1902 Encyclopedia > Aeronautics > Ascent of MM. Charles and Robert in Hydrogen Balloon. Ascent of Seven Persons in Lyons. American Aerostatic Experiment (1783).

(Part 11)

Ascent of MM. Charles and Robert in Hydrogen Balloon. Ascent of Seven Persons in Lyons. American Aerostatic Experiment (1783).

Only ten days later, viz., on December 1, 1783, MM. Charles and Robert ascended from Paris in a balloon in flated with hydrogen gas. The balloon, as in the case of the small one of the same kind previously launched from the Champ de Mars, was constructed by the brothers Robert. It was 27 feet in diameter, and the car was suspended from a hoop surrounding the middle of the balloon, and fastened to a net, which covered the upper hemisphere. The balloon ascended very gently from the Tuileries at a quarter to two o'clock, and after remaining for some time at an elevation of about 2000 feet, it descended in about two hours at Nesle, a small town about 27 miles from Paris, when M. Robert left the car, and M. Charles made a second ascent by himself. He had intended to have replaced the weight of his companion by a nearly equivalent quantity of ballast; but not having any suitable means of obtaining such ready at the place of descent, and it being just upon sunset, he gave the word to let go, and the balloon being thus so greatly lightened ascended very rapidly to a height of about 2 miles. After staying in their air about half-an-hour, he descended 3 miles from the place of ascent, although he believed the distance traversed, owing to different currents, to have been about 9 miles. In this second journey M. Charles experience a violent pain in his right ear and jaw, no doubt produced by the rapidity of the ascent. He also witnessed the phenomenon of a double sunset on the same day; for when he ascended, the sun had set in the valleys, and as he mounted he saw it rise again, and set a second time as he descended.

All the features of the modern balloon as now used are more or less due to Charles, who invented the valve at the top, suspended the car from a hoop, which was itself attached to be balloon by netting, &c. The M. Robert who accompanied him in the ascent was one of the brothers who had constructed it.

On January 19, 1784, the largest balloon on record (if the contemporary accounts are correct) ascended from Lyons. It was more than 100 feet in diameter, about 130 feet in height, and when distended had a capacity, it is said, of over half-a-million cubic feet. It was called the Flesselles (from the name of its proprietor or owner, we believe), and after having been inflated from a straw fire in seventeen minutes, it rose with seven persons in the car viz. Joseph Montgolfier, Pilatre de Rozier, Count de Laurencin, Count de Dampierre, Prince Charles de Ligne, Count de Laport d'Anglefort, and M. Fontaine, the last gentleman having leaped into the car just as the machine had started. The fire was fed with trusses of straw, and the balloon rose majestically to the height of about 3000 feet, but descended again after the lapse of about a quarter of an hour from the time of starting, in consequence of a rent in the upper part.

It is proper here to state that researches on the use of gas for inflating balloons seem to have been carried on at Philadelphia nearly simultaneously with the experiments of the Montgolfiers; and when the news of the latter reached America, Messrs Rittenhouse and Hopkins, members of the Philosophical Academy of Philadelphia, constructed a machine consisting of forty-seven small hydrogen gas-balloon attached to a car or cage. After several preliminary experiments, in which animals were let up to a certain height by a rope, a carpenter, one James Wilcox, was induced to enter the car for a small sum of money; the ropes were cut, and he remained in the air about ten minutes, and only then effected his descent by making incisions in a number of the balloons, through fear of falling into the river, which he was approaching.

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