Camille Flammarion

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Camille FlammarionLike Glaisher in England, Camille Flammarion (1841-1926) was an astronomer by training. In 1867, one year after Glaisher's experiments had ended, he began his own series of ascents in the company of experienced pilot Eugène Godard. Over two days, 23 and 24 June 1867, they made a flight from Paris to Angoulème; and over 14 and 15 July 1867 they flew from Paris to Solingen, near Cologne. The English translation of Flammarion's account was edited for publication by James Glaisher himself. He seems to have disapproved of the young Frenchman's rather sensationalist style, which had led to large sales of the work in France.

It seems the Frenchman was more susceptible to hypoxia than Glaisher, despite being younger and fitter. He noted that at an altitude of little over 10,000 ft. he experienced drowsiness, palpitations, shortness of breath and singing in the ears, and on landing suffered from a "fit of incessant gasping." On later flights, at slightly greater altitude, his throat and lungs became uncomfortable and found blood upon his lips. Glaisher comments stiffly in a footnote: "I have never experienced any of these effects till I had long passed the heights reached by M. Flammarion, and at no elevation was there the presence of blood."

Flammarion also made some observations on air currents that conflicted with Glaisher's experience. "It appears to me," he wrote, "that two or more currents, flowing in different directions, are very rarely met with as we rise in the air, and when two layers of cloud appear to travel in opposite directions the effect is generally caused by the motion of one layer being more rapid than the other, when the latter appears to be moving in a contrary direction." However, all fliers will recognise his description of the strong air flows in front of an active storm cloud. He was drawn towards such a thunderstorm at the speed of an express train by a 'species of attraction' that he could not understand.

Another phenomena observed was patches of mist hanging stationary over the top of a wood despite the strong wind that was blowing. This effect must have been due to cloud continually forming where moist air was deflected up into colder air by the trees. A similar phenomenon is more usually noticed above mountain ranges where 'lenticular' clouds form.

Flammarion's scientific experiments seem to have been less thorough than Glaisher's, but his widely read account helped spread enthusiasm for ballooning.

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