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Famed traveler on solo balloon flight bids farewell to Australia, flies over Pacific

July 14, 20:51 UTC+3 SYDNEY
The balloon will be cruising at an altitude of five to ten kilometers, covering a distance of 33,000-35,000 kilometers. Overall, the entire voyage is anticipated to take about two weeks
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© Pavel Vanichkin/TASS

SYDNEY, July 14. /TASS/. The famed Russian traveler, Fedor Konyukhov, who is on a solo balloon flight around the world, crossed Australia from east to west on Thursday, flying now over the Pacific, as reported by the website of Yellow Box, the official flight tracking instrument.

"According to our calculations, he is to cross the coastal line relatively near Newcastle," Konyukhov’s son Oskar said told Tass over the phone earlier. Oskar, who heads the flight center, continues work in Northam, Western Australia.

It took Konyukhov slightly less than 64 hours to cross Australia after he took off in the early hours on Tuesday, July 12, in Northam. Northam is located at the 31st parallel south, about 100 kilometers from Perth.

The traveler’s Morton balloon is expected to move non-stop west to east. After flying over Australia, it will cross the Pacific Ocean, fly over the southern part of South America (Chile and Argentina) and then cross the Atlantic Ocean, fly over South Africa and over the Indian Ocean, expected to finish in Australia in approximately the same area where it took off.

The balloon will be cruising at an altitude of five to ten kilometers, covering a distance of 33,000-35,000 kilometers. Overall, the entire voyage is anticipated to take about two weeks.

Communicating with air traffic controllers

According to Oskar, his father feels well. "We regularly establish communication with him, approximately every three hours, and even more often if necessary," he said. "Today he for the first time boiled water for tea, using vacuum flask in the first two days," Oskar said.

"Up till now we have hourly informed the air traffic control in Melbourne, which is responsible for the airspace over Australia, about the whereabouts of the balloon," he went on. "At the first stage of flight over the ocean we will be sending and receiving information from controllers in Brisbane (Queensland). After Fedor covers almost half of the route across the Tasman Sea, we will start working with control services of New Zealand," he said.

As the balloon moves east, it will be most likely ‘caught’ by air traffic controllers of Tahiti, and then we will establish contact with their Chilean colleagues, then Argentinians will take over," he said. "Maintaining contact with these services is among our main tasks," Oskar added.

Return to Chile

Konyukhov’s getting into airspace over the Pacific Ocean has a symbolic meaning, as he is as if making a return trip on the route he covered two years ago on Turgoyak rowboat. Konyukhov started his solo-rowing voyage from the Chilean port of Concon on December 22, 2013, and finished in the eastern Australian town of Mooloolaba, in the state of Queensland, on May 31, 2014.

He traveled 159 days 16 hours and 58 minutes on a rowboat without calling at ports and without assistance. This time, it will take the traveler several days to return to Chile from Australia.

At the request of TASS, Konyukhov asked his father whether he was now thinking back to his trip in 2014. "Of course," the traveler said. "I am thinking about my row to Australia and that the circle is closing now," he said.

Konyukhov was ordained as a Russian Orthodox priest in December 2010 and has some 50 spectacular exploits to his name. Among them, two ascents to Mount Everest, treks to the highest peaks of all other continents, and rowing across the Atlantic alone for 46 days. Other adventures include dog sleighing for 16 days across an 800-kilometer stretch in Greenland, single-handedly travelling around Antarctica and rowing solo on a 159-day Pacific passage.

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