Chinese Sky Lanterns

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,026
Northern NH
While looking for something in storage this weekend I ran into a stash of chinese sky lanterns. Its a cold morning (-9) and low winds so I fired one off. Very impressive lift on a day like today. I live in a rural area with recent snow cover so I am not worried about setting the woods on fire.

For those unfamiliar with them, they are a one time use hot air ballon, basically a thin colored rice paper bag with a light wire ring on the bottom and a wax impregnated cube that is suspended in the center of the opening. Pick a calm cold day, with snow on the ground and then light the cube. Its easier with two people as it takes a few minutes for the bag to fill up with hot air. It then requires a light touch holding onto the rim until it starts to create lift and then its released. At night the candle makes the translucent paper glow. As it rises its picks up velocity and usually when it gets up a bit, the prevailing winds carry it off. The cube usually burns for several minutes. Eventually they go out and fall to the ground. I had one get caught in a tree once and and observed how long the burned out remains lasted, the rice paper was gone after two rainstorms, the loop rusted out and fell off the tree in about 60 days. My observation is they disappear a lot faster than mylar ballons that I find in the woods on occasion.

Not sure of the legality of them in all states but something fun to use on cold clear nights. I knew some folks who would use them while they were ice fishing. Some folks used to get creative and would set three of them off connected by light thread, if it worked well they would rise up and form a triangle. If they picked the weather conditions right and launched them in a sheltered area when they rose up into the higher level winds they would pick up a lot of speed and get reported as UFOs.

Note these are usually available on the internet, since they are throwaway and mass produced the quality of them is not great. They come folded up in box and require a light touch unfolding them as frequently the paper sticks where it shouldnt. Usually gentle tugging will get it to unfold but have a rool of scotch tape around and be prepared to have a few duds that are too torn.
 

EatenByLimestone

Minister of Fire
Jul 12, 2006
7,263
Schenectady, NY
I see them released all the time in the summer... when its dry. Some day it's not going to end well.

Winter is probably one of the safest times to release them!
 
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PaulOinMA

Feeling the Heat
Oct 20, 2018
447
MA
We have a house on the Outer Banks, NC. Neighbor said that people on the beach were lighting Chinese lanterns to watch them drift inland over the sand dunes. Lots of dry vegetation and pine needles inland. Yeesh!
 

Sawset

Minister of Fire
Feb 14, 2015
770
Palmyra, WI
Every year near here a local excavation company would have a gravel pit party. People would set a bunch of lanterns off at once. 1000 or more people. 100s of lanterns. It was a known event, to go to the pit, bring a lantern. Music, fireworks, raffles, lanterns, very cool, all sailing off in a long chain miles into the distance.
 

paulnlee

Member
Dec 2, 2018
239
Flemington, NJ
Stopped vacationing there years ago but don't forget about the ponies.
We have a house on the Outer Banks, NC. Neighbor said that people on the beach were lighting Chinese lanterns to watch them drift inland over the sand dunes. Lots of dry vegetation and pine needles inland. Yeesh!
 

AlbergSteve

Minister of Fire
Dec 11, 2017
747
Vancouver Island
This happened in January. Yeah, bad things can happen.
 
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Grizzerbear

Feeling the Heat
Feb 12, 2019
432
SW Missoura
My family and a bunch of others get together every year and let these off on the anniversary of the death of my friends mom. Its neat to see them dissapear over the horizon one by one.
 

PaulOinMA

Feeling the Heat
Oct 20, 2018
447
MA
… don't forget about the ponies …
Here's a picture from 1990. It's from the porch of my wife's aunt's (and now late uncle's) house in Corolla before the herd was confined to the 4WD area.
 

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Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
15,412
Philadelphia
I see them released all the time in the summer... when its dry. Some day it's not going to end well.

Winter is probably one of the safest times to release them!
We have a neighboring farm that lets off dozens of these during an event each August, when it’s often bone-dry here. Scares the hell out of me, and I have found several of them in the burn dry grass of my lawn, a few years. They’re supposed to be banned, here, but people ignore the ordinance.

I’m glad the OP is doing it in winter snow, it seems unlikely they should be an issue. Hopefully the materials are all of negligible environmental concern, mostly paper and sticks, things that will naturally decompose.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,026
Northern NH
I definitely agree there is time and place for these. I would hesitate to consider using them during non snow season unless the woods were very green. They only work well when there are calm ground winds and high pressure overhead. They go higher the colder it is so they are far better for winter season. I picked up a box of them years ago for a company event but never got to use them so they are hanging around.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
81,160
South Puget Sound, WA
I love to see them, but like balloons, they are not very environmentally friendly.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,026
Northern NH
I consider them as akin to fireworks except that they do not scare animals.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
81,160
South Puget Sound, WA

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
15,412
Philadelphia
I’ve never bought a Chinese lantern, but the ones I find on my property are usually just paper, bamboo, and string. No wire.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,026
Northern NH
I guess they vary, the ones I have are rice paper, wire and a paraffin soaked felt block. No bamboo. As I mentioned one of them got caught up in a tree once and I kept an eye on it. The paper was gone after a couple of rain storms. The wire is a round ring with and x cross piece. It rotted away fairly quickly.

Then again looking at the authority sited Liz Greene is an animal-loving, makeup-obsessing pop culture geek from the beautiful City of Trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch her latest makeup misadventures on her blog, I kind of would prefer a bit more authoritative one. ;)