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Robert Brothers’ dirigible, 1784

Robert Brothers’ dirigible, 1784.jpg Blanchard’s dirigible balloon, 1784ThumbnailsThe BastilleBlanchard’s dirigible balloon, 1784ThumbnailsThe Bastille

A more reasonable plan for practical navigation was devised and tried by the Robert brothers. A melon-shaped balloon, fifty-two feet long by thirty-two feet in diameter, was made of silk and inflated with pure hydrogen. Beneath was suspended a longish car of light wood covered with sky-blue silk. This elegant ship was to be rowed through heaven by means of six silken oars actuated by sturdy sailors. A silken rudder should guide her at pleasure when the winds were asleep, or softly playing in the placid sky. She was a fairy bark, indeed, a soaring castle lovely to behold.

After a preliminary trial, accompanied by their patron, the Duke de Chartres, they were ready for a substantial journey. On September 19, 1784, the vessel was inflated and taken to the Garden of the Tuileries, in front of the palace, where its cords were held by Marshall Richelieu and three other noblemen. At eleven forty-five the two Roberts and their brother-in-law arose and drifted beyond the horizon on a seven hours’ cruise. Before coming to earth, they plied the oars vigorously, and described a curve of one kilometer radius, thus deviating 22° from the feeble wind then prevailing.

Aërial Navigation
A Popular Treatise on the Growth of Air Craft and on Aëronautical Meteorology
By Albert Francis Zahm
Published in 1911
Available from gutenberg.org