Unidentified Hot Air Balloon, HM Dover Coastguard Station, Swingate, Kent, UK

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John Latter on April 12, 2011

An early morning view from the south, taken on Thursday, April the 7th, 2011, of Dover Coast Guard Station which overlooks the Straits of Dover and English Channel (behind the viewer) from a vantage point on top of the White Cliffs of Dover.

The Balloon

The hot air balloon above the radar antenna was the last of fifty that I saw pass between the Coastguard Station and Dover Castle (out-of-shot to the left) on their way to Calais, France, in a Guinness World Records bid. It is the only one I photographed whose registration letters I have not yet identified.

The balloon aircraft appears little more than a smudge in this photo, but a blown-up crop of the top-right hand corner shows the markings/pattern very clearly:

Unidentified Hot Air Balloon above HM Dover Coastguard Station

If you subsequently come across a photo showing the balloon's registration letters then please let me know: part of the pleasure in uploading photos of cruise ships (as an example) is the thought that sometime in the future someone might see one of the photos and say, "Hey - I was on the ship that day!" - and the same goes for balloons, of course :)

Fifty-one balloon aircraft had set off from Lydden Hill race circuit in Kent between 6 and 7 am for the estimated four-hour flight to France, with one breaking-down just before reaching the coast. Balloonists came from all over Europe to take part, including Germany and Italy.

Most of the air armada can be seen heading out to sea in the panoramic Hot Air Balloons crossing the English Channel in Guinness World Records Bid photo.

The event marked the first Guinness World Records bid for the largest group of hot air balloons to make the English Channel crossing.

Sponsorship from the attempt will go to three charities, including the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution - see Lifeboat photos), the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, and the Halow Project, which supports young people with learning disabilities.

Also see:

Close-ups of the G-PSAX and D-OLUG balloons.

The Unipart G-BXJH (wide-angle) and Unipart G-BXJH (normal) photos.

The Station

On the left is the Futuristic-looking Operations Room/Control Room.

On the right is the Radar Scanner/Antenna. A similar antenna is used by the French Coastguard at the CROSS Gris Nez Rescue Centre (1) (2).

Out-of-shot to the left is the Microwave Radio Mast whose dishes receive additional radar data from radar sites at Fairlight (near Hastings, East Sussex) and Margate (North Kent) (1).

There are other buildings and a helipad behind those shown in the photo. A second, smaller mast/tower can be seen in the HM Dover Coastguard Station from the West photo: I don't know for sure (yet), but as the Met Office issues weather forecasts for Langdon Bay, it certainly seems possible that the second mast may be used for gathering meteorological information.

The Second World War ex-RAF Swingate Chain Home Radar Station is located nearby.

Click to see all Dover Coastguard photos.

Standard Information

Dover Marine Office Eastern Region, Langdon Battery, Swingate, Dover, CT15 5NA.

Tel: 01304 218509 Fax: 01304 218505

Dover Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC), UK operations base for CNIS (1):

Dover Channel Navigation Information Service (CNIS) is a Coastal Vessel Traffic Information Service (VTIS) mainly concerned with traffic passing through the area (Straits of Dover and English Channel) to ensure that essential information becomes available in time for on-board navigational decision making by the mariner. The information service provides broadcasts at fixed times and intervals, when deemed necessary by the VTIS or at the request of a vessel.

CNIS broadcasts on VHF radio channel 11 every 60 minutes (every 30 minutes if visibility drops below two miles) to give warnings of navigational difficulties, weather conditions and traffic information in the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS). This includes misplaced or defective navigational aids, hampered vessels, deep draught bulk carriers and tankers, vessels under tow, surveying vessels and unorthodox crossings such as cross channel swims. A broadcast is also transmitted for any vessel that appears to be in contravention of the COLREGS (International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea), to warn other vessels that a potentially hazardous situation exists in a particular part of the TSS.

The TSS developed out of a series of experiments begun in 1967, but it was not until 1971 after a series of accidents that the authorities were galvanised into action.

Early history of the Coastguard (3):

In 1809 the Preventative Water Guard was established and can be regarded as the immediate ancestor of HM Coastguard. Its primary objective was to prevent smuggling, but it was also responsible for giving assistance to shipwrecks.

Each Water Guard station was issued with Manby`s Mortar which was invented by Captain George William Manby. The mortar fired a shot with a line attached from the shore to the wrecked ship and was used for many years.

In 1821 a committee of enquiry recommended that responsibility for the Preventative Water Guard be transferred to the Board of Customs. The Treasury agreed and in a Minute dated 15 January 1822, directed that the preventative services, which consisted of the Preventative Water Guard, cruisers, and Riding Officers should be placed under the authority of the Board of Customs and in future should be named the Coast Guard.

In 1829 the first Coast Guard instructions were published and dealt with discipline and directions for carrying out preventative duties.

(1) Extract from the The Maritime and Coastguard Agency website. The Agency "implements the government's maritime safety policy in the UK.and works to prevent the loss of life on the coast and at sea."

(2) Extract from Centres regionaux operationnels de surveillance et de sauvetage:

The Centres Régionaux Opérationnels de Surveillance et de Sauvetage (CROSS, "Regional Operational Centres for Monitoring and Rescue") are a network of stations on the litoral of France.

Their missions are: Search and Rescue, Monitoring of sea traffic, Monitoring of pollution, Monitoring of fishing operations, Broadcasting of maritime safety information, Alert management and information broadcast of maritime security

(3) Wikipedia entry for Her Majesty`s Coastguard

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

This is the Images of Dover website: click on any red or blue "John Latter" link to access the Entry Page.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on April 12, 2011
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2011/04/07 07:42:58
    • Exposure: 0.004s (1/250)
    • Focal Length: 38.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/10.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash

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