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Blanchard and Jeffries cross the Channel

Posted in Anniversary, Aviation, Transport on Monday, 27 December 2010

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picture, Jean-Pierre Blanchard, Dr John Jeffries, balloon, English Channel

Blanchard began removing his clothes and throwing them overboard to lighten the balloon. Illustration by Peter Jackson

7 January marks the anniversary of the first crossing of the English Channel by balloon by Jean-Pierre Blanchard and Dr. John Jeffiries in 1785. Blanchard, wanting to save the glory for himself, had hoped to make the crossing alone and loaded his trousers down with lead weights in an attempt to prove that the balloon would not take off with two passengers. The angry Jeffries, who had financed the balloon, realised he was being tricked and Blanchard was exposed.

He was also exposed a little later during the flight. The two men took off and Blanchard, worried about the additional weight, began throwing everything he could out of the basket – oars (Blanchard was convinced he could row through the air), a propeller and brandy casks were disposed of. Still the balloon sank towards the sea and Blanchard ordered Jeffries to take off his coat; he then began removing his other clothing and throwing it overboard.

Fortunately, a gust of wind lifted the balloon sent the balloon soaring upwards and the two freezing balloonists were carried over Calais to a field 12 miles inland.

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