Harnessing the flame – a look at hot air balloons

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I’ve always been fascinated with hot air balloons. How about you?

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On the ground they’re such big bulky things that just grow and grow.

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They move around as if alive, like some kind of gigantic amoeba,

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until they fill with enough warm air to stand upright.  There’s something kind of awesome, maybe a bit scary even about it. The size. The potential.

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Hot air balloons have been around for a long time. The first “manned” flight was in 1783. French pilatre DeRozier, a scientist, launched the hot air balloon containing three passengers: a sheep, a duck, and a rooster. They survived the 15-minute flight and crash, clearing the way for truly manned balloon flight. (eballoon.org)

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The basic idea for balloon flight has been around even longer and dates back to the day of Archemedes in Ancient Greece who figured out the principle of buoyancy. “In the 13th century, the English scientist Roger Bacon and the German philosopher Albertus Magnus both proposed hypothetical flying machines based on the principle,” (eballoon.org).

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By the 1800s, the hot air balloon was more or less displaced by the gas dirigible balloon which was seen as superior in several ways. It had a longer flight time and could be steered. (A big advantage if you ask me.) Since the 1960s hot air balloons have come back in popularity as a sport or hobby. (science.howstuffworks.com)

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Balloonists today use propane gas to heat the air inside the balloon. The hot air rises. We all know that, right? But the reason the hot air rises is that hot air is less dense than cold air. When the air molecules are all heated up they move faster and farther away from each other. This less dense, or lighter air, held inside the balloon wants to rise above the outside air which is cooler and more dense. Liftoff.

When you see these flames that the balloonists use to heat the air, it can look a little scary though.

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We were at the annual Ohio Challenge Hot Air Balloon and Sky Diving Festival to see the balloon glow event on Saturday night. We came to this last year as well, but it was so windy that very few balloons participated.

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This year was much better.

The announcer directed the balloonists to burn their fires together and it really was a spectacular show.

Then the balloons somehow burned in succession. I’m not sure how this was facilitated, but it reminded me of a calliope for some reason. It seemed musical.

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This slide show of four shots doesn’t really do it justice, but you get the idea.

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And finally, as we were walking away the scarecrow rose above the balloons. Earlier we had seen something lying on the ground that looked like a giant spice worm from the sci-fi world of Dune. At last it was able to rise. We didn’t stay around long enough to see if it glowed.

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My mother purchased a ride in a hot balloon for my father ten or more years ago. I think he loved it. They say a ride in a hot air balloon is a lovely and serene way to travel. (If you don’t care too much about where you are going or when you get there, I suppose. ) I’ll never know, myself. Will you?

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Author: CMSmith

I enjoy reading, writing, gardening, photography, genealogy and travel. I have opinions about many things, but am trying to age gracefully and not continually tick people off with them. Sometimes I can’t help myself.

33 thoughts on “Harnessing the flame – a look at hot air balloons”

    1. I went to Albuquerque years ago for a seminar and we saw the balloons every morning. It was so pretty! Unfortunately I didn’t have time to go on a ride. It was a great start to each day though seeing them.

    1. Yes. Much better seeing them up than wallowing around on the ground. Even better to see them in the air, but they cancelled the race this year because of the wind. I have a picture of one soaring above our woods, here somewhere in the mess I call photo archives on my computer. I wanted to use it but couldn’t find it. I hope it didn’t go the way of a purge.

    1. Thanks, Nancy. I had a teacher in a communications class when I was working on my English degree several years back who insisted we include three sources in every essay we did. It annoyed me at the time. Now I see the wisdom in it.

  1. Gorgeous shots, Christine.

    We went for a hot air balloon ride in Palm Springs California. It’s noisy and hot in the basket and the baskets are prone to tipping when they land. But it was FUN gliding over the treetops.

    We’ve also been to a Balloon Festival in Statesville NC that looked a lot like your photos.

    1. Me either. I like to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. I did submit and go on a helicopter ride a couple of years ago when we were in Hawaii. I survived that.

  2. Always wanted to ride. Almost did the last time we had 4th of July celebration here. I was just a few minutes too late. They closed it down just as I got to the front of the queue 😦 We haven’t had another celebration since the economy tanked. I guess I missed my moment. Great pictures. Makes me remember how close I got!

    1. Really? I’m surprised you’ve never seen one. Now I’m trying to remember where you live. Maybe they don’t have any there. We see an occasional one in the sky during the summer months. I’m always infatuated.

    1. I’ll look forward to seeing your photos, although I’m sure I’ll feel jealous. You are such a great photographer. I need more time, more practice, more knowledge, more lenses, a better camera, and then maybe I’ll like what I do better. For now, I just try to catch shots. I do a lot of running for my camera. 🙂

  3. Quite enjoyed your photos! The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a ten day extravaganza that has taken place for decades. Each year, anywhere from 700-900 balloons and their crews from around the world descend upon the High Desert. It’s quite a sight. I live within sight of their daily Mass Ascensions and then get to enjoy breakfast watching hundreds of them waft (sometimes amazingly close) over the house. To your post, it’s an equally wonderful experience to be at Balloon Fiesta Park as they inflate and launch in an orchestrated way. This year’s event takes place October 5/13. Come one, come all!

    1. That must be awesome. Maybe I’ll have to think about taking a trip there some time at the right time of year. We had one pass close to our house last year but I couldn’t find the picture – that is a rare event for us. In fact, so far it’s only happened once.

      I’m busy the first week in October. Maybe next year. Enjoy.

  4. Beautiful photos.. I went up in a tethered hotair balloon when my children were small, they had a ride with me, but only around a 100ft… before we were hauled back for the next fares.. But loved it and would love that feeling of freedom of flying soundlessly over the countryside..
    xxx Sue

    1. Yes. It always amazes me how some people can love being high up in the air with only the support of hot air inside a ballon as a buffer against unknown pain and disaster. 🙂 you can see why I’ll never try it anytime soon.

      I’m glad you had the chance to share the experience with your children. You’re a braver woman than I.

      1. Funny enough Christine the height or thought of no parachute didnt worry me.. even though since then here in the UK we have had a few hotair balloon accidents..
        But you see from a young child I have had dreams of flying unaided.. and for me this would be the next best thing.. 🙂

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