ARCHIVES CORNER - BALLOON ASCENT FROM THE GASWORKS, GIBRALTAR - PART 2

Staff January 13, 2021

ARCHIVES CORNER - BALLOON ASCENT FROM THE GASWORKS, GIBRALTAR - Part 2

(Continued from last week)

Copy without omission of Professor Dale’s account of that memorable balloon ascent from the Gasworks, Gibraltar in 1889:

“Since arriving in Gibraltar, it has been my great desire to ascend from the Rock, even though the object for which General Brine and myself came hoping to achieve, could not be accomplished, for I felt sure an experience altogether new, awaited me both aloft and on Terra Firme.

The facilities given and arrangements made by the Gas Management left nothing to be desired, and with the day so bright and calm, every promise was given of a most enjoyable and successful voyage.

Judging from the concourse of spectators, it was apparent that great interest was centred on the balloon, and the way in which every detail of the arrangements was watched showed plainly the great pleasure given.

At 1:15 everything was ready, Captain Fitzpatrick, Lieutenants Fowler, Greenfield, Web, and the Dog Charlies were in their places, the buoyance of the balloon adjusted, and after the usual adieux and consolatory advice were given, the Victoria began its journey.

One minute was sufficient to change the appearance of the Rock, and in about double that time a scene once novel and grand lay below us. It did not surprise me that my passengers gave expression to their wonder and admiration for the panorama would have charmed the oldest Aeronaut living.

The top of the Rock was quickly reached and soon began to lose its grand and formidable appearance. At 3000 feet the balloon entered a cloud, but before doing so we had a very extensive view; the coast could be traced forty miles towards Malaga, and to the left of the Mediterranean, the range of mountains presented a picture which is difficult to describe and almost impossible to do justice to.

Everything now began to assume a flat appearance, and the highest mountain seemed only a trifling raised above the plain. The varied tints of earth and vegetation, with a slight distant haze which might be taken for a veil of delicate blue gauze, with here and there patches of a deeper hue, covered the earth.

We quickly passed through the cloud overhanging the Rock and emerged on the other side into a temperature I never before met. The concentrated heat of the sun was almost unbearable. The cloud beneath us was as dense and white as a field of snow, and for a time completely hid our view of the Rock. Towards the North we occasionally got sight of the water and shipping below, sufficient to warn me that very little progress was being made towards Algeciras.

The balloon by this time had reached its greatest altitude, and I soon found out we were drifting towards the East. Our position now gave us a more distinct view of the Rock, and perceiving we were on a level with Europa Point, and apparently passing Cabrita Point also, I informed my companions that appearances were decidedly in favour of us being dropped in the water. But the intelligence did not cause alarm and watching the various strata of clouds floating underneath us—I saw one, with Western tendency and at once brought the balloon into the current, and soon had the satisfaction that we were slowly approaching the land.

It was fortunate that the day was so calm, or the journey would have ended much too soon, as I was strongly urged to remain where we were for a week. I certainly would have prolonged our stay could I have done so, for knowing that land was under us, it gave additional charm to the view. The whole expanse of water was without a ripple so far as we could see, and from this point Gibraltar looked most imposing.

Figure 2: Victoria’s trajectory across the Bay of Gibraltar

Algeciras appeared much nearer than it really was, and now for the first time I heard a voice calling from a distance. It had been arranged that a courier should be sent ahead with mules and other means of transport, leaving it to his judgement as to the best position to post himself for rendering us assistance, and to show his judgement was good. We had scarcely got a mile inland before we heard the bugle (which he was provided with) sounding ahead of us; a counter signal was given him from the car. I now began preparing for the descent and selecting, what I mistook for a gradual slope, a mountain side, we anchored amongst massive boulders, thorny shrubs, and altogether a more unsuitable spot could not have been chosen.

Upon consulting my barometer, I found we had landed 1000 feet above the sea between the mountains Comache and Algarrobo. The difficulties of getting down the rugged and precipitous mountain side were great, and but for the good judgement of Martin, the courier, our position would have been an unenviable one. In addition to the mules and donkeys, he enlisted the services of two of the Guardia Civil who rendered us invaluable help, and to my astonishment refused any recompense whatever. I can only add that should it ever be my fortune to again descend on the Spanish coast may I have the services of Juan Gomez Fernandez, and Fabian Gil Lopez, of the Civil Guard of Algeciras.”

The Victoria was like the Charles S Robert type Balloon popular at that period

 

  

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