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Now that my hometown has a Steampunk society, it made me wonder what such an enterprise should devote itself to doing. There are, I’d say, some pretty talented folk amongst even our small number – with work featured in magazines no less! – and it always makes me feel we should devote some of our time to practical purposes as well as ale quaffing and tea drinking be-monocled revels.

I talked in an earlier post about rocketry, and my fascination with it despite the fact that any attempt to launch my own such vehicle would swiftly lead to limb amputation and third degree burns. Besides, rocketry is not really a Victorian past-time, if one wishes to be dogmatic about things.

Some of us have interests in astronomy, and certainly I think there is outreach work that can be done here, meteor showers being an obvious example, in the same way that American folk do “sidewalk astronomy”. Birdwatching and other natural activity too is entriely in keeping, but hardly makes much of a spectacle.

Flight it is then! Some major developments in flight took place in the Victorian era, to start with, George Cayley and his slightly alarming sounding “Boy Lifter”. This actually flew in 1849, and as a vehicle, it certainly has the the right “feel”, wouldn’t you agree.

cayley

Later on there was Lilienthal and his primitive, and rather risky looking, hang-gliders that first took flight in 1891.

lilienthal001

Certainly it was very risky to Lilienthal, who died in 1896 when his glider stalled and pitched him into the ground from about 50 feet up. “Sacrifices must be made” were his reported last words.

Obviously I don’t want anyone to have their neck’s broken, so we shan’t be building our own hang-gliders. I love little wooden gliders, always did as a child, launching them skywards on the street, watching them dance in the wind with delight in my heart before the inevitability of death by tree. Even further back, my father bought me a rubber band powered aeroplane, that we took to some hill somewhere when I was three or four, and proceeded to not let me fly. It was bright red, and to a young mind, seemed to fly forever.

I have no idea what became of it. But certainly, I never launched it. Which makes the idea of playing with something like this, while realising I don’t have a thousandth of the ability required to build it, an exciting one.

Is it not magnificent?

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