Early Progress - Ohio Fails

This article from the June 6, 1909 Indianapolis Star reports on the early progress of competitors just hours after the start of the 1909 national championship balloon race of the Aero Club of America. The reports came from sightings on the ground and through messages sent through a communications system the organizers had developed. This system involved having competitiors fill out telegraph forms that were placed in brown bags tied to bread buns and dropped overboard from the balloons. On the bags instructions were written encouraging anyone finding it to rush the enclosed message to the nearest telegraph office and have the message transmitted to the Indianapolis Star.
From the reports it was apparent the balloons took divergent directions. The latest report was a ground sighting at about 9:30 PM of an unnamed balloon over Vincennes, Indiana near the southwest corner of the state. Others had drifted almost due south, such as Speedway Founder and President Carl Fisher's Indiana which had filed a telegraph message after drifting over Nineveh, Indiana. Fisher reported at 7:15 PM that he and his mentor/assistant Captain George L. Bumbaugh were a mere 800 feet from Albert Bond Lambert and H.E. Honeywell aboard the St. Louis III - so close the other men could shout to them and jokingly invited them to supper. The longest "wireless" message came from Captain Thomas Baldwin and Clifford Harmon aboard the Hoosier who wrote while over Trafalgar, Indiana at 7 PM:
"Berry (University City) very high. Bumbaugh and Fisher (Indiana) going up. Lambert (St. Louis III) going up very high. Forbes (New York) very low. Morgan (Cleveland) still ballooning. All balloons on parallel line except Berry trailing. The Hoosier lowest position. New York ten miles to the northwest and Fisher south."
The most significant development was the demise of the Ohio's effort. The oldest balloon in the race, piloted by Dr. D.H. Thompson, touched down in Nashville, Indiana about three hours after starting. There were low expectations for this balloon as it started with just four bags of sand ballast leaving little room to adjust to the varying temperatures of wind currents. The balloons able to launch with the greatest ballast (the Indiana reportedly had 50 bags) were seen to possess a distinct advantage as the bags were called "balloon fuel" enabling skilled pilots to extend the duration of their flights. Thompson wired in a message from Nashville to report his landing and that otherwise all was well.

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