Sunday, December 25, 2016

Inventor and Designer

The founder of Scouting, Lieutenant General Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell born in 1857 in England. He lived a busy and adventurous life, and as a boy spent much of his spare time in open-air pursuits, hunting in the woods, and joining his brothers in expeditions by land and in their boats. Thus he developed his powers of observation and resourcefulness and acquired many useful skills.

Records of kites are found very early in Chinese history, and it is prophetic that they were first used in warfare, specifically in military signaling. When messages had to be sent over dangerous country, brilliantly colored kites were flown high enough to be seen. The Chinese general Han Sin used the kite as early as 200 B.C., when he was tunneling beneath the walls of his target—the Wei-Yang palace.

From Korea, too, come the tales of kites in war. Once, on the eve of a particularly critical battle, a Korean general attached a lantern to the tail of a kite and raised it into the air at night. His soldiers, believing this light to be a token of divine assistance, took new strength and courage. A later Korean general, when barred by a river across his route, flew a string to some people on the opposite bank, and thus drew across the ropes for a bridge.

Our earliest record of the kite as a man-lifting affair comes from ancient Japan. Two golden images of fish high atop the castle of Nagoya-Gyo are said to have motivated this feat. The golden fish attracted the greed of a bandit named Ishikawa Goyemon, but the baron who occupied the castle 400 years ago kept it heavily guarded. The bandit seated himself in a trapeze attached to the tail of a huge kite. In the dead of night, his cohorts maneuvered him into the air, and he flew to the rooftop. Once there, he stole many of the golden scales from the ornaments, then descended and escaped undetected.

Another legend from Japan is about two rival villages that had long competed in an annual contest to determine which excelled in the art of building and flying kites. Each year the kite-masters offered larger and more elaborate entries, but finally it turned into a personal battle between the two leading kite-masters. A meeting was arranged one evening to settle the issue once and for all. What had started as a friendly contest of the winds became a war of words, as the two wizards of kite-craft huddled with their supporters around a small Japanese stove called a hibachi—a porcelain urn filled with ashes and a few burning sticks of charcoal. When it seemed that no conclusion could be reached, one of the kite-masters produced a tiny kite about the size of a postage stamp and unreeled a gossamer line like a spider web. By using only the meager heat from the charcoal stove, he flew and controlled his doll-sized kite so well that he won the honors.

Riding up with Kites

About 50 years after Pocock's experiments, man-lifting kites began to appear all over the world. Lawrence Hargrave was among the first to begin working in earnest. He made many attempts at flight, mostly with the birdlike, flapping-wing ornithopters, and he is credited with inventing the box kite in 1885. But it was in 1893 that he built three large kites and attached them at intervals to a long line. The combined weight of his body and this rig came to 208 pounds, but he managed to raise himself 16 feet above the ground. At that point, he decided that he was quite high enough and returned safely to the earth.

Man-lifting kites came into vogue toward the end of the last century. This rig was designed by Captain B. F. S. Baden-Powell, who on one occasion rose to a height of 100 feet.

Photo: Royal Aeronautical Society
Other man-carrying kites were being flown in England. At Pirbright camp in 1894, Captain B. F. S. Baden-Powell of the Scots Guards constructed a huge kite 36 feet tall, and it got him off the ground. But later that year, with five smaller kites only 12 feet high, he raised his 150-pound body to an altitude of 100 feet. Baden-Powell's kites were also put to use in transferring mail from the destroyer Daring to another ship.

In the Boer War in South Africa, English soldiers were hoisted aloft in kites to spy on the enemy. Also in England, Colonel S. F. Cody, the first man to fly an airplane in the British Isles, experimented with man-lifting kites. His results eclipsed previous efforts, for in 1905 a kite of his design lifted a man to—hold your seats—an altitude of 1,600 feet! Colonel Cody also made flights in an untethered kite powered by a 12-horsepower engine.

In the United States, where actual flight was soon to be realized, men were also flying huge kites. One Lieutenant Wise, using a series of four Hargrave-type kites, lifted 229 pounds, including a man, over 40 feet into the air. In the same year, manless kites were also reaching higher and higher into American skies. W. A. Eddy made up a train of nine Malay kites attached to a cord two miles long. The top kite of this fantastic rig soared to an alti-tude of 5,595 feet and remained aloft for 15 hours.
Men had floated aloft in balloons, glided on fabric wings, and risen on kites. All that remained was to sever the slender string that bound them to the earth. For this, the world looked to the Wrights.

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