I recently visited the San Diego Wildlife Safari Park and took a ride in a tethered hot-air balloon. We rose about fifty feet into the air, securely attached to the ground with a thick metal cable. Although I don’t like heights, I wanted to experience this amateurish sensation because a story about hot air balloons has been working its way in the back of my mind.
Which got me to thinking about the history of said balloons, and the topic of this post.
|First flight with animals -- www.seattleballooning.com
I was surprised to learn that the first balloon was launched by a Frenchman in 1783, and the passengers were a sheep, a duck, and a rooster. Unfortunately, the flight lasted only fifteen minutes before crashing to the ground. Apparently all animals survived.
|Montgolfier flight seattleballooning.com
The first flight with people happened two months later, when two French brothers, the Montgolfiers, took off from the center of Paris and flew for twenty minutes without crash landing. They’d gotten their inspiration from smoke from fire hovering over Parisian rooftops for hours before ascending into the clouds. Their first designs were paper bags filled with smoke, which led to a larger paper bag filled with hot air. The six-hundred cubic-feet capacity balloon rose so quickly that the tether ropes broke, and they rose to six hundred feet above the ground. Later that year, an even larger paper balloon reached one thousand feet in altitude and covered three-quarters of a mile. Another balloon of 23,000 cubic feet, released from its tethers, rose 6,000 feet in the air.
Two years later, in 1785, another French balloonist and an American co-pilot crossed the English Channel, which was considered the first test for anything involving balloon flight.
But tragedy struck that same year when de Rozier, the world’s first balloonist, was killed when he attempted the same journey.