THE EXTRAORDINARY NAZCA PREHISTORIC BALLOON
Jim Woodman writes:
“Nazca is one of South America’s most perplexing archaeological riddles and one of the world’s most beautiful works of art. Etched upon Peru’s vast, barren Nazca Plains are hundreds of long, ruler-straight lines, immense geometric symbols and giant drawings of curious birds and animals, the work of pre-Inca Peruvians 1,500 years ago. From the ground, Nazca is totally incomprehensible, yet from the air, one gasps with astonishment.”
“When Jim Woodman approached me with his idea that the people who created the Nazca lines could have seen them from hot air balloons I was intrigued but skeptical. Yet we successful flew in a balloon that could have been built by the Nazca people a thousand years ago. And while I do not see any evidence that the Nazca civilization did fly, it is beyond any doubt that they could have. And so could the ancient Egyptians, the Romans, the Vikings, any civilization. With just a loom and fire you can fly! This raises intriguing questions about the development of science and, most of all, the intellectual courage to dare to fly, to dare to invade the territory of the Angles.”
The Nazca Prehistoric Balloon in flight
Nott and Jim Woodman tested the idea some years ago as seen in the pictures to the right. But Nott recently repeated the flight for the Japanese network TV-Asahi. Nott comments “When we first made the flight it was amazing that we could actually leave the ground with thousand year old technology. But repeating the flight recently I knew that it would succeed allowing time to think about the wider philosophical implications.”
The gondola for Condor I and the man who built it from the totora reed of Lake Titicaca. He previously built the Ra Raft for Thor Heyerdahl.
Photographs by Larry Dale Gordon show the first time the flight was completed.
Artist Tommy Thompson painted
the ancient condor design on the balloon.
Left: Poles go up to support the balloon over the fire.
Right: Thick wood-smoke flows from a fire via a trench and pours into Condor I. It cures the fabric, filling its pores. “To our surprise,” says Nott, “the quality of the smoke was crucial. Modern historians assume all that mattered was the heat and laugh at the Montgolfiers for believing what they burned was important. But this balloon showed the Montgolfiers were right: the nature of the smoke it critical.”
Wind rustles the smoking balloon just before dawn.
The launch–all hands let free the holding lines.
Woodman and Nott secured by slipknots as they climb quickly to over 300 feet.
The pilots jettison the first sack of ballast to gain altitude.
The Amazing Nazca Plains and Desert as Seen from Above