BLTC Press Titles

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My Man Jeeves

P. G. Wodehouse

Novalis Including Hymns to the Night

Novalis, George MacDonald, Thomas Carlyle

Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)

Five weeks in a balloon

by Jules Verne


In its issue of the next day, the Daily Telegraph published the following article :—

" Africa is about to yield the secret of its vast solitudes at last. A modern CEdipus will find the key to the problem which the learned of sixteen centuries have not been able to solve. Formerly, to seek the sources of the Nile—fontes JVi'li quarere—was regarded as the act of a madman; a chimera, in fact.

" Doctor Barth, by following as far as Soudan the route traversed by Denham and Clapperton ; Doctor Livingstone, by extending his undaunted researches from the Cape of Good Hope to the basin of the Zambezi; Burton and Speke, by the discovery of the Great Inland Lakes, have opened up three routes to modern civilisation. To the point' of intersection of tlese routes, no traveller has hitherto been able to penetrate; it is in the very heart of Africa. It is to that point (\»at all our efforts should be directed.

" The works of these hardy pioneers of science are now about to be supplemented by the spirited attempt of Dr. Samuel Ferguson, whose wonderful expeditions have so often been appreciated by our readers. This hardy explorer proposes to cross the continent of Africa from east to west in a balloon. If we have been correctly informed, the point of departure of this extraordinary enterprise will be the island of Zanzibar upon the eastern coast. Where the point of arrival will prove to be—Heaven alone can tell!

" This exploit was yesterday proposed officially to the members of the Royal Geographical Society, and a sum of ^2,500 was voted to defray the expenses of the expedition. We will keep our readers duly informed upon the various events in connection with the projected enterprise, which is without precedent in geographical annals."

This article, as was intended, had an enormous circulation. It first aroused a tempest of incredulity, and Doctor Ferguson was looked upon as a visionary, an invention of Barnum, who, having exhausted the United States, was about to do the British Isles !

A quizzical notice appeared in Geneva in the February number of the " Proceedings of the Geographical Society," which gently rallied the Royal Society in London, the Travellers' Club, and the wonderful sturgeon. But Mr. Petermann, in his " Mitheilungen," published in Gotha, shut up the Geneva paper completely. Mr. Petermann was acquainted with Dr. Ferguson, and bore testimony to the hardihood of his (Petermann's) courageous friend.

Soon, however, doubt was no longer possible. Preparations for the expedition were being made in London. Firms at Lyons had received orders for striped taffetas fc" the balloon, and the English Government had placed a transport, the Resolute, commanded by Captain Penney, at the disposal of Dr. Ferguson. Encouragement and good wishes were showered from all sides. The details of the enterprise appeared in the "Transactions" of the Geographical Society of Paris. A very remarkable article was published in the " Nouvelles Annales des Voyages de la Geographic, de 1'Histoire, et de rArche'ologie," by M. V. A. Malte-Brun. A particular account was published in the " Zeitschrift fur Allegemaine Erdkunde," by Dr. W. Koner, demonstrating the possibility of the journey, its chances of success, the nature of the obstacles to be encountered, and the immense advantages of locomotion by means of balloons. He found fault only with the place of departure, and hinted that Masuah, a small port of Abyssinia, whence James Bruce started in his search for the sources of the Nile, would be preferable. In all other respects, he applauded unreservedly the wonderful energy of Dr. Ferguson, and the stout brain and heart that could conceive and execute such an enterprise.

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