The dangers of ballooning were apparent to aeronauts and the general public. From the early 1800s, attempts to fly over water too often ended in disaster or a narrow escape. Some of the best known aeronauts on both sides of the Atlantic set off across a large body of water never to be seen again. The daring rescue of balloonists from water was a favorite subject with artists and engravers. The vision of a “lost balloon” vanishing over the horizon became a metaphor for the uncertainties of life in the turbulent 19th century.
On the afternoon of July 22, 1785, Major John Money (1752-1817), on half-pay from the 15th Light Dragoons, took off from the Ranleigh Gardens, Norwich, to raise money for the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. A skilled horseman, he had made only one previous ascent from London in the British Balloon. By 6:00 pm on the evening of the launch, he was seen crossing Lowestoft, unable to descend and heading out over the North Sea. The balloon descended as the air cooled, depositing Money in the water on the Long Shoals, a dangerous area for ships. He abandoned his basket and climbed onto the load ring of the balloon, keeping enough hydrogen in the envelope to keep him afloat. He was rescued by the lifesaving vessel Argus, out of Lowestoft, at midnight. Before his ascent, Money had served under Gen. John Burgoyne, was captured at Saratoga, and spent time as an American prisoner of war. Later during the Napoleonic Wars he was commissioned as Major General serving with the rebel Austrian forces.
Despite taunts from the crowd and considerable wind, Jules Duruof and his wife launched from the Place d'Armes, Calais, in July 1874. They were blown out to sea and presumed lost. This scene is their rescue from the North Sea by the crew of a British fishing boat, Grand Charge.
Charles John de Lacy
Watercolor and gouache on paper
English, 1874 (?)
A balloon landing in the water.
Lithograph, French, labeled - Bocquin et. Eug. Ciceri lith. Imp. Becquet à Paris
Mrs. Graham's Balloon Ascent with the Duke of Brunswick, 22nd August 1836
E. W. Cocks
Oil on panel, English, c. 1836