Launch III



I was determined to see some success this time. After the second launch, I had full confidence that the balloon could make to the skies with the camera.

We went to the helium shop to get another cylinder to top up the same balloon (it had shrunk heaps by now). It was inflated to 1.3m diameter, more than enough to carry the cam.

This time, though, we quickly modified the payload and ditched unnecessary parts like the foam case to desperately shed some weight.

A shot of our house taken on the way up at 20m

The balloon lifted off and began to rise quickly.

We clicked the transmitter a few times as it went up to test if the shutter release mechanism I had installed was still working. There was no drama around about 20m off the ground, where we could all audibly hear the click of the shutter. However, above that altitude it was unaudible and there existed no indication of whether it was still working.

But it was too late to turn back, and we let the balloon soar up higher for a while, until about 120m AGL.


This is a snap taken as the balloon drifted to the other side of the house. This is still at about 20m AGL. The camera took alot of pictures of random bits of the house as it drifted everywhere. This was interesting as it provided subsequent entertainment in the form of a jigsaw puzzle.

Another random picture of the house. For scale, the satellite dish is around 3m in diameter.

Okay, this is the only picture I'm satisfied with. This is at around 50m AGL.

As it turns out, the transmitter did not work anymore than 50m above ground, even though we had tested it to at least 150m a week before. The battery must have drained, and such a damned pity too, because the opportunity to get shots of the neighbourhood was lost.

Nevertheless, this image teaches a home owner several things...

1. Whoever cleaned the roof tiles did a half-hearted job.

2. The yellow capped bin is an eyesore.

Staying with the pictures, here is the one that we painstakingly jigsaw puzzled together.

Its a bit out of scale in some areas, obviously because they're all taken at slightly different altitudes.

This is quite artistic, I think...

As we brought the balloon down after all the film had been exposed, it promptly exploded about 2m above the roof. And a balloon that big makes a big boom. It fell on the roof with a big CLUNK and the camera was smashed to bits as it bounced down the roof and onto concrete. What a dramatic finish!

I didn't care about the camera though. Rather, I had to make sure that the film canister hadn't been exposed before the film had been wound back. Luckily though, it hadn't (obviously, since you've already seen the photos..).

And that was almost the end of the balloon project. It had been a partial success - I had originally planned for the transmitter to actually work and to take a couple of pics of the neighbourhood. But hey, at least we got one good photo.

There was some helium left in the cylinder, and I thought it'd better be used so we get maximum fun for our buck (helium gas does not come cheap). So we filled up a total of 18 small 30cm balloons (standard size) and tied this message to all of them...

"Greetings! This message was attached to a helium balloon and let go in the northern suburbs of Darwin, on the 13th of January as part of the Balloon Project by ‘Penguin’.
Obviously, you’ve found this message somewhere, and we’d like to know where and when you found it, and the condition of the burst balloon that this message was attached to.
Please contact Penguin either by phone: (08) ********, or by email (**** This information is very important to us, and we hope you will take the time to get in contact with us. We will respond to your message with any questions you may have.
Thank you"

Printed notes and balloons ready for tying

Each note was tied to an inflated balloon by string, and let go into the air. The wind blew south, if I remember correctly, so that was good, because then they wouldn't drift into the ocean.

Sadly though, its been a long time (by that I mean since Jan 2006), and I haven't got any responses. I can only imagine where on earth they ended up, probably in some shrubland or some poor guy's farm.




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