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Account of the Aerial Voyage, performed by Messrs. Charles and Roberts.
Jan [[1784]]
"Previous to our ascension," says Mr. Charles, "we had sent up a globe of
five feet eight inches, to discover the course of wind, and mark out our
intended route. The compliment of cutting the string was paid to Mr.
Montgolfier, and it instantly rose. Meanwhile we prepared to follow it with
impatience, but the perplexing circumstances we were in, prevented our
putting into execution every minute particular that we had intended the night
before. The globe and the chariot were in exact equilibrium on the ground. At
three quarters after one we threw out nineteen pounds of ballast, and rose in
the midst of a profound silence, occasioned by the emotion and astonishment
of both parties. Our first pleasing reflections on our escape from the
persecution and calumny which had attacked us, were heightened by the
majestic scene which presented itself to our view; on every side a most
serene sky, without a cloud, and a most charming distant prospect. As we
ascended by an accelerated progressive motion, we waved our banner in token
of joy, and, in order the better to insure our safety, I was particularly
attentive to the barometer. M. Robert examined the cargo with which our
friends had ballotted our chariot, as for a long voyage, of champaign, &c
blankets, and furs. Having enough, and to spare, he began with throwing out
one of the blankets, which spread itself in the air, and fell near the dome
of the Assumption. The barometer then sank sixty-six inches, and we had
ceased to ascend, or, more properly speaking, we had arrived at the height of
about three hundred toises. This was the height at which I had undertaken to
stop, and from this moment, to that of our first getting out of sight of the
observers at the different stations, our horizontal course was between
twenty-six inches, and twenty-six inches eight lines of the mercury, which
agrees with the observations made at Paris. We took care to throw out our
ballast in proportion as we descended by the insensible loss of inflammable
air, and we raised ourselves sensibly to the same height. Had circumstances
permitted us to regulate this ballast with more exactness, our course would
have been absolutely horizontal and voluntary.

Having reached the height of Monsseaux, which we left a little to the left,
we remained for a moment stationary. Our chariot turned about, and we then
siled off as the wind directed. We soon after passed the Seine, between St.
Ouen and Asnieres, and leaving Colome on the left, passed almost over
Genneviiliers. We had crossed the river a second time: leaving Argenteuil on
the left, at Sanois, Franconville, Eubonne, St. Leu-Taverny, Villiers,
crossed L'Isle Adam, and afterwards Nesle, where we descended. Such were
nearly the places over which we must have passed almost perpendicularly. This
passage makes about nine Paris leagues, which we ran over in two hours, with
scarcely any sensible agitation in the air. During the whole of this
delightful journey, we felt not the least uneasiness about our own fate, or
that of the machine. The globe suffered no other alteration than the
successive modifications of dilation and compression, of which we availed
ourselves, to rise or descend at pleasure, in any quantity. The thermometer
was, for above an hour, between ten and twelve degrees above 0, owing to the
inside of our chariot having been warmed by the rays of the sun. Its heat
soon communicated itself to our globe, and contributed, by the dilation of
the inflammable air within, to keep us at the same height, without being
obliged to lighten our ballast; but we suffered a great loss: the inflammable
air, dilated by the sun's heat, escaped by the appendage to the globe, which
we held in our hands, and loosened as circumstances required, to let out the
air too much dilated. By this easy method we avoided the expansions and
explosions which persons unacquainted with these matters apprehended. The
inflammable air could not break its prison, since it had always a vent, and
the atmosphere air could not get into the globe, since its pressure made the
appendage serve as a valve to oppose its entrance.

After fifty-six minutes progress we heard the gun, which was the signal of
our disappearing from the observers at Paris. Not being obliged [[to?]]
confine our course to an horizontal direction, as we had till then done, we
gave ourselves up to the contemplation of the varied scenes in the open
country beneath us. We shouted Vive le Roi, and heard our shouts re-echoed.
We heard, very distinctly, voices, saying, "Are not you afraid, me friends?
Are not you sick? What a clever thing it is! God preserve you! Farewell, my
friends!"-- We continued waving our banners, and we saw that these signals
redoubled the joy and security of those below. We several times came down low
enough to be heard: people asked us whence we came, and what time we set out;
and we ascended [[bi?]]dding them farewell. As circumstances required, we
threw out, successively, great coats, muffs, and cloaths. As we sailed over
L'Isle Adam, we flourished our banners, and asked after the Prince of Conti;
but had the mortification to be told, by a speaking trumpet, that he was at
Paris. At length, re-ascending we reached the plains of [[Nesie?]] about half
after three, when, as I intended a second expedition, and wished to avail
myself of the advantage of situation, as well as of the day-light, I proposed
to Mr. Roberts to descend. Seeing a troop of country people running before us
over the fields, we descended towards a spacious meadow, inclosed with some
trees and bushes. Our chariot advanced majestically along a long inclined
plane. As it approached the trees, fearing it might be entangled among them,
I threw out two pounds of ballast, and it sprung upwards over them. We ran
above twenty toises within one or two feet of the land, and looked like
travellers in a sledge. The country people pursued us as children do a
butterfly, without being able to overtake us. At length we came to the
ground. As soon as the curate and syndics could be brought to the spot, I
drew up a verbal process, which they immediately signed. Presently gallopped
up the Duke de Chartes, the Duke de Fiz James, Mr. Farrer, an English
gentleman,and a number of horsemen, who had followed us from Paris.
Fortunately, we alighted near a hunting seat of the latter, who immediately
mounted his horse, and riding up to us exclaimed, "Mr.
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[[start column]]
Charles, I am [[first?]]." The Prince embraced us both in our chariot, and
immediately signed the process, so did the Duke de Fitz James. Mr. Farrer
signed it three times. His signature was omitted in the journal, for he was
so transported with joy, that he could not write legibly. Of above 200
horsemen who followed us from Paris, only these could overtake us; the rest
had knocked up their horses, or given out. After relating a few particulars
to the Duke de Chartres, I told him I was going off again, when would he have
me return? he replied, in half an hour. Mr. Roberts quitted the chariot, as
we had agreed. Thirty peasants held down the machine. I asked for some earth
to ballast it, have not above four or five pounds left. A spade was not at
hand, nor were there any stones in the meadow. The sun was near setting. I
made a hasty calculation of the time requisite of weight, and giving up a
signal to the peasants to quit their hold, I sprung up like a bird. In 20
minutes I was 1500 toises high, out of sight of all terrestrial objects. I
had taken the necessary precautions against the explosion of the globe, and
prepared to make the observations which I had promised myself. In order to
observe the barometer and thermometer placed at the ends of the chariot,
without altering the centre of gravity. I knelt down in the middle,
stretching forwards my body and one leg, holding my watch and paper in my
left, and my pen and the string of the valve in my right hand, waiting for
the event. The globe, which, at my setting out, was rather flaccid, swelled
insensibly. The air escaped in great quantities at the valve. I drew the
valve from time to time, to give it two vents; and I continued to ascend,
still loosing air, which issued out hissing, and became visible, like a warm
vapour in a cold atmosphere. The reason of this phaenomenon is obvious. On
earth the thermometer was seven degrees above the freezing point; after ten
minutes ascent it was five degrees below. The inflammable air had not had
time to recover the equilibrium of its temperature. Its elastic equilibrium
being quicker than that of the heat, there must escape a greater quantity
than that which the external dilation of the air could determine by its least
pressure. For myself, though exposed to the open air, I passed in ten minutes
from the warmth of spring to the cold of winter; a sharp dry cold, but not
too much to be borne, I declare, that in the first moment I felt nothing
disagreeable in the sudden change. When the barometer ceased to rise, I
marked exactly 18 inches 10 lines, the mercury suffering no sensible
oscillation. From this oscillation I deduct a height of 1524 toises, or
thereabouts, till I can be more exact in my calculations. In a few minutes
more my fingers were benumbed by the cold, so that I could not hold my pen. I
was now stationary, and moved only in an horizontal direction. I rose up in
the middle of the chariot, to contemplate the scene around me. At my setting
out the sun was set on the vallies; he soon rose for me alone, who was the
only luminous body in the horizon, and all the rest of nature in shade, the
sun himself presently disappeared, and I had the pleasure of seeing him set
twice in the same day. I beheld, for a few seconds, the [[circumambiant?]]
air and the vapours rising from the vallies and rivers. The clouds seemed to
rise from the earth, and collect one upon another, still preserving their
usual form, only, their colour was grey and monotonous from the want of light
in the atmosphere. The moon alone enlightened them, and shewed me that I was
tacking about twice, and I observed certain currents that brought me back
again. I had feveral deviations; and observed, with surprize, the effects of
the wind, and saw the streamers of my banners point upwards. This phaenomemon
was not the effect of the ascent or descent, for I then moved horizontally.
At that instant I conceived, perhaps a little too hastily, the idea of being
able to steer one's own course. In the middle of my transports I felt a
violent pain in my right ear and jaw, which I ascribed to the dilation of the
air in the cellular construction of those organs, as much as to that of the
external air. I was in a waistcoat, and bareheaded. I immediately put on a
woolen cap, yet the pain did not go off but as I gradually descended. For
seven or eight minutes I had ceased to ascend; the condensation of the
internal inflammable air rather made me descend. I now recollected my promise
to return in half an hour, and, pulling the upper valve, I came down. The
globe was now so much emptied, that it appeared only an half globe. I
perceived a find ploughed field near the wood of Tour de Lay, and hastened my
descent. When I was between 20 and 30 toises from the earth, I threw out
hastily two or three pounds of ballast, and became, for a moment, stationary,
till I descended gently in the field, above a league from the place whence I
set out. The frequent deviations and turnings about make me imagine that the
voyage was about three leagues, and I was gone about 33 minutes. Such is the
certainty of the combinations of our areoilatic machine, that I can at
pleasure complete 130 specific lightness, the preservation of which, equally
voluntarily, might have kept me in the air at least for twenty four hours
longer. When the two Dukes saw me at a distance coming down, they and the
rest left Mr. Roberts to meet me, and hastened to Paris; and the Prince
himself most kindly undertook to give the public an account of us."