A disastrous balloon excursion.
There was a grand balloon excursion from Paris
three weeks ago. It was a monster balloon, and carried a two-story wicker house with thirteen persons in it. The trip was to be made to St. Petersburg, Russia
, and a few days before the Emperor Napoleon had presented one of the proprietors of the balloon with $5,000, to aid in perfecting his scheme for navigating the air. The Constitutionnel
gives the following account of the freight for the excursion:
The balloon was called "The Giant;" it was white.
The car carried some legs of mutton, ices a lobster, champagne, carriage wheels, Chateau Margany wine, swords, Lyons
's sausages, guns, a wild boar's head, speaking trumpet, a dinner service in handsome porcelain, a printing press
, a table, and everything necessary for photography.
It was mounted by Madame La Princesse de la Tour
d'auvergne, Jules and Louis Godard
, Messrs. Nadar
, de St. Martin
, the Prince Witgenstein, Tournachon, St. Felix, Paillar, Thirion an anonymous individual, and myself.
M. Eugene Arnoult
, the anonymous passenger, furnishes La Nation
with the following account of the disastrous experiment, dated from Hanover
, in Belgium
They left Paris
at 5 minutes to 5 o'clock on the evening of the 15th ult:
You saw us leave the Champ de Mars
You were a witness of the majestic ascent of the Giant, raising into the air amid the applause of the crowd.
They cried to us from below, "Bon voyage!
At nine o'clock at night we were at Erquelines, we passed over Malines; and towards midnight we were in Holland
We rose very high, but it was necessary to come down to see where we were.
Ignorant of that, our position was a critical one.
Below, as far as we could see, were marshes, and in the distance, we could hear the roar of the sea. We threw out ballast, and, mounting again, soon lost sight of the earth.
What a night!
Nobody slept, as you may suppose; for the idea of falling into the sea, had nothing pleasant about it, and it was necessary to keep a look out in order to effect, if necessary, a descent.
My compass showed that we were going towards the east — that is to say, towards Germany
In the morning, after a frugal breakfast made in the could, we redescend.
An immense plain was beneath us. The villages appeared to us like children's toys; rivers seemed like little rivulets; it was magical.
The sun shone splendidly over all. Towards eight o'clock we arrived near a great lake; there I found out our bearings, and announced that we were at the end of Holland
, near the sea. We were compelled to think of landing in order to take in a little ballast.
Unhappily the heavens had made us forget the earth, over which blew a wind so violent that in a few minutes our anchors — enormous fulcrums of iron — were broken.
The valve was shut, and the balloon; which would carry us no longer, began a giddy career.
We rose from twenty to thirty metres, and fell with incredible force.
Little by little the balloon ceased to rise, and the car fell upon its side.
Then began a furious disordered race; all disappeared before us — trees, thickets, walls, all broken or burst through by the shock; it was frightful.--Sometimes it was a lake, in which we plunged; a bog, the thick mud of which entered our mouths and our eyes.
It was maddening. "Stop stop!" we shouted, enraged with the monster who was dragging us along.
A railway was before us — a train passing; it stopped at our cries, but we carried away the telegraphic posts and wire.
An instant afterwards we perceived in the distance a red house — I see it now — the wind bore us straight for this house.
It was death for all, for we should be dashed to pieces.
No one spoke.
Strange to say, of those nine persons, one of whom was a lady, who were clinging to a slender screen of osier, for whom every second seemed counted, not one had any fear.
All tongues were mute, all faces were calm.
Nadar held his wife, covering her with his body.
Every shock seemed to break her to pieces.
then tried and accomplished an act of sublime heroism.
He clambered up into the netting, the shocks of which, were so terrible that three times he fell on my head.
At length he reached the cord of the valve, opened it, and the gas having a way of escape the monster ceased to rise, but it still shot along in a horizontal line with prodigious rapidity.
There were we squatting down upon the fall osier car. "Take care?" we cried, when a tree was in the way. We turned from it, and the tree was broken, but the balloon was discharging its gas, and if the immense plain we were crossing had yet a few leagues, we were saved.
But suddenly a forest appeared in the horizon; we must leap out at whatever risk, for the car would be dashed to pieces at the first collision with those trees.
I got down into the car, and raising myself I know not how, for I suffered from a wound in my knees, my trousers were torn.
I jumped, and made, I know not how, many revolutions, and fell upon my head.
After a minute's dizziness I rose.
The car was then far off. By the aid of a stick I dragged myself to the forest, and having gone a few steps I heard some groans.
St. Felix was stretched on the soil, frightfully disfigured; his body was one wound; he had an arm broken, the chest torn, and an ankle dislocated.
The car had disappeared.
After crossing a river I heard a cry.
Nadar was stretched on the ground with a dislocated thigh; his wife had fallen into the river. --Another companion was shattered.
We occupied ourselves with St. Felix and Nadar and his wife.
In trying to assist the latter I was nearly drowned, for I fell into the water and sank.
They picked me up again, and I found the bath had done me good.
By the assistance of the inhabitants the salvage was got together.
Vehicles were brought.--They placed us upon straw.
My knees bled; my loins and head seemed to be like mincemeat; but I did not lose my presence of mind an instant, and for a second I felt myself humiliated at looking from the truss of straw at those clouds which in the night I had had under my feet.
It was in this way we reached Ruthem, in Hanover
In seventeen hours we had made nearly two hundred and fifty leagues.
Our course infernale
had covered a space of three leagues.
Now that it is over I have some shuddering.
It does not signify; we have made a good journey, and I marvel to see with what indifference we may regard the most frightful death; for, besides the prospect of being dashed about on our way, we had that of gaining the sea; and how long should we have lived then.
I am glad to have seen this — happier yet at having to narrate it to you. These Germans who surround us are brave people, and we have been as well cared for as the resources of the little spot will allow.
P. S.--I have just reached Hanover
with my companions, and reopen my letter to tell you so.--The King
has sent an aide-de-camp to us. Are we at the end of our reverses?
At any rate, I am consoled to think they can no longer laugh at us in Paris
We have kept our promises and more.