World record ballon attempt: Russian Fedor Konyukhov readies himself as world media watches


Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukov being interviewed in Northam by a visiting journalist from overseas. Photo: Olga Klepova.
Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukov being interviewed in Northam by a visiting journalist from overseas. Photo: Olga Klepova.

SBS Russian radio journalist Olga Klepova has arrived in Perth and headed for Northam where with about seven of her Russian colleagues she will cover the take-off of Russian adventurer Fedor Konyukhov.

The 64-year-old Moscow-based balloonist, deep sea submariner and mountain climber is on his mission to balloon the world in 14 days.

Northam has been inundated with foreign press including Al Jazeera, the TASS wire service, Channel One in Russia, a Russian documentary channel, SBS and local media who were all in the Avon Valley town to mark the take-off of the mission.

Ms Klepova said she first met the Russian adventurer, who is also an orthodox priest from Moscow, in 2014.

“He is a real romantic,” she said.

“He believes the world was created for the mountains to be climbed, the rivers to be paddled and the oceans to be sailed by adventurers like himself.”

Mr Konyukhov’s wife Irina has arrived here for the adventure’s start from Russia and his son is also here in Northam as part of his support crew.

The team will begin filling the balloon with hot air at 10pm tonight, and it should be completed by 3am tomorrow.

Members of the local football club will be involved in helping the team lay out the balloon.

Mr Konyukhov will then grab four hours rest before taking off into the sky, expecting temperatures of below 40C for the next 14 days.

For 13 days he will not sleep for more than four hours at a time.

“He is an iconic person in Russia and is also a poet,” Ms Klepova said.

“He chose to leave at this time due to the speed of the winds and despite coming from an isolated part of Russia near the Asov Sea where he grew up, it will be much colder in the air than any part of Siberia.”

Mr Konyukhov had an aborted take-off 10 days ago when the weather conditions were not ideal for the trip and some of his materials were delayed by customs.

Ms Klepova said the weather appeared much better now.

“It will be freezing conditions for him in the air so he has a special suit made to create warmth and retain body heat,” she said.

In 2002, Steve Fossett set the world record by travelling the world in a hot air balloon for 13 days – a record Mr Konyukhov hopes to beat.

His balloon is 52m high and weighs 1600kg. The 64-year-old adventurer has climbed Mount Everest, sailed around the world, walked to the North and South poles and last year rowed across the Pacific Ocean to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

He paddled the Pacific Ocean from Chile to Australia in 160 days.

The balloon will travel at altitudes between 5000m and 8000m.