Monday, July 25, 2011

Jean-Louis Etienne Takes Off For The Arctic By Balloon

Generali Taking Off From Spitsbergen (Photo by Francis Latreille)

Jean-Louis Etienne took off at 06.10 hrs this morning (Monday) from Longyearbyen, in Spitsbergen aboard Generali Arctic Observer to carry out the first crossing of the North Pole by balloon.  This flight represents the third part of his Arctic trilogy, which began on foot, then by boat, before he took to the air. With the support of Zinedine Zidane, the expedition’s godfather, Jean-Louis Etienne took off this morning on a 3500 km voyage to Alaska via the North Pole.
Longyearbyen, 5th April 2010: Luc Trullemans, the expedition’s weather expert got it right. The weather window appeared on Sunday night, allowing the Generali Arctic Observer team to inflate the huge rozière balloon (which uses a mixture of hot air and helium). 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, as it was originally planned for eight this morning. “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. “It all happened rather quickly. They called me telling me to come as we were going to take off.  I’m feeling quite relaxed. It will start to be enjoyable, once I’m a few metres up.”
Jean-Louis Etienne, his team and a few observers, who were present for the lift-off marking the start of this big adventure, had to wait around for an hour, while the final adjustments were being made concerning the flight. Like a dog straining at the leash, the balloon scraped the snow with impatience, as it was just held back by two attaching ropes and a few people had to grab hold to stop it from taking off. In this polar night, where the sun does not go down, with the sun’s rays striking the mountains, Zinédine Zidane enjoyed the fairy-tale sight of this balloon filling up and waiting to be released. “I feel really excited and am pleased to be at his side, as we talked a lot about this”, declared the ex-footballer. “Today is the big day for Jean-Louis. He’s been preparing this for a year and a half.”
When Jean-Louis Etienne’s team released the gondola and cut the last rope holding the balloon down, in a tick the emotion filled the crowd, who were amazed by the sight of this balloon suddenly taking off. A few minutes later, contacted on the VHF, Jean-Louis Etienne admitted that it was thrilling and enjoyable: « It wasn’t just a little bit of excitement, but a huge emotion that I felt at the start. It was an extraordinary moment. A highly charged moment. And gradually it turned to a scene of magnificent beauty. Now calm has returned. I’m gradually lifting up over Longyearbyen. It’s truly magical. I’m starting to see the outline of the mountains. There’s a landscape ahead of me with mountains and water. There is total peace.  It’s really magnificent and exactly how I imagined it.”

Jean Louis Etienne Onboard Generali (Photo by Francis Latreille)

Before passing over the Spitsbergen mountains, Jean-Louis Etienne will be setting up the detectors, which will enable him to take various scientific measurements throughout the voyage to measure CO2, the magnetic field, the suspended particles and the tropospheric ozone. This first solo crossing of the North Pole by balloon is due to last between seven and ten days.

Sumber : Challenge and Adventure Senin, 5 April 2010

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