Tuesday, December 12, 2023

The 1868 "UFO vision" of Frederick William Birmingham - important new evidence - "To London in four days!"

An important piece of confirmatory evidence has been found for the 1868 "UFO vision" of Frederick William Birmingham in Parramatta.  

A long letter he wrote in 1875 describing his efforts of applying his engineering skills to his "vision" to create a viable machine to achieve "navigation through the air", with "the machine is of the ark shape", with a "pilot house", feature significant elements of his 1868 "vision."
The letter was located via Trove in the 22 May 1875 issue of The Albury Banner and Wodonga Express" by archivist Michael Organ and is included in a timeline he prepared in November 2023 on the Birmingham story on his excellent blog site "Rambling thoughts of an overactive mind" along with other recent and interesting matters, such as 1950s film and books, Flying Saucers over Australia 1950, Martin Sharp, LSD & UFOs 1960s, Mayan Alien & UFO hieroglyphs, Mussolini's UFO 1933, UFOs, Aliens and the Vatican,  and Zero Point Energy. Given the quality of his "archiving" work, I encourage Michael to continue with his "rambling thoughts" and archiving.

He recently advised me of his Birmingham find and we agree it paints Birmingham in a positive light, namely he was intelligent, of a deeply enquiring mind, trying to use his engineering experience to try to determine how to make a machine "to navigate the air" clearly inspired by his experience "shown in a Vision A.D. 1898" (sic). I make that qualification because the newspaper states "1898", where based on evidence we already have it was 1868 he had his "vision":
From Tas Homan's copy of Frederick Birmingham's 
account of "a machine to go through the air" 
given to me around 1975 by Fred Phillips of UFOIC 

Herbert Rumsey's letter of November 1911
From a 1932 interview with former Parramatta mayor (1884)
Frederick Cox (Sydney Morning Herald, 23 January 1932)

Here is the 1875 letter, apparently intended for the editor of the Parramatta newspaper "Cumberland Mercury" (a publication of few pages, and Trove does have copies of the period, but the letter has not been located yet in the Cumberland.  The Cumberland was a publication of a few pages each issue, so a letter of Birmingham's length most likely led to it being pickup by a country newspaper of greater number of pages per issue - The Albury Banner and Wodonga Express, from the New South Wales Victoria border:

Here is a text grab, which features the corrected "vision date" of 1868 instead of 1898:
(subject to further tidying up)


Aeronautics —(SHOWN IN A VISION A.D. 1868.) (To the Editor of the Cumberland Mercury.)

SIR,—Permit me, through the medium of your valuable journal, to draw public attention to this most important subject—navigation through the air. Why should it be thought a thing impossible to navigate the air? Wc, at times, see iron and other material carried away oven higher than the place they were taken from, and until the density and elasticity of the air above and below them become equalised, they fall not. Again, three currents of air meeting form a rotatory or " whirl-wind" motion, and by centrifugal tendency a central vacuum, or partial vacuum, in which a quantity of heavy material or water may ascend. Now, without a disturbance of atmospheric pressure these things could not ascend ; but of course, they are exceptions to our school lesson, which states that " bulk for bulk, a thing must be lighter than the air or it cannot ascend." Now, exceptions to this rule have been produced by a pressure of fifty or sixty pounds per superficial foot; but we can draw two thousand pounds per foot of air pressure on a surface by forming nearly a vacuum ; yet, for the purpose I have in view nothing like this pressure is necessity (for ship and other propulsion it may). We know also that the outside air against a hollow cube presses equally in every direction, and you can move it about just the same as before the air was withdrawn. Again, if the vacuum be ten or eleven feet long, nine deep, and three wide, it is just the same ; in this way, you can move it as before stated—for three feet wide at top balances three feet wide at the bottom, also the pressure of one side balances the opposite side, and end versus end; but, observe, I do not intend to waste the deep sided pressures I can obtain, I use them. We know that the strain caused by a load on the centre of an arch is transferred to the buttresses—(the air is also a mighty buttress, with its base resting on land and water)—and by reversing in a measure this principle, the rising in air can be accomplished; this rising and balancing power can be obtained by four deep chests framed of angle-iron, covered with a skin of one-sixteenth inch steel, the framing, &c., made strong enough to resist a five or six pound pressure, or so, per inch ; the sides of these chests are divided, or, rather, bend in squares or " panes," (of fifteen or eighteen inches square) ; within and to the sides of the chests at the centre of these squares must be riveted flat steel arches or jointed rods, crossing over or spanning the chest, with a hole in the top centre of each, through which an iron threaded lifting rod may move freely (connected at either the top or bottom of the chest to a powerful short spring) on this rod, and every such rod, are discs, according with the number of springs—these are screwed down and fixed, just touching the tops of the springs on their greatest radius ; the kicking ends are turned upward by a smaller radius, perhaps five to one rod. Now, within and all along these four rising chests—fore and aft—we have these vertical rods, say nine in each of the front chests, and eight in each of the " aft" ones. When I pump out part of the air from the chests, the " panes " of each side bend inward, these strains bend up the spring-arches, these latter move up the discs and their rods, and the final strain is upon the short strong springs before named, all within the chests, of course, but giant air outside continually. 

Now as to driving. Two chests, one on the "port," another on the "starboard'? side, between, adjoining, and in lines with the four rising chests, and being ten feet or so long, thirty inches wide, and about fifty inches high, and differing but a little from the chests before described, have their reds, springs, &c., placed horizontally, and the final strains are pulls on the ends, a " towing power " these six chests form tho starboard and port sides of tho machine, and a part of its bottom and deck, if the tops are not to be cut off, as will be presently described. 

There is another very important matter reference to the rising or elevating chests. Suppose, for explanation, I take the forward pair, eleven feet long, nine feet deep, and three feet broad. Now, I cut oft, as it were, the tops by slanting surfaces (from the (unction of the deck with the sides), inwardly, shortening the perpendicular height of the inner sides to, say, five feet; from these one sided "roofs" project fixed angle iron props, &c., to the outside framing and sides of the machine, and what was before, say, the hypothenuse (i.e., the slanting inner top surfaces), each becomes, as it were, the base and the outside—in nautical parlance, " the topsides become respectively the hypothenuse, or the longer sides under consideration; these two powers or strains are in opposition and neutralize each other, and the bottom of each chest becomes (as I view it) a rising power, say for all four, about one hundred and twenty-seven superficial feet. The machine is of the ark shape, about seven and one half tons weight; (a fourteen tons cargo or so may be carried, partly within the " vacuum " chests, not touching tho bottom springs or the sides, the residue under the floors of the "rooms" between the two risers) ; it is flat bottomed, has rather a broad shallow keel (wood and India rubber projecting partly from between two angle irons to act as a buffer), the stem and stern-posts are of ditto ; high bow and stern ; broad, deep, mid " wall-sided" to the ends of the risers (so as the steel skin of the sides can bend and unbend freely), lightly decked all over, with a short brass open cylinder, one foot or so in diameter, forward, and a like one aft of the pilot house, to let the air in or out; to or from the rooms under the deck, especially so as to prevent it bursting the deck in or out when changing altitude, and to maintain as even a pressure as possible on the inside and outside faces of the four risers or chests ; the drivers are also to be considered. The pilot house, centre, is situated a little aft of the centre of the deck length of the machine; its floor is sunk three feet and three-fourths foot below the deck— you descend into it by three " steps " in the front, which is open, but closed on the sides and end, and roofed in the usual plain shape, all of wood, but strongly fastened with iron, to resist "a proof" strain of say seventy pounds per superficial foot; this must in no wise be neglected, as the pressure when running, might carry away the house and its occupants—the machine would go on without them.

The only regular deck entrance into the machine will be by a small hatch in the bow, this must be securely closed when travelling, The hull is to be built of light angle iron, and one-sixteenth inch steel skin, all covered with India rubber nearly one-eighth of an inch thick, and every vacuum ditto. The deck of angle iron about thirty inches apart, or corresponding with every second rib of the sides, covered with light thin wood, just sufficient to support a man's weight properly. The width or room between the vacuums is six feet; the flooring is about thirty inches above the bottom of the machine, and this must be light of course. Under the pilot house is the kitchen, with a stove in the centre, mid necessarily a very low floor. From here you ascend through the floor or inner side of the pilot house when relieving watch, and such like things, because when travelling at a rate of from one hundred to one hundred and forty miles per hour, walking on the deck is not to be thought of, even at an altitude of two or three miles. The rubber covering for the vacuums, &c., cannot safely be dispensed with, because there would be leakage, and some rivet heads or part of heads might drop off, or be wrenched off, and the ingress of air into the vacuums would be probably more than the exhaust pipe and fans could check, so no safety need be expected if the rubber covering is dispensed with, it also prevents corrosion, and wards off electricity. Within the pilot house is one iron table, about five feet long, three feet four inches broad, and thirty inches high, having sides and ends also of sheet iron, but no bottom (because it forms part of the kitchen, giving lamp room &c.) ; around this table is a clear space of flooring ; upon this table must be placed two peculiar fans (one being in reserve, but both ever ready for air, pumping), the exhausting, assimilating, and weakening pipes, and a vacuum gauging apparatus centre here; levels, &c., are on this table ; two barometers may be placed one on each side-wall within the house, or perhaps outside, and to be seen from within. Some small panes of plate-glass in the gable end and sides are necessary, The inner breadth of the house is six feet by about nine and one-half feet long. There cannot and must not be a draught through this house ; as the air possibly may be condensed here a little, and must be rather of service to the fans and the pilot. The house, open in front, serves another purpose—it tends to prevent the bow dipping, and this and sharp turning must be avoided when in rapid motion. The necessary superior length of the forward coupled risers can only be determined by-practice and according to the velocity required. I make the ratio now, eleven and one-fourth feet forward, versus ten feet aft. The pumping fan may be worked by a peculiar vacuum wheel so as the pumping, rising and driving powers may be all one, viz., the air! 

It is scarcely necessary now to describe tho way in which the machine can be manoeuvred in every direction, nor the resistance to travelling at various altitudes and rates, and the driving power for same. All these things can be found elsewhere, or inferred from what I have written and may be confirmed I hope by future practice ; yet I may state that "at three and one-half miles high the atmospheric pressure is reduced to about seven pounds per inch," the resistance at this altitude to a speed of one hundred and twenty miles per hour is about eighteen pounds per direct superficial foot of frontage to be driven ; there are also some modifications to this, and which I need not now enter into, but, merely say I would adopt lower altitudes in almost every case, and on, say—about a twelve thousand feet level with a barometric standard number of, say —eighteen inches, a quicker speed than I have mentioned can be obtained with (as I believe) safety and ease although the resistance would be greater than that named ; but, lest this view should frighten those who may not feel inclined to study the matter, I end as I began by stating " to London in four days," over land and water, by a speed of about one hundred geographical miles per hour (adding difference in time), starting, say from Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane. This proposed machine has nothing of the balloon principle, or the "flying nonsense" in or about it. It is, say forty-two feet long, nine feet deep, and twelve feet broad; weight, about seven and one half tons ; cost of construction in Melbourne or Sydney, about two thousand pounds, more or less. Nota Bene: Meat frozen while travelling. Fruit or other things can be conveyed and delivered fresh in any town in the world, within six days, from any other town! 

The compass works as well at two or three miles above the earth's mean level as upon sea, so Guy Lussac and others observe!' The elevations and situation of the different table lands and mountains are now generally determined, and the latter would become as it were, both direction and mile-posts! The range of view, when not obscured by clouding or laud, would be very great. For instance, approaching Otahiti at an altitude of, say, ten thousand feet you have one hundred and fourteen miles for this altitude, and for seven thousand feet (land elevation) ninety-six miles, therefore the Island could be seen when two hundred and ten geographical miles distant, or in round numbers, say—200 miles. Now, as to manoeuvring, &c.,—when ascending or running, the four risers are connected ; the drivers generally are connected, but the side you wish to turn to is accomplished thus,—you break the connection by a cock and opening another on a small pipe you admit sufficient air to weaken this driver, when your direction is gained (or rather before this) you shut it, then by opening the former cock the pressure becomes equal in both, and you carry on your course bringing up, by fan, your drivers to your standard strength. By a somewhat similar process you can depress the machine fore or aft, because the risers can be shut off in couples and weakened in couples. 

When a journey is ending and the driving power is very much reduced, but not all destroyed, you select and pass beyond a suitable landing place, "to starboard or port," always descending by first weakening a little the after pair of risers—the lowering angle should not be more than about twenty-five degrees of depression or dip. You are now sliding down, and carefully watching, in two or three seconds you turn a cock your hand must be upon, and the four risers are almost instantly equalised. The machine level weakens the risers a little, and proceeding slowly to your selection you dip by the bow, not over ten degrees, manoeuvring by the drivers, and when within some ten feet of the ground you destroy the driving power and the dip. If well done you descend gently like a feather, the rubber of the keel coming into play a little. 

I am, Sir, your most obedient servant, 

F. W. BIRMINGHAM, Civil Engineer.


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