Friday, December 7, 2012

Early image from the stratosphere...

During the past year, a couple of regional events focused upon the Depression-era high altitude balloon flights from the Stratobowl east of Rapid City.

First, a large crowd of folks participated in the September "Moon Walk" -- monthly hikes sponsored every summer by the Black Hills National Forest.  In fact, it was the largest turnout they've ever had, according to Amy Ballard, the ranger who has coordinated the events since their inception more than a dozen years ago.  Some 275 people made the trek to the Stratobowl, now located on private land just a few miles east of Rapid City.  It was a beautiful evening and a wonderful way to learn about one of the many historic events that make the Black Hills such a delightful place to live.

Actually, there was more than one event that occurred at the Stratobowl.  And a couple of them -- in 1934 and 1935 --  related to the above photograph.  These events were highlighted in a posting to Black Hills Journal, an online almanac that features essays, history and photographs about our region.

This fall, long-time Spearfish historian Linfred Schuttler presented a program to the Spearfish Area Historical Society that recaptured some of the events surrounding the Explorer II flight from the Stratobowl in 1935.

Then, last week, LCHS past president Jerry Bryant sent us the above photograph.  It's a fantastic early photo taken from over the plains of southern South Dakota, looking back at the Black Hills and -- in the farther distance -- Wyoming.  Taken in 1935 from more than 72,000 feet, it was the highest point man had ever gone into space up to that time.  You'll find more photos and information in the Black Hills Journal Photo Gallery.  Thanks to Jerry Bryant for sharing this high-flying bit of history!