The Unexpected Balloon Ride to Liechtenstein


Ballonfahrt Liechtenstein

An exciting discovery has recently been made by students from the European Adventure Academy in the old archives of the ACE. The find in particular is the research diary of a previously unknown balloon expedition carried out by aviation pioneers Eckbert and Kaspar Eulenstein from 1823. According to their notes, the brothers were planning a hot-air balloon expedition to England to carry out flight experiments, to observe the updrafts and downdrafts over land and sea, and to study the flight behaviour of birds from up close. The winds were favourable when the two climbed into the hot-air balloon on the forecourt of the Voletarium, their workshop at the foot of the Black Forest. But it was then that something completely unexpected happened, as noted by Eckbert:

“We had just reached a good altitude, and by all logic and by all precise calculations, we should have been moving north-west, when all of a sudden, we were caught in a strong current of air that blew us in the complete opposite direction! We couldn’t explain it.”

The brothers could only watch in amazement and take eager notes as they were carried in a straight flight over Switzerland. Kaspar wrote:

“We’ve been traveling at a fairly constant, brisk pace for almost two hours now. The wind that carries us seems to act only on the balloon; the birds around us don’t seem to be affected by the current at all, it’s very strange!”

When the air current finally died down, the brothers found themselves over the Alps. Soon, the Eulensteins spotted a conspicuous, meter-high cone of green light radiating up from one of the mountaintops, visible far in the distance. Kaspar’s description of the exciting events that followed was recorded in very hasty handwriting:

“The wind that has brought us here is starting to ease, and we are sinking significantly! A decidedly unfavourable place, in the middle of high mountain ridges, and we are moving right towards this mysterious green light! Every attempt to gain control has so far failed. We cannot steer, we can only hope and wait…”

Fortunately, their concern soon turned out to be unneeded, as the following entries from the brothers describe the balloon landing almost on its own and safely on a high mountain peak. Modern reconstructions of the route tell us that this was the highest mountain in Liechtenstein, the Grauspitz, which at that time could not be climbed due to its steep and impassable mountain slopes.

Eckbert wrote:

“We touched down on the ridge of the mountain not far from the bright green light phenomenon. Its radiance is even more intense here and certainly has an unusual appeal. After a brief consultation, we decided to take a careful look at the remarkable phenomenon up close.”

Unfortunately, the record of the light phenomenon ends here. The next documents available to the Club only describe the return journey by hot air balloon. It very much appears that the Eulensteins concealed what they found on that mountain in their private research records, as well as what knowledge they gained there in Liechtenstein. What is certain, however, is that this expedition reaffirmed their belief that they needed to develop a steerable aircraft, to ensure they never became passengers of the winds again. These essential insights enabled them to successfully implement their plan only two years later.

The ACE is now planning a series of balloon expeditions in Liechtenstein in the near future to research the extraordinary events and reconstruct the Eulensteins’ excursion, and ultimately track down the mysterious phenomena.