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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf American Prose: 1830-1930
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In about two minutes, we were enabled to view, with unfeigned admiration, the grand and magnificent panorama spread wide beneath us, from a very considerable elevation. On traversing Long Island in a north-north-east direction, being impelled by a very gentle zephyr of air, Mons. Godard made his balloon lower according to the desire of Señor Arrietta. Just before parting, Señor Arrietta said, “Es menester que yo bajo la tierra para restituirme á Nueva York y para visitar á mis amigos está tardecita. Espero ver á V. en su casa de educacion pronto;”* to which the writer replied, “Siento que V. salga ahora. Me gustariá que V. venga á la Institucion para mirar los exercicios de los sordos-mudos.”** We alighted, descending to the ground easily and without the least jerking of oscillation. When Mons. Godard had landed Señor Arrietta at White-Stone, Long Island, we reascended to a greater elevation than the first time. As we ascended to the height of eight thousand six hundred feet, the cold in the regions of the atmosphere was so much greater than it is on the surface of the earth, that the bottom of the balloon commenced to be wrinkled by contraction in consequence of the condensation of the gas within it, and then it inclined, to pass downward. Mons. Godard lightened it by dropping one of some large stones which he had collected, when we had landed at White-Stone. I watched the stone falling from the car in a perpendicular line, growing smaller and smaller and being finally lost to the eye, and in a few seconds, the cattle in a pasture seeming to be as small as young mice, set off in different directions from the spot where the stone had touched. In accordance with the law of gravitation, the time consumed by the stone in falling from the balloon at the elevation of eight thousand two hundred feet was estimated to be two minutes.

On passing over Long Island Sound, we noticed the metropolis of New York, at an immeasurable distance, densely clothed with mist and dimly illuminated. Messieurs Godard and Decan mentioned to me a phenomenon connected with their conversation: a sentence of several words which they pronounced against the surface of the water with a loud voice, was echoed distinctly and entire. Passing into another current of air, we proceeded as far as Throgg’s Neck Point, Westchester county, where we came down and landed, at ten minutes past five o’clock, at the beautiful country-seat of Francis Morris, Esq., to the agreeable surprise and delight of a large number of ladies and gentlemen, a happy wedding party—the marriage of the eldest daughter of Mr. Morris having taken place that afternoon. Mr. Morris and his guests were much astonished to see the deaf-mute aerial tourist in the balloon. We were of course hospitably received by Mr. Morris, and, after compressing the balloon, were introduced into his house, where a sumptuous dinner was prepared for us. At nine o’clock we were provided with a carriage to Williams’ Bridge, whence we returned to New York by railroad; and the writer arrived at the Institution at eleven o’clock, with a deep feeling of delight at having made a successful aerial trip.

A short time after this ascension, the writer was unexpectedly invited to make a private nocturnal ascent in company with the cordial-hearted aeronaut. We, ascending to a considerable elevation, at the rate of three hundred feet in half a minute, had a delightful coup d’oeil à vol d’oiseau of the “illuminated metropolis,” on which the silvery lunar beam was beautifully cast, and which was brilliantly illuminated with many long lines of light, some of them crossing each other at right angles, and with two rows of points of light in every near street from the East River to the Hudson River, having a resemblance to the innumerable celestial bodies which sparkle in the heavens, presenting an inexpressibly grand appearance. The cities of Brooklyn, Jersey City, Newark, and other villages in New Jersey and also in Westchester County, appeared splendidly illuminated, but the distant country in the horizon, as far as the eye could extend, was covered with darkness, and the face of the Atlantic Ocean and rivers glistened, in a brilliant manner under the rays of the moon. On hovering over the East River in a perpendicular line from the southern extremity of Blackwell’s Island, the metropolis seemed to grow smaller and smaller and become perfectly luminous, and as the artificial light step by step diminished, it was ultimately lost to the sight. As we ascended higher and higher, all the objects of nature and art on the earth became imperceptible to the eye, but the lunar light revealed what appeared to be many crooked silver ribbons and patches of water. Presently we approached some immense majestic clouds which appeared to grow larger and larger, looking as if they were vast and elevated icebergs floating on the deep. We passed through many brandishing arches of frozen mist, and as the cold was intense, the mists issuing from the cloud, fastened themselves to our hair and whiskers, which appeared to become white as if they were powdered. It was so cold that the bottom of the balloon commenced to contract as the effect of the condensation of the gas in it. Descending very slowly according to the regulation of the very skilled aerial navigator, we landed without incurring danger, in a meadow.

This was the last excursion in the air which the writer had the opportunity of making before the departure of Monsieur Godard for the South.

In all these voyages he was impressed with the grandeur of the works of the Almighty and incomprehensible Being, and with the wonderful skill manifested in them all. He was also particularly impressed with the many privileges which he, as a deaf-mute, enjoyed, and his heart swelled with gratitude to Him who, though he had seen fit to deprive him of the power of hearing, had brought within his grasp the innumerable pleasures of sight. Though himself he first deaf-mute of whom he has heard as a navigator of the air, he hopes that he may not be the last, but that many of those who, like himself, are dependent upon the eye for their outward enjoyments, may have the privilege of seeing nature in those glorious phases which can be seen by none but by an aeronaut, and of which no description, however carefully written, can convey any adequate conception.


*It is necessary that I should land and return to New York to visit my friends to-night. I hope to see you at your Institution soon.

**I am very sorry at your getting out at present. I should like to have you come to the Institution for the purpose of viewing the exercises of the deaf-mutes.


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