Five Weeks in a Balloon
Jules Verne
Novels
10:50 h
Level 7
Five Weeks in a Balloon, or, A Journey of Discovery by Three Englishmen in Africa is an adventure novel by Jules Verne, published in 1863. It is the first novel in which he perfected the "ingredients" of his later work, skillfully mixing a story line full of adventure and plot twists that keep the reader's interest through passages of technical, geographic, and historic description. The book gives readers a glimpse of the exploration of Africa, which was still not completely known to Europeans of the time, with explorers traveling all over the continent in search of its secrets. A scholar and explorer, Dr. Samuel Fergusson, accompanied by his manservant Joe and his friend professional hunter Richard "Dick" Kennedy, sets out to travel across the African continent — still not fully explored — with the help of a balloon filled with hydrogen. He has invented a mechanism that, by eliminating the need to release gas or throw ballast overboard to control his altitude, allows very long trips to be taken. This voyage is meant to link together the voyages of Sir Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke in East Africa with those of Heinrich Barth in the regions of the Sahara and Chad. The trip begins in Zanzibar on the east coast, and passes across Lake Victoria, Lake Chad, Agadez, Timbuktu, Djenné and Ségou to St Louis in modern-day Senegal on the west coast. The book describes the unknown interior of Africa near modern-day Central African Republic as a desert, when it is actually savanna.

Five Weeks in a Balloon

Or,
Journeys and Discoveries in Africa by Three Englishmen

by
Jules Verne


The animal attempts, in vain, to cut himself loose.

Publishers’ Note

“Five Weeks in a Balloon” is, in a measure, a satire on modern books of African travel. So far as the geography, the inhabitants, the animals, and the features of the countries the travellers pass over are described, it is entirely accurate. It gives, in some particulars, a survey of nearly the whole field of African discovery, and in this way will often serve to refresh the memory of the reader. The mode of locomotion is, of course, purely imaginary, and the incidents and adventures fictitious. The latter are abundantly amusing, and, in view of the wonderful “travellers’ tales” with which we have been entertained by African explorers, they can scarcely be considered extravagant; while the ingenuity and invention of the author will be sure to excite the surprise and the admiration of the reader, who will find M. VERNE as much at home in voyaging through the air as in journeying “Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas.”


Chapter First

The End of a much-applauded Speech. — The Presentation of Dr. Samuel Ferguson. — Excelsior. — Full-length Portrait of the Doctor. — A Fatalist convinced. — A Dinner at the Travellers’ Club. — Several Toasts for the Occasion.

There was a large audience assembled on the 14th of January, 1862, at the session of the Royal Geographical Society, No. 3 Waterloo Place, London. The president, Sir Francis M — , made an important communication to his colleagues, in an address that was frequently interrupted by applause.

This rare specimen of eloquence terminated with the following sonorous phrases bubbling over with patriotism:

“England has always marched at the head of nations” (for, the reader will observe, the nations always march at the head of each other), “by the intrepidity of her explorers in the line of geographical discovery.” (General assent). “Dr. Samuel Ferguson, one of her most glorious sons, will not reflect discredit on his origin.” (“No, indeed!” from all parts of the hall.)

“This attempt, should it succeed” (“It will succeed!”), “will complete and link together the notions, as yet disjointed, which the world entertains of African cartology” (vehement applause); “and, should it fail, it will, at least, remain on record as one of the most daring conceptions of human genius!” (Tremendous cheering.)

“Huzza! huzza!” shouted the immense audience, completely electrified by these inspiring words.

“Huzza for the intrepid Ferguson!” cried one of the most excitable of the enthusiastic crowd.

The wildest cheering resounded on all sides; the name of Ferguson was in every mouth, and we may safely believe that it lost nothing in passing through English throats. Indeed, the hall fairly shook with it.

And there were present, also, those fearless travellers and explorers whose energetic temperaments had borne them through every quarter of the globe, many of them grown old and worn out in the service of science. All had, in some degree, physically or morally, undergone the sorest trials. They had escaped shipwreck; conflagration; Indian tomahawks and war-clubs; the fagot and the stake; nay, even the cannibal maws of the South Sea Islanders. But still their hearts beat high during Sir Francis M — ‘s address, which certainly was the finest oratorical success that the Royal Geographical Society of London had yet achieved.

But, in England, enthusiasm does not stop short with mere words. It strikes off money faster than the dies of the Royal Mint itself. So a subscription to encourage Dr. Ferguson was voted there and then, and it at once attained the handsome amount of two thousand five hundred pounds. The sum was made commensurate with the importance of the enterprise.

A member of the Society then inquired of the president whether Dr. Ferguson was not to be officially introduced.