National Geographic : 1936 Jan
MAN'S FARTHEST ALOFT pie probably not more than 15 minutes later and were brought to the landing place within an hour or so. Next consigned to a parachute was a sack full of oxygen cylinders. Under the direction of Captain Ander son, who was watching our rate of fall, I released battery after battery by pulling metal pins from sockets in the wall of the gondola. The releases worked perfectly and quickly; at one time there were three parachutes in the air at the same time. Around us flew several airplanes, but we paid them scant attention. Below us the roads in all directions were white with clouds of dust, as scores of automobiles converged on our probable point of land ing (see page 82). Other batteries followed by parachute, and sackafter sack of lead shot was spilled. No solid object was discarded except by parachute. A PERFECT LANDING Andy climbed outside, unlashed the end of the rip cord and brought it within the gondola opening. He then cut one end of the dragrope loose, and as the loose end fell and whipped about, it jarred the gon dola momentarily. We donned our football helmets, bor rowed from the team of the Calvin Cool idge High School of Rapid City, and hooked across the inside of the gondola a strong linen strap to which we could hold if necessary. The balloon, traveling at 12 miles an hour, also was settling slowly. The dragrope was touching the ground. Its tip trailed through an isolated patch of woods, and then it dragged half its length through a field. Ahead of us was a ravine, and beyond it a large field that looked promising as a landing place. We shouted again and again to men fol lowing us almost directly underneath in automobiles to get out and seize the drag rope. As the rope trailed along a road one automobile actually straddled it. Shortly afterward, one man ran beside the rope and caught hold of it, only to drop it immediately. Apparently people were in awe of the towering structure of the balloon, and had no confidence that they could retard its progress. Had 20 men succeeded in grab bing the dragrope they could have stopped the drift of the balloon. In this case, we could have valved the balloon down, there- by avoiding the need of ripping it. But it was apparent that we could not obtain help from the spectators who were trailing us, and so we resolved to rip the balloon as we touched the ground. Andy instructed me to discharge a cou ple of small sacks of lead shot to hold the balloon off, and then he shouted, "Make ready for the landing!" I scrambled across the gondola just in time to help him with the rip cord. As I glanced through the porthole, we were not more than a foot or two above the ground. Andy's weight was already on the cord, and as we pulled we felt the steel cable tear through the fabric and sensed that the top of the balloon had opened. We grabbed for the linen strap and simultaneously the gondola struck the ground (Plates III, IV). Held by the drag of the 500-foot rope, and released from the support of the bag, the gondola stopped practically at once, and immediately turned over on its side. A quantity of lead shot that had been pre viously accidentally spilled on the floor came in a shower all over us. The air was momentarily filled with fly ing clothing, empty cans, ballast sacks, small cameras, tools, and other objects. We swung onto the linen strap and our feet touched things that we could stand upon. I looked down and found that Andy was standing on the spectrograph, while I was standing on the Geiger counter apparatus! We took a brief look around and then started to climb out. To our amazement people were already looking in one of the manholes. Lieutenant B. S. Kelsey and Lieutenant B. B. Talley had guessed our landing place, and had landed with their airplane. Talley had actually made two exposures, on the ground, of our landing, and was at the gondola before we could get out. In less than five minutes we were sur rounded by scores of automobiles and hundreds of people. In a short time the crowd had increased to thousands and it became a problem to hold them back. For tunately, it was an amiable crowd and no damage was done to the gondola or the balloon. AIRPLANES CONVERGE AT LANDING PLACE It was only a short time before airplanes piloted by Captain R. P. Williams, Cap tain H. K. Baisley, Captain J. F. Phillips, Captain James G. Haizlip, and Mr. R. E.