North Hero, Vermont – October 25, 1920
At 4:30 p.m. on October 23, 1920, a race involving seven balloons left Birmingham, Alabama, all competing for the Gordon Bennett International Trophy For Free Balloons. The declared winners were Belgian army lieutenants Ernest De Muyter, and Mathieu La Brousse, who sailed 1100 miles in their balloon, “Belgica”.
After being in the air for 40 hours, De Muyter and La Brousse found themselves heading in a westerly direction away from upstate New York and out over Lake Champlain and towards Vermont. While over the lake, the balloon began loosing altitude and dropped into the frigid water about a mile off the western shore of North Hero Island. Neither man had a life preserver so they stayed with the balloon which was being pushed across the choppy water by strong winds.
The plight of the men was witnessed by Henry A. Hazen from his shoreline home, and he set out with a canoe to rescue them. The winds were still pushing the balloon towards shore, so when Henry reached it, the men decided to stay with it, and before long it was in water shallow enough for them to wade the rest of the way.
The men were brought into the Hazen household and offered warm blankets and refreshments.
The Barre Daily Times,(VT.), “Belgica Won Balloon Race”, October 26, 1920
The Barre Daily Times, (VT.), “Racing Balloon In Lake Champlain”, October 26, 1920