The Aeronauts

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The Aeronauts

Post  Banjo on 2018-08-15, 16:00

There is something so bogus about this film that I had to research further.  The thing that tipped me off is that they refer to it as a 'hot air balloon'.  No way Jose.....

I can't find any details on his balloon technology but it may have been what is called a 'hybrid balloon'
On November 26, 2005 Vijaypat Singhania set the world altitude record for highest hot air balloon flight, reaching 21,027 m (68,986 ft). He took off from downtown Mumbai, India, and landed 240 km (150 mi) south in Panchale.[15] The previous record of 19,811 m (64,997 ft) had been set by Per Lindstrand on June 6, 1988, in Plano, Texas.

Hollywood seems to have altered history for purposes of drama and even, one might suggest, political correctness, as it tends to do.

   The site of the University of Wolverhampton's Science Park was once the location of a world high altitude record

   In 1862 that impressive and august body, the British Association for the Advancement of Science, was determined to establish the nature of the upper atmosphere.

   What the Association needed first was a site sufficiently far inland to prevent a balloon being blown out to sea. It had to be easily reached by rail for the transporting of equipment. It had to be close to a gas works to inflate a balloon. Hydrogen was the best lifting agent but it was much too expensive and dangerous. Also, there had to be a clear take-off area.

   And if the event could be isolated by a stout fence from crowds of vulgar sensation-seeking hordes of the lower orders, all to the good. Respectability and dignity was important to Victorian scientists.

   Strange as it may seem now, few places in Britain then met those requirements. But Wolverhampton did. All that remained was to find a serious balloon pilot prepared to put his life at risk.

   Enter the balloonist or aeronaut, Henry Coxwell, and the scientist, James Glaisher, of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. Enter also the summer of 1862.

   On two occasions violent gales sprang up as the balloon "Mars" was being inflated at Dunstall. The envelope was ripped open and the launch cancelled, with red faces for all concerned.

   There were howling winds on July 17th, as Coxwell struggled with the netting, and Glaisher bundled aboard his thermometers, barographs, aspirators, magnetic needles and other measuring devices.

   The pair were on the point of calling the whole flight off as too dangerous when the wind pressure decided the matter for them. It snapped the rope restraining the balloon and away it soared.

   It was hardly dignified. But the British stiff-upper-lip prevailed, and Glaisher began recording his data. The pair lifted to 22,357 feet, a respectable enough height, coming to earth at Oakham in what was then Rutlandshire, about sixty miles away from Wolverhampton.

   It was nothing compared to what was in store for them. Perhaps that flight helped to acclimatise the two flyers. But it did not prepare them for an unknown from which they very nearly did not return.

   The watching crowds were bigger on September 5th, 1862, and the weather kinder. What was different was the gas that filled "Mars". Mr Thomas Proud, Manager of the Wolverhampton Gas Works, had 'brewed' a particularly potent supply, capable of much more 'lift' than normal.

I can't find any record of exactly what the type of gas it was, but that was the only substance at the time, other than Hydrogen, that would have provided enough lift to reach those altitudes.

After reading this, I'm guessing that it wasn't any type of 'coal gas' , but maybe some type of Methane 'blend'.

   There was a fully-controlled launch within a couple of minutes of the 1.00 pm target, and Coxwell and Glaisher were elated to find themselves at a height of two miles in only 19 minutes.

   The soaring rate of climb continued past the three and four mile mark.

   Because the balloon's basket was unevenly loaded, the balloon canopy began to revolve, tangling the net. And, along with it, the valving rope that enabled gas to be released so that the balloon could descend.

   As Glaisher patiently recorded what his instruments told him, the four mile and five mile mark were passed. Both men knew they are in line for a record. As Coxwell climbed into the rigging to free the valve line, Glaisher's eyesight began to deteriorate. He began to lose the power to move his arms and legs. His voice goes, his hearing fades. He passes out, his head sagging over the rim of the basket.

   Coxwell, in the rigging, is frozen almost helpless with the cold. His hands are turning blue and black. He tumbles, rather than climbs down into the basket. The balloon is still rising. Coxwell seizes the gas valve rope in his teeth and pulls. The valve opens and the balloon begins to descend.

   Neither man appreciates the situation until afterwards when the instruments are read. But they have reached the 37,000 feet mark. They are the first men into the Stratosphere.

   Without oxygen, without pressure suits, without a protective cabin, seven miles high, they have penetrated into Jumbo Jet country. Unconscious and frozen under a balloon that would have gone on climbing until it burst.

   What follows, as the balloon plunges downwards, is a classic British understatement*.

   'Out of a thick darkness Glaisher hears the voice of his companion trying to rouse him: "Do try; now do". The darkness lightens. Dimly Glaisher sees the barometer tube, the other instruments, then the form of Coxwell bending over him, then gladness driving the anxiety from Coxwell's face.

   "He sits upright, stretches himself as if awaking from a deep sleep and says:

   "I have been insensible".

   "You have", answers Coxwell, "and I too, very nearly".

   "The first thing Glaisher does when he rises to his feet is to take a pencil and resume his observations.

   'But he lays it aside as soon as he notices Coxwell's black, frost-bitten hands, and rubs them with brandy until the circulation is restored'.

   All this time the balloon is racing downwards.

   By throwing out ballast the descent is brought under control for a severe but safe landing at Cold Weston under the shadow of the Brown Clee Hill in Shropshire. In a straight line, the pair are only about twenty miles from their launch point.

   As Coxwell begins to recover the balloon, Glaisher begins a six mile trudge into nearby Ludlow to get help. Perhaps he spends the time wondering about the fate of the pigeon that was thrown out when the balloon had fallen to the four mile mark.

   It merely circled the balloon and finally perched on top of the envelope. Perhaps it was the one that returned to Wolverhampton two days later.

   Glaisher made many more flights for the British Association, but never another like the September 5th, 1862 ascent from Wolverhampton.

   * "Adventures Above The Clouds", Monk & Winter, Blackie, 1933

It seems that the truth of the flights would make a more interesting movie than what is an almost entirely fictitious effort purporting to be history.

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