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Jean-Louis Etienne balloon update: Passing the North Pole in disturbed weather

Posted: Apr 08, 2010 09:33 pm EDT

Frenchman Jean-Louis Etienne passed close over the North Pole at around 18h15 on April 7 in his rozière balloon, reported his home team. The whole day he was given a battering in the snowstorm. For fourteen hours he sailed along at low altitude trying to stay 150 meters from the ground in the violent winds that were upcurrents and then columns of sinking air, he reported.

He continued, This meant that the balloon rose very high up and then suddenly fell just as violently. When it descended the solar panels took off and smashed against the gondola. It was quite spectacular and exhausting. I haven't had much sleep since the start. There is certainly some very disturbed weather at the Pole at the moment.

Energy problem

Because of yesterday's snowstorm, Jean-Louis solar panels were unable to charge up his batteries correctly and this power problem meant that he had to climb up further to find some sunshine, reported his home team. He went up to an altitude of 3000 meters to give a boost to his batteries.

By saving energy, he has easily got 48 hours of self-sufficiency, they explained and assured the flight and his safety are not in question.

Change in flight plan

The home team explained that consequently, the fact that he climbed higher up moved him away from the ideal trajectory (towards Alaska as originally planned). He moved to the right and this large shift means that he is now heading for Siberia instead of North America. But that doesn't really change much about the flight itself. He is going to cover around 3000 km (1875 miles) across the Arctic Ocean.

He is now heading for the port of Tiksi (Siberia), on the edge of the Arctic Ocean where his recovery team will pick him up, some time on April 10.

Stats about the flight (at 14h00 April 8)

Flight time: 3 days 8 hours
Distance covered since the start: 2345 km (1465 miles)
Current altitude: 3820 meters
Current speed: 39 km/h (24.3 mph)
Average speed since the start: 29.3 km/h (18.3 mph)
Position: 78°16'N, 143°23'E

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.

He passed close over the North Pole during the night of April 7, but strong winds were blowing him to Siberia instead of Alaska. He is heading for Tiksi and is going to cover around 3000 km (1875 miles) across the Arctic Ocean.

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 Rozière 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.

#Polar #Air

Jean-Louis Etienne: The gas bottles have been installed on the outside of the nacelle, attached to a stainless steel support frame. The bottles are numbered from 1 to 12, going clockwise. This system allows me to monitor may gas consumption very easily. The bottles are divided into two groups of six, with each bottle connected to the group manifold, which is in turn connected to a burner feed tube. There are two burners so I needed two manifolds. This system means I can open or close a gas bot..
courtesy Jean-Louis Etienne / Generali Arctic Observer, SOURCE