Fisher at One With Clouds

I find this article which appeared in the May 29, 1909 Indianapolis News extremely interesting and a terrific insight to Founder and President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Carl Fisher. The article is a profile of Fisher as a balloon pilot and the president of the Aero Club of Indiana.
The kinetic Fisher always had his hands in so many different business opportunities it is boggling to think how he managed it all with the success he experienced. He was also president of the Fisher Automobile Company and president of Prest-O-Lite - a major corporation of the day and generally could not resist persuing a steady stream of ideas his brain seemed to generate. The key difference between Carl Fisher and most of the rest of us is that he didn't just talk about his ideas - he acted on them.
This article profiles not the facts and statistics of his ballooning experience but his passion for the sport. I was also struck by his word choices and articulate descriptions of mid-air experiences. He describes a soul-searching experience. Check this lift from the article:
"It is a journey to inspire thought and study, as the pilot is alone with his aid, and between the studying of the instruments and watching the every motion of the great swaying bag, which is in reality a chariot of the sky, it causes a feeling of awe to come over you as you realize just how much you are, and how little. While in a storm, as you are cast on the wind like petrel (sea bird) it is liable to be a cause of plenty of anxiety.

"But floating in the abyss of silence and space, above the fleecy clouds, while below you are the green fields, with the pellucid waters of some inland lake here and there to dot your course with blue, the earth and its cares fading away in this cradle of azure, it inspires the most pleasant sensations that I have ever experienced, and I say this, having indulged in almost all the scientific and pleasant sports."
Fisher speaks of wanting to witness a "parhelion," an atmospheric phenomenon that produces the illusion of three balls of light when the sun is partially obscured by cirrus clouds which are composed of ice crystals.  Fisher, however, is discussing a different kind of illusion, one that projects the rainbow image of the balloonist's vessel onto clouds. This is created, he says, by the mist vapor of clouds being cooled by the balloon's shadow. As vapor liquifies in the shadow it falls back into the sun to create an inverted mirror image of the balloon. The description isn't entirely clear but that's the gist of it.
His words again are poetic as he speaks to his duties as a balloon pilot:
"The high altitude and cool currents have caused your gas to contract, and that swaying golden ball hangs in flabby wrinkles that flap in a disconsolate manner, reminding one of a sailboat on the long ocean comber, where it rises and falls with a lazy swell of the waves. Our instrument shows that we are descending rapidly. We must unload ballast, and still not too rapidly, as we need all that we have, and when we reach the warmer lower level the expansion will cause a too rapid ascent. So thus is there sufficient anxiety to always create an interest."
"In this manner we float on through this abyss of silence, tiny mortals invading the domain of space, searching our way as carefully as the mountain climber seeks the trail, knowing the raptures and intoxications of the air and feeling that we are among those few of human mortals who have not dreamed in vain of its conquest."
For me this is an essential article in getting to know Carl Fisher better. He was not just "Crazy Carl" this madcap, non-stop promoter with a foolhardy streak. He knew the "intoxications" of each moment of his life and saw each second as an opportunity for rapture. Cynics can suggest that these are not Carl's words but I believe there is a strong argument to suggest they are. Carl was an insatiable reader and devoured volumes weekly, his entertainment before dozing off at night. An enthusiast for the teachings of "The Great Agnostic," Colonel Robert Green Ingersoll, Fisher was a thoughtful man and despite his extroversion possessed the ability for meaningful instrospection as well.

FisherBalloonNews052909.pdf4.87 MB