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US balloonist fails in bid to cross Atlantic

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

An American adventurer's bid to float across the Atlantic to Europe under a cluster of 370 colorful helium balloons failed when he was forced to land in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, he said Friday.

Balloon enthusiast Jonathan Trappe's attempt drew comparisons with the plot of the Oscar-winning animated movie "Up," about a pensioner who uses a similar bunch of balloons to fly his home to South America.

Trappe's daring intercontinental flight ended around sunset Thursday as he touched down in a remote area west of the Newfoundland town of Corner Brook and south of the ominously named Blow Me Down provincial park.

"Mr. Trappe is uninjured and is making his own way" out of the wild, Sergeant Marc Coulombe of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) told AFP by email Friday.

Trappe, 39, had earlier written on his Facebook page: "Landed safe, at an alternate location. Remote."

He also quipped: "Hmm, this doesn't look like France."

"Sadly Jonathan has been forced to abandon his quest early after experiencing technical difficulties over Newfoundland," said a brief statement Friday on his venture's Tumblr account.

"However, we are happy to report he is safe and well."

When he was over the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, approaching Newfoundland, Trappe's ground team reported he was moving at 93 kilometers (58 miles) per hour at an altitude of 4,640 meters (15,223 feet).

Trappe had earlier posted on upbeat message on Facebook after lifting off at dawn Thursday from Caribou, Maine to the strains of the US national anthem and cheers from his ground crew.

"In the quiet sky, above the great Gulf of St. Lawrence, traveling over 50 mph in my little yellow rowboat at 18,000 feet," he said optimistically.

He was referring to the made-in-Maine survival dinghy that served as his craft's gondola -- although he noted with so many balloons attached, he could stay aloft even if some burst in flight.

Trappe has previously flown cluster balloons over the English Channel and the Alps. He had expected to cross to Europe or North Africa in three to six days, depending on weather.

rom/jm

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130913/us-balloonist-fails-bid-cross-atlantic-0