Keeping up with the Coxwells

December 20, 2019

The recent biographical adventure film release, The Aeronauts, starring Eddie Redmayne, is based on a pioneering meteorological balloon flight made by Henry Coxwell and James Glaisher in 1862. The flight took place on 5 September 1862 at Stafford Road Gasworks in Wolverhampton, UK, and is one of the greatest feats of Victorian exploration. The flight increased our knowledge of the atmosphere and helped to lead the way to modern-weather forecasting. But did you know that the flight was made from the current ADAS (an RSK company) Wolverhampton office site?

A detailed account of the flight can be found on the Wolverhampton History & Heritage Website site. The viaduct behind which the ADAS office is now located is visible in the image captioned ‘lift off from the gasworks’. Coxwell Avenue, the street on which the University Business Park resides and where the office is based, is named after one of the explorers.

The two explorers almost didn’t make it back to the ground alive. As the highest manned balloon flight attempted at the time, the dangers were not fully understood. At about 26,000 feet, Coxwell began to get breathless, and at 29,000 feet, Glaisher also started to experience problems. He had difficulty seeing clearly and could not see the column of mercury in the wet-bulb thermometer or the hands of the watch or the fine divisions on any instrument. He soon lost the use of his arms and legs and fell into unconsciousness. Coxwell was so cold that his hands ceased to function, but he managed to grip the balloon’s rip chord in his teeth, and after three tugs the balloon started to slowly descend. He then expelled more gas to control the descent.

“Not only does the film capture a little bit of the ADAS office’s history, but it also highlights the perils of working alone and why having a buddy is important,” comments ADAS Principal Waste Management Consultant Phil Metcalfe. “Without Coxwell’s fast actions, Glaisher would almost certainly have not survived the descent. As part of our commitment to health and safety and recognising the dangers of working alone, we have recently partnered with SoloProtect, which delivers innovative solutions to help employers protect their lone workers. They will be assisting ADAS by the provision of a two-year contracted monitoring and emergency response call up based around the SoloProtect Go.”

Banner image courtesy of Wolverhampton History & Heritage website.

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