Straight to Heaven in a Hot Air Balloon:
– A flight will never be the same after this
Have you ever flown hot air balloon on Svalbard, other flights will be a disappointment, says Nikolaj Trautner.
HOT AIR BALLOON
• A hot air balloon is an aircraft that gets buoyancy by heating the air inside the balloon.
• The first draft of a hot air balloon was made in the 17th century, while the first successful demonstration of a test balloon has taken place in Lisbon in 1709.
• The actual originator of the balloon is the French paper manufacturer Joseph Montgolfier, who in 1782 sent off a silk paper bag filled with warm air.
• The first hydrogen balloon was made by Frenchman Jacques Alexandre César Charles and sent off in 1783. Then it was common to distinguish between hot air balloon (montgolfière) and hydrogen balloon (charlière).
• The first living beings in a balloon was a sheep, a duck and a rooster in a montgolfière, which rose 550 meters above the ground in 1783. The animals landed in good condition.
• The first person in a montgolfiere was Frenchman François Pilâtre de Rozier, who in October 1783 went up 26 meters in a balloon tied to the ground.
• De Rozier and his fellow Frenchman Marki d'Arlandes were the first people in a free-flying montgolfière. They completed a 25-minute journey on November 21, 1783.
• In 1897, the Swedish scientist, engineer, adventurer and balloon pilot Salomon August Andrée were the first trying to reach the North Pole from the air. The expedition with air balloon The Eagle failed and Andrée eventually died on Kvitøya in Svalbard together with crew members Knut Frænkel and Nils Strindberg.
"The thing about balloon tours is that you fly only in good weather. Then you always get a nice experience", says Trautner.
The Dane is part of the ground crew when Pilot Sebe Kruijer, four tourists and representative for Svalbardposten prepares to fly hot air balloon Thursday morning.
See more pictures in the slideshow on top!
Eleanor and Steve Pienaar from South Africa have just run the marathon at the North Pole. Ballooning is the last stop before returning home.
"We were on Svalbard a few weeks before the marathon, but did not want to go in case of an injury. I'm very happy to be able to go now before we leave", says Eleanor.
Also, father Willem and daughter Khadja Verpoest from Belgium are going on a balloon trip the day before they return back home.
The Belgians live in Sri Lanka and Bangkok, respectively, and have been a week in Svalbard.
"It's an amazing place, unlike anywhere else we've been", says Khadja.
"I have traveled a lot, but Svalbard is the nicest trip I have had. It's hard to beat this", says her father.
Each spring, they go on holiday, leaving home in 30 degrees Celcius to a cold destination. In recent years they have been to Lofoten and on a road trip in western Norway.
"Canada is next", says Willem, who likes the north a lot.
The globetrotter in his early 60's, works as a diplomat in the EU. He has been on balloon trip twice, in Cambodia and Rome. Both times the basket has been attached to the ground with cable. Now Willem is going for a real ballooning for the first time.
Read also: Take off from city center for the first time
Pilot Kruijer has flown balloon many spectacular places, including in the Alps. But Svalbard is something special.
"This is one of the most beautiful balloon trips you can do", says the Dutchman.
From A to X
Three snow mobiles with sledges, carry pilot, passengers, basket, balloon and ground crew from the city center into Advent Valley. We make a stop, and the crew sends off a small black balloon.
The balloon takes off towards Longyearbyen, and on the ground the crew gets direct reports of the balloon's height, speed and direction.
They now know the weather conditions and can make plans for the tour with the big balloon - at least partly. Thomas Risch, Sales Manager at Spitzbergen Adventures, has explained to us in advance:
- A balloon ride is a trip from A to X.
You will never know exactly where a balloon will take you, but today there are very good flying conditions. The mini-balloon shows us that the wind goes in a different direction up in the air than down on the ground.
It makes it easier for the pilot to navigate, in a square to land closer to where the journey begins.
The basket is laid horizontally on the ground, and a fan fills the balloon with cold air. Then, hot air is blown from a gas burner into the balloon and causes it to rise.
The snow mobiles function as an anchor which ensures that the balloon and basket are kept on the ground until departure.
Then the pilot and five passengers climb into the basket and gets ready for departure.
With the burner, Kruijer blows more hot air into the balloon, and we get up. It is not long before the cabins in Advent Valley look like little ants. We fly up to 3,000 feet, and at one point we're 4000 feet above the ground.
The only sounds you hear are the gas burner when the pilot wants more buoyancy as well as the SLR camera capturing the moment.
The burner and brilliant sun give warmth and ensure that the temperature 1200 meters above the ground is very comfortable. It's cramped in the basket, but the atmosphere is impeccable.
The tourists are speechless from what they see. The view from the air is magnificent. Around us we see clear and blue skies, the characteristic Svalbard mountains and white snowy landscapes as far as the eye can see.
Although there is not a lot of space in the basket, the pilot is aware that his office is not on the average.
- The view is amazing, says Kruijer.
On the top
He regularly contacts the ground crew during the 50-minutes flight. Finally he is also called by the airline leaders at Svalbard airport, which informs us that a plane will soon take off.
That means we must go down. The cool wind has taken us to Opera mountain.
Kruijer opens a valve in the balloon, releases some hot air and manages to turn the direction of the balloon. We slowly approach the ground. We can see some reindeer before we land right next to the Opera mountain accident memorial. The snow makes the landing soft.
To make sure we do not meet polar bears, we are told to wait inside the basket until the ground crew arrives to take us back on snow mobiles. The tourists are all big smiles.
"It was impressive with the view, all white and the stillness in the air. We picked the right place to go ballooning", says Willem and receives support from his daughter.
- It was amazing. I have never been on hot air balloon trip before and it was even better than I could have imagined. It was so peaceful I could fall asleep up there, says Khadja.
The Marathon couple from South Africa could not have found a better way to recover after 42 kilometers of running on the North Pole.
- This was absolutely amazing. Far more relaxing than running the marathon! It was so quiet up there, far away from the sounds of the city. The nice weather and good visibility made it even more spectacular, says Steve Pienaar.
Ground crew Nikolaj Trautner smiles.
"It's good to fly here. Very beautiful. The problem now is that no other flight can be compared to this. Now you have been at the top!