Cloud2 – Lost At Sea

The day started well, with a bright moon shining through and between the broken clouds. Not the last broken cloud of the day! That’s Jupiter below and to the right of the moon.

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When everyone arrived, we set off to the launch site to get the balloon inflated and the payload ready:

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Here’s the payload resting on a bin to protect the antenna:

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Getting the balloon ready:

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The launch itself was a bit more exciting than it should have been. The wind was pretty strong resulting in the balloon pulling across at quite a sharp angle:

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The wind did ease briefly, prompting me to launch, at which point a gust took the balloon and payload pretty much sideways!

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The payload then headed towards some trees –

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which it managed to miss, then it swung upwards just missing a water tower!

We then packed up and headed towards where the balloon was going. The prediction was for a landing SW of Bury St Edmunds, which meant us driving along the M4 and round the M25. It was then a choice of the M10 or A12, and with the balloon ascending more slowly than calculated we realised that the landing point would be further east, so we chose the A12. We had a good strong radio signal from the payload pretty much all of the way.

By the A12, the balloon was travelling more slowly so we managed to catch up with it. By then it was only drifting quite slowly, but was still ascending. We stopped at a Little Chef so my helpers could grab some breakfast, whilst I sat in the car watching the balloon’s position via the tracking map on the internet.

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After a while someone in the highaltitude chat room pointed out that my payload was now the 8th highest recorded in the UK. Not bad considering I wasn’t trying to get it that high! As I sat and watched, the balloon moved up in the sky and up in the record list, eventually reaching the giddy heights of 36250m (118930 ft) and the fourth highest UK amateur weather balloon launch.

Worryingly, though, the balloon was further east than predicted. Although still over land, we knew that the payload would head east again when descending by parachute, with a strong chance that it would end up running out of land. My helpers left the restaurant at about the time the balloon burst, so we quickly headed north and east on the A12 towards Felixstowe. We had a good signal still but then the signal stopped completely. Other trackers reported the same, and only one person managed to get any data (using a strong antenna from Felixstowe). Meanwhile I called the backup tracker repeatedly, eventually getting some locations back. It was over the sea! We headed for the closest point (Aldeburgh) to where we thought it would land, but couldn’t get a radio signal from it even using a powerful antenna pointed out to sea from the beach. The backup tracker stopped working (presumably waterlogged), so there was no point getting a boat out to locate it. So, we spent a short time at the beach, got some fish & chips, then headed home.

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