May 02, 2003

In a Hot-Air Balloon

Just as the dog Laika preceded Yuri Gagarin into orbit, the brothers Montgolfier didn’t dare send aeronauts Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d’Arlandes into the blue without first having launched a sheep, a duck and a cock (whose names, alas, history has not passed down to us) high into the air…


Unlike poor Laika, the trio survived their flight, which took place in September 1783, although not, apparently, without injury and distress…

The craft was launched and attained an altitude of about 7,000 feet before falling to the ground a mile and half away. Upon examination of the occupants for any ill effects caused by this lofty height, it was discovered that the duck had a broken wing. Could this have been an effect of exposure to altitude? Actually, several observers had noted that, as the balloon left the ground, the sheep had suffered an anxiety attack and had kicked the duck.

Exactly what experimental rôle the unfortunate duck, an animal presumably capable of sustained flight under its own power, was supposed to play in all this, I cannot say. In any case, this is merely an excuse for me to post these two very decorative images of the Montgolfier balloon, which I found at the London Science Museum’s site:

Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d’Arlandes were the first humans to fly, on 21 November 1783. They ascended in a balloon made of cotton and paper. The brazier which heated the air to provide the balloon's propulsion set the balloon itself alight, so the two flyers had a hazardous trip extinguishing the fire with wet sponges.
The balloon flew for 25 minutes and landed safely on the outskirts of Paris. It managed to reach a maximum height of 3000ft during its brief flight.

Further background info. may be found at these sites.

Posted by misteraitch at May 2, 2003 04:20 PM | TrackBack

Who are you?

Posted by: Antonio on April 25, 2004 09:24 PM

hey, your website is pretty interesting. i stumbled on it by accident searching for info on martini. are you still giving books away? does anyone have dibs on #10? btw: i read the merleau-ponty book _the visible and invisible_. i thought it was pretty interesting, but i wanted to know if you read any lingis (painful).

Posted by: janet on May 17, 2004 04:16 AM
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