Hot Air Ballooning and Excrement

I got the following from QI, series G, episode "Gravity".

In the late eighteenth century, hot air ballooning was a big deal. It was a huge spectator sport and it inspired a lot of races and record breaking competitions. One of the stars of balloon racing was Jean-Pierre Blanchard, a Frenchman with an American backer named John Jeffries. In 1785, Blanchard and Jeffries decided to become the first men to fly across the English Channel. This was quite dangerous–the technology wasn't good enough yet to do this safely and, in fact, the man who tried to cross the Channel from the other the direction after Blanchard and Jeffries' attempt actually died doing so.

As this painting of Blanchard and Jeffries' crossing shows, it wasn't enough just to make it across the Channel–you had to make it while still high enough to land on the cliffs on the other side, otherwise you'd crash into the ocean.

BlanchardChannelFlight

The problem was, Blanchard and Jeffries didn't like each other. Blanchard didn't want to share his glory–he wanted Jeffries just to be the silent backer. When the competition was about to start, Blanchard strapped weights to his body so he could say, "Oh, I don't think the basket is strong enough to carry us both. Look at the trouble it's having just with me." But Jeffries noticed the weights, forced Blanchard to take them off and jumped in with him. On take off they each "accidentally" dropped each others' flags (the above painting must show them just barely on take off, then).

However, their petty squabbles soon came to an abrupt end when they realized they were losing altitude faster than they should have. So they threw all their sandbags and food over the edge (it was only a 2 hour flight, so it's not like they'd starve without it).

But it didn't make enough of a difference. They were still losing altitude. So they dropped all their extraneous instruments for flying the balloon over the side.

When that didn't make much of a difference, either, they took off their overcoats and threw them over the side.

They still lost altitude.

So they took off all their clothes and threw them over the side.

The cliffs were approaching and they were still flying just too low to make it.

So they peed over the side.

The cliffs were getting closer and closer and they were just going to miss the landing by inches.

So they both squatted over the side and pooped.

And they made the landing on the cliffs by the skin of their teeth, setting the world record. To be fair, they were probably already crapping themselves in fear, so it probably wasn't that hard. I'm sure Blanchard had some strong words with Jeffries afterwards for insisting to come along. It probably wouldn't have been so close a call with only one person in there.

The moral of the story is, nothing resolves international conflict like forcing people to poop naked together or DIE.

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