The loss of the quicksilver during the operation has been vary variously estimated, some stating that it is 50 per cent. and more, while others place it at 30 per cent. Escosura, in his work, gives the details of an operation checked by a royal commission in 1872, according to which the loss in working ore running 9.55 per cent. was only 4.41 per cent.—a loss which he considered inevitable. In 1806, two Idria furnaces were put up at Almaden, but the engineers are not favorably impressed with them. The first cost is stated to be more than ten times greater than that of an aludel furnace, while the capacity is only 50 per cent. greater. One pair of Idria furnaces in five years produced 120,000 kilogrammes of quicksilver, against 843,000 kilogrammes made by eight sets of the Bustamente furnaces, the cost per kilogramme of quicksilver being respectively 0.121 and 0.056 peseta.
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While it is undoubtedly true that the discovery of the balloon has very greatly retarded the science of aerostation, yet, in my opinion, its field of usefulness as a vehicle for pleasure excursions, for explorations, and for scientific investigations, has not been fully developed for the want of certain improvements, the nature of which it is the object of this paper to point out. The improvement of which I am about to speak relates to the regulation of the buoyancy of the balloon. This is now done by throwing out ballast or by allowing some of the gas to escape—a method which necessitates the carrying of an unwieldy amount of sand and the expenditure of an unnecessary amount of gas.