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Author: Lee Hooper
Access Service Officer
VPRS 777/PO Unit 7 Page 50Department of Meteorology Phenomena Report Correspondence Book IV
There's more to the collection of Public Record Office Victoria than wills and probate, shipping lists and inquests, as Agent 99 Lee Hooper writes. The interesting little article above was found pasted faithfully into the meteorological Phenomena Report Correspondence book number IV. The book includes many pages of meticulously collected newspaper clippings, sprawling hand written letters and meteorologist-inscribed entries of public sightings of meteors, ball lightning, Aurora Australis and red rain. It makes you wonder though. A large balloon “lit up brilliantly by a light like an electric light” in the 10pm night sky of 1898 Victoria? And it may be noted, the article was pasted on the Meteors page. For lack of a Balloon page no doubt. Perhaps what our constable witnessed was a Chinese lantern, or Fire Balloon as they are commonly known. First experimented with by Chinese sage and military strategist Zhuge Liange in the third century BC Chinese sky lanterns are precursors to hot air balloons, signalling balloons and the spy blimps used during World War II. In more peaceful times, you will see these cheerful lanterns in awe-inspiring abundance at many festivals in China, Thailand and the USA. One can only guess what a Chinese lantern would be doing in the Apollo Bay sky in 1898. Or maybe it wasn’t a lantern at all.