Go fly a kite
A look through history tells us that the kite is more than just a toy, writes CATHY WILLIAMS
KITES have been flown for thousands of years for art, sport, war and science, as well as just good fun. And although it is not known exactly when and where kites were first flown, one of the first times kites were written about is 2 200 years ago. A Chinese general used a kite to measure how long a tunnel his army needed to secretly reach inside a walled city.
Cave paintings in Indonesia suggest that thousands of years ago local people were using leaf kites, possibly for fishing.
The earliest Chinese kites were usually box-shaped and flat. From China kite-flying eventually spread to Korea, across Asia to India.
Kite fighting became popular in many countries, including Afghanistan. Although the rules and kites differed, the idea was usually to cut your opponent’s line so that his kite would fall out of the sky.
The explorer Marco Polo carried stories of kites to Europe more than 700 years ago, but it took several hundred years before kites really took off in Europe.
There are many records of kites being used for scientific research. Benjamin Franklin used kites to test if lightning was electricity. The Wright Brothers experimented with kites in their quest to invent the aeroplane.
The US weather service flew kites to raise meteorological instruments. Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, built gigantic man-carrying kites in the 19th century. One was made of 3 393 tetrahedron-shaped cells locked together.
During World War I the British, French, Italian and Russian armies all used kites for enemy observation and signalling. During World War II the American army used a specially designed kite – the Garber Target Kite – for target practice.
In the past 50 years there has been a renewed interest in kiting. New materials like ripstop, nylon, fibreglass and carbon graphite have made kites stronger, lighter, more colourful and durable.
Peter Lynn of New Zealand developed a stainless steel kite buggy and it has become popular to use kites on snow, water and ice – you’ve probably seen kite surfers at Muizenberg or Milnerton beach. It’s a good sport for a city that has sea and lots of wind.
In 1999 a team used kite power to pull sleds to the North Pole.
Kite festivals are popular around the world. They include small local events, traditional festi- vals which have been held for hundreds of years and major international festivals which bring in kite flyers from overseas to show off their kites and demonstrate the latest technical kites.
Kiting information courtesy of www.gombergkites.com and www.wikipedia.org.