Mr Glaisher's Ascents (cont'd): April 18, 1863; June 26, 1863.
In the ascent, April 18, 1863, 24,000 feet of elevation was reached. It was remarkable for the rapidity of the descent. At 2h. 44m., the balloon being then at a height of 10,000 feet, Mr. Coxwell suddenly caught sight of Beachy Head, and Mr. Glaisher, looking over the edge of the car, saw the sea, apparently immediately underneath. There was no time to be lost, and Mr. Coxwell hung on to the valveline, telling Mr. Glaisher to leave his instruments and do the same. The earth was reached at 2h. 48m., the two miles of descent having been effected in four minutes. The balloon struck the groun near Newhaven with a terrible crash, but, from the free use of the valve-line, it was so crippled that it did not move afterwards. All the instruments, of the value of more than 25 pounds, including some that were unreplaceable, were broken, and Mr. Glaisher was hurt. In the descent, after the first high ascent on July 17, 1862, the earth was struck with so much violence that most of the instruments were broken, and Mr. Glaisher (who was closed in by his observing board) was a good deal hurt then. In subsequent ascents, therefore, boxes were used filled with small mattresses, in which the instruments could be hurriedly placed, and the board was so arranged that it could be turned over and hung outside the car. These improvements had the effect of diminishing the danger to himself and the chance of breakage of the instruments, but in the Newhaven descent there was not sufficient time to put them in practice.
The circumstances met with in the ascent, June 26, 1863, were so remarkable that a short account cannot be omitted. The morning was at first very bright and fine, but between 11 and 12 o'clock a change took place; the sky became covered with clouds, and the wind rose and blew strongly, so that great difficulty was experienced in completing the inflation. At 1h. 3m. the balloon left; in four minutes, at 4000 feet high, cloud was entered. Mr. Glaisher expected soon to break through it, and enter into bright sunshine as usual, but nothing of the sort took place, as, on emergence, clouds were seen both above and below. At 9000 feet the sighing and moaning of the wind were heard, and Mr. Glaisher satisfied himself that this was due, not to the cordage of the balloon, but to opposing currents. At this time the sun was seen faintly, but instead of its brilliance increasing although the balloon was then two miles high, a fog was entered, and the sight of the sun lost. The balloon next passed through a dry fog, which was left at 12,000 feet, and after the sun had been seen faintly for a little time, a wetting fog was entered.
"At 15,000 feet," Mr. Glaisher proceeds "we were still in fog, but it was not so wetting. At 16,000 feet we entered a dry fog; at 17,000 feet saw faint gleams of the sun, and heard a train. We were now about 3 miles high; at this time we were not in cloud, but clouds were below us; others were on our level at a distance, and yet more above us. We looked with astonishment at each other, and said as we were rising steadily we surely must soon pass through them. At 17,500 feet we were again enveloped in fog, which became wetting at 18,500 feet; we left this cloud below at 19,600 feet. At 20,000 feet the sun was just visible. We were now approaching 4 miles high; dense clouds were still above us; for a space of 2000 to 3000 feet we met with no fog, but on passing above 4 miles our attention was first attracted to a dark mass of cloud, and then to another on our level; both these clouds had fringed edges- they were both nimbi. Without the slighter doubt both these clouds were regular rain-clouds. Whilst looking at them we again lost sight of everything, being enveloped in fog whilst passing upwards through 1000 feet. At 22,000 feet, we again emerged, and were above clouds on passing above 23,000 feet. At six minutes to 2 o'clock we heard a railway train; the temperature here was 18°. I wished still to ascend to find the limits of this vapour, but Mr. Coxwell said, ÎWe are too short of sand; I cannot go higher; we must not even stop here.' I was therefore most reluctantly compelled to abandon the wish, and looked searchingly around. At this highest point, in close proximity to us, were rain-clouds; below us dense fog. I was again reminded that we must not stop. With a hasty glance everywhere, above, below, around, I saw the sky nearly covered with dark clouds of a stratus character, with cirri still higher, and small spaces of blue sky between them. The blue was not the blue of 4 or 5 miles high as I had always before seen it, but a faint blue, as seen from the earth when the air is charged with moisture."
In the downward journey an even more remarkable series of circumstances was met with; for a fall of rain was passed through, and then below it a snow-storm, the flakes being entirely composed of spiculae of ice and innumerable snow-crystals. On reaching the ground near Ely the lower atmosphere was found to be thick, misty, and murky. At Wolverton the afternoon was cold, raw, and disagreeable for a summer's day. The fact of rain-clouds extending layer above layer to a height of 4 miles, was one never hitherto regarded as possible; and the occurrence of rain and snow, and the latter underneath the former, and all happening on a day in the very middle of summer, formed a series of most curious and unexpected phenomena.
Read the rest of this article:
Aeronautics - Table of Contents