Saturday, January 25, 2014

A West Australian "balloon" observation from 1894

Hi all,

A while ago I received an email from Peter Bridge of Hesperian Press (click here) in Western Australia. Peter told me that in 2004 he had reprinted L R Menzies' book "A Gold Seekers Odyssey" first printed in 1937. Peter read a number of old newspapers for biographical details on prospectors and found the following account, and added it as an appendix.

It comes from the "Australian Advertiser" dated 15 October 1894 (a precursor of the "Albany Advertiser".) It is to be found on page 156 of "A Gold Seekers Odyssey."

The account:

"A correspondent signing himself "Eye Witness" writes to the Victorian Express as follows from the Murchison goldfield:- Although rather late, I beg to inform you that about the second week in October, Mr Menzie, the manager of The Star of the East mine, was fixing the tram work of the battery, and when placing one of the uprights he caught the sight of a large balloon passing across the line of sight.

Naturally, such an extraordinary visitor caused an ejaculation of surprise from Mr Menzie. All hands (some ten of us) looked up and perceived the object that so surprised Mr Mezie to be a large balloon travelling at a terrific rate from north-west to south-east. Although at a great altitude, the balloon could be distinctly seen in every outline and was travelling at such a rate of speed that the body of the balloon was considerably in advance of the car.  The ariel (sic) visitor created more than surprise at the time and every man was going to write to the paper about it but the old-old story every body's business invariably turns out to be no body's business and thus the matter was never published.

Joe Clarke and Quinn who are now shareholders in the Lady mine and myself were among the men working at The Star Of The East with Mr Menzie and witnessed the sight described. It would appear probable that the balloon escaped from any port of the Indies or the Strait settlements as it came from that direction. The general opinion at the time was that possibly it was being prepared for some experimental military work or probably for exhibition purposes when it broke adrift. It would indeed be interesting to know if it had been seen in any other part of the world and where it came from and where it has gone to."

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