Balloonist Attempts Record Flight Across the Atlantic

Jonathan Trappe, seen here in this undated photo posted to Facebook, is attempting to cross the Atlantic in a custom boat suspended from a cluster of balloons. (Jonathan Trappe/Facebook)

American balloonist Jonathan Trappe is attempting to soar into the history books and become the first person to cross the Atlantic Ocean using only cluster balloons.

Trappe took to the skies today in the early-morning fog of Caribou, Maine, under a canopy of hundreds of brightly colored balloons. He ascended slowly, seeking the wind currents he hopes will ferry him safely across the ocean.


The scene was reminiscent of the movie "Up," in which an elderly widower ties thousands of balloons to his house in order to complete his dream of flying to South America.

"Two years of work comes down to tonight, and then this flight," Trappe wrote on his website in advance of his lift-off. "Two years of work, and years more of dreams. My heart could never live a long life the way it is beating now."

Trappe is attempting the crossing with about 370 balloons. He will pop or release balloons and drop ballast in order to accommodate shifting weather and wind patterns during the crossing.

Depending on the wind currents, Trappe could end up landing anywhere from Morocco to Norway. He estimates the trip will take between three and six days.

The last man to successfully cross the Atlantic in a Helium balloon was Colonel Joe Kittinger in 1984, though he completed the journey with a conventional single hot-air balloon, not hundreds of smaller ones. Kittinger himself will be providing Trappe with weather updates as he attempts the Atlantic crossing.

"This is very serious; it is the great Atlantic Ocean," Trappe wrote on his website speaking of the danger involved in his record-breaking attempt. "Five people have lost their lives attempting to cross these waters in a balloon, and two non-pilots were lost into the oceans flying cluster balloons."

Trappe, 39, who works as an IT manager in North Carolina, has previously completed successful cluster balloon voyages across the Alps and the English Channel. He and his team waited for over 100 days for just the right weather conditions capable of carrying him across the ocean.

A scene from the Disney film, "Up". (Credit: Disney)

You can track Trappe's flight progress via satellite here and receive updates by following Trappe on Facebook.

Trappe's flight isn't the only potentially record-breaking ocean crossing under way. Twenty-eight-year-old British rower Sarah Outen is currently attempting to become the only woman to row solo across the North Pacific.

Earlier in the month, 64-year-old American swimmer Diana Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the protection of a shark cage.

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