1902 Encyclopedia > Aeronautics > Projected Balloon Voyage Across the Atlantic in 1873

(Part 21)

Projected Balloon Voyage Across the Atlantic in 1873

In the summer of 1873 the proprietors of the New York Daily Graphic, an illustrated paper, determined to construct a very large balloon, and enable Mr. Wise, the well known American aeronaut, to realize his favourite scheme of crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. It was believed by many that a current from west to east existed constantly at heights above 10,000 feet, but this seems very uncertain. Mr. Green having stated that he had met with such a current, Mr. Glaisher made a point of investigating the directions of the wind at different heights in his ascents, but found that they were as capricious as near the ground. The same result was found by others, and a comparison of the courses of the balloons sent up from Paris during the siege will show that no constant current exists. The American project came to nothing owing to the quality of the material of which the balloon was made. The size was said to be such as to contain 400,000 cubic feet, so that it would lift a weight of 14,000 lb. On September 12, 1873, during its inflation, Mr. Wise declared the material of which it was made was so bad that he could not ascend in it, though the other two persons who were to accompany him agreed to go. When, however, 325,000 feet of gas had been put into the balloon, a rent was observed, and the whole rapidly collapsed. Although this accident was greatly regretted at the time, it seems pretty certain, from what subsequently took place, that the aeronauts would not have succeeded in their object, and a serious mishap was probably avoided. On October 6, 1873, Mr. Donaldson and two others ascended from New York in the balloon after it had been repaired, and effected a perilous descent in Connecticut. During the autumn of 1873 a great amount of discussion took place both in England and America about the existence of the westerly current and the subject of aerostation. In September 1873 Mr. Barnum, the well-known American showman, visited England with the view of eliciting whether, in the opinion of those best qualified, there was sufficient probability of a successful result to induce him to undertake the construction of a suitable balloon.

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