Words and images from home and away
On 1 February 1858 the Australasian balloon, piloted by Joseph Dean, made the first recorded crewed balloon flight in Australia. Large crowds witnessed the event from vantage points on Yarra River steamboats, and the roads, paths and other elevated points around Richmond were jammed with spectators. The balloon floated for about 8 miles (13 km) and landed ‘somewhere on the other side of Heidelberg’ (eMelbourne: Ballooning)
In 1858 the actor and entomologist Harry Edwards undertook two balloon flights over Sydney. On the first flight on 19 December 1858, unable to gain sufficient altitude, the balloon crashed into a church steeple and Edwards and his co-pilot were only able to gain the necessary height by throwing out ballast including their lunch basket and items of clothing (all of which—including his gold watch in the pocket of his waistcoat—were later returned by the spectators who gleefully followed the balloon’s path).
Edwards later described the novel experience of viewing Sydney from the air during the second ascent:
Pen and tongue utterly fail to do justice to the sublime spectacle. Long as I had been impressed with the beauty of Sydney, and more especially of the harbor of Port Jackson, I found that until then I knew nothing of the magnificence of this queen of the Southern Hemisphere. The city itself, with its many little points running out into the bay, each one dotted with buildings, looked like a miniature Sebastopol, and though its streets for us-no longer bore the signs of their usual stir and bustle; though the forms of those whose eager eyes had watched us from beneath had faded from our view, and the cabs and other vehicles which give so much animation to a city, wore the aspect of flies of different orders and genera, the hum of thousand voices and thousand sounds fell softly upon the ear, and told us that we were yet within the region of our fellow-men.
Henry Edwards, A mingled yarn (New York, 1883), p. 135
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