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Jun. 24th, 2014

Also read Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air by Richard Holmes (author of one of my favorite books, The Age of Wonder). Richard Holmes, and I'll quote from Amazon, "follows the pioneer generation of balloon aeronauts, the daring and enigmatic men and women who risked their lives to take to the air (or fall into the sky).

His accounts of the early Anglo-French balloon rivalries, the crazy firework flights of the beautiful Sophie Blanchard, the long-distance voyages of the American entrepreneur John Wise and French photographer Felix Nadar are dramatic and exhilarating. Holmes documents as well the balloons used to observe the horrors of modern battle during the Civil War [...]; the legendary tale of at least sixty-seven manned balloons that escaped from Paris [...] during the Prussian siege of 1870-71; the high-altitude exploits of James Glaisher (who rose seven miles above the earth without oxygen, helping to establish the new science of meteorology); and how Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, and Jules Verne felt the imaginative impact of flight and allowed it to soar in their work.

My own favorite tale is probably a modern one, that of two families building a series of balloons to escape from East to West Germany and their actual escape in 1979, but there's a lot more to remember. Green's flight over Belgium and haunting descriptions of passing over ironworks in the night. Weather observation and Dr Merryweather's Tempest Prognosticator, complete with a set of twelve prize leeches. Nadar and his fantastic Le Geante. Testing the limits of the atmosphere and how, past 20 thousand feet, the sky above becomes a dark Prussian blue.

A very interesting read.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 24th, 2014 04:48 am (UTC)
that's kind of awesome. in a way, even more so than planes - maybe because it looks so quiet and gentle, floating in the sky in a more peaceful manner
Jun. 24th, 2014 04:53 am (UTC)
and eerie :) there are parts in the book that talk about just this :)
Jun. 24th, 2014 05:09 am (UTC)
I do love that word - 'eerie'. Quite right.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )