Thursday, October 15, 2009

When an Out-of-Control Balloon Drifted over Boston

It was hard not to be captivated by today's pictures of a runaway balloon over the Colorado plains that was thought to be carrying a 6-year-old boy. The boy wasn't found inside when the balloon finally touched down. Let's hope this story has a happier ending than the balloon accident that happened over the skies of Boston on July 4, 1892.

A festive crowd had gathered on Boston Common to celebrate the Fourth of July. As part of the festivities, a gas balloon named the Governor Russell was launched from Boston Common. The balloon was piloted by Augustus Rogers and his assistant Thomas Fenton. Delos Goldsmith, a reporter with the Boston City Press Association, was also on board. As the balloon lifted off from the Common, the thousands gathered raised a cheer and the balloon passengers waved their hats above their heads in a hearty huzzah.

Everyone was in good spirits, but that didn't last long. The pilot intended the balloon to sail westward, but the winds unexpectedly brought the balloon east out over Boston Harbor, with the vast, empty Atlantic--and certain death--staring them in the face. Professor Rogers tried the escape valve to land the balloon on Thompson Island, one of his last landing spots before the desolation of the Atlantic, but it didn't work properly and the balloon plummeted into the harbor. Goldsmith was rescued, but Rogers and Fenton drowned in the harbor before they could be rescued from the netting and the balloon.

Terrible story. One that hopefully isn't repeated. Click here to read The Boston Globe from July 5, 1892, which has illustrations of the balloon accident and a full account.

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