National Geographic : 1956 Aug
+ Huge Cygnet, a Bird on Leash, Bears a Man to a Height of 168 Feet Beinn Bhreagh became the center of a strange industry in the early 1900's. Seamstresses covered thou sands of tetrahedral cells with colorful silk, and workmen assembled these cells, honeycomb fashion, within the framework of giant kites. The cellu lar arrangement proved ideal, giving stability, strength, and powerful lift. Dr. Bell's experiments culminated in his 208-pound Cygnet, designed to carry both a man and an engine. On December 6, 1907, the inventor ordered Cygnet out for a trial run prior to engine installation. Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge, U. S. Army, rode the kite as volunteer passenger. Cygnet was placed aboard a barge and towed by steamer into the wind on Baddeck Bay. Soon she became airborne and flew gracefully for seven minutes at the end of a towline before settling on the water. + Several days earlier workers tested the barge's balance with Cygnet in position and her passenger aboard. Dr. Bell (right) supervised the work. The Lodge, Bell's first home at Bad deck, stands above the kite shed. Lower right: The kite had no con trols. Her "pilot" rode on his stom ach in the center of the structure, which contained 3,393 cells. Here a workman takes Selfridge's position. Later Lieutenant Selfridge died at Fort Myer, Virginia, in the crash of a Wright brothers' plane being tested for the United States Army. He was powered flight's first fatality. John G. Davidson (left) and John A. D. MeCurdy, © Bell Family 238 4 A Steamer Tows Cygnet Across Baddeck Bay Toward a Rendezvous with History Crewmen, mouths agape at the sight of a man flying, forgot to sever Cygnet's towrope when she settled gently on the water. The kite was dragged and destroyed, but Selfridge suffered only a chilly wetting.