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Making the hydrogen was okay, you just add metal to acid, but it was really difficult to get any pressure. So although it was bubbling away giving out loads of hydrogen, if you put a balloon over it it wouldn’t have inflated in the way that you’d expect it, even though there seemed to be loads of hydrogen coming off. So that was a bit of a surprise. So it’s quite difficult to get any decent pressure. Even filling up just a bin liner which is very light, it inflated very, very slowly.
So the first couple of days, even though we’d got the chemistry of the hydrogen production working it was really frustrating. We just spent hours and hours trying to fill up these bin liners with hydrogen, and you’d do one and by the time it’s sort of filled up the one you’d done before had sort of run out a bit. So it was actually quite frustrating trying to get enough of these bags full of hydrogen. So it was just time.
And on day three, Ellen and I had to work out how to join these balloons together onto a little structure so we cut up a little plastic tray, but Ellen wasn’t happy with that because it wasn’t environmentally sound, which she was quite right about. So she made up a really nice little ring by twisting fibres together, plaiting fibres. That was really nice.
And then of course the greatest challenge of all was trying to make this thing neutrally buoyant so it just hovered in the air and then to send it off in the breeze. When we got to the location it was really difficult because it was quite gusty and blowy, and it was very difficult to find the neutral buoyancy because we really needed to just let it hover in the air but it kept on blowing away.
So time was running out so we just tried it, and actually what we found was that it wasn’t weighted enough and the thing just went straight up into the air. And then the greatest ending of all really because it was up to nature rather than us. For some reason the wind changed and it came right back to us, and Ellen’s fuses worked fantastic so the thing was going up, it let go of a couple of the balloons and obviously it was too heavy for the two remaining balloons and it came back down and it basically came right back down to where we let it off. So we had our mail returned to us.
But it was great fun, and the camera guys did really, really well. I thought that was a really hard challenge to try and take a photo, and they did exceptionally well and got a beautiful photo of the mill here. So all in all it was a really fabulous challenge and we had a lot of fun, and lots of unexpected things along the way which is always great for Rough Science.