Saturday, May 06, 2006

Balloons

July 7th.—Went yesterday to see the aerial ship, as they call the new balloon. It is very interesting, though I cannot believe that it will actually perform the voyage from London to Paris, in about six weeks from the present time (if the wind is perfectly fair), in five hours.

The form of a cylinder with conical ends, and the various contrivances for admitting or excluding the atmospheric air, seem to place it a little less at the mercy of the wind than former balloons. Still the directing power, or rather the stemming power, is quite wanting. They have the power of raising themselves into the higher regions of the atmosphere, where they may expect another current, or may go almost upon the sea, as the buoyancy of the whole machine would prevent it from sinking.

Still it is owned, that if there is a wind against them, even such as would only carry them five miles an hour, they cannot go. Therefore it seems to me utterly impossible that the machine should ever be brought into use as a conveyance; but I suppose that for scientific purposes it might be useful in investigation, and perhaps were navigation still dependent on winds and tides and the power of steam undiscovered, it might have been of real use.

The gallery in which the passengers are to go, seems to me perilously slight, and obviously unequal to the encounter with any severe weather. The ribs or joists of the floor are covered only with basket-work, which seems very insufficient for a number of persons (the crew alone is seventeen) to tread with safety.*

Editor’s note
* It would seem from this description, compared with that of the French monster balloon, that the art of aerial navigation has made little progress in the last 30 years.

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