Chapter 2 - 1907






E.W. Mix, in French Balloon Will Attempt Feat Aeronauts Have Tried for Many Years


St Louis, MO. Sunday, October 20, 1907. Such scientists as have been let in on the secret will watch the course of the French balloon, L’Isle de France, piloted by Alfred LeBlanc and E.W. Mix more closely than any of the others. In this balloon during the flight an effort will be made to accomplish something that aeronauts have desired to do for many years. That achievement is the determining of the exact latitude and longitude at any hour during the day or night while sailing through cloudland. E.W. Mix who will act as companion to Mr. LeBlanc confided to a few scientific men before his departure that he expected to do this and exhibited the instrument with which he will work. It is very similar to the sextant used by mariners in obtaining their latitude and longitude, but is modified in some respects in order that it may be adapted to working where there is an uneven horizon.

Mr. Mix said it was difficult to explain all of the technical features of his instrument to one not familiar with the process of reckoning, but declared that he had tested it under all conditions and had proved by accurate results obtained that he could get his exact latitude and longitude in a balloon at an altitude of one mile from the earth just as well as on the bridge of a transatlantic ship in mid-ocean.

“All I require,” said he, “is to see the sun or a star and it is not often that both these are obscured from the aeronaut for any considerable period of time.”

He has been at work on this instrument for several years in Paris, and besides experimenting with it there he has tested it all the way over on the steamer and continued his observations after reaching this country. In New York he made observations both day and night on the roof of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, and each time obtained the exact latitude and longitude of the spot. On his way to St Louis, he made observations at several places where the train stopped for a few minutes and was successful in these efforts. Since arriving in St Louis the experiments have been continued successfully.

All aeronauts take an ordinary compass, which tells them in which direction they are sailing provided they can see the earth, but they have no way of determining their locality except by maps and that method is often unsatisfactory and unreliable. If they sail over the land they examine the maps of that country above which they suppose they are drifting, but oftentimes they are mistaken about the identity of rivers, cities, railroads and other landmarks they see beneath them.

At night and especially when they are sailing above the clouds, they are frequently unable to see the earth for many hours.

With the instrument invented by Mr. Mix he may at any time when the sun or certain stars are visible compute the latitude and longitude of his position and then he has only to draw the lines on an official map to indicate within the fraction of a mile where he is. If the instrument works successfully, it will be a great safeguard when approaching the ocean, because it often happens that aeronauts are carried dangerously close to the sea in a dense fog without realizing their danger.


October 23, 1907

Stopped Only by Ocean, French and German Pilots Land But 2 Miles Apart. - Unofficial Figures Give Vantage to Erbsloh, Official Decision of Contest Committee May Be Necessary to Determine the Real Winner. - AMERICAN AIR LINE RECORD GOES, HAVING STOOD UNCHALLENGED SINCE 1859. - L'Isle de France Exceeds the Record of Count de La Vaulx for length of time aloft, Landing at 1 o'clock after 44 Hours in the Air. - CAPTAIN VON ABERCRON IN THE DUSSELDORF BRINGS HIS CRAFT IN THIRD, WITH 780 MILES. - The America Makes the Best Showing of the American Competitors, Covering 720 miles, and Could Have Gone Further - Suffered Much from the Cold. - THE POMMERN NOT NEARLY EXHAUSTED BY LONG FLIGHT. - German Pilot Tried to Get to Massachusetts to Lengthen Flight - Leblanc Cries "Hard Luck," His Voyage Being Interrupted by Rope Catching in Trees.


Germany has won the blue ribbon of the skies, with France, her historic rival, so close a second that an official measurement of air line distances may be necessary to determine the actual winner.

Such is the apparent, though unofficial, result of the most closely contested balloon race in aeronautic history. Of the nine great airships entered in the international flight from St. Louis the four that covered the greatest distance all came eastward well up to the Atlantic coast line before they descended to the earth. They could have gone further had it not been for the barrier the ocean interposed.

In the big German war balloon Pommern, Oscar Erbsloh, pilot and Henry H Clayton, aid, alighted yesterday morning at Asbury Park, N.J. so close to the surf that to have gone on would have been recklessness. Unofficially the distance traversed by them on an air line is 876 miles.

Only a little further down the New Jersey coast  and a short time later the French pet, L'Isle de France, came to earth with Alfred Leblanc and E.W. Mix, her pilot and aid. By unofficial measurement she is credited with 874 miles, only two miles less than her German competitor in an air line from the starting point.

Third honors in the race also appear to have fallen to the Germans, the Dusseldorf, navigated by Captain Hugo von Abercron and Hans Haldemann, having flown 780 miles from St. Louis as the bird flies before alighting in the little State of Delaware.


The America is Fourth


With the America, piloted by J.C. McCoy, assisted by Captain C. de F. Chandler, the team which won last week the Lahm Cup, the United States' entries lay claim to fourth place. The America descended near Patuxent, Md., on the west shore of Chesapeake Bay, about 720 miles east of St. Louis. Her plucky crew had probably endured greater hardships than some of the others, especially from the intense cold suffered in crossing the Allegheny Mountains, the America as she crossed into the State of Maryland having attained the great altitude of about 12,000 feet.

Keeping close company with her American competitor, The St. Louis, piloted by Alan B. Hawley, assisted by August Post, came in fifth, with a record of 710 miles, which terminated near Westminster, Md. The America, The St. Louis and the Dusseldorf were less successful than the Pommern and L'Isle de France in that they utilized air currents that swept them across the continent in a more southerly latitude than those found by the sky voyagers who landed on the New Jersey coast. Erbsloh and Leblanc, of the Pommern and L'Isle de France, strove to woo breezes that might enable them to continue their flight still further east into New England or a least to bring them within sight of the New York sky scrapers, but they found that impossible.

Of the remaining competitors the German balloon Abercron, with Paul Mackel  and Dr Rudolph Denig, scored about 700 miles, laniding in Prince William county, Va. while the Anjou, the second French contestant, navigated by Rene Gasnier and Charles Levee, finished its journey 680 miles from St. Louis in Louisa County, Va.

By one of those strange freaks of atmospheric strata, the United States, piloted by Major Henry B. Hersey, who was to have been the companion of Walter Wellman in his projected air ship voyage to the North Pole, and who still seems to favor high latitudes, flew far to the northward of all her competitors and after crossing the Great Lakes sought terra firma at Caledonia, Ontario, in the Dominion of Canada, about 650 miles from St. Louis as the crow flies.

England's sole entry, the Lotus II, carrying Griffith Brewer as pilot and the Hon. Claude Brabazon as aid, descended at Sabina, Ohio, because of the illness of Mr. Brabazon.

It is a noteworthy feature of the present remarkable race that, with the single exception of the Lotus II, every balloon entered exceeded by more than two hundred miles the record made last year by Lieutenant Frank Lahm when he won the International Cup in his flight across the English Channel, and that no serious mishap occurred to mar the extraordinary success of the first great International balloon race in America.

Though the world's record for distance, made by Count Henry de La Vaulx, still stands at 1,200 miles, the American record, established in 1859 by Professor Wise in his famous flight from St Louis to Henderson, N.Y. has been surpassed by the leaders in the present event, measuring the distance to Henderson in an air line, as is the present custom. The fact that the victory inevitably seems to lie between Germany and France makes it certain that next year's race for the International Cup will be started on the continent of Europe.


COULD HAVE KEPT ON, ERBSLOH ASSERTS - By Oscar Erbsloh, Pilot of German War Balloon Pommern - Asbury Park, Wednesday (October 23, 1907)


We left St. Louis at four o'clock Monday. We sailed northwest and as we thought we could not go very far in this direction we went up to 5,000 feet, where we found a current going east. We had forty-one heavy bags of ballast with us, of which we used ten by midnight. We remained the entire night at this height and did not feel very cold. We then sailed east and passed a great many rivers and large towns and arose in the daytime to 6,500 feet and felt very comfortable.

Owing to our good charts, perhaps, we knew almost every hour where we were. Only once were we forced to go down and ask the people the name of the territory over which we were sailing, and that was at Fort Washington, in Ohio. At three o'clock yesterday we lowered until the drag rope touched the earth. We obtained the information and continued on our way, always going east, and very soon reached the altitude of 5,000 feet and continued our journey until we saw, early this morning, the city of Philadelphia. Here we desired to try for a current that would take us north in order to go to Massachusetts, when we could reach a greater distance from St Louis than we could in New Jersey.

            We first went down to 300 feet, and went up again to 10,000 feet, but failed to find another current but that which took us east, and so we resolved to descend at the mouth of the Shark River because it was impossible to cross the ocean or venture over it with the hope of reaching land. We were very sorry, because we had fifteen bags of ballast left, with which we would have been able to go five hundred miles further.

As we decided to go as close to the ocean as was safe we resolved to go down in the streets of Asbury Park. In coming down, I pulled the valve rope and saw telegraph wires apparently in our way. I threw over more ballast and finally we went down safely into an open lot amid a bunch of bushes. We found lots of kind people to assist us. I found the air currents different from the European currents. I discovered that the currents in Europe turn in lower altitude to the left and in higher altitude to the right, while in this country I found that northern as well as southern currents turn to the east in the upper regions.

This is a general account of my trip from St. Louis in the Pommern.


[We would like to include the above article in German, too. Can anyone supply this?]


[The Adventures of L’Isle de France]


"LUCK," SAY MEN IN L'ISLE DE FRANCE - Having been in the air for forty-four hours and two minutes and having traveled nearly 900 miles, Alfred Leblanc, pilot and E.W. Mix, in the French balloon L'Isle de France, No 4 in the Internationale Coupe des Aeronautes landed at Hebertsville N.J., 5 miles northwest of Point Pleasant. The aeronauts came to earth at twelve minutes past twelve o'clock St. Louis time, and left shortly afterward for Point Pleasant from where they took a train for New York City.

Although tired and very sleepy, both men declared their trip has been successful in every respect and they had greatly enjoyed it.

"I guess Erbsloh the German has beaten us, but that is the luck that enters into the sport. We may, however, have made a new record for time in the air," said Mr. Mix, as with M. Leblanc he started for the Waldorf-Astoria, where they spent the night.

 "If our guide rope had not caught in the trees in Ocean County, N.J. necessitating a landing, we would have gone right on to the waters edge, thereby gaining a sufficient distance, probably, to have won."

M. Leblanc does not speak English, but Mr. Mix who was born in Franklin County, Ohio, told in an interesting manner of the long trip through the air.

"Our trip was successful in every respect. We had no difficulty in keeping our equilibrium and were not forced to throw away any of our baggage.

"M. Leblanc suffered considerably from the cold, but I did not. I tried to go to sleep twice, but then became cold and so am now very much in need of sleep.

"During nearly all day Tuesday we saw three of the other balloons and for many hours we all kept about the same positions.

"As we entered the coal and coke districts in the Appalachian Mountains the sight of the great coke furnaces working at full blast was very beautiful. We traveled across the mountains at a height probably of 150 meters, seemingly undulating along in the air as did the land below us.

"We lost our bearings while crossing the mountains, but by the use of my sextant I was able to find almost exactly where we were. The sextant worked so successfully that had we been traveling in a clouded sky, so that we could not see the land, I could have known constantly just where we were.

"After crossing the Susquehanna River into Delaware we found a north air current, and, instead of landing in southern New Jersey, as we had expected to do, we let this carry us northward. We crossed into Delaware at Newark, Del., then northward over Wilmington and Philadelphia.

"Just on the edge of the forest in Ocean County, N.J. our guide rope became caught in the trees and that forced us to make a landing. If it had not been for this we would have gone right on to the edge of the ocean.

"There was one thing about the trip which I especially enjoyed, and that was a sight of the farm on which I was born, in Franklin County, Ohio. When we were leaving France I said that if we got a southwest wind we would probably pass directly over it. That was just what we did.

"I recognized the old farmhouse and the homes of relatives and friends whose farms adjoin that of my father. I have many friends in Columbus, Ohio, and in passing over there I dropped numerous notes telling them I was coming to visit them later. I left the United States to go abroad about seventeen or eighteen years ago."


[One of these notes was picked up by Mr. Mix’ aunt!]



A thrilling story was related by Captain Von Abercron of the trip of the Dusseldorf today. Three times he and his companion had hairbreadth escapes. Two of these experiences occurred while in the basket of the balloon. By sheer pluck they out-generalled the wind and other obstacles and successfully terminated their flight.

But it was after the journey had been ended that Captain Von Abercron declared he underwent the most thrilling part of the trip. In company with Colonel William D Denney and H Ridgeley Harrington he started from Little Creek, the landing place, in a carriage to the railroad station. They had got only a short distance when the horse, frightened by an automobile, took the bit in its mouth and dashed down the road.

The two Delawareans were thrown out and the reins fell to the bottom of the vehicle. Although weakened by exposure and the lack of food and sleep during the two-day trip, the Captain crawled to the dashboard and grabbed the reins with the horse and carriage swerving dangerously against trees and fences. He tugged at the reins and finally halted the animal at the outskirts of the town.

Another experience of the Germans was while they were landing in a cornfield which lies but a mile from Delaware Bay. Above the field they were caught by an unexpected change in the wind current and tossed about until it seemed as though the basket would be overturned. The two aeronauts daringly crawled to the edge of the car and balanced the gas bag. Their daring probably saved them from a watery grave. The balloon at that time was being driven by the wind toward the bay. With the basket swung by the treacherous wind the pilot and his aid were unable to open the gas valve. They did this when the basket was evenly balanced.

To this change in the wind failure to cross the Delaware Bay and land in New Jersey is ascribed by the balloonists. Tonight they were bemoaning the ill luck which perhaps prevented them from gaining a better place in the sensational race.

 "Without a warning the wind shifted," said the Captain. "Its velocity increased and before we knew it we were being carried directly over the bay where it is widest.

"For a minute Captain Haldemann and myself were undecided whether to take a chance and attempt to make a successful flight over the stream. We had never before been confronted with such an obstacle. We finally concluded that it would be suicidal if some mishap overtook us.

"Then we hurriedly eased some of the gas from the bag to allow the balloon to descend. We erred somewhat there, for the wind, with its velocity increased all the time, drove us again toward the bay.

"The basket began to swing them, knocking Mr Haldemann to the bottom. He scrambled to his feet and both of us crawled along the edge to balance it evenly. With the car unbalanced we were powerless to reach the gas valve or the ripcord. We narrowly escaped being dashed from the basket while we were in this perilous position. When the basket was finally righted, we had no difficulty in making an easy descent."


[Would like to have this, or a similar article in German by the pilot, Captain Von Abercrom]



THE AMERICA COULD HAVE GONE FURTHER - By J.F. McCoy. (Pilot of the United States Balloon America.)

Traveling 720 miles in thirty-nine hours and twenty-five minutes in the America, Captain Charles De F. Chandler and I landed at fifty-five minutes after seven o'clock this morning at Patuxent, Md., on the east shore of Chesapeake Bay. We could have gone a few miles farther, but we did not want to land in the rough country on the other shore of the bay.

The trip throughout was delightful with the exception of Tuesday night, when we suffered severely from the cold while passing over the Allegheny Mountains. A storm was taking place beneath us and the earth was obscured by cloud formations.

To cross the mountains we were obliged to rise to an altitude of 2,500 meters, the highest point we reached in the journey. Our average height was 600 meters.

In leaving the ground at St Louis we had a splendid start, rising easily and slowly, so that I had a chance to observe how the air currents were carrying the other balloons. Some of them were carried westward for a distance, but the America never rose high enough to strike the westward current of air. For the first hour the America traveled rapidly north at a distance of 400 feet from the ground. Then we were carried northeast, crossing the Mississippi River at Grafton, where the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers join.

Until darkness came on, our balloon attracted much attention from the country people, who hailed us with delight. We were close enough to talk with them. Every time we passed a farmhouse we were asked to come down and take supper.

Dawn on Tuesday morning found us over Pontiac, Ill, not far from Chicago, We could see the dense smoke pall that marked Chicago, but we were too low to see Lake Michigan. As the sun rose Captain Chandler and I made out three other balloons within a few miles of us, but we could not distinguish them. We must have traveled as a fleet all night. At Pontiac an east bound air current overtook the America, and thereafter we scarcely swerved a mile from a due east course until we landed. All day Tuesday we traveled over Indiana and Ohio. We knew when we passed State lines, and were able to mark the towns we passed from the map we carried and the calculations we made.

Most of the course was over the smaller towns. We passed few cities. While traveling over Indiana and Ohio we were about six hundred meters from the earth. Crossing the Ohio River near Wheeling early Tuesday evening, we began to make preparations for crossing the mountains. Then, for the first time, we began to suffer from the cold. Hitherto we had enjoyed a most delightful journey. As we rose higher for the leap across the Alleghenies we passed though heavy clouds, and after we passed above them we saw a storm break. The atmosphere began to chill us, and at twenty-five hundred meters neither Captain Chandler nor I was able to keep warm. We had sweaters and overcoats, but they did not protect us. Also our devices for keeping soup and coffee warm had begun to fail us, and we found our food was cold. We suffered a great deal the second night.

"Sunrise found us above Harper's Ferry, Va., with the domes of Washington glistening in the distance. We were greatly tempted to land in Washington but resisted the desire and sailed across the country just outside the city limits. At five minutes to eight o'clock we were on the east shore of the Chesapeake. We saw that the trip was almost ended, so rather than cross the bay and land in a district hard to get out of we decided to come down. Captain Chandler hurried to Washington to report at army headquarters, while I came on to New York by the first train.

This balloon race has awakened enormous interest throughout the country. There was keen interest in the contest all over the world. The German victory has demonstrated that the foreigners, with their more extended experience, are better equipped to win. Some of the foreign contestants had more than one hundred ascensions to their credit. I have made only twenty ascensions, while Major Hersey had made only ten. We Americans felt handicapped in entering the contest.

This international race will show the government how far behind it is in aeronautics, and it ought to have beneficial results in awakening government officials. The army already is showing decided activity.


THE ST LOUIS SOUGHT IN VAIN FOR CURRENT - BY ALAN R. HAWLEY Pilot of the United States Balloon St Louis. [SPECIAL DISPATCH TO THE HERALD] Philadelphia, Pa, Wednesday (October 23, 1907).

We left St Louis at forty-one minutes after four on Monday, being the last of the nine balloons to start. The wind took us northwest before we could reach five hundred feet altitude, and continued in this direction until ten minutes after six. Then after hauling in the guide rope we experimented with air currents up to 1,700 feet, where we found the wind always direct west. We descended to 1,400, tried up 2,000 then down to 1,350, but the wind continued west or north. About 1,500 feet we finally struck a northeasterly current at five minutes to seven, having thrown eight ballasts to gain the desired altitude. We then began making good headway, and settled down for a long flight. The thermometer was falling, but we had prepared for the cold, and were not inconvenienced. Lights below made cities or towns easily distinguishable, and while over a cluster of lights we dropped our first notes, one to the Aero Club of St. Louis, and one to the NEW YORK HERALD, giving an idea of our altitude, which was about 2,000 feet, our direction east by northeast and our speed about thirty miles an hour.

One of the most remarkable experiences in ballooning occurred after the start of the race. We were in speaking distance of three balloons until about eight o'clock in the evening. The balloons were the Pommern and the two French balloons. We conversed with all of these and the last we heard from them was at about eight o'clock, when Levee called out through his megaphone asking what time we had. I answered eight o'clock and then his voice grew weaker in the distance and we lost trace of them.

The next morning, however, just after dawn, we made out two balloons about forty miles to the north of us and later when the light grew brighter we could distinguish them. They were the Pommern and one of the French entries. We kept with them all Tuesday observing them all during the day through our glasses.

About quarter to one o'clock Tuesday morning, when at two thousand feet, we discovered a strong northeasterly current. Our hopes rose, as a northeasterly direction would, we believed undoubtedly be taken by the balloon winning the race. About this time, electric lights of a city we judged to be Springfield were almost directly below us. The wind now shifted to east toward dawn and about half-past four we were going more of a southerly than northerly course. One of the remarkable features was early dawn. A little after four o'clock we could distinguish everything by natural illumination. We were passing over what we took to be Wabash, Ind., the altitude being twenty-six hundred feet. At twenty-five minutes to seven we again sighted two balloons and cast notes to the press. Early this morning we were rather surprised to discover a cricket on the guide rope, and were annoyed by flies. Whether or not insects inhabit the upper regions I am not prepared to say.

The wind continued east until about twenty minutes after eleven A. M. when in order to avoid southeasterly winds we were forced to throw ballast after having gone over twelve hours without it. At fifty minutes after twelve, we again threw ballast but the wind steadily took us east by south. At fifteen minutes after two on Tuesday we were over Columbus, Ohio at an altitude of 6,400 feet. Late at night we passed over Wheeling.

It was here that the first ill luck came to us. We found ourselves being taken over coke fires which abound near Wheeling, and the heat from these fires made the wind very capricious. We were obliged to choose high altitudes regardless of advantage in air currents, and equilibrium was maintained with difficulty.

Unlooked for drops of several hundred feet caused us to lose ballast until we reached seventy-three hundred feet. Our position now was well known to us, and we decided that in order to gain distance, a northeasterly direction was imperative. The wind, however, continued southeast and it became evident that we must now lose distance or land. However, before landing we exploited every current as high as twelve thousand feet but found no perceptible change in the wind. The landing was made easily, as when we were a few hundred feet above ground we easily checked each descent and chose a spot on a farm about two miles from Westminster. I believe our distance to be something more than seven hundred miles and hope we may prove to be one of the prize winners. Altogether the trip was enjoyable and profitable. We did not suffer from the cold as we had provided for that emergency and feel no ill effects of the trip to-day.”