1973 - Exmouth Rag Week Carnival
In 1973 Rolle College decided to hold a carnival in their Rag week. Some members of the house agreed to join in on the parade and enter one of their cars suitably decorated.
“Let’s have balloons” someone said and it was agreed.
“Let’s fill them with gas” was also agreed.
A week before the parade and a number of balloons were obtained.
One of the house members borrowed a cylinder of gas from the chemistry lab (best there be no names!)
I entered Bud Wing as they were attempting to fill the first balloon. It was an entertaining sight, trying to work out how to stretch the end of the balloon over the gas tap, However, with the inventiveness of desperation, eventually they succeeded.
Someone tied off the first balloon and they started on the second.
The conversation was chunterring around and I happened to ask where they’d got the helium from.
No relied the chemist, not helium, hydrogen!
“But …” I replied “Hydrogen is flammable, you need helium” .
“No, it's not, we need hydrogen”
“But ..” I continued “Hydrogen will explode”
"No, it'll be alright"
There was a long exchange where the various merits of hydrogen and helium were discussed. In the end it was agreed we should put it to a test. The balloon filled with hydrogen was tied to the back of a chair at the end of Budwing. A lighted cigarette was tied to the end of a snooker cue. Whilst the rest of us retired to the far end of the wing to watch, from behind the corner the cigarette was poked at the balloon.
The balloon exploded with a satisfying report and the argument was settled.
However, as we only had hydrogen cylinder, and the prospect of trying to borrow another cylinder, this time with helium was considered a little too risky. In the end we had to continue filling the balloons with hydrogen (whilst not smoking), and being exceptionally carefull when handling the balloons on their way to Exmouth. We also decided we should try to make sure that when we released them they wasn’t anyone too near who was smoking.