What A Balloon Ride Was Like In 1887

The balloon ascent in 1887 by Jovis and Mallet.

The balloon ascent in 1887 by Jovis and Mallet.

Some people are lucky enough to fly airplanes for living, and others get to do the same in blimps or hot-air balloons.

Me? I just get to write about it, and know that I vicariously live through those of you who do get to fly.

I have always wondered what it was truly like to fly in the pioneer days of aviation, to have a modern day lawnmower engine take you up into the sky – and perhaps I’ll get that chance to write about it or experience it one day.

For now, the following newspaper account I found regarding a balloon trip in 1887 will have to suffice.

This account involves balloon Captain Paul Jovis and Maurice Mallet – two experienced balloonists from France. Mallet would later go on to form the Zodiac S.A. company famous for its rubber boats and leisure craft, not to mention the aviation work it still produces now in 2014. You can read about Mallet and his Zodiac dirigibles and aeroplanes in an article I wrote two days previous HERE.

The article I found, was published – probably by permission in the New Zealand Herald newspaper, dated September 21, 1887 – as I doubt they would have had a correspondent in Paris at that time to witness the event.

For your edification, note that 7,000 meters is 4.35 miles or 7-kilometers, and that Malet’s name is spelled incorrectly in the article as Malet.

The term ‘dynamometric pression’ mentioned below… I am unsure what it really means, but I think it has something to do with hand strength… a measurement of how much one can squeeze… but again… I’m not sure… if anyone knows, please let me know.

As well… if anyone has some information on Paul Jovis – such as a list of his accomplishments, life story – let me know. I’m also looking for Mallet’s birthdate – something more than a year. Place of birth would be nice, too.

I have maintained all spellings and archaic words as is in my re-typed version below.

The article:

In The Air
Daring Balloon Ascent Higher Than 7,000 Meters, Narrow Escape From Death
Paris, August 13 (1887)
Captain Paul Jovis and M. Malet started in their balloon, the Horla, from the La Villette gasworks, at a quarter past seven this morning, and made a very plucky attempt to eclipse everything yet done in reaching the highest altitude yet attained in the air.
In Training.
The aeronauts for weeks had been in training for their perilous task. They had every few days been placed in iron chambers, from which the air was gradually pumped, until, by an exhaustive process, the pressure was brought down to the lowest point that man can bear. Both Captain Jovis and M. Malet had trained themselves to such a point that they were able to continue breathing when the mercury stood at seven inches, and both felt confident that they would be able to-day to reach an altitude of seven miles and live to tell the tale.
Watching The Preliminaries.
As early as three o’clock this morning about a hundred persons arrived at the La Villeette gasworks. Among the crowd were noticed M.N. Massenet and Delpent, the president of the Aeronautic Society of France, and Colonel Le Mat, a delegate from the Aeronautic Society of Washington. At about five o’clock the empty air ship—which is named after Guy de Maspassant’s new novel—began to swell out its sides and look something like a balloon.
The Aeronaut
Captain Jovis—who is an active, wiry, and determined-looking man, with a shiny, sallow complexion, black eyebrows, and black beard—then appeared from the tent where he had been sleeping during the night, and put into the basket of the balloon three aneroid barometers, two hygrometers, an electroscope, a compass, two glass balloons provided with a vacuum, destined to receive a sample of the air let in at different altitudes, and two photographic instruments, all of which were sealed carefully with the seal of the Figaro newspaper, under the auspices and at the expense of which the ascension was undertaken.
Compagnons De Voyage
Captain Jovis then put into the basket two little white pigeons and two little yellow guinea pigs. At half-past five M. Marey, a member of the Institute of France, made a minute examination of Captain Jovis’ physiological condition, and wrote down his pulsation, which was 95, and the respiration, 22; also the dynamometric pression, which was 40, 38, and 35 in the left hand, and 38, 40, and 35 in the right hand. At six o’clock three smaller balloons, containing 1200 litres of pure oxygen, were tied out on the edge of the basket, and 400 kilogrammes of sand ballast were attached to the balloon.
All Ready.
At seven o’clock M. Malet, a tall, fine looking blond, with blue eyes and a reddish mustache, jumped into the balloon, and all was ready to get under way. Both M. Movis and M/ Malet wore white duck trousers, navy blue flannel jackets and caps, had stuffed cotton wool in their ears. They looked plucky and determined. The weather was fine and clear.
In reply to my inquiry, Captain Jovis said, “This is my two hundred and fifteenth ascension.”
“Let Her Go.”
Then, in a ringing voice, he shouted “Luchex tout!” (Let go everything.) And at fourteen minutes past seven the Horla rose slowly and gracefully into the air. All those present waved their hats and shouted “Good luck!” “Merci!” came the reply from M. Jovis, and the balloon took a turn toward the north-west, then toward the north-east, and in twenty-five minutes was invisible.
Rises 7000 Meters And Then Lands
A Brussels correspondent telegraphs the following:–“The French balloon Horla which started this morning from Paris, after rising to an altitude of 7000 meters, descended near Baconfoy-Tenneville, in the Belgian Luxembourg, not many miles from the still burning Herzogenwald forests. At half-past eleven the balloon touched ground at the Saint-Ode Castle, belonging to M. Frére-Orban, the leader of the Belgian Liberal party, and the late Prime Minister. Captain Jovis and M. Malet say they made interesting scientific observations during the voyage.
Terrible Effect Of Rarefied Air.
“M. Mallet twice became partially suffocated and fell into a syncope. He had to be revived by strong cordials. His hands and feet became black, and he says his head felt like a drum with a drummer boy beating upon it. Captain Jovis says that at one time he hoped to reach an altitude of 8000 metres, but want of ballast prevented his getting higher than 7000 metres. All the instruments are self recording and are sealed up, so that no scientific details are obtainable until they are unsealed, when they reach Paris by rail tomorrow.”
Did She Go Higher Still!
The following has just been received from Captain Jovis, dated Baconfoy, Belgium, 3:45:–“Victory! We have gone up higher than 7000 metres. We were obliged to descend for want of ballast. Physiological conditions excellent. M. Malet was twice unconscious. All scientific instruments were under seal, so can’t give details. Instruments will be unsealed when I reach Paris, in the presence of the Commission of the Aeronautic Society.—Jovis.”


About mreman47

Andrew was born in London, UK, raised in Toronto, Canada, and cavorted in Ohtawara, Japan for three years. He is married, has a son and a cat. He has over 35,000 comic books and a plethora of pioneer aviation-related tobacco and sports cards and likes to build LEGO dioramas. He has written and been an editor for various industrial magazines, has scripted comic books, ghost-written blogs for business sectors galore, and hates writing in the 3rd person. He also hates having to write this crap that no one will ever read. He works on his Pioneers Of Aviation - a cool blog on early fliers - even though it takes him so much time to do. He also wants to do more writing - for money, though. Help him out so he can stop talking in the 3rd person.
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