For years archaeologists and scientists have been puzzled about how the ancient Nazcas people of Peru were able to draw the giant designs and figures that stretch for miles across the country's bleak Nazca plains.
For years archaeologists and scientists have been puzzled about how the ancient Nazcas people of Peru were able to draw the giant designs and figures that stretch for miles across the country's bleak Nazca plains. They have been particularly fascinated by the fact that although there are no nearby mountains, the designs are recognisable only from a high elevation.
One theory, which is put forward by the international Explorers Society based in Coral Gables, Florida, U.S.A., suggests that the giant figures were cared by the Nazca while being guided by observers hovering above them in a hot-air balloon. In an attempt to prove this theory, two hot-air balloonists, Julian Knott of Great Britain, and Jim Woodman form Miami, Florida, flew over the figures in a crude hot-air balloon made from materials known before the Inca civilisation.
The airship was named "Candor One" after the giant South American vulture, and the balloon, when filled, contained 80,000 cubic feet (2,250 cubic metres) of hot air. It was made from fabrics similar to textiles recovered from the desert graves of Nazca.
The eight foot (two and a half metre) long basket in which the balloonists travelled, was built in Bolivia from Totora reeds, which are found on the shores of Lake Titicaca, once used by the ancient indians for constructing rafts.
The flight organiser, Michael Debakey, said before the flight that although it would not prove that the Nazcas did fly, it would show that they were capable of doing so. Mr. Debakey believes that the Nazcas could have used hot air balloons to fly over the lines in some kind of ceremony of religious ritual.
What is certain is that symbols, made by removing dark surface stones and exposing lighter coloured soil, were made over two thousand years ago, and they can only be seen properly from the air.
Mr. Debakey has collected a large number of legends and documents to support his theory. Several of the legends refer to flight, and were passed down by the Incas who conquered the Nazcas and flourished until the Spanish arrived in Latin America in the 16th century.
Carvings of birdmen creatures - half man, half bird figures with condor-like wings - have been found on Inca stones. Many of them are similar to the eighteen massive figure carved into the Nazca plains.
Flying the balloon proved more difficult that building it. Once released on its maiden flight, Condor climbed quickly, reaching an altitude of 600 feet in 30 seconds. Then, buffeted by brisk winds, it fell back to earth and hit the ground with a thud, bouncing the two pilots out of their gondola. Free of both pilots and ballast, the balloon lifted up again, and reached 1,200 feet and covered about two-and-a-half miles in 18 minutes, before landing again on the plain.