A British thrill-seeker has flown across South Africa strapped to a camping chair carried by 100 balloons.
Tom Morgan, 38, drifted nearly 16 miles through the sky and reached a height of 1.5 miles after spending two days filling the balloons with helium.
He had previously attempted the cluster ballooning stunt three times in Botswana before finally succeeding north of Johannesburg using the last of his helium supply.
Mr Morgan, from Bristol, said: ‘I found an article on a 1905 gas balloon race and thought “we could do that.” ‘The problem was finding a good weather window and it was difficult to protect the balloons as they kept bursting. ‘It was completely silent and the view was amazing – the whole thing was magical but I don’t think it will be a commercial success.’
The nerve-wracking, two and a half hour flight took Mr Morgan close to the approaches to Johannesburg Airport – but that was not his only concern. He added: ‘I didn’t know what height the balloons would burst, or what the sun would do to them. ‘At 8,000ft they started accelerating – into the flight path.’
The brightly coloured party balloons needed 18×9 cubic metres of helium to get Tom off the ground. The attempt was organised by the thrill-seeking League of Adventurists group and Tom was helped by Buddy Munro and Parajet employee Kester Hayne. Mr Morgan’s friend Matt Dickens said: ‘The guys tried three times before this in Botswana, but sadly gusts of wind shredded the balloons. ‘The last successful attempt was the last of the helium supplies, so it was literally an all or nothing attempt.’
He added: ‘Tom has been harping on about doing something with balloons for a few years now so. ‘If something had gone horribly wrong it would have been pretty permanent.
‘There was a priest from South America who did it a few years ago and he went too high and didn’t come back.’
His achievement is reminiscent of Pixar film Up! in which an elderly widower named Carl Fredricksen sets out to see the wilds of South America while being lifted by helium balloons.
When he wanted to come down he had to cut a few balloons. The League of Adventurists, based in Bristol, was formed 12 years ago and members now plan to introduce a competition based on cluster ballooning.