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Le Balon d'Alaska, 1898

Dr. Antony Varicle

The Galena Evening Times (Galena, Kansas), Wednesday, April 13, 1898

Headline: To Hunt For Andree - Mr. Varicle's Airship

    An expedition sent out by the French Geographical society recently arrived at New York on the steamer La Bretagne. Its object is to reach the Klondike by balloon or airship, and then go to the rescue of Andree. The members of the expedition are M. R. Antony Varicle, engineer, member of the French Geographical society and founder of the Society of Electrical Engineers of France, who is chief of the expedition; M. Arthur Jeruagne, M. D., secretary of the expedition; M. Henri Boullier, mechanical engineer; M. Leon Bureau, mining engineer and chief engineer of the vast coal mines of D'Annezin, France; M. J. Ferret, mining engineer and geologist, and M. H. Magnier, constructing engineer and designer.

    The party left Paris a few days ago and went by their airship, Le Ballon l'Alaskas, to Fontainebleau, where they remained overnight. During their voyage the airship attained the height of 3,600 feet when sailing over the city of Paris, for the guiding ropes could not be thrown overboard.

    The airship is made of silk and is now in transit to Vancouver, B.C. Its capacity is 3,000 cubic meters. It carries 8,300 kilograms (about four tons). The great merit of the ship is that it is impossible for it to lose any gas. When any escapes, it is forced into a separate chamber, where it is kept for use when needed. The great drawback to the airship is that it continually loses more or less gas.

    This flying machine is considered the most perfect in existence. It was built by M. Mallet, who built Andree's famous airship from the plans of the great aeronaut La Chambre. It is oblong in shape and is constructed on the plans of the well known De Lisse system. The machine is steered by a system of guide ropes, which are thrown from the car as occasion requires. Upon the end of these are plowlike scoops, which gather up dirt, ice, any material with which they come in contact, which can be used for ballast when needed.

    As a rule, the machine is kept at an altitude of 75 to 100 feet. The rate of speed depends very much upon the velocity of friendly or unfriendly winds. The longest time that this ship has ever remained in constant motion is 34 hours, though it can be kept in the air for weeks at a time. Upon the bottom of the car are aluminium runners covered with steel. In the center of the car is a tier of three seats, upon which the men sit and place their feet upon pedals similar to those on a bicycle. These pedals are connected with sprocket wheels by gearing and chains similar to these used on bicycles, and these chains connect with propeller fans, the one under the car raising it when in motion, the one in front advancing it. These it is necessary to use only when winds are adverse or greater speed is desired.

    Last January this same party made a voyage in this airship from Paris to Theneune in 34 hours. The distance is about 600 kilometers - about 450 miles. On another trial trip it sailed from Paris to Hamburg, making the distance, 1,100 kilometers (775 miles), in 24 hours. That was the first trip of any importance made by the party. Its members took the train back to Paris, and it made the same time within a few minutes that the flying machine had.

    One great advantage claimed for the present machine is that the car depends from a large bamboo rod and can be moved along this rod from one end to the other while in motion when it is necessary to trim the balloon. The car is provided with all the most modern scientific apparatus, including geological, aerostatic, meteorological and topographical instruments, sextants, barometers, chronometers and photographic instruments. The balloon is egg shaped. It takes four days to inflate the balloon. Twenty tons of sulphuric acid and 15 tons of iron filings are consumed in making the pure hydrogen which inflates it.

    The expedition will go overland to Seattle, thence to Juneau, Alaska. There it will receive its flying apparatus if the United States will exempt it from duty. If not, they will receive it at Glenora, B. C.

    At Seattle the party will receive 12 carrier pigeons from Belgium, which will accompany them on their expedition. These are young birds which have never been free and are of the same breed as those which were liberated recently in midocean and bore the news of the wreck of the bark Bothnia.

    Within a few weeks the expedition expects to sail from Juneau. Only Varicle, Terwagne, Bureau and Ferret will go in the car. The rest of the party will proceed overland to Dawson City and will make scientific explorations on the way. After a brief stay in the Klondike district the ship is to be thoroughly overhauled and a systematic search for Andree is to be made. All of the party will then accompany the ship. Each of its members is a personal friend of Andree. All were present when Andree took his departure for the north pole. They believe that he is now safe, secluded in some Siberian village where it is impossible to get news to the outside world before August. They believe at that time he will be heard from. They say that Andree's balloon was in bad shape when he sailed. - New York World.