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Tar Heel cluster balloonist struggles to cross Atlantic, 'Up'-style

Putting a helium cluster-balloon craft at the mercy of nature is more than a hobby for Jonathan Trappe of Raleigh, N.C. Ending a transatlantic attempt in Newfoundland, he sighed: 'This doesn't look like France.'


A balloon cluster carrying Jonathan Trappe lifts off from Caribou, Maine, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. A team waited in Caribou, Maine, near the Canadian border, for weeks in anticipation of a certain set of conditions that would clear the way for launch.

Mark McBreairty/AP

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Jonathan Trappe, a Raleigh, N.C., IT guy, pilot, and the top cluster balloon explorer in the world, abandoned his attempt to ride 370 balloons of helium on “conveyor belt” winds across the Atlantic on Thursday.

“Hmm, this doesn’t look like France,” he posted on Facebook before landing in Newfoundland after 12 hours aloft. It’s unclear whether he voluntarily abandoned the attempt because of unfavorable weather or whether he was forced down. At last report, he was alive and well.

The failed attempt was likely crushing for the almost-40 explorer who has previously crossed the English Channel and the Alps using nothing but small balloons and an office chair.


Trading chairs in for a double-hulled inflatable life boat to serve as his basket, Mr. Trappe, in an online missive, listed other explorers who have sought to cross what he calls “that tremendous body of water” using only “Wind, Helium and Hope.”


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