The Dream of Flying

Page 20




  First Montgolfier with Passengers - a Duck, a Rooster and a Lamb. 19th  September, 1783.  

The news of the Montgolfier brothersí successful balloon flying on the 4th of June quickly arrived to Paris. The Academy of Sciences formed a committee to give the economic possibilities to conduct a demonstration in Paris.

Joseph and …tienne hesitated to reuse the balloon from Annonay. …tienne went to Paris to make the necessary arrangements, while the shy Joseph stayed at Annonay. Instead they decided to build a new larger balloon, about 1000 m≥ in volume, 24 meters high and weighing 450 kg. The envelope of taffeta and paper was coated with a varnish of alum which has fireproofing properties. The balloon was painted in sky blue and was beautifully decorated in golden paint including the monogram of the king.

The balloon was ordered from the wallpaper manufacturer Reveillon. The balloon was tested tethered on the 11th of September near Reveillonís factory. During another test the following day a heavy rain fell and destroyed the balloon. But a new balloon was manufactured in only five days in time to the demonstration for the king. Now the particulars were: volume 1400 m≥, height 19 meters and weight 400 kg.

The demonstration was held as scheduled on the 19th of September 1783 at Versailles and attended by King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antionette. Three passengers joined the flight: a sheep, a duck and a rooster. The sheep had got the name Montauciel (Climb-to-the-sky). The animals were locked in a wicker basket hung by a rope under the balloon. Once released, it climbed to a height of about 500 meters. The flight lasted approximately eight minutes and the landed safely about three kilometres from the starting point.

The animals are alive and unhurt, except for the cock which seemed to have broken a wing. But several witnesses testified that the sheep had kicked him before the balloon left the ground.

The experiment was a success: it was possible for a hot-air balloon (now usually called a montgolfier) to carry a significant burden and survive the stay at altitude. The next step was a flight with human beings.

  The first air travellers at Versailles 1783 - a duck, a rooster and a lamb. Image Lars Henriksson,  

King Louis XVI

Left: King Louis XVI of France


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© Lars Henriksson

Updated 2009-05-13