Monday 13 June 2011

Fly away lantern tethered

A few weeks ago I saw this 'hot-air balloon' Chinese paper lantern at Asia City. The lady at the shop tells me that you light the block of something-flammable and that the lantern will fly. I couldn't resist such a delight for only R15. Yesterday I tried it out, assisted by some friends.

It takes about a minute after lighting the block of flammable-something for the paper balloon to fill with hot air. There's a thin metal wire frame that keeps the mouth of the balloon open; and it is in the centre that you hook the flammable block. With a roaring flame below and black smoke filling the balloon, it pulls from your hands to launch itself sky ward.

The only thing is that I'm a bit of a party-pooper because I couldn't just let the balloon launch itself into the air. I had images of my balloon littering the 'hood when it came down and/or setting fire to something and/or the metal ring getting caught around a cat's neck or bird's leg... So, I tied a piece of string to the ring and let it ascend. Fred took this lovely photo of the flying lantern on its tether.

It doesn't stay alight for very long because the flammable block dies within a few minutes; it slowly descends.
Only a tiny flame on my side of the flammable block remains -
not enough to keep the sky lantern afloat.
I've just found on Wiki that these are called Chinese sky lanterns. Popularly used during Asian festivals.

I'm too greeny-beany sensitive for my own good because I'd love to go to the Lantern Festival but I would be paranoid about the burnt-out lanterns being picked up afterwards. Litter, litter, litter - my pet hate.

I totally agree with Wiki where it says, "As sky lanterns contain a flame, there is the danger that they can cause a fire when landing on flammable ground. They can achieve quite a height and launching them in strong winds is not recommended. After the balloon lands, the leftover thin wire frame may present a hazard to any animal tempted to swallow it."

A wide open paved surface, no-wind conditions, eco-friendly lanterns and a large 'army' of clean-up people would be on my list of festival requirements.

It seems that there are eco-friendly lanterns. "In 2010, lanterns have been developed to become 100% wire-free. Instead of metal, flame resistant wool is used which can be ingested without causing any harm. However these can still be fire hazards."

How cool to go to a Lantern Festival eh? Beautiful!


Stephanie said...

Hi! I just found your blog by searching for "sky lanterns tethered." I have been intrigued by these for so long, but like you, I worry about littering, harming animals, and possibly catching something on fire. I plan to use these at my wedding if it isn't too windy and I'm happy to see that tethering seems to be a good compromise. Thanks for sharing this!

Anonymous said...

Don't believe the "100% biodegradable." They still take months to biodegrade, and in that time can hurt lots of wildlife. Sorry!

adventurelisa said...

Anon - for sure. Everything that is biodegradable takes months to biogegrade - it isn't an overnight process ;(

Anonymous said...

Agreed on the biodegradable...I even sometimes find vegetative matter in my compost heap (like rinds) that takes months to break down. Nothing breaks down overnight. Nothing.

I like the idea of tethering. I love the lanterns but have never used one because they float away & I can't predict to where....but tying it down fixes that & would be a great real life example/science lesson for my kiddos.

Kittyblaster said...

Amazing!!! Who would have thought of that?
Once I launched a sky lantern... but it wasn't tethered!
I saw it falling as a small black dot later.