April is National "celebrate the sky" kite month. In order, for me, to better understand the celebrations I attended a Kite Festival held in Santa Barbara California. This year's 26th annual event was dedicated to the earthquake and tsunami recovery of Santa Barbara's sister city Toba, Japan.
The weather gave us the joys of flying a kite into the clear blue sky. Winds were blowing for the most part. People of all ages came out to fly kites, join in activities, hear some history, and ask the Kite Master any questions they had about kites or the materials used.
Some people were attending for the first time, there were lots of children focused on parents verbal instructions and smiling with success, upon launching their kites high into the skies above.
What an exciting feeling it was to achieve kite elevation and pay attention as the winds decreased and then shifted direction. It's very relaxing and comfortable as long as your kite lines don't get tangled with other kite enthusiasts.
Kites were used approximately 2800 years ago in China, where the materials are ideal for kite building and available. Silk for sail material; fine, high tensile strength silk for flying line; and resilient for a strong, lightweight framework.
The kite was said to be the invention of the famous 5th century BC Chinese philosophers Mozi and Lu Ban. By 549 AD paper kites were being flown, as it was recorded in that year a paper kite was a message for a rescue mission. Ancient and medieval Chinese sources list other uses of kites for measuring distances, testing the wind, lifting men, signaling, and communication for military operations.
The earliest know Chinese kites were flat, not bowed, and often rectangular. Later, tailless kites incorporated a stabilizing bowline. Kites were decorated with mythological motifs and legendary figures; some were fitted with strings, whistles, and made musical sounds while in the air.
The kite further evolved into the Fighter kite known as the Patang in India. Their annual kite running competitions are held every year on the day of Makar Sankaranti. Stories of kites were brought to Europe by Marco Polo towards the end of the 13th century, and kites were brought back by sailors from Japan and Malaysia in the 16th and 17th centuries. By the 18th and 19th centuries kites were being used as vehicles for scientific research.
In 1750, Benjamin Franklin published a proposal for an experiment to prove that lighting electricity by flying a kite in a storm that was capable of becoming a lighting storm. It is not known weather Franklin ever performed his experiment, but on May 10, 1752, Thomas-Fracois Dilibard of France conducted a similar experiment using a 40-foot iron rod instead of a kite and extracted electrical sparks from a cloud.
From 1860 to about 1910 became the "golden age of kiting". Kites started to be used for scientific purposes, especially in meteorology, aeronautics, wireless communications and photography; reliable manned kites were developed as well as power kites.
Invention of the powered airplane diminished inte
rest in kites. World War II saw a limited use of kites for military purposes. Since then they are used mainly for recreation due to lots of improvement in technology.
Kites typically consist of use one or more spars to which a paper or fabric sail is attached. Although foil kites have no spars at all. Classic kites use bamboo, rattan or some other strong but flexible wood for the spars, paper, or light fabrics such as silk for the sails, and are flown on string or twine. Modern kites use synthetic materials, such as ripstop nylon or more exotic fabrics for sails, fiberglass or carbon fibre for spars and dacron or dyneema for the kite lines.
Kites can be designed with many different shapes, forms, and sizes. Like flat geometric designs, boxes, and other three dimensional forms, or modern sparless inflatable designs. Children's flown kites are often simple geometric forms like the diamond. When my siblings were little, I ordered kite kits and sewed them using special needles and on my sewing machine. The fabric was a ripstop nylon and would you believe, they are still here today many many years later.
In Asia, children fly dried symmetrical leaves on sewing thread and sled-style kites made from sheets of folded writing paper. Designs often emulate flying insets, birds, and other beasts, both real and mythical. The finest Chinese kites are made from spit bamboo, covered with silk, and hand painted.
On larger kites, hinges and latches allow the kite to be disassembled and compactly folded for storage or transport. The more inexpensive mass-produced kites are often made from printed polyester rather than silk. Tails are used for some single-line kite designs to keep the kite's nose pointing into the wind. On large kites these tails, spinners and spinsocks can be 50 feet long or more.
Modern acrobatic kites use two or four lines to allow fine control of the kite's angle to the wind. Traction kites may have an additional line to de-power the kite and quick-release mechanisms to disengage flyer and kite in an emergency. So get outside bundle up and go fly a kite!
Have you indulged your child-like qualities and flown a kite lately?
Did you make your own favorite style kite as a child?
google images, wiki, SB Kite Festival