By aeronauts (omitting the pioneers Lunardi, Zambeccari, and others who have been already spoken of) we mean persons who have followed ballooning as a business or trade.
Of these, perhaps the best known and most successful have been Blanchard, Gernerin, the Sadlers, Mr. Charles Green, Mr Wise, Mr. Coxwell, and the bothers Godard.
Blanchard made, it is said, thirty-six ascents, his first having taken place on March 2, 1784. His wife also made many ascents; she was killed on July 7, 1819.
Garnerin is said to have ascended more than fifty times; he introduced night ascents with fireworks, &c., the first of which took place on August 4, 1807. We shall have occasion to refer to him again when we treat of parachutes.
Mr. James Sadler made about sixty ascents, the first of which took place on October 12, 1784. His two sons, John and Windham, both followed in their father's steps; the latter was killed in 1817.
In the minds of most Englishmen the practice of ballooning will, for a long time, be associated with the name of Mr. Charles Green, the most celebrated of English aeronauts, who having made his first ascent on July 19, 1821, only died in the year 1870, at a very advanced age. He is credited with 526 ascents by Mr. Turnor; and from advertisements, &c., we see that in 1838 he had made 249. Mr Green may be said to have reduced ballooning to routine, and he made more ascents than any other person has ever accomplished.
He accompanied Mr. Welsh in his scientific ascents, and to him is also due the invention of the guide rope, which he used in many of his voyages with success. It merely consisted of a rope not less than 1000 feet in length, which was attached to the ring of the balloon (from which the car is suspended), and hung down so that the end of it was allowed to trail along the surface of the ground, the object being to prevent the continual waste of gas and ballast that takes place in an ordinary balloon journey, as such an expenditure is otherwise always going on, owing to the necessity of keeping the balloon from getting either too high or too low. If a balloon provided with a guide rope sinks so low that a good deal of the rope rests on the earth, it is relieved of so much weight and rises again; if, on the contrary, it rises so high that but a little is supported by the earth, a greater weight is borne by the balloon, and equilibrium is thus produced. Mr. Green frequently used the guide rope, and found that its action was satisfactory, and that it did not, as might be supposed, become entangled in trees, &c. It was used in the Nassau journey, but more recent aeronauts have dispensed with it. Still, in crossing the sea or making a very long journey, where the preservation of the gas was of great importance, it could not fail to be valuable.
Mr. Green had, in his time, more experience in the management than has fallen to the lot of any one else, and he brought to bear on the subject a great amount of skill and practical knowledge. There is also a plain matter-of-fact style about his accounts of his ascents that contrasts very favourably with the writings of some other aeronauts.
Mr. Coxwell, who has made several hundred ascents, first ascended in 1844, under the name of Wells. He it was who, as aeronaut, accompanied Mr. Glaisher in most of his scientific ascents, 1872-65.
The Godard family have made very many ascents in France, and are well known in all countries in connection with aeronautics. It was to two of the Godards that the management of the military balloons in the Italian campaign was entrusted; it was M. Jules Godard who succeeded in opening the valve in the dangerous descent of Nadar's balloon in Hanover in 1863, and it was Eugene Godard who constructed perhaps the largest Montgolfier ever made, an account of the ascensions of which has been given above.
M. Dupuis Delcourt was also a well-known aeronaut; he has written on the subject of aerostation, and his balloons were employed by MM. Bixio and Barral in their scientific ascents.
In America Mr. Wise is par excellence the aeronaut; he has made several hundred ascents, and many of them are distinguished for much skill and daring. He also appears to have pursued his profession with more energy capacity than has any other aeronaut in recent times, and his History of Aerostation shows him to possess much higher scientific attainments than balloonists usually have. In fact, Mr. Wise stands alone in this respect, as nearly all professional aeronauts are destitute of scientific knowledge.
Read the rest of this article:
Aeronautics - Table of Contents