31 July 1901: At “10 minutes before 11 in the morning,” the gas balloon Preussen (Prussia) began to ascend from Tempelhofer Felde at Berlin, capital city of the Königreich Preußen (Kingdom of Prussia) and the German Empire.
Carried aloft in the open gondola were two men, Reinhard Joachim Süring of the Prussian Meteorological Institute, and Josef Arthur Stanislas Berson.
There was a light wind from the northwest, and the air temperature was 23.4 °C. (74.1 °F.). The air pressure was 762.0 millimeters (30.0 inches) of Mercury.
The balloon was made by Continental Caoutchouk und Guttapercha-Compagnie, Hannover, at a cost of 20,000ℳ. To inflate the balloon at the airfield, 1,080 pressurized cylinders containing 5,400 cubic meters (190,700 cubic feet) of hydrogen were used. When fully inflated at altitude, the spherical envelope had a maximum volume of 8,400 cubic meters (296,643 cubic feet).
In the gondola were four 1,000 liter (35 cubic foot) cylinders of oxygen for breathing, and 8,000 kilograms (17,637 pounds) pounds of ballast contained in 63 kilogram (139 pound) sand bags and 36 kilogram (79 pound) bags of iron filings.
Süring and Berson reached an altitude of 5,000 meters (16,404 feet) in 40 minutes. The air temperature was -7 °C. (19.4 °F.). The envelope had reached its maximum volume by this time.
After 3 hours, Preussen had ascended to 8,000 meters (26,247 feet), and in four hours, it reached 9,000 meters (29,528 feet). There, the air temperature was -32 °C. (-25.6 °F.).
The aeronauts had run out of breathing oxygen at 8,170 meters (26,804 feet).
The last observed altitude the men reached was 10,225 meters (33,547 feet), with an air temperature of -35.7 °C. (-32.3 °F.). Josef Berson saw Süring louse consciousness and pulled the emergency valve to vent gas from the balloon and start its descent. He too lost conciousness due to hypoxia.
“. . . dass der Ballon noch kurz nachdem auch der zweite Korbinsasse bei 10500 m das Bewussstein verloren hatte, um mindestens 300 weitere Meter stieg, sonit Maximalhöhe von sicherlich 10800 m (vielleicht 11000 m) erreicht und hierauf unfer Nachwirkung des Ventilzuges in ein jahes Fallen umbog.”
[Google English translation: “Shortly after the second basket occupant had lost the awareness stone at 10500 m, the balloon rose at least 300 meters further, reaching a maximum height of certainly 10800 m (perhaps 11000 m), and then reversed our after-effect of the valve train into a sudden fall.]
Both men regained consciousness at about 6,000 meters, but were unable to regain control of the ballon’s descent until 2,500 meters. Süring and Berson returned to Earth near Briesen, Kreis Cottbus, Germany, at 18:25 that evening. The total duration of their flight was 7 hours, 36 minutes.
© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes