An Eastern Orthodox priest is attempting to break the world record for a round-the-world hot air balloon trip. Fr Fedor Konyukhov, an explorer who was ordained in 2010, set off on Tuesday from western Australia.
Fr Konyukhov is hoping to beat the time of 13 and a half days, set by the American Steve Fossett in 2002. Fossett’s journey remains the only successful round-the-world balloon trip.
In a long career of exploration, Fr Konyukhov has been to both the North and South Pole, climbed Mt Everest, and sailed around the world three times. He holds the world record for crossing the Atlantic in a rowing boat, in a design he came up with himself, which has since been adopted by others.
Fr Konyukhov was ordained in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), one of Ukraine’s three major Orthodox churches and the only one recognised by other Orthodox churches around the world. It is officially part of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Before his ordination, he was already a highly regarded artist, a previous winner of the Gold Medal awarded by the Russian Arts Academy.
Fr Konyukhov will travel in a balloon built by Cameron Balloons, a British firm based in Bristol. The Roziere 550 balloon flies on hot air during the day and helium during the night.
The round-the-world trip will cover more than 20,000 miles.
Fr Konyukhov’s wife Arina told Reuters that the balloon trip “was his dream from his youth”.