Aeronautics

Some fair idea of the conditions prevailing in the upper air may have been gathered from the many and various observations already recorded. Stating the case broadly, we may assert that the same atmospheric changes with which we are familiar at the level of the earth are to be found also at all accessible heights, equally extensive and equally sudden.

Mention should be made in these pages of a night sail of a hundred miles, boldly carried out in 1849 by M. Arban, which took the voyager from Marseilles to Turin fairly over the Alps.

The future development of aerostation is necessarily difficult to forecast. Having reviewed its history from its inception we have to allow that the balloon in itself, as an instrument of aerial locomotion, remains practically only where it was 120 years ago. Nor, in the nature of the case, is this to be wondered at. The wind, which alone guides the balloon, is beyond man's control, while, as a source of lifting power, a lighter and therefore more suitable gas than hydrogen is not to be found in nature.

It was the year 1862, and the scientific world in England determined once again on attempting observational work in connection with balloons. There had been a meeting of the British Association at Wolverhampton, and, under their auspices, and with the professional services of Thomas Lythgoe, Mr. Creswick, of Greenwich Observatory, was commissioned to make a lofty scientific ascent with a Cremorne balloon. The attempt, however, was unsatisfactory; and the balloon being condemned, an application was made to Mr. Coxwell to provide a suitable craft, and to undertake its management.

Mr. Glaisher's instrumental outfit was on an elaborate and costly scale, and the programme of experimental work drawn up for him by the Committee of the British Association did not err on the side of too much modesty. In the first place the temperature and moisture of the atmosphere were to be examined. Observations on mountain sides had determined that thermometers showed a decrease of 1 degree F. for every 300 feet, and the accuracy of this law was particularly to be tested. Also, investigations were to be made as to the distribution of vapour below the clouds, in them, and above them.

Early in the following spring we find the same two aeronauts going aloft again on a scientific excursion which had a termination nearly as sensational as the last. The ascent was from the Crystal Palace, and the intention being to make a very early start the balloon for this purpose had been partially filled overnight; but by the morning the wind blew strongly, and, though the ground current would have carried the voyagers in comparative safety to the southwest, several pilots which were dismissed became, at no great height, carried away due south.

By this period a revival of aeronautics in the land of its birth had fairly set in. Since the last ascents of Gay Lussac, in 1804, already recorded, there had been a lull in ballooning enterprise in France, and no serious scientific expeditions are recorded until the year 1850, when MM.

"He that would learn to fly must be brought up to the constant
practice of it from his youth, trying first only to use his
wings as a tame goose will do, so by degrees learning to rise

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

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