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MR PERCIVAL SPENCER.

The Host Famous Balloonist la The

"World.

(Tit-B\ls.)

Whoever has 9een a balloon knows the name of Spencer^ for Mr Percival Spoacer, with his two brothers* Arthur and btauley, are the greatest authorities on ballooning in the wcrld. Their position, is such that the eldest is consulted by all the ballooning experts on earth, and when imtfitiaxy ballooning was first started the officers of the army availed themselves of their father's .experience. His father before him was a practical aeronaut, so Mr Spencer represents the third generation engaged in the_ jut of emulating the birds and voyaging in the upper' air. • He Was only eight when he first "went up in a balloon/" accompanying his father one Easter Monday from the grounds oi the Crystal Palace, and since that time he has made over .looo .ascents in different parts of the world." India, the Straits {settlements, Java, Sumatra, China and Japan, with Egypt on his way home, have^ in turn, been the land from which he has ascended, while ais second brother, Arthur, who devoted his attention mire particularly to the manufacturing part of the business, has become acquainted with the doudlands in Australia, alid the youngest brother, Stanley, has worked North, and South America, .Cuba and South Africa; so that* the. fcimih* is, aeronautically, like Alexander the Great, sighing for new worlds to conquer, . - ; .In India he na"d what xnust be.ayiecidedly ; unique pleasure^the privilege of reading l.is own 6bituary> ; after making: a sensationaL ascent. The scene of the ascent of which this obituary was the direct outcome was Calcutta. The Viceroy, himself and gevtnu native princes were present, and so was a concourse of some 250,000 people. A ftw days before he ha 4 announced an ascent, but the weather being unfavourable, he deemed it advisable to postpme it: Vf this occasion, only a -few. : minutes bf fort dork, ho foond that it was impossib--e io g&t enough gas Iso inflate the balloon to such an extent that it would 'take up the para- J chute from which he. intended, to make a descent. /If he did net go up, a quarter of a million people would be vastly oi^appqinted; and, on. the other hand, if he ascended without his parachute he woiild have to rely on the .balloon descending by its natural exhaustion. Kriow.ing that this would take place in a reasonable time, he cub away the parachute, and, sitting merely in a sling <tf rope, he crdered the restraining lines to be released. The balloon sfoo* np at a rapid rate. Up it went, higher amid higher, the peoole's eyes upturned to watch it until the rapidly falling darkness obliterated it from, sight. It was then that they discovered that St was unfitted with any of the appliances which the popular mind regards as indispensable for safety, the car, anchor, valve, and ballast.. The balloon rose until it reached an altitude 12,000 ft, and then nbegan to come down. But an hour and a v half had passed from the time of the ascent until.

EARTH WAS BEACHED AGAIN. As Mr Spencer approached the earth he could liear tihe omincus roar of Water, and later on he saw what looked" like, fivers with land m between. It was the delta of the Ganges, fifty miles from the place from which he had set oat. Walking towards a light, he came upon some .natives. He was dressed in white flannels, and the simpleminded folk ran off in terror,- believing.that vue must bo a ghost. They collected their friends and returned armed with sticks. The aeronaut might hare; suffered bodily damage at their hands but for a clever idea. He took a handful of money out of his pocket and jingled the silver pieces together. Even in India ghosts do not cany money, and they soon became aware that he was a man like themselves, and in exchange for his money they gave him food and shelter. Next day he hired one of the native craft, and travelling along th© creeks which intersecb these districts, he reached Calcutta in three days. There &c found his obituary printed in the papers, and the " Indian Mirror" had written: "Seldom has Cal-' cutta been thrown into a state of greater excitement and consternation than during the last two or three days, and the unwitnessed tragic end of Mr Spencer, the unfortnuate young aeronaut, has filled society, both European and native., with intense gloom. Wherever one goes he hears nothing but an outburst of grief for. the brave Englishman who, from a mistaken sense of honour, literally gave a sacrifice of his body to the winds."- . . Mr Spencer found tihe natives of India; were never afraid ?f the balloon itself, as imaginative writers 6p often declare.. One day, after making a parachute descent, hia balloon, travelling on, descended among some fisher-folk. * By tihe time that hi 3 assistants (who had, *of course, noticed the direction in which the balloon was travelling) could reach the place, they found that the people had unpicked the net, in order to use it foi» fishing lines, and the balloon ; itself was :be:ng cut . up . into waterproof ! clothing. The Government of the place hap- j pened to be. very, strong, and, hearing of i it, ordered the villagers to subscribe tc- ; wards a new balloon for the aeronaut, and i in due course -the head man arrived at Mr, ! Spencer's hotel with the total subscription | •df the inhabitants, whose waterproof cloth- j liing had come at a decidedly high price, j ;i Shortly after this Mr Spencer was in ! Acheen, and the/ Government, thinking " that his services would be of use in reconnoitring for military purposes, engaged him. ■ That was one of the first occasions in moj dern times when a balloon had been used

for this purpose. Accompanied by a major in the army lie ascended, their mission being to discover the whereabouts of certain fortified embrasurea. These: 'yfersj discovered, -and- orders were sent~byth6 -military offices to the artillery to open' fire .while the effect of the fire was observed from the balloon. Houses were seen to be demolished and

fired, and 1 THE INHABITANTS itf ITOL IXIGHT. V Mpre scanning, however* for thj> two oc«

cupants of the balloon was the Sight that the natives were Sliding behind clumps oftrees and approaching nearer and neater until they came to a favourable place, from which .they began firing at the balloon itself, and its inmates. As the two stood in the basket they oould hear the bullets whi«sting through the air, but happily neither of them was struck. Not so. fortunate, however, was the balloon, for one bullet went, completely through it, but luckily did not came sufficient loss of gas to occasion any, difficulty, as the bullet-hole was, partly dosed' by .the pressure of tbe gas inside, In Japan Mr Spencer bad a harrow escape from death by drowning from a parachute. His ballboa went up splendidly, and when the time came he separated the parachute from itt. in order to desoend. Blown it fell; Eke a plummet,, during which time, as.b* says himself, " one feels as though one were in a state- of suspense- or of eospended animation for about three seconds, .until theftt comee the welcome tug whadh assures on© that the parachute is opening, and that otte has something to hold on 46." During this time Mr Spencer calculates one falls about 350 ft. , When the parachute opens tba descent is gradual, and; under ordinary circumstances, pleasamt enough. This time, however, as no fell he heard the i^ar c* .water and knew he was over the sea.. As a matter of fast .he was feeveral miles from land, and he owed his safetv jto being quickly picked up by some sailors from a- Japanese inan-o*-war wbdchi happened to be in the neighbourhood. .■•'.-" Had Andre© listened to Mr Spencer itia possible that he might to-day nay© been alive, even if his attempt at finding ' i&a North Pole had not beea crowned with sac* cess; When he came to Loodon he naturaEy discussed idie project with the /greatest authority on ballooning we have. Mr Spencer pointed out to him that every balloon had its peeuliarittes, and strongly advised that experiments shofcH be made with. tl» balloon' before starting. This advice Andree' did not heed, and tihe. first ascemt of t&e' balloon which h« expected to bea* him tar tihe North Pole was made on the occasion' when ImT^ started- definitely on his quest,so that he knew absolutely nothing of the machine in which -

HE TUSSLED HIS ttPE,

The balloon, however, in Mr Spenoert opinion, offers the best means of reaching the Pole, but it must be large enough to take a hedging party,, their dog*, food, and' appliances towards the Pole, and when the* reach it they must leave the car and make t&eir way back to the ship by *he aid of the sledges.- . :: Although Mr Spencer has mad« ?d many balloon ascents, the longest time he hag evfcr been in /the air was seven hours, when he left London, aid arrived at Hereford, a dis- : .tanoe of 125 miles* during which time h&' •travelled along; the length of the Thames, crossing the Ootswold Hilkand the Severn' going over the.Malvern Hills, until he descended at: the feet of the Welsh Moontains.- His journeys W France have t«;en shorter, and one made a year ago took only between five and sis houite. : ;

While people; axe apt to loot dn the' •English Chantiel as undoly crowded with vessels, the impression, deriredvfroin'i bat-' loon,- he -says, is Uiat itis "fc £tia% Wilderness \cf;^^3?itficrtit hu^dn^fe ', of ■-, : Haoa-- of" itfc jsuritf&". An occ^o^'c-eean tramp dr'fchaiuiei stcanv er,onJ^;^fe>* fe, intifefisify the foMlness ai£ the- deserted appearance of the wafer, into which* at ;-apy time, fie mijh.tharft descended mmJy By /puling a. vale and allowing a quantity of gas to escape, or even by Bet throwing out any ballast when the balloon began its automatic descent after leashing its highest elevation. " . ' " .<

The, highest altitude h& has erer rs'acheti was 15,000 ft; but this occasioned no d*-' comfort of breathing, 'nor. as he. ev.er been as cold in the air as when driving in a trap against the wind on a return journejr after reaching land. Hi* youngest brother's experience, hewever, was different, rfor on nne occasion last year he went up to a height of 27,500 ft, and the temperature was 6ldeg^,' or 93deg. of frost, and the air .was so rarefied that but for some compressed oxygen wMeh was taken it would have been impossible to breathe. j

The fastest time Mr Spencer has ev€p travelled has been between fifty and sixty miles an hour. That, of oourse, ; is is' fait as the wind blew oh that occasion, for. the balloon travels exactly, at the speed of the wind, and so quietly tßat no mttion whafever is felt. The record at which 1 one of Mr Spencer's balloons has gone, however, greatly exceeds this rapid flight, , for on ccc occasion in Somerset a balloon broke away fr<m its moorings during a gale, and jp one hour and a half it travelled to. Norfolk, a distance of 180 miles, or 120 miles an hour, the greatest speed he has eref heard of which can actually be vouched for. - ,

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/TS19000707.2.4

Bibliographic details

Star, Star, Issue 6841, 7 July 1900

Word Count
1,890

MR PERCIVAL SPENCER. Star, Issue 6841, 7 July 1900

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