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Brian & Cavern

Brian Jones, 51, takes a well-deserved break from piloting the Breitling Orbiter

Jones & Piccard

Piccard, 41, (left) and Jones at the start of the record-breaking flight.


Touchdown on the desert sands of Egypt. "We could gave stayed aloft for another day," complained Piccard, "if Brian had only agreed to burn Cavern for extra fuel."


"It's not fair," claimed Richard Branson, 47, from his home on Nekar Island. "Cavern wasn't published until March!"

Press Release

The Book That Ballooned Around The World

April 1st, 1999

CNN Special Correspondant Lola Profi

Record-breaking round-the-world balloonist Brian Jones today revealed the secret of his and Bertrand Piccard's historic high-altitude flight. "A Cavern of Black Ice by J.V. Jones got me through the tough parts," claimed the professional balloon instructor from his home in Bristol, England. "It's one heavy book and it gave us a real ballast problem, but it was worth the extra pounds."

The two balloon enthusiasts set off from the Swiss Alps on March 1st, and then drifted southeast to North Africa before crossing into Asia. The Breitling Orbiter crew had a crucial advantage over rival balloonists: They got permission to pass over Southern China, a move that saved them vital time. "I'm not saying that Cavern of Black Ice was directly responsible for the Chinese government's decision," confided Brian Jones, Thursday. "But we sent them a whole load of books and other goodies, and Cavern was the only thing they kept."

Picking up a fast jet stream over the Pacific, the Swiss-English duo made good time until grinding to a near halt over Central America. There the pilots developed breathing problems and got the shivers as the cabin temperature dropped to 46 degrees. Whilst Piccard, 41, used self hypnosis to deal with the stress, Jones turned to Cavern of Black Ice for comfort. "No matter how cold it was in the cabin, it was always colder on the frozen tundra in the book."

The Orbiter finally picked up the jet stream twenty four hours later and continued eastward toward Japan. Technically, the first ever round-the-world balloon flight was achieved when the duo crossed a "finish line" above northern Mauritania, after a flight that took them more than 28,000 miles in their 180-foot- high balloon. But rather than land in the remote wastelands of Mauritania, the pair opted to head for a more accessible landing zone in Egypt. "We had hoped to land alongside the Giza pyramids outside Cairo," complained Piccard from the Control Center in Geneva, Thursday. "But we were running low on fuel and we'd burned everything in sight. I begged Brian to burn Cavern for extra lift, but he just wouldn't do it. I'd rather torch my undies, he said."

"They touched down very gently," said Don Cameron, whose company in Bristol, England, manufactured the history-making balloon. "Piccard was the first to emerge from the cabin, followed by Jones clutching his hardback of Cavern. The Englishman's first words were, 'When is Book Two coming out?"

Rival balloonist and entrepreneur, Richard Branson, 47, flew to Cairo to congratulate the duo. His own round-the-world attempt ended in failure on New Year's Day when the Virgin Challenger plunged into the cold waters of the Pacific. "It's not fair," claimed Branson from his home on Nekar Island. "Cavern wasn't published until March!" The English airline-and-music tycoon then vowed to take Book Two, A Fortress of Gray Ice, along with him when he attempts to balloon into space in 2001. "They just took the book around the world," he cried defiantly, "I'll take the next one to the stars."

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