National Geographic : 1936 Jan
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE rnotograpn oy iccnaru n. oLewa4L READY TO ATTACH THE GONDOLA The final stage of preparation is at hand, and soldiers at the retaining ropes are paying out enough line to allow the rigging to be secured to the upper part of the heavily laden metal ball. The flag of the National Geographic Society hangs in the rigging. The Society's tricolor, sky blue, earth-brown, and sea-green, which has flown over the North Pole and the South Pole, and was carried to the lowest ocean depth attained by man, was borne to the highest stratosphere point yet reached. On the opposite side of the balloon was the Stars and Stripes. As Anderson sensed the fall of the bal loon, he shouted to me, stepped on the elec trical switch, and turned the handle that controlled the 40 sacks of ballast, totaling 3,000 pounds in weight, hung outside the gondola. In less than three seconds he had tripped ten of these sacks, dropping 750 pounds of ballast (page 78). I lifted a sack of ballast from the floor, held it out of a manhole, and pulled the pin from its bottom. The contents fell in a spray of fine lead directly on the head of a man who was already running from the rim of the bowl to get from beneath us. As the shower of fine lead struck him, he shouted, ducked his head, and seemed to run even faster, if that were possible! We were now about 50 feet above the tree tops. To the right and left the dense crowd was scattering in a frantic attempt to get away from the tower ing structure that ap parently was about to wreck itself and fall on the heads of many of them, who probably visualized themselves trapped under acres of rubber-coated fabric. But the balloon stopped its descent and started upward again. It was fortunate that we had available the electric ballast dis charge built for quick emergency, and tested over and over again on the ground to insure that it would operate without fail. A SPRINKLING OF LEAD SHOT When we had wired these sacks into place before the take-off, we had provided that as the handle, operable from either inside or outside, was turned, from contact point to contact point, sacks would be exploded by dynamite caps and be dumped from oppo site sides of the gondola. Therefore, as Andy turned the handle that controlled the 40 sacks, lead shot spilled from ten 2-inch openings almost equally spaced around the gondola. From the ground, it may have appeared that we had turned on a sprinkler system. I have often wondered since how many scores of people were sprayed by those streams of fine shot.