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A Perilous Balloon Adventure.

Source: The Illustrated London News, August 10, 1861

The following narrative of a recent balloon ascent and its consequences appears in the Morning Post:—"The ascent was made in the Royal Normandie, constructed for Mr. Simpson, of Cremorne Gardens, at a cost of 600, the conductor of the expedition being Mr. Lythgoe, the experienced aeronaut of ninety-four previous journeys. The day chosen for the ascent was that of the recent aristocratic fete at Cremorne, the 24th ult., and, two seats had been secured by Mr. Arthur Vivian and Mr. Noel Anderson. At eleven o'clock at night the balloon was released, and shot into the air. Many miles being traversed, it was deemed expedient by Mr. Lythgoe to penetrate the clouds beneath, in order to ascertain the nature of the surface of the country, with the view of effecting a landing.

On emerging from the clouds a flat country could be dimly discerned, and preparations were instantly made to let go the grappling-iron on the first favourable opportunity. This soon occurred, and it was not till then, when, as they approached the earth, field after field, as it were, flew under them, that they realised the fearful velocity at which they were traveling. The grappling-iron was dropped. An instantaneous check was felt, proving that a firm hold had been taken. In another instant a sharp snap was heard, and the balloon, swaying to and fro, burst again into the air. Now were put to the test the experience and presence of mind of Mr. Lythgoe, who, deprived of the usual means of effecting a landing, had, as it appears, but one course open to him—viz, bursting the balloon against trees or some other opposing object, thereby exhausting its powers. Seeing a bank of trees at some distance, he made up his mind, if possible, to run into them, and, to effect this purpose, let the balloon descend on to the land. The wind was blowing with frightful force, and the car dashed against the earth with such a shock that Mr. Vivian was nearly stunned, and Mr. Anderson, not having time to secure himself sufficiently, was thrown partly out of the car as it turned over; his head and shoulders being thus pushed along the ground. In struggling he pitched with a somersault from the car, and on recovering found himself, at twelve o'clock at night, in the centre of a field of beans, the balloon having in the meanwhile completely vanished. After some difficulty he made his way to a village two or three miles distant, which, on inquiry, was discovered to be High Roding, in the north of Essex. He was sheltered in the cottage of a labourer, who said he had heard shortly before, as he was returning home, shouts issuing from the clouds, which he not unnaturally concluded to be unearthly; immediately after which he became sensible of a gigantic body rushing with great violence past his ear The cause of his fears was soon interpreted by the traveller. The balloon, relieved of 250lb. of weight.—much ballast having been lost at the time of the first concussion with the earth—shot up like a rocket to the supposed incredible height of three miles and a quarter. Mr. Lythgoe allowed as much gas to escape as was deemed at all consistent with safety in descending, but still it was some time before the balloon began again to take a level course through the air. The cold at this height, where the temperature is stated to have been below 40 deg., was intense. The deep silence was relieved only by the flapping of the silk, which was like the report of fire-arms. At last, as indicated by pieces of paper thrown out, they commenced, gradually to descend, when before long a dull grumbling sound was heard, which resembled the moaning of the ocean. The sound died away, but recommenced very shortly; and a break in the clouds below opened to their view the sea immediately beneath them; but, watching the line of breakers on the shore, they, to their infinite relief, discovered that the course of the balloon was bearing gradually inland. It was determined now, immediately on coming over the land, to let out the gas as quickly as possible, and effect a landing at all hazards. The shock was terrific, and, the wind blowing very heavily at the time, the balloon made the most tremendous bounds, dragging the two inmates of the car, hanging on by the ropes, over more than two miles of country, carrying them through hedges and many other obstacles. When sufficient gas had escaped from the balloon to prevent it from rising again, at an agreed signal they both let go at once, and, alter a series of summersaults, found themselves on their backs on some marshy land, the balloon being brought up at a few hundred yards distance against a mill, from which, however, it very quickly escaped, and they saw it no more. After some difficulty in crossing the country the travellers arrived at a labourer's cottage door, and on being admitted discovered that they were close to Lowestoft, on the coast of Suffolk, the hour being two o'c1ock in the morning. The balloon has since been found."

Ballooning History