Fears for Fossett as balloon loses contact with base

MILLIONAIRE balloonist Steve Fossett lost contact with his control centre while over the South Pacific last night, amid fears that he might have gone down in the water.

Fossett was in the 10th day of his attempt to be the first to fly around the world non-stop in a balloon. His last reported position was 500 miles north-west of New Caledonia and about the same distance from the Australian coast.

At the weekend, the Chicago financier broke his own earlier record for distance travelled in a balloon when he reached the halfway point in his circumnavigation attempt.

As the 54-year-old millionaire flew over the small beach town of Geraldton, Australia, he was seen poking his head over the gondola to view the last continent he will cross before heading across the Pacific Ocean towards South America.

Fossett then told mission control in St Louis it was going well. "I was very worried over the Indian Ocean, that I would be caught and captured by the high-pressure area and never be able to get out of it," he said.

His ground crew burst into applause on learning he had travelled 10,480 linear miles, breaking his own record of 10,360 miles set in January 1997. This is his fourth attempt to circumnavigate the word.

A balloon has no way to propel itself or steer, and moves by climbing or descending into winds going in the desired direction. That makes the meteorologists on the crew vital to the flight's success.

Fossett has communicated with his crew by e-mail, using a computer that transmits to a satellite, getting immediate reports on how to avoid winds that could blow him off course.

Earlier, Alan Blount, director of mission control at Washington University in St Louis, said although the trip was going well there was concern Fossett might run out of oxygen before making it to South America, from where he took off eight days ago. However, it was thought the balloonist would have enough to finish the quest, which was expected to take at least six more days.

To circle the globe officially, Fossett must land anywhere east of Mendoza, Argentina, from where he lifted off on 7 August. He has some way to go before he breaks the record for the longest-lasting balloon flight. That record, of nine days, 17 hours and 55 minutes, was set in January by a Swiss pilot, Bertrand Piccard. He was forced to abandon his round- the-world attempt when China refused to let him cross its airspace.

Fossett had said that if he was successful, he would donate half his $1m prize to Washington University.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower