Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers

Jamie, this one's for you....
When I reached the "First Flight Memorial" the day was very overcast and before I had been all the way around the field my camera's battery died.  So....the pictures are not plentiful nor are they very good.  So, yes Jamie, you need to go and see it for yourself.

The Memorial was very inspirational.  There is a  monument that sits on top of Kill Devil hill and marks what was originally intended to be the 'take-off' spot for the flight.  However,  the Wright Brothers worried that the incline might detract from the authenticity of the flight so they started from the base of the hill instead...(just about where I am standing)

Then they drew straws to see who would go first.  Orville flew the first of four flights on December 17, 1903 for 120 feet. Wilber flew the second for 175 feet, then Orville did 200 feet and finally Wilber did 852 feet to finally convince themselves that they could control the vehicle.

The brothers had a very successful bicycle shop that gave them the time and tools to tinker with gliders and motors for many years before they actually perfected the structure that hangs today in the Smithsonian.

This is an exact replica of the aircraft and that is Orville preparing for take off.  What do you think he would say about today's travel with the cramped leg room and getting patted down before boarding? But, boy would he be amazed at the rockets, space stations and our trips to the moon.

Photos were taken that day during the moments before launch and this scene was a duplicate reproduction of one of those photos.  There is a life-sized mock up of the craft on the memorial grounds that kids can climb on and imagine the adventure. (Yes, of course I thought about it but I would have had to muscle a few of those kids out of the way.)

Where did the Wright Brothers get their inspiration?  Their father was a traveling minister and spent long periods of time on the road going from town to town, evangelizing.  He was reputed to be very unhandy around the house, very unimaginative and was seldom around anyway.  But Mrs Wright was a mechanical Wiz!  It was said that she could build or repair anything and she dearly loved working with tools.  This passion for the mechanical was shared with her sons.  I absolutely love discovering the women that affected our history. 
One last political comment--I recently listened to a lecture on Ted.com (If you have never been there that is the best website there is) on how we have, in our minds and in our culture,  changed the base when looking at nature around us.  If we clean up a river or a lake so it is swimmable and won't infect  us with bubonic plague then we think that tea-colored water with lots of algae in it is the base.  But 100 years ago there was no green slime there.  And 200 years ago that lake was crystal clear and teeming with fish.  Our idea of 'restoration' has little if anything to do with the original natural state of what we might be observing. The above quote (that I chopped off) was from a letter Orville wrote to a friend about the Outer Banks.  Orville was much closer to the real base than we are now.  And sadly, 100 years from now what we have today will be the new base.  Sorry to end on a down-note but this is a reminder--not everything we achieve is progress.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Toni. I've seen the original airplane at the Smithsonian but have yet to make to Kitty Hawk as I commented on your earlier blog. Its on the bucket list.