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Flying to the Moon on Geese December 5, 2011

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

Beach has heard rumours over the years of Domingo Gonsales’ strange voyage to the moon in the early seventeenth century [1620s], carried thither by a flock of enormous geese. But it was only this morning that he finally settled down to read DG’s adventures: perhaps inspired by the equally fantastic Zambian moon programme. For those who don’t have time to read through the whole thing, here is an eighteenth-century summary that gives some sense of just how unusual Domingo’s trip was.

An Account of the island of St. Hellena; the Place where he resided some Years in, and where he planned this Wonderful Voyage; his entering on Board one of the Homeward-bound East-India Ships for Spain; their running on the Rocks near the Pike of Teneriff to avoid an English Squadron of Ships, that were in Pursuit of the Spanish Fleet ; Gonsales had just Time to fix his Machine, which carried him in Safety to the Pike of Teneriff, having rested his Ganzas on the Mountain, whence was pursued by the Savages when giving the Signal to his Birds, they arose in the Air with him for their Journey to the Moon : The wonderful Apparitions and Devils he met with in his Progress ; their Temptations to him, which he avoided, and their supplying him with choice Provisions ; his leaving this Hellish Crew, and proceeding on his Voyage to the Moon; his safe Arrival there; the Manners, Customs, and Language of the Emperors, Kings, Princes and People: His short Stay there, to the great Grief of the Lunars; the inestimable Presents in Jewels the Author received at his Departure ;his repairing to our Earthly Globe again, and was set down in China by his Birds; his being taken for a Magician by the Country People, and preserved from their Fury by a Chinese Mandarin; his going aboard an India Ship bound to Europe, his safe Arrival in his own Country, where he made his Discoveries to the King of Spain, who held several Cabinet Councils to deliberate on a proper Use to be made of these Discoveries. With a Description of the Pike of Teneriff, as travelled up by some English Merchants.

There is, it seems, a rather sterile debate about whether this is ‘proto science-fiction’ or utopian literature. What is striking is that there are many spirited references to contemporary astronomy and particularly to Copernicus. This despite the fact that the author was Francis Godwin (obit 1633), then Bishop of Hereford! However, don’t despair Anglicans, once on the moon DG discovers the Lunars, a Christian race hiding out among the woods.

Any other early examples of proto-science fiction from 1500-1800? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

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11/12/12: TF writes in: ‘Not quite in the same league, but there are fly powered model airplanes in
the Smithsonian Air&Space collection.  And in 1887, the US patent office issued patent 363,037, ‘Means and Apparatus for Propelling and Guiding Balloons’, where the means were ‘one or more eagles, vultures, condors, &c” restrained in a harness. The applicant states at the end “I do not claim a device for holding birds that are to carry and hold suspended a car or other aerial vehicle. Birds have not the power to do this for any reasonable length of time.’ Which I find an amusing bit of lucidity in an otherwise fanciful document.’  Thanks TF!!!