Explorer Sets Out For North Pole In Hot Air Balloon

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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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1 thought on “Explorer Sets Out For North Pole In Hot Air Balloon”

  1. Just to add info. JLE was the first at the NP with resupplies. As you all know the first without resupplies was Borge Ousland.

    I don't know how many airreupplies he used. I guess 1 or 2. All I know is that is was his second attempt. On the first attempt he failed early in the journey but learned so much he could plan better his second attempt and succeeded. Going solo at that time was considered almost impossible.

    http://www.northpolewomen.com/History.htm
    (this site claims he used dogs. No he was on foot/ski)

    http://www.3poles.fr/uk-histoire-polenord-4.html
    (to me any resupply is support, so he was not the first unsupported)

    As several sources including explorersweb mention, the balloon is almost the same as the Breitling Orbiter used by Piccard and Jones in 1999.

    translate slide 6:
    http://www.jeanlouisetienne.com/Dossier%20presse-Presentation%20Arctic%20Challenges%20JLE%20-%20%20Mars%202009.pdf

    Anyway, a great adventure for a polar legend.

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