An unexpected feat
Jean-Pierre Blanchard set off for England in September 1784 with the sole hope of returning by balloon. Four months later, the dream became reality. In the early hours of January 7, 1785, the sky was clear and the temperature very cool. Despite the advice of sailors to the contrary, Jean-Pierre Blanchard and Dr. Jeffries decided to take to the skies to reach the French coast. It was 1:05pm, and the balloon, of uncertain waterproofing, was spinning on itself above Dover Castle, carrying forty-three small kilos of objects and ballast. The balloon, equipped with wings, rudder and propeller, moves forward slowly, losing altitude from time to time, forcing the two men to part with their provisions, wings, rudder, windmill, gondola ornaments and, finally, the bottle to be opened in the event of a coronation. As the balloon loses further height, the duo perform an improbable striptease over the English Channel. The only thing left is their cork vests. But nothing works. And just as Jeffries offers to sacrifice himself, the balloon lifts off again. It’s 3.00 pm when, in a final leap, the highest of the trip, the balloon crosses the coast between Cap Gris-Nez and Cap Blanc-Nez. In a final gust of wind, the two aeronauts landed as best they could, without crashing, in the forest of Guînes. Jean-Pierre Blanchard and John Jeffries have just completed the first airborne crossing of the English Channel.
source : Guînes town website
The Blanchard column is an important symbol of aeronautical history and an emblematic monument in the commune of Guînes. It bears witness to the town’s pride in this historic event, and pays tribute to Jean-Pierre Blanchard’s contribution to aerial exploration.