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Mr Stanley Spencer, the famous aeronaut, died from typhoid fever at Malta on January 27. Mr Spencer was seized with illness on board the City of Benares while on his way Home from Calcutta, and was disembarked at Malta in consequence. He had been engineering a series of captive and long-dis-tance balloon trips in connection with the Prince of Wales' visit to India. Mr Spencer came of an aeronautic stock. His father and his grandfather 'before him were makers of balloons, and, with his two brothers, Pereival and Arthur, he made up the famous North London firm of Spencer. He was not 40 years old, did not know what .nerves were, and there were few countries of the earth of which he had not had a bird's-eye view from the car of a balloon, and the ropes of a parachute. The only country in the world in which he was not a favourite was China. He made a parachute descent there, and the Celestials, full of emulation, took to throwing themselves from their roof tops without troubling to provide themselves with parachutes. The result was a serious increase in the death-rate, and a:i official order for Mr Spencer to " move on."


Mr Sponcer in his time had many rarrow escapes. He has been fi°hed with lioafchooks out of many rivers into which parachutes had dropped him, and he had even read his own obituary.

Two perilous parachute descents stand out.

One was at Hongkong, where a Chinese helper hanging on to the balloon too long caused a rent in the silk. M/r Spencer determined to take his chances rather than disappoint tho spectators.

The balloon had shot up. the hot air — gas was not to be had — pouring from the lissure. The aneroid goon marked 600 ft, a.d the parachutist was beginning to get r<-ady, when tho balloon suddenly collapsed, a. id, after a vain endeavour to loosen the j..i'-a-chute. he fell like a stone. Twice he turned completely over, and them crashed on to rocky cliffs 150 ft above the sea lei-ei.

Some sailors rushed to pick up his remains, and found him not only alive, but conscious.

"Are you hurt?" they asked. "Only carried away a mainstay, boys," was the cheery response, and then the plucky man fainted. He had escaped with a broken tibia, for he etruok the sloping side of the cliff and slid down to the bottom.


Another occasion was when he fell into the sea eight miles from the shore at Yarmouth. He told the story of the adventure at the time.

" From my point of view," he said, "it was a highly successful descent, although the hour spent in the water was colcl and tedious.

" I touched the water eisht miles from land, and there, supported by my cork belt, I had to remain for over an hour. The pleasure steamer which was racing after me was brought up by the Scroby sandbank. A boat had therefore to be put eff, which rowed across the bank, and eventually I was rescued.

'"' There was danger, I admit, but it -was chiefly to my parachute. The silk became thoroughly saturated, and as it grew heavier it dragged me lower and lower in the water. I have made over 2000 descents with that parachute, and I did not intend to desert it without a struggle. When the boat ariived I could no have held on another minute, but a3 it was we saved

But Mr Spencer was not merely an aeronaut of the pleasure-garden type. Ho de\oted himself seriously and strenuously to the solution of the problem of dirigible ballooning.

Hiy experiments with the Mellin airship in i§o3 will be remembered. Although they did not solve the problem, they gave some particularly interesting result 6. His aim was to steer the airship round the dome of St Paul's, but although he was unsuo oo&sful in this he made various devious flights, which showed that his craft va3 on the way to being under control. Mr Spencer made his first ascent at the age of 14 ; his daughter made hers at thai age of cix weeks.

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Bibliographic details

DEATH OF A FAMOUS AERONAUT., Otago Witness, Issue 2716, 4 April 1906

Word Count

DEATH OF A FAMOUS AERONAUT. Otago Witness, Issue 2716, 4 April 1906

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