Balloon carriers

Just over 40 years later on 12 July 1849,[4] the Austrian Navy ship Vulcano was used for launching early aircraft. A number of small Montgolfiere hot air ballons were launched with the intention of dropping bombs on Venice. Although the attempt largely failed due to contrary winds which drove the balloons back over the ship, one bomb did land on the city.[5]

Later, during the American Civil War, about the time of the Peninsula Campaign, gas-filledballoons were used to perform reconnaissance on Confederate positions. The battles soon turned inland into the heavily forested areas of the Peninsula, however, where balloons could not travel. A coal barge, the George Washington Parke Custis, was cleared of all deck rigging to accommodate the gas generators and apparatus of balloons. From the barge Professor Thaddeus S. C. Lowe, Chief Aeronaut of the Union Army Balloon Corps, made his first ascents over the Potomac River and telegraphed claims of the success of the first aerial venture ever made from a water-borne vessel. Other barges were converted to assist with the other military balloons transported about the eastern waterways, but none of these Civil War crafts ever took to the high seas.

Balloons launched from ships led to the development of balloon carriers, or balloon tenders, during World War I, by the navies of Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Sweden. About ten such “balloon tenders” were built, their main objective being aerial observation posts. These ships were either decommissioned or converted to seaplane tendersafter the war.

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