Mike Tippett

Name ID 1414

See also

Smith, Anthony Throw out two hands
Page Number: 251
Extract Date: 1962


The alarm went off with punctilious accuracy. I looked up at the sky. The light layer of stratus had encroached slightly, but there was nothing sinister to be seen. The flight was on. We climbed into clothes sticky with dew, and set silently about the inflation. The trucks had all been parked facing towards the balloon, and we switched on their headlights shortly before Alan switched on the first of the cylinders. That weird noise of expanding gas reverberated through the night, and Jambo began to assume her shape. Douglas and I looked after the sandbags, and lowered them one mesh at a time as it became necessary. We said little, and grunted at each other rather as sentries must have done when they met on the darkened battlements. Even if there are two people looking after the same balloon, the thing is soon so big that they rarely do meet if each one has taken a particular semicircle as his beat. He sees only that the other sandbags are being lowered, and he hears the net jerk up as it is relieved of the weights holding it down. Alan maintained a steady flow through the pipe, and his hammerings sounded much like some busy smithy us he connected up fresh cylinders and unscrewed those that were empty. All the while the huge thing rose darkly into the sky, and more and more of the stars disappeared behind it.

When dawn came, at 6.15, we were almost through with the inflation. Someone switched off the headlights, and gradually the colours of the earth reappeared with another day. In particular, of course, there was the great big orange egg of the balloon, perfectly immobile with not a breath of wind to touch it. Mick Tippett then turned up right on schedule. He was working on the excavations in the Olduvai Gorge, and had promised a team of men to help with the tricky basket attachment. They emerged from his Land-Rover, and joined the Nairobi lorry team in general talk. Everything was in order. It was time for coffee and something to eat.

Extract ID: 3782
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