The wonderful lead balloons of Claude Williams Coffee, Junior, Walter Edward Bressette and William J. O’Sullivan: The Echo satelloons in Québec and elsewhere, Part 2

The Echo 1A satellite balloon during an inflation test, 1960. National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Have you watched the sky recently, my reading friend, as implored by one of the main characters in a 1951 American feature film, The Thing from Another World – one of the classics of science fiction cinema of the 1950s? Yes? No? No matter.

And yes, yours truly wrote (typed?) these same words at the start of the first part of this article on the Echo 1A and Echo 2 satelloons.

The present and second part of this article consists of a few lines on what was said about Echo 1A in Québec in August and September 1960.

Are you ready? Let’s begin.

On 16 August 1960, La Presse, a major daily newspaper in Montréal, Québec, mentioned that a couple from Grand-Mère, Québec, Jean-Paul Bernard and his spouse, saw Echo 1A for about 5 minutes, around 1:10 AM, during from the night of 13 to 14 August.

That same 16 August, a respected daily newspaper from Montréal, Le Devoir, pointed out that Echo 1A was observed in the skies of Canada’s metropolis during the night of 15 to 16 August, around midnight, 2 AM and 4:15 AM.

On 17 August, La Presse reported that canon / father Jean-Paul Laliberté, the student director at the Petit Séminaire de Chicoutimi, in Chicoutimi, today one of the boroughs of the city of Saguenay, Québec, and an unidentified (hunting or fishing trip?) companion observed a glow in the sky, on 13 August, for 5 to 10 minutes, a little before 11 PM. The 2 men were at Lake Huard, in the Saguenay region of Québec. Having not heard of the launch of Echo 1A, Laliberté and his co-observer did not know what to think.

By the way, Laliberté subsequently became the founding director general of the Collège d’enseignement général et professionnel (CEGEP) de Chicoutimi (1967-71). Holder of a private pilot’s license since 1961, this hunting and fishing enthusiast deemed it absurd that it was English-speaking pilots who transported him during his expeditions.

He thus conceived the idea of ​​creating a French-language commercial flying school, the first French-language commercial flying school in North America in fact, in Saint-Honoré, less than 15 kilometres (less than 10 miles) from Chicoutimi, where there was a small airport, a former alternate airport for No. 1 Operational Training Unit of Bagotville, Québec, one of the schools in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, a ginormous training plan led by the Royal Canadian Air Force and one of Canada’s main contributions to the Allied victory in the Second World War. (Hello, EP!)

The École de pilotage du CEGEP de Chicoutimi opened its doors in September 1968. It offered 3 year training courses in bush flight and commercial flying. Pierre Rivest, a civil / commercial pilot since 1949 and a civil aviation inspector of the federal Department of Transport responsible for all flying schools in Québec, designed all of the theoretical and practical training programs. The bush flying training program was the first of its kind offered in Canada, if not North America.

It should be noted that the École de pilotage du CEGEP de Chicoutimi has been training helicopter pilots since the mid-1970s. The Chicoutimian school became the Centre québécois de formation aéronautique (CQFA) around 1983. In 2007, the CQFA became the first civilian drone piloting school in North America. Still linked to the CEGEP de Chicoutimi, it is one of the 5 national schools of Québec. Now located in Dorval, Québec, the CQFA is the largest civil aviation training centre in Canada and the largest French-language centre of its kind in North America.

Another national school of Québec is closely linked to the Québec aerospace industry. It is the École nationale d’aérotechnique of Saint-Hubert, Québec. Yours truly is considering the possibility of pontificating on this institution in the more or less distant future.

If I may be permitted a tiny digression, another of these national schools of Québec, the École nationale du meuble et de l’ébénisterie of Montréal and Victoriaville, Québec, was mentioned in a September 2018 issue of our blog / bulletin / thingee, but back to our Echo. Echo. Echo. Echo. Sorry.

On 17 August, 1960, the daily newspaper Le Nouvelliste of Trois-Rivières, Québec, informed its readers that an amateur astronomer from Saint-Maurice, Québec, thought he had observed Echo 1A on 16 August, for about 10 minutes, around 9:45 PM. A telescope allowed André Hamelin to ensure that the glow observed was not an aircraft.

Also on 17 August, a Chicoutimi daily newspaper, Le Progrès du Saguenay, reported that Damien Tremblay, an amateur astronomer from Jonquière, a city that is nowadays part of Saguenay, saw Echo 1A for about 5 minutes on 16 August, a little after midnight. He was then on the roof of the family house.

On 18 August, an unidentified journalist from the largest daily in the Québec, Québec, region, Le Soleil, observed Echo 1A for 10 minutes starting at 8:50 PM – the very time predicted by Albert Cholette, the founding director of the Département de Génie chimique of the Université Laval, in Québec. The daily published an article the next day.

On the same day, in the same article in fact, Le Soleil informed its readers that

Paul Thibault, a resident of Saint-Sauveur, Québec, along with 3 other people, saw not 1 but 2 satellites moving in concert, in parallel, during the evening of 18 August. The journalist of the Québec daily newspaper did not know what to think.

On 19 August, Le Progrès du Golfe, a weekly newspaper from Rimouski, Québec, reported that two local residents, Fernand Arseneault and John Young, observed Echo 1A for several minutes on 17 August at approximately 9:15 PM.

That same 19 August, Le Nouvelliste told its readers that Lucien Lord’s spouse believed she had observed Echo 1A on 15 August, in Trois-Rivières, between 10 and 10:30 PM. Her spouse and son also saw a glow in the sky.

In its 19 August issue, La Presse mentioned that thousands of Montrealers watched Echo 1A around 9:05 PM while it whizzed in the sky, on 18 August. The daily also reported that the satelloon passed over the metropolis of Canada around 11:10 PM, then, early in the morning of 19 August, around 1:15 and 3:20 AM.

On 20 August, Le Soleil reported that a resident of Loretteville, Québec, observed Echo 1A on 19 August, around 8:30 PM, for about 10 minutes. His 2 sons also saw the satelloon. A second, reddish-coloured satellite traveling in the opposite direction subsequently appeared – much to the surprise of the trio. While reporting his sighting to a reporter for the Québec daily, the resident said he was convinced he had seen 2 satellites.

In its 22 August issue, Sherbrooke Daily Record, the English-language daily newspaper in Sherbrooke, Québec, the homecity of yours truly, offered itself the luxury of publishing, on the front page, an article with a photograph in which it pointed out that an amateur satellite observer from Winnipeg, Manitoba, had found a (serious?) error in NASA’s published times for Echo 1A over his city. A 35-minute error, said Richard Bendall. The young man was one of the amateur members of the British Royal Astronomical Society’s satellite tracking team.

As interesting and useful as the articles mentioned in the previous paragraphs were / are, they were completely overshadowed by what appeared in the 27 August issue of Le Progrès du Saguenay. The daily’s chief information officer, Dominique Lapointe, devoted almost an entire page to the nightly visits of Echo 1A. Said article included 2 photographs taken on 25 August and a map of downtown Chicoutimi which showed the 4 trajectories followed by the satelloon during the night of 25 to 26 (?) August. Lapointe and at least another person observed Echo 1A thrice on 24 August and thrice the following day. Henri Bouchard, the heating attendant at the Orphelinat de l’Immaculée, in Chicoutimi, showed even greater enthusiasm. He observed Echo 1A every night between 15 and 22 August.

Aware of the palpable interest of their readers, Québec daily newspapers such as Le Progrès du Saguenay and Sherbrooke Daily Record, not to mention at least one weekly newspaper, La Patrie du Dimanche, published timetables for the passages of Echo 1A in early September. Indeed, a few days later, Le Nouvelliste mentioned with the utmost seriousness that it was not uncommon to see small groups of local residents, in the middle of a street, at night, peering into the celestial vault.

Sherbrooke Daily Record noted that an astronomer living in Massawippi, Québec, mentioned the possibility that the satelloon would be eclipsed by the Earth in the days that followed. James Hargreaves knew something about eclipses. In February 1952… And no, I will not devote only 1 sentence or 3 to this very interesting character. Hargreaves deserves an article from our blog / bulletin / thingee, in February 2022 at the latest. Pinky sworn. Peut-être.

For one reason or other, including the passage of the satelloon in the shadow of the Earth perhaps, Echo 1A was apparently no longer visible from the beginning of October 1960 onward, and this in Québec / Canada and in the United States. Pity.

This being said (typed?), our blog / bulletin / thingee will be visible again next week, if the Flying Spaghetti Monster and my boss lady do not mind.

See ya later.

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Rénald Fortier