McClure's Magazine/Volume 19/Number 3/The Over-Sea Experiments of Santos-Dumont

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
3914055McClure's Magazine — The over-sea experiments of Santos-Dumont1902Sterling Heilig

McClure's Magazine.


JULY, 1902

NO. 3



(Mr. Santos-Dumont, during his last winter's flights over the Mediterranean, was occupied with experiments quite different from those which took him around the Eiffel Tower in Paris. There, for a time, he went aside from his steadfast practice, to accomplish a set task and win a prize. Here, he resumed experimenting for his own information. A leading authority, M. Armengaud, jeune, President of the Société Frangaise de Navigation Aérienne, pronounces the results of these five flights, in spite of the final catastrophe, to be as precious as any previously obtained.—S. H.)

ON the sunny morning of the 28th of January, 1902, the airship ‘‘Santos-Dumont No. 6’’ made its first flight over the Bay of Monaco. Swifter than any steam-launch could follow, it sped out to sea, not swerving a point to right or to left. Soon it was over the open Mediterranean. On it sped until it seemed no larger than a great bird. Then it turned and came back at the same high speed. When inside the little bay again it slowed up, described a great circle, and mounted to the level of the terrace above the Pigeon Shooting Grounds at Monte Carlo. It approached so near that the lonely navigator of the air could call back acknowledgments to the congratulations of his friends below. Then it was out to sea again and back, and around in other circles, like a horse whose jockey puts him through his paces. To the sight-seeing crowd it made an exhilarating show of M. Santos-Dumont’s control of his airship; while to the inventor, to his aids and intimates, the maritime experiment had peculiar interests, both technical and general.

Over-sea ballooning has become the temptation of all European aëronauts. Lieutenant Tapissier, Director of the Toulon Maritime Ballooning Station, who accompanied Count Henry de La Vaulx in his recent highly subsidized but unsuccessful Mediterranean venture, says: ‘‘The balloon can render the navy immense services, on condition always that its direction can be assured. Floating over the sea, it can be at once a bird’s-eye scout and an offensive auxiliary of so delicate a character that the general service of the navy has not yet allowed itself to pronounce upon the matter. We can no longer conceal it from ourselves, however, that the hour approaches when balloons, having become new military engines, will acquire from the point of view of battle-results a great and perhaps decisive action de guerre.’’

The far-seeing Henri Rochefort, who was in the habit of coming daily to the Aërodrome from his hotel on the heights of La Turbie, was moved to generalize this warning to his country: ‘‘On the day when the ‘Santos-Dumont No. 7’ shall show the speed which all calculations expect from it, ‘there will remain little for the nations to do but lay down their arms.’ ’’

M. Santos-Dumont had already spent several industrious winters on the Riviera, while the weather made it impracticable to continue experimenting in Paris. Two seasons before he had made ascents from the Place Masséna, at Nice, in his ‘‘Santos-Dumont No. 3’’; and, during the previous winter, in a Monte Carlo carpenter shop he worked out the triangular-sectioned ‘‘keel’’ that was to save his life between the roofs of the Trocadero Hotels on the occasion of his famous fall in Paris. His friend, the Duc de Dino, had already invited him to spend the winter at his Monte Carlo villa. When, therefore, Prince Roland Bonaparte, President of the Scientific Commission of the Paris Aëro Club, assured him that the Prince of Monaco would be glad to build him a winter balloon-house on the low shore of the Condamine, and aid him to make a series of over-sea experiments, M. Santos-Dumont did not hesitate.

Showing its construction, the inflated balloon, and the pennant with its mystic letters

The little Bay of Monaco, sheltered from behind against wind and cold by mountains, and from the wind and sea on both sides by the heights of Monte Carlo and Monaco Town, seemed to offer an ideal situation for a balloon-house. The airship would be always ready, filled with hydrogen gas. It could dart out of the balloon - house when desired and back again for shelter at the approach of squalls. The balloon-house could be erected on the edge of the shore, and the protected bay and open sea beyond wouldafford unlimited clear space for operation. If the maritime experiment is attractive to spherical balloonists, it is doubly so to the navigator of an airship, who, from the nature of things, is unable to carry a large provision of ballast. As will be seen, this proved a chief consideration.

Balloon-house and landing-stage

WHEN M. Santos-Dumont arrived at Monte Carlo in the latter part of January, the Prince’s balloon-house was already practically completed. On the heights of old Monaco Town, in the lovely Botanical Garden that blooms in this soft climate through the entire winter, and on the very edge of the ragged cliffs that overhang the sea far below, this scientific Prince has a stone palace in construction for the lodging of his collection of deep-sea fauna and flora. Now, low down on the shore, in the center of the crescent bay by the Boulevard de la Condamine, he had placed the balloon-house.

The new building rises just across the street-car tracks from the sea-wall, with the waters of the bay from eight to twelve feet below. It is an immense empty shell of wood and canvas over an iron skeleton, 182 feet long, 33 feet wide, and 50 feet high. It had to be solidly constructed not to risk the fate of the all-wood Aërodrome of Toulon, which was twice all but carried away by tempests. Its risky form—almost that of a balloon itself—seemed to invite sea squalls to lift it. Its sensational features are its doors. Tourists never tire of telling each other that these doors are the greatest ever made, in modern times or in antiquity. They slide above on wheels hanging from an iron construction that extends from the façade on each side, and below on wheels that roll over a rail. Each door is 50 feet high by 17 feet wide; and each weighs 9,680 pounds. Their equilibrium is, nevertheless, so well calculated that, on the day of the inauguration, they were rolled apart by two little boys of eight and ten years respectively, the young Princes Ruspoli, grandsons of the Duc de Dino and his first wife, who was a Miss Curtis of New York.

Showing the sea-wall and the landing stage

After the first flight of the airship, it was seen that some serious miscalculations had been made with respect to the site of the Aërodrome. In the navigation of the air all is new, and surprises meet the experimenter at every turn. As we stood watching the ’’Santos-Dumont No. 6’’ steered out of its balloon-house, Mr. Robert Cook, so long the ’’Captain Bob Cook’’ who coached Yale crews to victory, said:

’’The airship has not yet its dock. Some kind of starting and landing-stage will have to be devised.’’

This was exactly the state of the matter. The airship, loaded with ballast until it was a trifle heavier than the surrounding atmosphere, had to be towed, or, rather, helped out of the balloon-house and across the street before it could be launched into the air over the sea-wall and drop its water-ballast, start its motor, point its nose slightly upward, and dart off on its aërial voyage. Now the sea-wall just across the Boulevard proved to be a dangerous obstruction. From the sidewalk it was only waist-high, but on the other side the surf rattled over the pebbles eight or ten feet below. The airship had to be lifted over it much more than waist-high, not to risk damage to the great arms of the propeller; and when half over, there was no one to sustain it from the other side. The nose of the air-ship pointed obliquely downward at an alarming angle, while its stern threatened to grind on the wall. Scuffling among the pebbles down below, half a dozen workmen held their arms high toward the descending keel, pushed onward by those behind the sea-wall, and they caught and righted it only in time to prevent the aëronaut being precipitated from his basket.

For this reason the entrance back into the balloon-house was the popular triumph of the experiment, for the crowd had at once taken cognizance of the perils of starting and landing.

The airship driving up the coast, while two sailing-yachts directly beneath are sailing before a stiff breeze in the opposite direction. ’’Wind A’’ — (See page 201)

Straight as a dart the airship came speeding to us on the shore. The police of the Prince had with great difficulty cleared the Boulevard between the sea-wall and the wide-open doors of the balloon-house. Aids and super-numeraries stood with outstretched arms at the wall, waiting. Below, on the beach, stood others. The airship, however, seemed to have small need of them. Santos-Dumont had been slowing his speed gently. Just as he was half-way over the sea-wall he stopped the propeller. Carried on gently by its dying momentum, the airship glided on a few feet over our heads toward the open door. The aids had already grasped the guide-rope and drawn it down to its proper level. Now they walked beside it—into the balloon-house. Santos-Dumont had practically steered his airship into its ‘‘stable’’!

But the same afternoon a second flight, while showing again the airship’s speed and dirigibility, demonstrated the dangerous insufficiency of the landing space provided for it. This second adventure over the sea-wall proved that this permanent danger must be done away with. The Prince offered to tear down the wall.

‘‘I will not ask you to do so much as that,’’ replied M. Santos-Dumont. ‘‘It may be sufficient to build up a landing-stage on the sea side of it, at the level of the Boulevard and the floor of the Aerodrome.’’

This is what was done, after twelve days of work interrupted by persistent rain. The air-ship, when issuing from its house for a third flight, on the 10th of February, had simply to be lifted a few feet by men on each side of the wall, who gently drew it on until its whole length floated in equilibrium over a platform extending so far out into the surf that the farthermost piles were always in six feet of water. On this platform stood the aids who held the airship while the chief machinist started the motor, and M. Santos-Dumont let out the water-ballast, still leaving the whole system a trifle heavier than the air.

It rose gently from the open platform, its shifting weights so arranged as to point its nose obliquely upward. The motor was already spitting and snapping amid its steady thunder-growl. On the instant the power was transferred to the propeller, its first revolutions sent the gently rising airship into the air as if it had received a mighty push from behind. Gathering force, it sped still obliquely upward, until, with a single masterly movement, the air-navigator was seen to shift his weights and bring his system to a level, onward course.

And so it darted out to sea, its scarlet pennant bearing the mystic initials fluttering like a streak of flame behind. The initial letters are those of the first line of Camoëns‘‘Lusiad’’—the epic poem of the aëronaut’s race—P.M.N.D.A.N. Por mares nunca d’antes navegados (“By seas yet unexplored”).

The airship leaving the Bay of Monaco in the teeth of a wind that blows back the smoke of the two steamers. ’’Wind B’’—(See page 201)

The Maritime Guide-rope

To the well-informed these flights over the Mediterranean displayed a unique and novel feature. This was the action of the maritime guide-rope—a long, thick rope dangling from the airship with eight or ten feet of its still thicker extremity dragging in the water.

Vertical stability is the life of any balloon, but to the balloon airship that may not waste the little ballast it carries, the problem becomes doubly complicated. Caused by changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure, condensation and dilatation continually react upon each other in the spherical balloon, necessitating continual losses of gas and ballast.

’’Suppose you are in equilibrium at a desired height,’’ M. Santos-Dumont once explained to me. ‘‘Suddenly a small cloud hides the sun for a few moments, and the temperature of the gas in the balloon cools down a little. If the balloonist does not immediately throw out just sufficient ballast to compensate the ascensional force lost by the shrinking of the

The airship pursuing its course, bead on, in a wind which keeps the sails of the little boat straining in the opposite direction. ’’Wind C’’—(See page 201)

Photograph copyright, 1902, by the S. S. McClure Co.


From a photography taken specially for ‘‘McClure's’’ by Miss Zaida Ben Yusuf

gas, he will begin to fall; while, if he throws out too much, the balloon will become too light and go too high. Suppose the balloonist throws out just enough. Soon the cloud will cease to hide the sun. The gas heats up again to its first temperature and regains its old lifting power. But, having less to lift by the weight just thrown out, the balloon now shoots up higher. Its gas dilates, so that some of it escapes or must be sacrificed to save the balloon from going too high. Then, having overshot its equilibrium and lost too much gas, you will begin descending—only to condense more gas, and to sacrifice more ballast; and the trouble recommences!’’

In these words M. Santos-Dumont unconsciously foretold the occasion of the catastrophe which terminated these experiments at Monaco; for once, in spite of precautions and chiefly because he was alone and unaided, the suddenly overheated hydrogen carried him too high.

These montagnes russes (‘‘shoot the chutes’’) of spherical ballooning, M. Santos-Dumont has always avoided over land as much as possible by the play of his shifting weights, which enable him to lift or lower the nose of his cigar-shaped balloon, and so drive it diagonally upward or downward by means of his propeller force. This manœuver of itself makes enough work for one man. To be freed from it, except when one desires to mount or descend, and to go forward on a chosen level automatically, is the ideal realizable from maritime guide-roping.

Over land, where there are level plains without the troublesome and really dangerous drawbacks of trees, rocks, fences, and buildings, and telegraph or trolley-wires, the guide-rope might be thought useful to the dirigible balloonist; but over the uninterrupted stretches of the sea, these Monaco experiments have proved it to be a true stabilisateur. Its very slight dragging resistance through the water is out of all proportion to the considerable weight of its floating extremity. According to its greater or less immersion, therefore, it ballasts or unballasts the airship. The balloon is held by its weight down to almost a fixed level over the waves, yet without danger of its being drawn into contact with them. Every extra foot of guide-rope floating means so much less weight for the balloon to lift and so much automatic remounting into the air. In this way an incessant little tugging toward and away from the waves is produced, an automatic ballasting and unballasting accomplished without loss of ballast.

Wind and Speed

LET us acknowledge, once for all, that the flight of February 10th, and the one which succeeded it on February 12th, furnished the most beautiful popular spectacle ever afforded by aërial navigation. Not even the sensational trips over the housetops of Paris from Saint-Cloud to the Eiffel Tower and back offered such a demonstration of the airship’s power and the navigator’s control over it. On each occasion M. Santos-Dumont directed his course far out to sea, only returning after a round trip much longer than the one which gave him the Deutsch Prize. On each occasion the guide-rope stabilisateur held the balloon at the constant level altitude desired, so that the navigator was left free to pursue his course without wasting time, ballast, gas, or propeller force. On each occasion—and this is very prettily if accidentally shown by three photographs—the navigator continued on his straight course despite adverse winds which, in one case, developed into a moderate squall.

In the photograph marked ‘‘Wind A,’’ the airship is seen driving up the coast toward the Italian frontier, while two sailing-yachts directly beneath him are obviously scudding in just the opposite direction, in front of what any yachtsman would call a stiff breeze. Farther to the right the smoke of a small steamer, violently blown to the right, indicates the force of the breeze at the moment.

In the photograph marked ‘‘Wind B,’’ the airship is seen to be on the point of quitting (not returning to) the Bay of Monaco in the teeth of a wind that blows far back the smoke of two steamers.

In the photograph marked ‘‘Wind C,’’ the airship is pursuing its course head on into a wind that keeps the sail-boats’ three canvasses straining in the opposite direction.

These photographs, taken by a professional simply desirous of making a good picture, afford the most complete kind of answer to those who question the airship’s ability to make way against the wind. It takes a stiff wind to send a great yacht kicking up foam with its sails bellied to their straining-point.

It was during the flight of February 12th that the intrepid navigator of the air persisted most sensationally against the wind, and attained his greatest distance from the Aërodrome. One petroleum and two steam-launches, together with three well-manned rowboats, had been stationed at intervals down the coast, to pick him up in case of accident. The steam chaloupe of the Prince of Monaco, carrying his Highness, the general and the captain of the Prince’s ocean-going steam-yacht, the ‘‘Princesse Alice,’’ had started on the course ahead of time. The forty horse-power Mors road-racing automobile of Mr. Clarence Grey Dinsmore, and the thirty horse-power Panhard of M. Isidore Kahenstein were prepared to follow along the lower coast-road.

Immediately on leaving the bay, in spite of the wind that came head-on, M. Santos-Dumont set his course straight up the coast in the direction of the Italian frontier. The crowd, unaccustomed to see the airship take a straight course undiversified by evolutions, and unaware that the programme was simply to push on to Cap Martin and return in the best time rendered possible by the new advantage of the maritime guide-rope’s comparative vertical stability, began immediately to murmur: ‘‘He is going to return the visit of the Empress Eugenie.’’[1]

The airship sped straight on its course against the wind. Along the winding coast-road the two racing automobiles managed to keep abreast of it, being driven at high speed. ‘‘It was all we could do to follow him along the curves of the coast-road,’’ said one of the passengers in Mr. Dinsmore’s automobile, ‘‘so rapid was his speed. In less than five minutes he had arrived opposite the Villa Camille Blane, which is about a kilometer (three-fifths of a mile) distant from Cap Martin as the crow flies. At this moment the air-ship was absolutely alone. Between the air-ship and Cap Martin I saw a single rowboat, while far behind was visible the smoke from the Prince’s steam chaloupe. It was really no commonplace sight, the airship thus hovering isolated above the immense sea.’’

The same thought doubtless struck M. Santos-Dumont. The wind, instead of subsiding, had been increasing. Here and there below him he could see sail-boats driven before it. Those who could still observe him through opera-glasses from the heights of Monaco Town and Monte Carlo, observed him turn abruptly and start back on the homestretch. Now he had the wind with him. To those watching from the heights the airship increased in size every moment, bearing down upon them with the swiftness of an eagle. In an incredibly short space of time the grumbling of the motor could be heard, louder and louder, until it grew into the familiar thunder-spitting, and, amid a thousand cheers, the balloon entered the Bay of Monaco again. ‘‘Half an hour after the aëronaut’s return to the Aerodrome the wind became violent, a heavy rainstorm followed, and the sea became very rough.’’[2]

Helped onward by the rising storm, the air-ship reached the Bay of Monaco with a rapidity and ease that stirred the crowd to intense admiration. Approaching the landing-stage, M. Santos-Dumont gave the signal to seize the guide-rope. The steam chaloupe, which had turned back when midway between Monte Carlo and Cap Martin, reached the Bay while the aëronaut was manœuvering in those circles and figure eights that so amused the crowd. The Prince was still on board, and he desired to seize the guide-rope. A first time the heavy cordage slipped past the darting chaloupe. Instead of catching it, his Most Serene Highness managed to get struck by it on the arm—an accident which knocked him to the bottom of the chaloupe and produced a severe contusion. A second attempt was more successful.

Like everything else in aerial navigation, this manœuver is new. The steam-launch resists by its inertia the oscillations of the balloon in the little air currents; on the other hand, the necessarily brusque action of the steam-power may always exercise a dangerous traction on the guide-rope. On the present occasion some of the piano wire by which the keel of the airship is suspended to the balloon were broken by the shock. A heavier shock, as M. Santos-Dumont remarked, might threaten not only the entire system of suspension, but even the stuff of the balloon to which it is attached. May not this jarring have had some effect in the final accident of the air-ship’s next trial?

Thanks to the aid of a heavy rowboat manned by two hardy fishers, the airship was at last held firmly, and M. Santos-Dumont stopped its motor, which he had kept working full speed to prevent the strong wind blowing him ashore. It was towed to above the landing-stage, and lifted into its balloon-house. It was not a moment too soon. Within five minutes the rain was falling in torrents, and great waves were breaking over the landing-stage.

What speed the ‘‘Santos-Dumont No. 6’’ made on this trial has not been published. From the best possible information I am able to say that it was not sought to be minutely calculated. M. Santos-Dumont is not manufacturing airships for sale, nor has he any rival records to distance. The trial, like all the others, was for his own information and experience; and as such it was not necessary to reduce its speed to miles per hour. Besides, the speed of the return, wonderfully aided by the wind, could bear no relation to the speed of the trip out, which was against the wind; and there is nothing to indicate that the force of the wind was constant, going and coming.


It is true that, in the present instance, one of the greatest difficulties regularly standing in the way of such speed calculation—the ’’shoot the chutes’’ of ever-varying altitude—was very much done away with by the maritime guide-rope. On the other hand, the dragging of the guide-rope’s weight against the wind is something very different from its petty tugging in calm weather, and the absence of all such resistance, to say the least, when speeding before the wind, which sometimes bellies it like a sail. Again, while the maritime guide-rope affords the airship even a certain amount of lateral stability in presence of side gusts, this stability is by no means complete, and is purchased at the price of so much more dragging back, as of a brake. The fact that without the guide-rope the airship would be bound to lose time on a much more erratic course, to say nothing of the navigator’s extra labor, proves only that the device is, on the whole, immensely serviceable. In either case, with or without maritime guide-rope, the speed calculation has its own practically insurmountable difficulties.

From Monte Carlo to Cap Martin at two o’clock of a given afternoon may be quite another course than from Monte Carlo to Cap Martin at four P.M. of the same day; while from Monte Carlo to Cap Martin can never, except in perfect calm, be the same course as from Cap Martin to Monte Carlo. Nor is any accurate calculation to be based on the markings of the anemometer, an instrument which M. Santos-Dumont nevertheless carries. Out of simple curiosity he examined it on the trip mentioned. It seemed at the moment to be marking thirty-five miles an hour; but the wind, complicated by side gusts, acting at the same time on the airship and the wings of the anemometer windmill—that is, on two moving systems whose inertia cannot be compared—would be alone sufficient to falsify the result.

It is much more significant to dwell on the picture of the fast steam-launches overtaken and left far behind, one after the other, the Prince’s chaloupe utterly outdistanced, and the forty horse-power road racing automobiles keeping up with the airship only by being driven at their high speed.

During the manufacture of the hydrogen gas and the filling of the balloon, the new Aërodrome received the visits of a great number of prominent people, several of whom signified their willingness to lend valuable aid to the experiments. From Beaulieu, where his steam-yacht ‘‘Lysistrata’’ was at anchor, came Mr. James Gordon Bennett, and Mr. Eugene Higgins twice brought his ‘‘Varuna’’ up from the harbor of Nice. The beautiful little steam-yacht of M. Eiffel also held itself in readiness. It had been the kind intention of these steam-yacht owners, as it had been the Prince’s with his ‘‘Princesse Alice,’’ to follow the airship in its flights, so as to be on the spot in case of accident. Unfortunately the first day’s flight alone demonstrated that this kind of protection must not be counted on overmuch by air-ships. If rapid steam-launches could not keep up with this old ‘‘Santos-Dumont No. 6’’ and its one twenty horse-power motor, but were passed by and left rapidly behind, it will be all the more impossible for steam vessels following the ‘‘Santos-Dumont No. 7,’’ with its two forty-five horse-power motors of a newer type and much less weight per horse-power. Henri Rochefort was right. The air-ship will be to the warship what the hawk is to the heron.


Final Trial and Conclusions


ON the 14th of February the famous airship ‘‘Santos-Dumont No. 6,’’ which, before winning the Deutsch Prize had to fall from mid-air over Paris to the roofs of the Trocadero Hotels, was destined to fall now once again in what was at first thought to be nothing less than a complete and final catastrophe. That the catastrophe was anything but final may be gathered from the fact that with this same historic balloon, which has been since fully inflated again and put on exhibition at the Crystal Palace, London, M. Santos-Dumont has engaged himself to try for the London-Birmingham Prize, offered through the English Aëro Club.


The ‘‘Santos-Dumont No. 6’’ left the Aërodrome at 2.30 p.m. of the 14th of February, escorted by the steam-launches of the ‘‘Princesse Alice’’ and the ‘‘Varuna.’’ As before, a number of other craft were stationed at intervals along the course to Cap Martin. From the beginning the balloon behaved badly, dipping heavily.

The truth is that it was imperfectly inflated when it left the balloon-house, a fault on the part of some one which the generosity of M. Santos-Dumont has passed by in silence.

Perceiving the balloon’s unusual lack of ascensional force, the aëronaut—alone in the air to meet every emergency—threw out ballast. At that moment a cloud which had obscured the sun passed by. The heat of the sun's rays now dilated the hydrogen gas very suddenly, and greatly increased the balloon’s lifting power. The airship rose rapidly. There would have been no harm in this, had it not been for the presence of the heavy maritime guide-rope. The latter was lifted completely from contact with the waves, so that its whole weight re-ballasted the airship at a point where it upset the equilibrium of the system, causing the nose of the cigar-shaped balloon to point upward. As the balloon had not been sufficiently filled, the hot masses of hydrogen, by reason of their lesser density, flew to this up-pointing end of the balloon, and increased by that much its inclination. For a time it seemed to be pointing almost perpendicularly.


The intrepid aëronaut, who had lost neither his cool head nor his balance, could still have righted himself had he not perceived with dismay that the up-pointing of the airship had caused the oil in the motor to overflow and the ballast itself to shift. To permit the flame-spitting motor to continue working under these circumstances would be to risk a fatal explosion. To stop the motor and remain in the air would mean the certainty of being cast by the wind on the telegraph wires, trees, and houses of Monte Carlo. He had to think quickly. The dilemma was a new one. He did the one thing that seemed safest; and, with the same sang-froid which gave him, on August 8, 1901, the audacity to destroy his balloon above the Trocadero Hotels to save himself from a worse fall, he now pulled the emergency rope which opens a great seam in the balloon. Like a wounded bird it fell, and in a few moments was floating on the waves.


Balloon, keel, and motor were successfully fished out of the bay, and shipped off to Paris for repairs. The ‘‘Santos-Dumont No. 7,’’ though well under way, was not yet completed. The over-sea experiments, therefore, came to an abrupt end.


In the minds of those who have followed M. Santos-Dumont closely there is no doubt of the value of the lessons taught by the Monaco experiments. In the steady and determined progress of his experiments, all are equally valuable. The five flights which he made were not five isolated demonstrations of what he could do, but a single series of experiments for his own instruction. His plan is to continue trying, rejecting the weak and the ill-adapted, holding on to what has stood the test, and profiting by each error to avoid it in the future.

Thus he constructed five balloons before settling on the form of the balloon of his new ‘‘Santos-Dumont No. 7.’’

Thus the flight in which he missed winning the Deutsch Prize by only nine minutes taught him that the lubricating receptacles of motors created to propel automobiles over lever surfaces are liable to spill their oil and permit the unlubricated motor to overheat itself when they are simply transferred without adaptation to an airship that moves diagonally through the air.

Thus his fall to the roofs of the Trocadero Hotels taught him the delicate and complicated insufficiency of certain automatic valves which, on paper—that is, in theory—ought to have interacted on each other to perfection. These are practical details. The air-navigator knows them now; but they were none the less learned at the cost of apparent failure.

In the same way M. Santos-Dumont has now learned that, while a properly inflated balloon furnished with the proper kind of valves has nothing to fear from gas displacement, it is best to be on the safe side and guard oneself against the possibility of such displacement. Thus the balloon of his ‘‘Santos-Dumont No. 7’’ is divided by two vertical silk partitions, not varnished, into three compartments. The partitions remaining unvarnished, the hydrogen gas can slowly pass through their meshes from one compartment to the other, to insure an equal, pressure throughout; but, as they are nevertheless partitions, they will guard against a precipitous rush of gas toward either extremity. In the same way he has learned that the automobile motors, already considerably adapted to their new uses of aërial navigation, must be further modified to permit the airship to point, not only diagonally, but at almost a perpendicular angle, without the risk of spilling their petroleum.

Finally, M. Santos-Dumont will yield to the consensus of expert opinion and the lesson of events, and take with him on the ‘‘Santos-Dumont No. 7’’ an aid, whose title and functions remain yet to be defined. Had such an aid been in his place beside the motor on the afternoon of the accident, he would have been in a position to meet the danger of the over-slopping petroleum half way, if not to prevent it.

The new airship’s thirty-yard-long keel will therefore be furnished with two baskets, one for M. Santos-Dumont and the other for this unnamed lieutenant. To carry this extra weight the length of the new balloon has been increased to 161 feet, as against the 112 feet of the ‘‘Santos-Dumont No. 6.’’ This will give it a total ascensional force of 2,904 pounds, as against the 1,360 pounds of the ‘‘Santos-Dumont No. 6.’’ A difference is also made necessary by the increased weight of the more powerful motors—two of forty-five horse-power as against one of twenty horse-power. All this agrees with the summing-up of the lessons of these Mediterranean experiments of M. Santos-Dumont by M. Armengaud, jeune, in his learned and impartial inaugural discourse, delivered at the last meeting of the Société Frangaise de Navigation Aërienne.

‘‘In the first place, these five flights have demonstrated that M. Santos-Dumont, in spite of his skill hors ligne, is not sufficient to conduct his airship alone, and that he must take an aid up with him. In the second place, his experiments cannot without imprudence be continued over the sea. He must return to the land. It would be well, however, for him to choose vast plains, like those of La Beauce, where the surface is not encumbered, and he can guide-rope just as over the sea.’’

Injustice to the young Brazilian inventor and navigator, it ought to be pointed out that there may be a great difference between the learning of the lesson and its application. Where is the new engineer to be found? Certainly not among M. Santos-Dumont’s Parisian rivals. M. Roze, who has undertaken the construction of his gigantic ‘’Aviateur’’ for a financial company, is not an aëronaut. He has but lately made his first ascent—as a passenger in a spherical balloon—and is consequently ignorant of all the practical difficulties of the aerial problem. M. Tatin, who invented M. Deutsch’s imitation of the ‘‘Santos-Dumont No. 5,’’ has never made a balloon ascent. M. Simoni, the engineer-constructor of M. Lebaudy’s dirigible balloon at Mantes, has never made a balloon ascent. M. de Brasky, who is constructing a dirigible balloon invented by himself, has never made a balloon ascent. M. Severo, the Brazilian for whom Lachambre has so long had ready the envelope of his dirigible ‘‘Pax,’’ made his first trip as a passenger in a spherical balloon after he had arrived in Paris. And so one may go through the list in Europe. Count Zeppelin, it is to be noted, never recommenced his experiments after the first flight, when the wind carried his highly expensive invention thirty miles away, to be towed back on the surface of the water. In Europe, at least, M. Santos-Dumont remains the only navigator of the air.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in 1902, before the cutoff of January 1, 1929.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1928, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 95 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.

Public domainPublic domainfalsefalse

  1. Much was said at the time in the Continental press about the accidental meeting of the Empress Eugenie and Henri Rochefort in Santos-Dumont’s balloon-house. What they omitted to describe was the activity with which the terrible old man got out of the reach of Franz Boucher’s camera at the moment the group was being photographed with the Empress’s gracious permission. Here was the man who did so much to bring about the fall of Napoleon III., and here was the woman who was his ancient enemy and victim; and they had not met for a quarter of a century.—S. H.
  2. Paris edition, New York ‘‘Herald,’’ Feb. 13, 1902.