Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Happy Montgolfier Day!

Heres a report from the horses mouth!!

I wish to describe as well as I can the first journey which men have
attempted through an element which, prior to the discovery of the
Monsieur's Montgolfier, seemed so little fitted to support him.
We went up on the 21st of November, 1783, at near two o'clock. M. Rozier
on the west side of the balloon, I on the east. The wind was nearly
north-west. The machine, say the public, rose with majesty; but really
the position of the balloon altered so that M. Rozier was in the advance
of our position, I in the rear.
I was surprised at the silence and the absence of movement which our
departure caused among the spectators, and believed them to be
astonished and perhaps awed at the strange spectacle; they might well
have reassured themselves. I was still gazing when M. Rozier cried to
me"You are doing nothing, and the balloon is scarcely rising a fathom."
"Pardon me," I answered, as I placed a bundle of straw upon the fire and
slightly stirred it. Then I turned quickly but already we had passed out
of sight of La Muette. Astonished I cast a glance towards the river. I
perceived the confluence of the Oise. And naming the principal bends of
the river by the places nearest them, I cried, "Passy, St. Germain, St.
Denis, Sevres!"
"If you look at the river in that fashion you will be likely to bathe in
it soon," cried Rozier. "Some fire, my dear friend, some fire!"
We traveled on; but instead of crossing he river, a our direction seemed
to indicate, we bore towards the Invalides, them returned upon the
principal bend of the river, and traveled to above the barrier of La
Conference, thus dodging about the river, but not crossing it.
"The river is very difficult to cross," I remarked to my companion.
"So it seems," he answered; "but you are doing nothing. I suppose it is
because you are braver than I, and don't fear a tumble."
I stirred the fire; I seized a truss of straw with my fork; I raised it
and threw it in the midst of the flames. An instant afterwards I felt
myself lifted as if it were into the heavens.
"For once we move," said I.
"Yes, we move," answered my companion.
At the same instant I heard from the top of the balloon a sound which
made me believe that it had burst. I watched, yet I saw nothing. My
companion had gone into the interior, no doubt to make some
observations. A my eyes were fixed on the top of the machine I
experienced a shock, and it was the only one I had yet felt. The
direction of the movement was from above, downwards. I then said "what
are you doing? Are you having a dance to yourself"
"I'm not moving."
"So much the better. It is only a new current which I hope will carry us
from the river," I answered. I turned to see where we were, and found we
were between the Ecole Militaire and the Invalides.
"We are getting on," said Rozier.
"Yes, we are travelling."
"Let us work, let us work," said he.
I now heard another report in the machine, which I believed was produced
by the cracking of a cord. This new intimation made me carefully examine
the inside of our habitation. I saw that the part that was turned
towards the south was full of holes, some of which were of a
considerable size.
"It must descend," I then cried.
"Look!" I said. At the same time I took my sponge and quietly
extinguished the fire that was burning some of the holes within my
reach; but at the same moment I perceived that the bottom of the cloth
was coming away from the circle which surrounded it.
"We must descend," I repeated to my companion. He looked below. "We are
upon Paris," he said. "It does not matter," I answered. "Only look! is
there no danger? Are you holding on well" "Yes."
I examined from my side, and saw that I had nothing to fear. I then
tried with my sponge the ropes which were within my reach. All of them
held firm. Only two of the cords had broken. I then said, "We can cross
During this operation we were rapidly getting down to the roofs. We made
more fire, and rose again with the greatest ease. I looked down, and it
seemed to me we were going towards the towers of St. Sulpice; but, on
rising, a new current made us quit this direction and bear more to the
south. I looked to the left, and beheld a wood, which I believed to be
that of the Luxembourg. We were traversing the boulevard, and I cried
all at once "Get to the ground!"
But the intrepid Rozier, who never lost his head, and who judged more
surely than I, prevented me from attempting to descend. I then threw a
bundle of straw on the fire. We rose again, and another current bore us
to the left. We were now close to the ground, between two mills. As soon
as we came near the earth I raised myself over the gallery, and leaning
there with my two hands, I felt the balloon pressing softly against my
head. I pushed it back, and leaped to the ground. Looking round and
expecting to so see the balloon still distended, I was astonished to
find it quite empty and flattened. On looking for Rozier I saw him in
his shirt-sleeves creeping from under the mass of canvas that had fallen
over him. Before attempting to descend he had put off his coat and
placed it in the basket. After a deal of trouble we were at last all

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hotair said...
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