Record-breaking Pacific crossing anniversary

Hot air balloon Pacific

The anniversaries are coming thick and fast. Last week was the 20th anniversary of the 'dirty tricks case. Today is the 22nd anniversary of the first Pacific crossing by a hot air balloon.

Per Lindstrand and I crossed the Pacific in the Virgin Otsuka Pacific Flyer from the southern tip of Japan to Lac la Matre, Yukon, north-western Canada on January17th 1991.

We set records for the largest balloon ever flown, the longest duration and the furthest distance. But that hardly begins to tell the tale.

After getting into the jetstream, we soon lost half of our fuel by mistake and rose to 42,500 feet. If we reached 43,000 feet the glass dome would explode, our lungs would burst and our eyeballs would pop. It doesnt bear thinking about.

The radio cut out. We were exhausted and the weather was atrocious we couldnt tell if it was night or day. Soon burning lumps of propane were falling around the glass dome and I realised we were on fire.We had to rise back up to almost 43,000 feet to put out the fire by depriving it of oxygen.

Once that crisis was averted, we discovered we were flying way north of our target of California: to be exact, the Rockies, an inhospitable mountain range.

Nevertheless, our speeds (over 200mph) were phenomenal and at least we were heading for dry land. Somehow we managed to make it to the ground, only to find the temperature was minus 60 degrees and we had an eight-hour wait to be rescued. We had landed 300 miles from the nearest habitation, in an area of wilderness 200 times the size of Britain.

While Per reeled off the records we had broken, all I could say was Im dying for a hot drink. We were very proud, incredibly tired, but more than anything, simply happy to be alive.

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