A Russian balloonist looks set to smash the world circumnavigation record set by the late Steve Fossett 14 years ago.
Depending on wind conditions, Fedor Konyukhov, 64, is expected to land somewhere between where he left – the town of Northam 95km northeast of Perth – and the Goldfields town of Kalgoorlie on Saturday morning.
That would mean he will have flown his hot air balloon around the world non-stop in 11 days, breaking Mr Fossett’s 2002 record of 33,000km in 13 days and eight hours.
The journey has been perilous at times, and the seasoned traveller told his crew he was in “survivalist mode”. Most recently Mr Konyukhov was forced to make a large deviation south, as he travelled over the Southern Ocean towards Australia, due to a strong polar jet stream pushing him towards Antarctica.
His son Oscar said the final leg had been the hardest part of the journey.
“It has been very hard [for Fedor] after several nights over the Indian Ocean where he was closer to Antarctica than Australia,” Oscar said. “But he just called us and said he’s okay. He’s ready to see the Australian coast.”
Oscar said the adventurer had covered more than 30,000km by mid-afternoon Friday and would have to ease off on his current speed of 220km/h so he could safely land after sunrise.
The adventurer, who is also a Russian orthodox priest, is no stranger to long, perilous journeys.
He 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.
That latest 16,000km mission, from Chile to Australia took 160 days, rowing 80 kilometres each day.