1902 Encyclopedia > Aeronautics > Mr Glaisher's Balloon Ascents (cont'd): September 5, 1862 (Greatest Height Ever Reached)

(Part 33)

Mr Glaisher's Balloon Ascents (cont'd): September 5, 1862 (Greatest Height Ever Reached)

As in the ascent, September 5, 1862, the greatest height ever reached was attained, it is desirable to give the account of it in some detail, and in M. Glaisher's own words. It is only necessary to premise that it was intended on this occasion to ascend as high as possible. The following is an extract from Mr. Glaisher's account (British Association Report, 1862, pp. 383-385): --

"This ascent had been delayed owing to the unfavourable state of the weather. The balloon left at 1h. 3m. P.M. The temperature of the air was 59°, and the dew-point 50°. At the height of 1 mile it was 41°, dew-point 38°; and shortly afterwards we entered a cloud of about 1100 feet in thickness, in which the temperature of the air fell to 36°, the dew-point being the same, thus indicating that the air was here saturated with moisture. On emerging from the cloud at 1h. 17m. we came upon a flood of strong sunlight, with a beautiful blue sky, without a cloud above us, and a magnificent sea of cloud below, its surface being varied with endless hills, hillocks, mountain chains, and many snow-white masses rising from it. I here tried to take a view with the camera; but we were rising with too great rapidity, and going round and round too quickly to enable me to do so. The flood of light, however, was so great that all I should have needed would have been a momentary exposure, as Dr. Hill Norris had kindly furnished me with extremely sensitive dry plates for the purpose. We reached 2 miles in height at 1h. 31m. The temperature had fallen to the freezing-point, and the dew-point to 26°. We were 3 miles high at 1h. 28m. with a temperature of 18°, and dew-point 13°. At 1h. 39m. we had reached 4 miles, and the temperature was 8°, and dew-point -- 15°; in ten minutes more we had reached the fifth mile, and the temperature had passed below zero, and then read -- 2°, and at this point no dew was observed on Regnault's hygrometer when cooled down to- 30°; but a dew-point obtained from the readings of dry and wet gave-36°. Up to this time I had taken observations with comfort. I had experience no difficulty in breathing, whilst Mr. Coxwell, in consequence of the necessary exertions he had no make, had breathed with difficulty for some time. At 1h. 51m. the barometer reading was 11.05 inches, but this requires a substractive correction of 0.25 inch, as found by comparison with Lord Wrottesley's standard barometer just before starting. I afterwards read the dry thermometer as-5 o; this must have been about 1h. 52m. or later; I could not see the column of mercury in the wet bulb thermometer; nor afterwards the hands of the watch, nor the fine divisions on any instrument. I asked Mr. Coxwell to help me to read the instruments, as I experienced a difficulty in seeing. In consequence, however, of the rotatory motion of the balloon, which had continued without ceasing since the earth had been left, the valve-line had become twisted and he had to leave the car and mount into the ring above to adjust it. At this time I looked at the barometer, and found it to be 10 inches, still decreasing fast; its true reading therefore was 9 x inches, implying a height of 29,000 feet. Shortly afterwards I laid my arm upon the table, possessed of its full vigour, and on being desirous of using it, I found it powerless-it must have lost its power momentarily. I tried to move the other arm, and found it powerless also. I then tried to shake myself, and succeeded in shaking my body. I seemed to have to limbs. I then looked at the barometer, and whilst doing so my head fell on my left shoulder. I struggled and shook my body again, but could not move my arms. I got my head upright, but for an instant only, when it fell on my right shoulder, and then I feel backwards, my back resting against the side of the car, and my head on its edge; in this position my eyes were directed towards Mr. Coxwell in the ring. When I shook my body I seemed to have full power over the muscles of the back, and considerable power over those of the neck, but none over either my arms or my legs; in fact, I seemed to have none. as in the case of the arms, all muscular power was lost in an instant from my back and neck. I dimly saw Mr. Coxwell in the ring, and endeavoured to speak, but could not, when in an instant intense black darkness came; the optic nerve finally lost power suddenly. I was still conscious, with as active a brain as at the present moment whilst writings this. I thought I had been seized with asphyxia, and that I should experience no more, as death would come unless we speedily descendent; other thoughts were actively entering my mind, when I suddenly became unconscious as on going to sleep. I cannot tell anything of the sense of hearing; the perfect stillness and silence of the regions 6 miles from the earth(and at this time we were between 6 and 7 miles high) is such that no sound reaches the ear.

"My last observation was made at 1h. 54m. at 29,000 feet. I suppose two or three minutes fully were occupied between my eyes becoming insensible to seeing fine divisions and 1h. 54m. and then that two or three minutes more passed till I was insensible; therefore I think this took place at about 1h. 56m. or 1h. 57m. Whilst powerless I heard the words Îtemperature' and Îobservation,' and I knew Mr. Coxwell was in the car speaking to me, and endeavouring to arouse me; therefore consciousness and hearing had returned. I then heard him speak more emphatically, but I could not see, speak, or move. I heard him again say, 'Do try -- now do.' Then I saw the instruments dimly, then Mr. Coxwell, and very shortly saw clearly. I rose in my seat and looked round, as though waking from sleep, though not refreshed by sleep, and said to Mr. Coxwell, 'I have been insensible.' He said, 'You have; and I too, very nearly.' I then drew up my legs, which had been extended before me, and took a pencil in my hand to begin observations. Mr. Coxwell told me that he had lost the use of his hands, which were black, and I poured brandy over them.

"I resumed my observations at 2h. 7m., recording the barometer reading at 11.53 inches and temperature -- 2°. I supposed that three or four minutes were occupied from the time of my hearing the words 'temperature' and 'observation' till I began to observe. If son, then returning consciousness came at 2h. 4m., and this gives seven minutes for total insensibility. I found the water in the vessel supplying the wet bulb thermometer which I had by frequent disturbances kept from freezing, was one solid mass of ice; and it did not all melt until after we had been on the ground sometime.

"Mr. Coxwell told me that whilst in the ring he felt it piercingly cold; that hoar-frost was all round the neck of the balloon; on attempting to leave the ring he found his hands frozen, and he had to place his arms on the ring and drop down; that he thought for a moment I had lain back to rest myself; that he spoke to me without eliciting a reply; that he then noticed my legs projected and my arms lung down by my side; that my countenance was serene and placid, without the earnestness and anxiety he had noticed before going into the ring, and then it struck him I was insensible. He wished to approach me, but could not, and he felt insensibility coming over himself; that he became anxious to open the valve, but in consequence of his having lost the use of his hands he could not, and ultimately did so by seizing the cord with his teeth, and dipping his head two or three times, until the balloon took a decided turn downwards.

"No inconvenience followed this insensibility, and when we dropped it was in a country where no conveyance of any kind could be obtained, so that I had to walk between 7 and 8 miles.

"The descent was at first very rapid; we passed downwards 3 miles in nine minutes; the balloon's career was then checked, and it finally descended in the center of a large grass field at Cold Weston 7 miles from Ludlow.

"In this ascent six pigeons were taken up. One was thrown out at the height of 3 miles, when it extended its wings and dropped as a piece of paper, a second, at 4 miles, flew vigorously round and round, apparently taking a dip each time; a third was thrown out between 4 and 5 miles, and it fell downwards as a stone; a fourth was thrown out at 4 miles on descending; it flew a circle, and shortly alighted on the top of the balloon. The two remaining pigeons were brought down to the ground. One was fond to be dead, and the other, a carrier, was still living, but would not leave the hand when I attempted to throw it off, till, after a quarter of an hour, it began to peck a piece of ribbon which encircled its neck, and was then jerked off the finger, and flew with some vigour towards Wolverhampton. One of the pigeons returned to Wolverhampton on Sunday, the 7th, and this is the only one that has been heard of."

Mr. Glaisher found from his observation-book that the last observation was made at 29,000 feet, and that at this time the balloon was ascending at the rate of 1000 feet per minute; and that when he resumed his observations, it was descending at the rate of 2000 feet per minute, the interval being thirteen minutes. This gives 36,000 or 37,000 feet for the greatest height attained. Two other series of considerations led to the latter height, and there can be no doubt that the altitude of 37,000 feet, or 7 miles, was attained on this occasion.

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