TINY BALLOON RUNS
AMUCK WITH MAN
Bumps Across Dunbarton Mud
Wastes With Photographer
Pillsbury in Basket
Bouncing, in quarter mile bumps across the Dunbarton marshes five miles west pf Newark in the basket of a runaway balloon. A. C. Pillsbury, a well known San Francisco photographer, ended a harrowing ride at 3:16 o’clock yesterday afternoon that began an hour before over the bay at the foot of Lombard street, when the small captive gas bag in which the camera man vaulted 6,000 feet into the air in one sky scraping leap. The photographer started on his unsought ride wet to the skin from dunkings the balloon took in the bay before it broke away. After getting the bag to earth, the traveler was compelled to wade through mud and water to his neck, depressed with the knowledge that some of his prized films had been scattered broadcast over the marsh as the balloon struck the earth, and rebounded over the slough in the teeth cracking debris.
Crammed with Danger
The voyage was crammed with danger from the first. The balloon, the Fairy, has a capacity of but 10,000 cubic feet of gas and so has the distinction of being the smallest passenger balloon in the world. It was used for pilot purposes preceding the balloon races recently held in this city and Oakland, but on those occasions was well supplied with ballast.
Pillsbury’s only ballast was a pocket knife he carried. He could not pull the gas valve because nearly all of his voyage was consigned to the will of the winds that whistle and whirl in the heights that only the most daring aviators know.
Resigned to Fate
Every few minutes during the trip Pillsbury took notes on his mishap, the view, and his sensations. When the balloon parted its morring rope he gave a gesture of resignation to those below him, and apparently decided to be sensible and merely to wait until hecame down. So far into the blue, there was danger that the Fairy might burst in the upper air, but this did not affect Pillsbury, as his many notes show. He was concerned with viewing the country, expressing the fervent wish now and then that he had a camera with him, and scanning the approaching land for a landing place. When the Fairy struck a mist bank and the gas condensing in the cold, started down, it came like a spent rocket, and paper Pillsbury threw out seemed to float upward so swift was the descent. Pillsbury hung on to the narrow basket however, and when the gas bag struck the earth, tried to protect from breakage the films with him. The Fairy bounced a quarter of a mile in the air, bumped again, rebounded, and then dragged the basket in smaller leaps through the grass and tide, the mud and slough water, finally settling within a mile of Dunbarton point, from which place Southern Pacific employees came to the aeronaut’s rescue in a boat. But the tide ran out, the boat stranded, and the party struggled through the mud to the point, carrying the 66 pound silk bag.
The photographer inflated the Fairy t the North beach gas plant early yesterday morning, and, taking Pierce Lloyd, an employee of the Pillsbury picture company at 174 Geary street, to watch operations from below, anchored the bag to Crowley launch No. 8 and started around the water front. Henry Potch was engineer of the launch, and Patrick O’Keefe helped in managing the balloon.
JOURNEY OVER BAY
A trip was made around past the Pacific Mail dock, the balloon sometimes being paid out to a height of 500 feet and again being lowered to within a few feet of the launch. Pillsbury exhausted his time in both big panorama cameras and in the graflex he carried, and signaled to return.
But a strong wind had sprung up, blowing a gale, and the bag twisted and careened, while the new three-eights inch rope mooring it strained to the breaking point. Pillsbury succeeded, when close to the launch, in passing his cameras into the boat, with some of the films, but then was carried away on the rope and ducked deep in the bay as the balloon careened and dropped its basket into the water. Then it jerked and twisted like a kite, rushing back and forth over the water and dragging Pillsbury through a storm of spray. Finally it rose again, and Pillsbury called to make for the Crowley wharf at the foot of Vallejo street. But it was too late. The rope parted near the basket an the gas filled envelope sprang into the air until it was but a speck of white to the anxious watchers below. After rising in nearly a straight line it took a rapid course southward and the pursuit began.
Pierce Lloyd took the train for San Jose, got wind of the fugitive there and landed at Newark as Pillsbury was driven into that station from Dunbarton Point, covered with a thick layer of mud, wet , cold and hungry. G. H. Banford, a brother-in-law of the conscripted sky pilot, crossed the bay and started southward R. Fletcher, an employee of the picture company, started south on a motorcycle.
“I could not allow the balloon to run away wild,” Pillsbury explained last night at his residence 6440 Benvenue avenue, Oakland. “and neither did I care to leave the films I had just got after so much work. They were good films. Again, it was not wise for me to open the valve, for the balloon then would have come down in the bay. I stayed with it, though they shouted to me when the rope broke, to jump. That was out of the question for the reasons I have given.
“The trip across the bay was made at a great height, but when I struck a fog bank above Dunbarton the balloon began to drop like a rock. We struck land within a mile of Dunbarton point, where the construction work is going on, and met rather dry land at first. But the balloon bounced like a rubber ball, and then went into the great marsh district.
Pillsbury would not jump from the balloon, he reasoned would have been ….ing He could not throw them out because they would break or be lost or wet.
The workers approaching the place from the Dunbarton Point in a boat now saw the Fairy going into the marsh striking the earth like a thrown rock, bouncing swiftly upward, stopping gradually, and then gathering headway for the next shoot downward. Pillsbury was being drenched with mud and ducked in the dark slough but he held on. Finally the bag dropped at lightning speed hit the earth for a half mile through the middiest portions of the slough with the photographer. Still he hung on. Finally the bag struck a mud bank and stuck there. The photographer scrambled to the side and held the bag down until the men arrived.
The rescuers found Pillsbury wrapping up his films. They assisted him in rolling the balloon into a bundle and put the silk fabric into the boat and the start back was attempted. But in the interim the tide had run out. The boat was abandoned, the balloon hoisted on the men’s shoulders, and the return journey made through mud and ponds of water waist and sometimes neck high.
AFTER A 36 MILE JOURNEY
The Fairy is at Newark in charge of the Southern Pacific agent. It was to have been used in locating the direction of the winds preceding the balloon races here today, but that is impossible now.
Pillsbury is pleased with the thought that many of his bet films were saved and that seems to end the incident well, according to his view.
“He staid by his films though mud and water and the upper reaches of the air,” a friend of Pillsbury said last night. “and he would have wrestled for them with the angels had he going that high.”
PILLSBURY, Arthur C.F. USA (1870?1930) (GB)
p: Professional photographer; Resident of San Francisco, CA.
f: Owner of balloon "The Fairy"; Considered an "expert balloonist; Used the balloon to make aerial photographs of the area; Made many tethered ascents, but only one free flight.
l: Made a unique historical aerial record of the 1906 earthquake; Photos are still used today to study damage (See G.LAWRENCE). ***Epic flight 30 Oct.1909 (solo) from San Francisco, CA. The tether line broke, and he was rescued from the Bay near Newark, CA.
r: S.F.Chronicle 31 Oct.1909p42/1; Camera-Craft, 1910.