Since the dawn of time man has struggled to punch a bird on its own turf. Chasing down a flightless bird is only funny for the first 20 or so times as they waddle and scramble for safety. But a bird in flight, now that was worthy prey. So man put his massive man brain to work trying to think of a way to slaughter all those birds mid flight, a way that didn’t involve just throwing stones at them, which was far less funny than flying up beside a duck and smacking its bill.
Man attempted to create a flying machine. And of course notorious bird loathers the Wright Brothers ended up succeeded but they were far from the first to attempt this feat. So let’s check out some other ones!
Sailors have a long history of being perversely attracted to the albatross, just look at that Ancient Mariner poem that barely even rhymes (was that a joke? ). It’s no surprise then that a sailor named Jean Marie Le Bris decided to kill one of the birds yank its wing off and puzzle out a way to more or less reproduce the way it flew. The result was this piece of awesome ;
Imagine the balls it would have taken, before anyone had ever mastered flight, to make your own damn plane based on a bird you murdered, and then actually try to fly it. Stunning. Rumor has it this thing glided for a few hundred feet on the first go and then, during round two, the pilot overcompensated a little bit, spiraled to the ground and broke his leg, just like what a real albatross will do if you hit it with a rock in the head. So more or less, this thing was a success.
Ritchel Flying Machine
Just look at this aerodynamic bad ass;
You cranked this mother by hand, so right away you were literally taking your life in your own hands by trying to fly it. Mostly it appears to be a hot air garbage bag strapped to a small windmill that you had to hand pedal. If I’m being honest, I would fly this thing everywhere I had to go if I had one available, because short of making your own jetpack, this is the craziest thing I can think of but unlike a jetpack this has a gentle Victorian, lazy ass quality to it you don’t see in many modern day conveyances. You could drink a lemonade while flying this and then, when you get caught in power lines, you could yell something like “Od’s Bodkins!” and then burst into flames. That’s exactly how I want to go out.
I guess the best thing about the design of this vehicle is that, looking at it, I can’t not hear Yakety Sax in my head. Like the moment you start it up, it would begin playing the song itself, some kind of inexplicable design feature that can’t be turned off. And that’s what would make it awesome.
I have to add, even though it’s clearly a small design feature, that tiny wheel at the back really speaks to me. Modern design has no room for tiny wheels, you’ll notice, but old timey design was lousy with them, famously in old timey bicycles which balanced them against a giant wheel. Back in the 1800s, if you designed a vehicle that didn’t have a tiny wheel, you were basically admitting to everyone that you were a shithead and likely not to be trusted.
This thing was designed according to the “crazy as a shithouse rat” design esthetic that you don’t see much of any more. Sometimes you do, with smaller car manufacturers who seem to vastly misjudge the buying public, but never anything quite this crazy.
Usually a human is able to figure out by the time they’re 6 that spreading their arms and trying to fly, even if they have a blanket strapped to their back, is not going to work. Allegedly this thing was tested and it worked insofar as strapping anything kite-like to your back will work long enough to make it hurt that much more when you fall on your ass.
The guy who designed this has 3 witnesses claim he flew it over 900 feet. Liars! Dirty liars! This son of a bitch couldn’t fly straight down if you pushed if off a cliff, just look at it. It looks like Victorian-era Batman had a stroke and no one had the heart to stop him from creating new gadgets. What on earth could this thing ever do? It’s like Bela Lugosi’s Dracula humped a lawnmower or something and this was their bastard child. This thing can’t fly. And seriously, is one propeller dead center and then the other just off to the left? What the hell is that?
Not to be outdone, the guy who designed this had an earlier, steam-powered flying machine as well. Just look at it.
That’s a sandwich truck with wings. Ahh, what an age.