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MR. HENRI L'ESTRANGE has, perhaps, had more sensa- tional experiences than any other professional aeronaut, the last being of a most unexpected and exceptional character. He had announced that he would ascend from the Domain, the time being after dark, when he purposed marking his course through the air by means of coloured lights. But, as the result proved, his ar- rangements came to a very different termination to those he had .anticipated. In a letter to a friend at Melbourne, Mr. L'Estrange gives the following graphic account of his mishap:-"As I told you before, this was to be my last attempt at sailing through the air, little dreaming it would end so disastrously. I had made arrangements to start at ten o'clock at night, but the balloon was filled early in the afternoon, with the understanding that it was to be kept filled until that hour, but unfortunately the Gas Company failed to fulfil their portion of the contract, and when the time came for making the ascent the balloon would not lift the car.
I saw at once that if I did not make the ascent the people, by whom I was surrounded, would destroy the balloon, and perhaps do me some personal injury, so I determined to go at all risks. So, unloosing the car, I made a loop in a rope, and, sitting in it, thus I started on my aerial voyage. Away I went, straight up about a mile high, and finding there was no wind, and so many lights under me, I allowed the balloon to go higher still. I then got into a westerly current that took me out to sea, on which I determined to come down to mother earth without delay, but picture to yourself my horror when I found the escape valve would not act. I tried with all the strength of the one hand I had to spare to
move it, for with the other I had to hold myself in the j loop of rope, but all to no purpose, it would not budge an inch. In sheer desperation I took the valve rope in both hands, and it opened with a bang ; but in the effort I had lost my seat in the loop, falling about six feet, and there I was dangling in mid air, clutching the valve rope, the gas rushing out of the balloon as though she had burst, coming through the air with a velocity that almost took all the wind out of my body. At length I succeeded in getting back to my seat, but too late to Btop the balloon in her headlong downward course, and here again my old parachute stood me in good need, causing me to drift along and serving to check the balloon somewhat in her rapid descent. By this time I began to feel very faint, but my trouble was not half over. I fell on the top of a chimney, and then on a shed twenty-five feet below. I then cut myself away and came to the ground, and here the mob got hold of me and run me into an hotel, and would not allow me to go near the balloon, which in the meantime was seized by another portion of the mob who dragged it up and down the street, and at last it canie in collision with a street lamp, which set fire to it, and then was witnessed a sight Sydney never saw before, and I hope never will see again. Eventually the balloon, or rather this huge ball of fire, fell on an hotel and burnt itself out. Only two people were burnt out of the thousands that were present, and they are getting well. Thus ended my very last balloon ascent."