fog in thehorizon, with little rounded cirrus. We are ascending. Crocepants; he inhales oxygen. Sivel closes his eyes. Croce alsocloses his eyes.... Sivel throws out ballast'--these last wordsare hardly readable. Sivel seized his knife and cutsuccessively three cords, and the three bags emptied themselvesand we ascended rapidly. The last remembrance of this ascentwhich remains clear to me relates to a moment earlier. Croce-Spinelli was seated, holding in one hand a wash bottle ofoxygen gas. His head was slightly inclined and he seemedoppressed. I had still strength to tap the aneroid barometerto facilitate the movement of the needle. Sivel had justraised his hand towards the sky. As for myself, I remainedperfectly still, without suspecting that I had, perhaps,already lost the power of moving. About the height of 25,000feet the condition of stupefaction which ensues isextraordinary. The mind and body weaken by degrees, andimperceptibly, without consciousness of it. No suffering isthen experienced; on the contrary, an inner joy is felt like anirradiation from the surrounding flood of light. One becomesindifferent. One thinks no more of the perilous position or ofdanger. One ascends, and is happy to ascend. The vertigo ofthe upper regions is not an idle word; but, so far as I canjudge from my personal impression, vertigo appears at the lastmoment; it immediately precedes annihilation, sudden,unexpected, and irresistible."When Sivel cut away the bags of ballast at the height of about24,000 feet, I seemed to remember that he was sitting at thebottom of the car, and nearly in the same position asCroce-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 felttoo weak even to turn my head to look at my companions. Soon Iwished to take hold of the tube of oxygen, but it wasimpossible to raise my arm. My mind, nevertheless, was quiteclear. I wished to explain, 'We are 8,000 metres high'; but mytongue was, as it were, paralysed. All at once I closed myeyes, and, sinking down inert, became insensible. This wasabout 1.30 p.m. At 2.8 p.m. I awoke for a moment, and foundthe balloon rapidly descending. I was able to cut away a bagof ballast to check the speed and write in my notebook thefollowing lines, which I copy:" 'We are descending. Temperature, 3 degrees. I throw outballast. Barometer, 12.4 inches. We are descending. Siveland 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 tremblingseized me, and I fell back weakened again. There was a violentwind from below, upwards, denoting a very rapid descent. Aftersome minutes I felt myself shaken by the arm, and I recognisedCroce, who had revived. 'Throw out ballast,' he said to me,'we are descending '; but I could hardly open my eyes, and didnot see whether Sivel was awake. I called to mind that Croceunfastened the aspirator, which he then threw overboard, andthen he threw out ballast, rugs, etc."All this is an extremely confused remembrance, quicklyextinguished, for again I fell back inert more completely thanbefore, and it seemed to me that I was dying. What happened?It is certain that the balloon, relieved of a great weight ofballast, at once ascended to the higher regions."At 3.30 p.m. I opened my eyes again. I felt dreadfully giddyand oppressed, but gradually came to myself. The balloon wasdescending with frightful speed and making great oscillations. I crept along on my knees, and I pulled Sivel and Croce by thearm. 'Sivel! Croce!' I exclaimed, 'Wake up!' My twocompanions were huddled up motionless in the car, covered bytheir cloaks. I collected all my strength, and endeavoured toraise them up. Sivel's face was black, his eyes dull, and hismouth was open and full of blood. Croce's eyes were halfclosed and his mouth was bloody."To relate what happened afterwards is quite impossible. Ifelt a frightful wind; we were still 9,700 feet high. Thereremained in the car two bags of ballast, which I threw out. Iwas drawing near the earth. I looked for my knife to cut thesmall rope which held the anchor, but could not find it. I waslike a madman, and continued to call 'Sivel! Sivel!' By goodfortune I was able to put my hand upon my knife and detach theanchor at the right moment. The shock on coming to the groundwas dreadful. The balloon seemed as if it were being flattened. I thought it was going to remain where it had fallen, but thewind was high, and it was dragged across fields, the anchor notcatching. The bodies of my unfortunate friends were shakenabout in the car, and I thought every moment they would bejerked out. At length, however, I seized the valve line, andthe gas soon escaped from the balloon, which lodged against atree. It was then four o'clock. On stepping out, I was seizedwith a feverish attack, and sank down and thought for a momentthat I was going to join my friends in the next world; but Icame to. I found the bodies of my friends cold and stiff. Ihad them put under shelter in an adjacent barn. The descent ofthe 'Zenith' took place in the plains 155 miles from Paris asthe crow flies. The greatest height attained in this ascent isestimated at 28,000 feet."

Seems easy then


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