Breaking the record for the shortest trip around the world in a hot air balloon, 64-year-old Russian explorer Fedor Konyukhov finished his 11-day journey in the Australian Outback on Saturday morning, dropping down 100 miles from his initial departure point.
Tracking the balloon with six helicopters as it prepared to descend, team members assisted Konyukhov with the landing, described by the crew as perhaps the most difficult part of the trip.
Konyukhov, a Russian Orthodox priest, began his trip from Northam, Australia, on July 12 before flying across the Pacific Ocean, South America and back to Australia.
“He’s landed, he’s safe, he’s sound, he’s happy. It’s just amazing,” flight coordinator John Wallington said at the landing site.
Konyukhov surpassed the previous record for a solo balloon flight around the world, held by American Steve Fossett, who in 2002 took 13 days and eight hours while traveling a route 600 miles shorter.
Napping for 30 to 40 minutes at a time, Konyukhov aimed to sleep four hours each day.
While traveling over the Antarctic Circle, his balloon passed through a thunderstorm, and outside temperatures dropped to -58 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heating inside the balloon stopped functioning on Thursday, two days before the flight ended, forcing Konyukhov to heat his drinking water using the main hot air burner, Wallington told the Associated Press.