February 20, 2008
1785 Hot Air Balloon Flight Across the English Channel
We accidentally discovered something about the history of air travel while driving around northern France last week.
There was this monument marked on our map, and we decided to stop by at twilight: the Colonne Blanchard, whatever that was.
It turned out to be commemorating the first balloon flight across the English Channel, by Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard in 1785, accompanied by an American, John Jeffries. They had taken off from Dover Castle in England and landed on this spot 2.5 hours later. This was 118 years before the Wright brothers made their first 12-second airplane flight!
Blanchard also made the first balloon flight in North America, in 1793 (from Pennsylvania to New Jersey). President George Washington, and the future presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe watched him!
Trivia: Jean-Pierre Blanchard and his wife Sophie both died in incidents related to hot air balloons, separately. He had a heart attack in 1809 in the Hague and fell out of his basket, and ten years later she had an accident with fireworks setting fire to her balloon and she fell to her death as well.
The next day, we drove back to England via the Chunnel, and signs for DOVER CASTLE caught our eyes. Why not? We drove the 30 minutes out of our way to visit. The staff there didn't know anything about Jean-Pierre Blanchard. Oh well. Fun to see where he took off from anyway. Scenes from Dover Castle:
The view from the top of Dover Castle. A hill below the castle. In the car park photo, our car is the light blue one on the left - and I included this photo because I was so impressed that our keys were able to open it from this distance! The kids got in while David and I enjoyed a few more minutes of coastal views.
February 20, 2008 | Permalink
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Too cool. You make me jealous... again! Hey, here's a piece of interesting trivia for you that I would have thought was urban legend if I hadn't done it myself. I had heard this from a friend and had to try it. If you press your car key-fob into the skin behind your chin/under your mouth and press your unlock button with your mouth open it will increase the distance at which your keys will work. I tried this standing inside our building on the second floor at HP at the window overlooking the parking lot. The car was about 100 yards away and would not lock just pointing the fob at it. I then tried it using the method described above and sure enough, it worked! Go figure.
Posted by: randall | Feb 21, 2008 12:30:30 AM
I posted a picture I took from the same location that I unlocked the car from over on my blog.
Posted by: randall | Feb 21, 2008 12:38:41 AM
The education you are providing Jason and Emily is wonderful, and even exceeding the one we were blessed to give you. Family is more important than work, but work makes many things possible which would not otherwise be possible. Balance, good decisions, and God's wisdom all play a part (not necessarily in that order!) I love you.
Posted by: Patricia Taylor | Feb 23, 2008 9:49:16 PM
A real castle!!! How very cool!!
Posted by: Helen | Feb 28, 2008 2:13:16 AM