French explorer, Dr. Jean-Louis Etienne took off on a 3500 km voyage from Longyearbyen on Svalbard to Alaska via the North Pole during the early morning of April 5. He is onboard a hot air and helium balloon. The expedition is due to last between seven and ten days.
A weather window appeared on Sunday night (April 4) in Longyearbyen, allowing the Generali Arctic Observer team to inflate the huge roziĂ¨re balloon (which uses a mixture of hot air and helium) reported the expedition website.
The operation lasted more than five hours during the night as everything was set up, attached and the 2000 m3 canopy inflated.
Taking advantage of ideal weather conditions, the team move the take-off forward to 06h10, as it was originally planned for eight in the morning of April 5. The weather window arrived a few hours early and so everything was a bit of a rush at the end, declared Jean-Louis Etienne when he reached the take-off area.
According to his website this is a first solo crossing of the North Pole by balloon and is due to last between seven and ten days.
Jean-Louis has been preparing this for a year and a half said his website. This flight represents the third part of his Arctic trilogy, which began on foot, then by boat, before he took to the air.
Jean-Louis Etienne reached the Pole by pulling a dog sled for 63 days in 1986, and in 2002 drifted for four months on the sea ice in the Polar Observer.
The balloon will be a RoziĂ¨re type, supported by a combination of helium and hot air, like the Breitling Orbiter balloon used on their round-the-world flight by Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones. The nacelle will be specially designed for a Polar flight.
Jean-Louis said, During the flight, I will be taking two types of continuous measurements: the level of CO2 in the atmosphere (for the CEA-CNRS Department of Climate & Environmental Sciences) and the Earths magnetic field (for the Institute of Global Physics-LETI-CEA).
In embarking on this daring adventure, worthy of the novels of Jules Verne, I want to draw the worlds attention to: the shrinking of the Polar sea ice and its impact on the lifestyle of the native peoples of the North; the state of Arctic biodiversity; and the planet-wide climatic chaos that will ensue if the Polar ice disappears. The sea ice is the best indicator we have of the effectiveness of the measures that Man must take to curb global warming.
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