Russian balloonist Fedor Konyukhov has set a new world record for the fastest hot air balloon trip around the world. The 11-day journey, which began on July 12, took the 64-year-old adventurer from Australia, over New Zealand, across the Pacific Ocean, South America, the Cape of Good Hope, and the Southern Ocean. Upon landing near his starting point on Saturday, July 23, Konyukhov’s crew announced his journey had broken the time record for round-the-world balloon trips.

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The previous record was held by American balloonist Steve Fossett, who flew around the world in 2002 in a hot air balloon on a journey that lasted 13 days. Fossett, who has since passed, was the first person to make a solo balloon flight around the globe. Despite taking a longer route, Konyukhov’s journey beat Fossett’s record by two days.

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Konyukhov spent the lonely journey hunkered down in a tiny gondola, surrounded by the 30 steel cylinders of propane gas needed to fuel the balloon’s burner on its 21,636-mile journey around the world. He documented the adventure with periodic updates to his website. Along the way, the balloonist endured an Antarctic wind storm with temperatures as low as -69F, flying up to 33,000 feet elevation at times.

After 11 grueling days in the airborne gondola, Konyukhov was reunited with family and friends after touching down outside the small town of Bonnie Rock in Western Australia on Saturday. His son, Oscar, told Australia’s Seven News that the trip means several world records for his father. “He beat the speed record, the distance record and he will be the first person to fly solo, non-stop around the world from the first attempt,” he said shortly after the historic landing.

The landing was open to the public, and many who watched Konyukhov touch down were allowed to help deflate the balloon by walking across it to squeeze out the air. Incidentally, some who witnessed the landing walked off with parts of the balloon and Konyukhov’s crew has published a plea for members of the public to return their ‘souvenirs’ so that the balloon can be put on display in Moscow. Missing parts include the balloon’s valve mechanism and solar panels, which the crew insists can be returned with no questions asked.

Via The Guardian

Images via Fedor Konyukhov/Facebook