THE GREAT ATLANTIC CHALLENGE
The Atlantic Ocean was for many years the greatest challenge in ballooning history. A man called Thaddeus Lowe
made preparations for a crossing many years ago, in the days before the American Civil War, but it wasn't until about the 1950s that
anyone made a significant attempt.
A group of 4 British balloonists, Colin Mudie, his wife Rosemary, Bushy Eiloart and his son Tim, planned to take on the Atlantic
crossing, using their experience as sailors. They decided to take an east to west route, leaving from Tenerife heading towards a
central location on the east cost of the United States.
They had a gondola (basket) specifically built for the journey which was made from reinforced polystyrene and measured 15ft x 8ft.
It had to be a strong, sturdy structure to make sure it would be able to withstand the impact if they fell to the sea at any point
throughout the flight - the drop would have been a good 30,000 ft or so! The gondola was attached to the envelope with quick release
cables for ease in the case of an emergency.
Their vessel, named Small World took off on December 12, 1958 and travelled a mighty 1200 nautical miles, breaking all existing balloon
duration records. Unfortunately, the 4 were caught in a ferocious storm and their attempt was brought to an early close. However, they
completed their journey (another 1,450 miles) in the custom made gondola and arrived at their destination, Barbados, on January 5th
This attempt is still referred to as one of the most courageous and ahead of its time efforts at crossing the Atlantic. It was the
first major crossing from east to west, rather than west to east (how all other flights had been attempted up till then) and this was
at a time when ballooning was still very much a small, unheard of sport. The crew had designed, constructed and learnt to fly the balloon
with little or no assistance as England at this time did not have even 1 qualified balloon examiner.
The design of Small World was to be copied by others in future attempts at the great Atlantic crossing for the next 2 decades. This story
was truly an inspiration to many others.
ATLANTIC CROSSINGS 1970-1977