Russian Priest Pops Round-the-World Balloon Record
He battled storms, cold to make it in 11 days
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 23, 2016 7:29 AM CDT
Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov floats at more than 20,000 feet above an area close to Northam in Western Australia state.   (Oscar Konyukhov)
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(Newser) – A cold and exhausted 65-year-old Russian balloonist came back to Earth safely in the Australian Outback on Saturday after claiming a new world record by flying solo around the world nonstop in 11 days, an official says. Fedor Konyukhov, a Russian Orthodox priest, landed 100 miles east of the town of Northam, where he started his journey on July 12, about three hours after he flew over it on his return, flight coordinator John Wallington says. "He's landed, he's safe, he's sound, he's happy," Wallington tells the AP. "It's just amazing," he says. "It's fantastic—the record's broken, everyone's safe. It's all good."

American businessman Steve Fossett also started from Northam to set a record of 13 days and eight hours for his 20,500-mile journey in 2002, when he was 58. Konyukhov took a longer route and roughly 11 days and 6 hours to complete the circumnavigation. His journey of more than 21,100 miles took him through a thunderstorm in the Antarctic Circle, where temperatures outside the gondola fell to minus-50 degrees Celsius (minus-58 Fahrenheit). The gondola heating stopped working on Thursday, so Konyukhov had to thaw his drinking water with the balloon's main hot air burner, Wallington says. Konyukhov aimed to get four hours of sleep a day in naps of 30 or 40 minutes between hours of checking and maintaining equipment and instruments.