1902 Encyclopedia > Aeronautics > Felix Nadar's Balloon

(Part 19)

Felix Nadar's Balloon

In 1863, Nadar, a well-known photographer at Paris, constructed an enormous balloon, which he called "Le Geant." It was the largest gas-balloon ever constructed, containing over 200,000 cubic feet of gas. Underneath it was placed a smaller balloon, called a compensator, the object of which was to prevent loss of gas during the voyage. The car had two stories, and was, in fact, a model of a cottage in wicker-work, 8 feet in height by 13 feet in length, containing a small printing --office, a photographic department, a refreshment --room, a lavatory, &c., The first ascent took place at fve o'clock on Sunday, October 4, 1863, from the Champ de Mars. There were thirteen persons in the car, including one lady, the Princess de la Tour d"Auvergne, and the two aeronauts Louis and Jules Godard. In spite of the elaborate preparation that had been made and the stores of provisions that were taken up, the balloon descended at nine o'clock, at Meaux, the early descent being rendered necessary, it was said, by an accident to the valve-line. A second ascent was made a fortnight later, viz., on October 18; there were nine passengers, including Madam Nadar. The balloon descended at the expiration of seventeens hours, near Nienburg in Hanover, a distance of about 400 miles. A strong wind was blowing, and the balloon was dragged over the ground a distance of 7 or 8 miles. All the passengers were bruised, and some more seriously hurt. The balloon and car were then brought to England, and exhibited for some time at the Crystal Palace at the end of 1863 and beginning of 1864. The two ascents of Nadar's balloon excited an extraordinary amount of enthusiasm and interest, vastly out of proportion to what they were entitled to. The balloon was larger than any of the same kind that had previously ascended; but this was scarcely more than just appreciable to the eye, as the doubling the contents of a balloon makes comparatively slight addition to its diameter. M. Nadar's idea was to obtain sufficient money, by the exhibition of his balloon, to carry a plan of aerial locomotion he had conceived possible by means of the principle of the screw; in fact, he spoke of "Le Geant" as "the last balloon." He also started L'Aeronaute, a newspaper devoted to aerostation, and published a small book, which was translated into English under the title The Right to fly. Nadar's ascents had not the remotest connection with science, although he claimed that they had; nor was his knowledge, as shown in his writings, sufficient to have enabled him to advance it in any way.

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