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PROFESSOR BALDWIN'S ASCENT.

A SENSATIONAL FEAT.

On Saturday last the eagerly looked for de»' scent from the clouds of the great parachutist Baldwin, could not be witnessed, for the simple reason that he was unable to get away. There was a high wind blowing which, after some hours of tedious waiting, settled the question of the show for that day by bursting tho balloon. Another large crowd assembled on ami round .about the Caledonian ground by 7 o'clock on Monday evening to see Professor Baldwin t ike bjh daring flight through the air. Within the encloMire there were not nearly so many people as on Saturday, but the bill at the rear of Smith and Polheringlunci't) brickworks and the Town | Belt at Moutecillo were packed witb > sightflee.rg, who had a good view of the exhibition^ wUhotit* going through the idle ceremonjyrf pjtyfufft«a v shilling. As the ad/ortised " time ' for the" ascpnt approached considerable doubt was entertained among the public as to whether

the balloon would get safely away after all, rather a brisk breeze springing up juafc before sundown; However, Professor Baldwin continued actively superintending the inflation of his balloon, which was rather dangerously agitattd by the gusts of wind every now and then.

At a few minutes before 7 Professor Bald^ win mounted' a form' and, as before, made a short preliminary speech to the spectators. He is a well-built, lithe-limbed American, with.dark complexion and moustache, good-looking, and with considerable alertness and resolution in his manner. That he is a man of wonderful pluck and iron nerve, his aerial feats amply testify. Standing up to address his patrons, attired in the orthodox silk hat aud black frock coat, he looks scarcely like a man on the eve of taking such a startling journey. He might be intending to sell some town allotments; or say a' few words on the political situation. A little later, divested of hat and coat, quick yet cool amid all the bustle attending his departure, he is seen at bis best. What the professor has,, now to say is brief and to the point. He explains - Saturday's* failure in a frank and manly way.' The pressure of so high a wind on the frail fabric of the balloon was not to be withstood, but had it not been for the purely accidental bursting, he himself would have been willing to make the ascent. He could control his balloon and his parachute once he got fairly away, but he could nob cqntrol tbe elements. In spite of the wind then blowing, he would endeavour to make the ascent that evening at 7 o'clock sharp— i.e., in 10 minutes' time— and he begged them all to stand back and keep quiet while the attempt was made. There would be danger again ef the balloon bursting in that wind, directly it was raised off the ground, and the air pressure got underneath it; but if such an accident did happen it would Aot be his fault. If he could' only get up he would guarantee to come down right enough. He regretted to see a statement in that evening's paper to the effect that he had purposely ripped the balloon up on Saturday, He was not -sending within yards of it at the time, and it was certainly, no' ad vantage to him at his first --/exhibition " in a new country to tamper with the feelings of the public. If tie had to stay here all the summer he would give them an ascent as promised, and he could assure them he would rather lose a leg than miss the ascent that evening.

This short speech was well, received by the people, and Mr Baldwin then hurried away and began to make final preparations for his excursion, in which he was assisted by his manager, ,Mr Farini. \ The balloon .was, raised well off the ground, being held captive by several men, and although it swayed rather > violently in the .breeze the kept together on this occasion. Everything being nearly completed, Professor Baldwin, who is now bareheaded and clad in a dark close-fitting vest, runs across to a bench near at hand and gives his wife a hasty parting kiss. There is nothing whatever of the theatrical element, about this ceremony, which is quickly and unostentatiously performed, and is not even observed by the majority of the spectators. Confident as tbe aeronaut is in the efficacy of his invention, he is probably too shrewd a man not to recognise that the " wisest schemes of mice and men gang aft aglee." He has all tbe assurance of safety that personal attention to his apparatus and splendid coolness and nerve can give him, but there are chances against him too. Some blunder on the part of an attendant, or some unforeseen hitch at the. last moment, may wreck him before he is sufficiently clear of the earth to rely lipon his parachute,— or what if away in the clouds some little thing— some . very 'little things should go amiss with the paraohnte itself? Professor Baldwin, no doubt, does not believe in this latter contingency, and would bet long odds against the parachute ever failing him. It is to be hoped it never,. will, and that the adage about the pitcher and the well .will not be verified in the case of 'this daring man. His leave taking over, the professor' bends down and disappears for some minutes within the folds of some silky looking drapery, which is held for him by Mr Farini. This mass of limp-looking cloth is the wonderful parachute, and it may easily be guessed what Professor Baldwin is doing inside it. He is adjusting the hoop which, when the machine is expanded, will form the orifice at the top, and this orifice through which the air escapes in his descent is perhaps the most importantfeatureaboutMrßalflwin'sinvention. He emerges presently, and then the folded parachute is drawn up to the netting which hangs loose around the neck of the balloon. It can be seen that depending from the parachute are a number of long ropes attached to a stout hoop, which is presently passed over the aeronant's head. In descending he will hang by both hands to this hoop.

There is a great shouting of orders now, and the excitement among the spectators is very great. "Lift her up," cries Professor, Baldwin, "but hold her," and as the straggling balloon rides a few yards above the ground he is seen' to have" taken his position immediately below her, and to be surrounded by a confusing array of ropes. An excited shout by Mr Farini to some' assistant to "Leave go of that rope" shows that it is a critical moment, and then, before the spectators well realise it, balloon and balloonist are away. She mounts swiftly and smoothly like a bird released, the professor sitting apparently upon some small bar with outstretched hands, in much the attitude of a driver handliog a team of horses. 1 Spontaneous cheering and applause break from the crowd at the ascent, but it is only a matter of seconds before the bold aeronaut is out of ear shot. The ascent is made from the leeward side of the stand, and the wind being from the north-east the balloon is driven at once in the direction of Caversham. In consequence of this wind which is taking him rapidly away from the spectators, Professor Baldwin does not go to anything like the height he has sometimes reached.^THe goes so high, however, that he and his balloon look verysmall objects indeed against ti& clear , sky. About 1000 ft would, perh'aps^be the height, find.ut has taken Aan .incredibly '■* short sphce. of time for hift.to reach it, Before bis moygnierije became indistinguishable with the naked eye, He has been seen- to textead one leg and pass jhikfobk into-a loop of rope that is hanging within reach. Whether or not this is part of his preparations for casting loose can on)y be guessed. Suddenly 1 there is unmistakable movement in the diminutive figure aloft, and the next instant the folded parachute, 'and its inventor have lef t.the balloon which turns uppide down and floats aimlessly about in the empyrean for awhile. Tho parachute retains its limp appearance, and at tbe end of the long ropes that depend from it is the figure of the falling balloonist. He-is holding on 'with his arms raised above his head,- and his whole form isperfectly rigid ; feet together and frame erect. He comes down in that fashion as straight as a stone and in a etauiding posture for nearly halfhis journeyj and then thtr onlookers draw a sudden breath of "relief, forthe air has caught the parachute, and it has expanded into * umfurella shape. . , .The. . aeronaut's fall ; is in's'^ntl.v checked, and from that pojrilh'eaeicSn^ Bjaadilywith a gentle'sVayingyribtiGn that sooci TsrTniAltri v appam^^ South Dunedin. Here he swings himself into a sittipg posture, evidently steering the parachute

towards a safe alighting place, "and finally comes easily to earth hi a vacant section off the Cargill road, near the Railway Workshops Hotel.

' Ten minutes later the professor was again at the Caledonian ground, and, accompanied by Mr Farini, appeared in the front of the stand, receiving quite an ovation. He then gave a short address as'announced, claiming (of course with perfect troth) to have made the first descent of the kind that had ever been attempted in N«w Zealand. " jThe parachute, of which be was the "originator, required, he explained, two feet of Surface to every pound weight of the object attached to it. The orifice at the top was 18in or 20in in diameter, and this, by allowing the compressed air in the parachute to escape, formed a kind of column of air, down which he slid. As regarded the long drop before the parachute expanded, that was merely a bitof sen-, sationalismheintroduced. How^soontheparcbute expanded depended upon the size of the hoop he placed in the orifice at the top. He could, if he desired it, make the parachute -expand directly after leaving the balloon.' Mr Farini, who followed with a few words, added^some farther informations to tbe_way in which Prefessor Baldwin had perfected his invention, and remarked that having solved the difficulty, there had yet remained the necessity of finding a plucky fellow to jump from the balloon and test the truth of the theory That man they had found in Professor Baldwin.— (Loud applause:)

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/OW18890125.2.77.3

Bibliographic details

PROFESSOR BALDWIN'S ASCENT., Otago Witness, Issue 1940, 25 January 1889

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PROFESSOR BALDWIN'S ASCENT. Otago Witness, Issue 1940, 25 January 1889

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