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Bid to cross Atlantic in flying rowboat fizzles, balloonist rescued

Ambitious stunt doesn't quite fly, as Canadian news chopper picks up North Carolina man who landed in Newfoundland.

Balloon bid
Jonathan Trappe lifted off from Maine under 370 balloons. YouTube screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

"Hmm, this doesn't look like France."

That was the rather uninspiring final shipboard message from Jonathan Trappe, a true romantic possessed of bravery, ingenuity, and a desire to fly across the Atlantic under a bunch of balloons.

In a real-life echo of the Pixar film "Up," Trappe set off from Caribou, Maine, on Thursday in a rowboat that was carried into the sky by 370 helium-filled balloons.

His goal: to float to Europe. Unfortunately, the odyssey failed after only 12 hours, with Trappe getting no farther than Newfoundland.

It's unclear what forced the balloon-boat down. Floating eastward, he posted on Facebook: "In the quiet sky, above the great Gulf of St. Lawrence, traveling over 50 mph -- in my little yellow rowboat, at 18,000 feet."

It must have been beautiful and terrifying. A few hours later, however, Trappe posted that he landed safely at an "alternate location" and then bedded down for the night in his specially constructed boat, which could be used to ditch in the ocean. He included his coordinates on a satellite map.

On Friday, a helicopter chartered by CBC News found him and picked him up from an area south of Lark Harbour on Newfoundland's west coast described as rugged and isolated.

"I've never been so glad to see the media," Trappe was quoted as telling CBC News videojournalist Lindsay Bird.

Newfoundland is no stranger to helping transatlantic flights making unexpected landings. Gander International Airport took in thousands of passengers and crew from 39 flights in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

Trappe, a 39-year-old IT consultant from Raleigh, N.C., had previously crossed the English Channel and the Alps while suspended from a cluster of balloons.

He prepared for his latest journey for two years, aiming to be the first to cross the Atlantic in a similar manner. The trip could have taken up to six days, leaving him anywhere from Norway to northern Africa depending on the winds.

Check out the vid below of Trappe taking off from Maine. We hope he's enjoying a warm meal in St. John's, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Better luck next time.