National Geographic : 1959 Jul
ROSEMARYMUDIE Maintained by the Ministry of Supply and the Royal Air Force, it is a research center for balloons of many types. Gerry Long, a balloonist of 45 years experience, was in charge of flying opera tions. Cardington had also housed the famous dirigible R-100, whose one-time skipper, Wing Commander Ralph Booth, later agreed to head our launching crew at Tenerife. "A thoroughly sound idea," one of the Cardington authorities told me when I rang him up. "Of course, there are certain for malities. You'll need a Pilot's License, a Certificate of Regis tration, a Certificate of Airworthiness, a Radio Operator's Li cense, a Transmitter License, and a Certificate of Approval of Aircraft Radio Installation. You will, I need hardly add, also require insurance." Our Balloon Mushrooms in a Sand Storm We elected to jump off from Tenerife in the Canary Is lands, as did Columbus cen turies earlier. Across this Spanish island, 180 miles off Africa, trade winds blow almost constantly southwest at 10 to 15 miles an hour. Arriving in December, 1958, we found the winds much too strong for take-off. When gusts finally abated, we raced to the launching beach in the dark of night. Work ing by automobile head lights, we set to inflating the 53,000-cubic-foot can opy with bottled hydrogen. Here at dawn, wind and flying sand call a halt. Hours later, when we completed filling the bag, night had fallen once more. Cutting free the surplus sandbags, the crew shackles balloon to gondola. In mo ments we were off, scraping across sand, dipping into the sea, and-at long last soaring into the sky. Thus on December 12 began our duel with air and sea.