April 26 2010
This crossing was dangerous and more challenging than any expedition I've ever made, because when you're flying you never get a break. That's why I didn't send out any log entries. First, the flight over Spitzberg for 36 intense hours between the sea, the mountains and fog, sailing as low as possible to reach the North. Followed by a 12-hour flight over the ice floe - sheer joy until things got complicated. A power problem arose due to inadequate sunlight on the solar panels. Flying in downgraded mode, I gave priority to the GPS and to Iritrack, the satellite monitoring system on the in-flight PC. Then I lost the timer that regulates the burner and had to pilot manually. As I drew near the North Pole, a snowstorm forced me into 15 hours of hyper-concentrated navigation 300-150 metres from the ground at 80-90 Km/hour! After that, I went up to 500 metres to rest, but not for long. A fire broke out due to a leak in the burner pilot light; burning liquid gas was seeping out into the gondola. The fire extinguisher worked: whew! In a rapid drop, I managed to regain control 20 metres above ground. Terrible stress. The fatigue was building up. I climbed back up to 3,000 metres to recharge the batteries and take a rest, then came down again to 300 metres to continue the journey, this time on a better trajectory. Another power shortage. I had to pilot manually on one burner. The PC told me to lift up to 5,000 metres, where I experienced the first auditory and visual hallucinations that I was aware of. I was breathing 2 litres of oxygen a minute. Then, in full sun, the power overload set fire to the control panel! And then a gas leak on the only burner that was still working! The trajectory had shifted away from Alaska. It was decided I should head for the coast of Russia. After a perfectly beautiful day flying over Siberia, a spectacular touch down. Once I was on the ground, I fell asleep with a spoon in my mouth, after 6 unbelievably intense days.