JF Ptak Science Books Post 2264
"WHEN man reaches the Pole and when he has learnt how to fly he will almost have exhausted the list of his aspirations. The fascination of both exploits is endless. So far the art of flying has not been a success..."--English Illustrated Magazine, volume 18, no. 169, October 1897.
And so starts the chapter, "The First Long Voyage in a Balloon", which in a remarkably boring way relates the story of the flight of Monck Mason, Charles Green, and Robert Hollond. It is also a little bizarre because this was two years into the discovery of x-rays which revealed unseen worlds far more vast than the North Pole. Plus there was George Cantor's papers on transfinite numbers in '95, and then Minkowski's geometry of numbers and Becquerel's radioactivity and the Zeeman effect and the opening of the Yerkes Observatory in '96. There was a LOT going on in '95-'97 to show how much we didn't know and so how much more could be achieved, so it is a mystery why the writer thought that Human Endeavor was done.
But back to Monck: in 1836 his was indeed the longest voyage achieved by any human in flight, covering some 500 miles. An account of the voyage was written by Monck in 1838: Aeronautica; Or, Sketches Illustrative of the Theory and Practice of Aerostation: Comprising an Enlarged Account of the Late Aerial Expedition to Germany, with the illustrations published at Indiana here. I'm calling this out because I have a lovely lithograph, a night-time image of the three balloonists, that is most unsuaul I think because it seems to me to be a very early night-time oblique image of the Earth seen from above.
The artwork is by one of the ballooists, Monck Mason, who as it turns out in addition to this great voyage took another, this time making it across the Atlantic in an incredible three days. Well, that was the report of it, anyway--the article was a hoax, written by Edgar Allen Poe, and based somewhat on the real adventures of Mason. The story appeared April 13, 1844 in the New York Sun, and attracted a lot of attention, lasting as a hoax for a few days. The story was "retracted" on the 15th, withg the following announcement: "BALLOON - The mails from the South last Saturday night not having brought a confirmation of the arrival of the Balloon from England, the particulars of which from our correspondent we detailed in our Extra, we are inclined to believe that the intelligence is erroneous. The description of the Balloon and the voyage was written with a minuteness and scientific ability calculated to obtain credit everywhere, and was read with great pleasure and satisfaction. We by no means think such a project impossible."--(source, Wiki, Balloon Hoax.)