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Thomas Gale, early Australian aeronaut

Thomas Gale Balloonist

Thomas Gale, balloonist, State Library of New South Wales, pxa362 v.6-74

One of the more daring balloon ascents to take place in Australia occurred on 5 January 1870. This was when the well-known balloonist Mr. Thomas Gale took flight from the Sydney Domain in his hot-air balloon.[1] Thomas was the son of the world-renowned balloonist Lieutenant Gale who had died in a ballooning accident in Auguilles, France in 1850.[2]

The air-ship was made from jaconet, a lightweight cotton used for bandages, and had been oiled over to make it air-tight. Preparations began early in the morning, but it was not until 4 pm that the balloon, which could take over 6500 cubic metres of gas, was ready for the ascent.  Unfortunately, as soon as Mr. Gale entered the car it became clear the gas was too ‘dense’ to give sufficient buoyancy to bear himself and the car.[3]

He speedily decided on his course of action detached the car, grapnel and ballast, tied the ends of the netting together, seated himself thereon, and gave the signal to let go. The balloon at once rose above the trees, and its solitary occupant raising himself on the hoop took his position on it. A light north-east breeze wafted him slowly over the city towards the Glebe, where the balloon commenced to descend, and, after colliding against some trees, touched a fence, to which Mr. Gale held on with one hand, while he opened the valve with the other. Several persons went to his assistance, and by their aid, he was enabled to secure the balloon until emptied. It was then packed up and reached town soon after. [4]

By January 1871 Gale had made over 70 ascents and named his new balloon “The Young Australian”.[5] A year later he made an ascent from Pall Mall Reserve, at Sandhurst, Melbourne, in front of a crowd of around 3000 people. Gale ascended alone in the balloon and when passing over Lightning Hill he began to throw out the ballast as the gas began to fail. To stop Gale threw out grappling hooks which fastened the balloon in the branches of a tree until men arrived to pull it down.[6]

Sadly for Gale ballooning failed to make him his fortune and in 1879 he appeared at a final hearing at the Insolvency Courts in Adelaide.  According to the report Gale had returned from Launceston in February 1878 with a balloon which he later sold to a Mr. Jensen to cover a debt after having spent all the money made from his ballooning exploits.[7] 

Geoff Barker, Senior Curator, Research and Discovery

References

Ascent of Gale's Balloon. (1872, April 29). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 3. Retrieved September 14, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article114730416

George Gale (aeronaut) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Gale_(aeronaut)

DEATH OF LIEUTENANT GALE. (1850, December 26). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved September 14, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12923646

GALE'S BALLOON ASCENT. (1870, January 20). Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872), p. 3. Retrieved September 14, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63619918

Citations
[1] GALE'S BALLOON ASCENT. (1870, January 20). Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872), p. 3. Retrieved September 14, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63619918

[2] GALE'S BALLOON ASCENT. (1871, January 9). Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1875), p. 3. Retrieved September 14, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63114710

[3] GALE'S BALLOON ASCENT. (1870, January 20). Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872), p. 3. Retrieved September 14, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63619918

[4] GALE'S BALLOON ASCENT. (1870, January 20). Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872), p. 3. Retrieved September 14, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63619918

[5] GALE'S BALLOON ASCENT. (1871, January 9). Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1875), p. 3. Retrieved September 14, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63114710

[6] Ascent of Gale's Balloon. (1872, April 29). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 3. Retrieved September 14, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article114730416

[7] Law and police Courts. INSOLVENCY COURT. (1879, April 5). Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904), p. 13. Retrieved September 14, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160119663

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