French doctor and explorer Jean-Louis Etienne set out this morning on another arctic adventure, this time with the goal of flying solo, in a hot air balloon, over the North Pole. Etienne left from Spitzbergen, Norway at 6AM local time, with low winds, a warm temperature, and all around great weather.
For Etienne, this is the culmination of years of preparation. The good doctor has spent plenty of time in the arctic in the past, but this was his dream for closing out his “arctic trilogy”. Back in 1986 he spent 63 days out on the ice, making the journey to the North Pole on foot, dragging his sled behind, and in 2002 he drifted in the Arctic Ocean, alone, for four months, taking scientific readings and observations.
This voyage by balloon was set to go back in 2008, but Etienne’s airship was destroyed when it was slammed into a building due to high winds before it even got off the ground. The resulting damage was catastrophic, and forced him to not only design and build a new balloon, but also seek further funding, and reschedule the entire event. The new balloon measures 25 meters in height and 16 meters in diameter, and is capable of carrying as much as 360 kilograms of propane for the flight. That’s enough to keep it aloft for 15 to 20 days.
Etienne says he is making the journey to draw the world’s attention to the shrinking ice caps and the threat of global climate change to the polar regions.
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