back to article Amateur balloonists hit record 40,575m above East Anglia

An Oz PhD student has pulled of a bit of a blinder by hitting 40,575 metres (133,120 ft) with a helium-filled meteorological balloon - a UK record and pretty close to the all-time international amateur altitude maximum. University of Adelaide electronic engineering alumnus Mark Jessop normally does his High Altitude Ballooning …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Not a very good...

    ....frequency to choose for the telemetry, that's the input frequency of the RB2 70cm amateur band repeater channel, there happens to be a repeater on that channel in North Norfolk so they really should have selected somewhere less likely to lead to interference.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      But they did get to the pub to finish their "work"

      good planning, that

      Beer icon, obviously

    2. MJessop

      Repeater input query

      Hi Brian,

      Mark Jessop here (from the article).

      We know about the repeater on that frequency. However, we are only outputting 10mW, with a 450Hz signal bandwidth. This is extremely unlikely to break the squelch on a 70cm repeater input, even when it's at altitude.



      1. Chronos

        Re: Repeater input query

        I doubt Brian was concerned about interference to the repeater. More like interference to your telemetry due to someone *using* the repeater which could have been anywhere in range given that you're on the input.

        Oh, and best wisheses to you too ;o)

  2. ratfox
    Thumb Up

    Really cool title

    No, not the article -- Hover your mouse over the white-on-black splasher for "The Register Special Projects Bureau" over the article, at the top of the page. Real nifty.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      and I'm looking at what exactly?

      see title

    2. Martin Silver badge

      ...and what happens...?

      Doesn't work on Firefox, whatever it is....

      1. AndrueC Silver badge

        Oh dear, what a shame, never mind

        Works fine in Chrome. 'tis kinda nifty.

        So's the title effect :)

        1. Cameron Colley

          Has to be asked.

          I don't see it with Firefox, IE or Opera -- so how was it done and why does it only work on Chrom[e]|[ium]?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            It only works on WebKit browsers

            So Safari works too. If you hold down the alt key, it also shows a different image behind, with some fake code.

            Essentially, it uses WebKit Gradient on the alpha channel of the image. I tried to look at the code behind; this made me notice once more that I am completely clueless in JavaScript.

            AC because of my shame...

    3. Kobus Botes
      Thumb Up


      It seems as if Lester has WAY too much time on his hands. Wonder if he is still working on translating "Special Projects" into Playmobil (R) too? Seems to be hidden by something that looks like rope.

      @Martin - yes; even allowing all scripts to run still did not make it work. Works like a charm in Chromium, though.

      Ps. Lester, where is LOHAN - I see PARIS lying there (or is LOHAN still just a blueprint that the cop with the gun is trying to steal)?

  3. Anonymous Coward

    I don't think it can count as an official record attempt without a P^4*

    *Plastic Person as Pilot / Payload. (LEGO or Playmobil figures being the commonly accepted aviators).

  4. Tom7

    Australian Beer???

    As an antipodean, and fellow alumnus of The University of Adelaide, I would like to formally distance myself from such disgraceful remarks. Australian beer is piss, chilled so much you can't taste it. Expensive piss at that; last time I was out there i paid $9 (about £5.80) for a pint of something just about drinkable.

    It's probably the main thing that keeps me from moving back there.

    1. Openminded Cynic

      More expensive than you think?

      Was that £5.80 for a genuine Imperial Pint, or for a 3/4 Pint Schooner that the Aussies are so fond of...

      ...bloody lightweights.

      1. Danny 14

        oh dear

        it isnt about being a lightweight. It is about keeping your beer cold. Better to order 2 back to back than have a warm VB gold.

        1. Openminded Cynic


 could just drink faster. Wouldn't get warm then would it?

          It is quite funny watching Aussies in the UK finish their 4th Imperal Pint then try and stand up, wonder why their legs won't work, then declare "it takes 6 or 7 to get me drunk back home" before they hit the floor.

    2. Martin Budden


      The craft beer scene is really taking off here in Oz. Lots of great beers available now, you just have to know where to look. I'll start by recommending Mountain Goat Hightail Ale and White Rabbit Dark Ale, or if you prefer lagers you should try Knappstein Reserve Lager.

      p.s. I'm a Pom born and bread (very fond of a CAMRA-approved imperial pint) now living down under.

  5. Winkypop Silver badge

    West End perhaps?

    "I much prefer Australian beer (and I'm not talking about Fosters, that stuff is horrible)."

    Now West End, THAT is one disgusting (South Oz) brew.

  6. lee harvey osmond

    Altitude determined how?

    Onboard pressure sensor? What's the margin of error at 40.5km, given that atmospheric pressure isn't constant?

    Moreover: launch from Cambridge at 2011-08-20-07-30Z? Came down in the sea off the north Norfolk coast? Exactly where and exactly when?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Did you bother reading the article at all?

      There's this thing called GPS. You obviously haven't heard of it, but never mind its only been common for decades.

      1. lee harvey osmond

        No, did YOU bother reading the article at all

        John Naismith, I expect better resolution from GPS than "in the North Sea off Norfolk".

        The accompanying map shows something occurring above the north Norfolk coast, which could be either the balloon's peak altitude, or loss of signal presumably because of splashdown or landing. Either way, there are no coordinates given, and the only time value given is for the balloon's launch, although the text of the article indicates the launch crew were having lunch when it passed 40km. I will admit that I didn't notice the 'Z' suffix in the time value shown on the map first time round.

        If on the other hand we knew that the balloon hit the water early in the afternoon, we could be reasonably certain that it had nothing to do with the lifeboat callouts that occurred in north Norfolk that night because of reports of an object suspected to have been variously a sky lantern or a distress flare.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Sky lantern

          I was in the Windham Arms in Sheringham yesterday at the same time as some of the lifeboat crew and they said it was Chinese lanterns (the airborne type) that led to the unnecessary callouts there and at Wells on Saturday night.

          They may be mistaken though.

    2. Michael Dunn

      Re:Altitude determined how?

      Nah, it was that 40.5 kilometre piece of string - just imagine the bosun chanting "By the mark ten, by the mark 11....." (And that wasn't Higgs's bosun, BTW.)

      Yes, yes, buy a yacht, change name to Higgs, employ a bosun, and claim it's been found!

      OK, back to the beer.

  7. graeme leggett

    The watery depths (and shallows) off Cromer

    have taken many a ship, so the balloon is in good company.

    perhaps it'll get pulled up with a crab pot.

  8. JohnMurray


    Yes Brian, but 433.05 - 434.79 is the ISM band.

    And amateur are secondary users anyway, so accepting interference comes with the "territory" (spectrum)

    Anyway, given that use of amateur repeaters in 70 cm (and most other bands) is, at best, moribund....maybe that was a better use of spectrum ?

    Anyway, I doubt that the avionics package was CTCSS equipped....

    1. Anonymous Coward

      A few comments....

      ...about your statements above.

      Yes, I know that this is within the ISM band, and a bloody stupid place it was to put it (I know why it was done, and the existence of 433.92MHz in a couple of countries was not a good enough reason).

      Amateurs are secondary users, but this potential interference is not from the primary user (the MoD) but instead from an LPD that itself is not protected from interference from either primary or secondary users. So, my earlier contention about the choice of frequency stands, a 10mW Tx is audible from a long way from a few miles up, and any repeater activity is not going to help those listening to the telemetry either, even if the repeaters are seldom used they do beacon regularly.

      It's a great project though, I certainly don't want to decry that. I simply think that if the success of your project relies upon the provision of reliable communications that it would have been better to pick a frequency in the 434-434.5MHz range where essentially nothing happens at all and it avoids all of the millions of devices on 433.92MHz,

  9. mafro

    "I much prefer Australian beer"

    This young man just lost all scientific credibility with that statement.

    1. MJessop


      I guess you haven't tried Coopers Vintage then - I don't think it gets exported overseas.

    2. PershingDriver

      Fosters, Austrailian for horse piss

      that is all

      1. Bassey

        Re: Coopers

        You can actually get it over here in Home-brew-kit form from an importer in Norfolk (good link!). Don't have the details to hand but got my Dad the kit 18 months ago for his birthday and he has produced some excellent stuff from it. Still not sure I'd rate it above a decent pint of Bushy's but a good save none the less.

        1. Mark 65


          Some Aussie beers are OK, Coopers being one of them, some Boags, and a few other smaller brewery offerings, but as a previous poster has already said - with the rest they need to be served so God damn cold so you don't notice the taste. I'm in Oz and tend to drink Boags, Japanese or other foreign lagers when on special - the rest are just f*cking awful.

  10. Jay 12

    aussie beer......

    Ranges from truly good (some small run boutique stuff) to truly horrendous. VB I'm looking at you. Same as anywhere. However they do seem to import a load from the uk, belgium etc etc.... And its cocking expensive :(

    1. Danny 14


      I like VB gold. Sure it'll warp your skin if its fresh out of the esky.

  11. Dom 3

    Greene King

    From memory, the Granta is a Greene King pub.

    That is all.

  12. Parax

    I need a lighter payload.

    Perhaps add another A to the batteries? (AAA rather than AA).

    OR use less gas.. slower ascent but greater expansion.

  13. N000dles

    Australian beer is rubbish

    Pretty much all Aussie beer would have Buckley's chance of beating a Belgium, German or English beer. I am an Aussie living in Europe and have been for many years. Previous comments are spot on about Aussie beer. It has a massive shelf life compared to over here and 6 x 375ml cans of mid strength (XXXX. Carlton et al.) will wipe you out twice as bad the next morning than 6 x 568ml glasses of Staropramen, Haufbrau, Amstel, or even Becks.

    As for the price, Perth, Sydney and Gold Coast are all just short of $10 (£6.35) a normal size bottle out on the town now, even at places non-exclusive with no queues or cover charges.

    To think I was actually proud of my compatriot and his accomplishment here until he had to mention the beer.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    142 Grams

    Does this need a proper parachute? surely just a simple 30cm drogue would arrest the decent enough for this to be safe, and not end up drifting for 100 miles.

  15. Stevie


    Well done that Aussie! And what great use of the exclamation mark! I've always felt it was underused outside of Games Workshop publications! Congrats on having the Highest Balloon Wotsit and may you get famous because of it!



  16. IR


    That classic Australian beer that every Australian mentions: "Not Fosters". Rarely will you get an Aussie to actually name the beer they do drink, possibly because then you could easily point out that that one sucks too.

    1. Steven Roper


      This guys statement that he doesn't drink Foster's is merely pointing out the obvious: *Nobody* in this country drinks that horse piss, not even bogans. I don't even know of a pub in Adelaide where they have it on tap. So don't believe their advertising - Australians don't drink it!

    2. Mark 65


      The other thing worthy of note is that Fosters is brewed under license in the UK and doesn't taste nearly as bad. I know Aussies that have done their spell in London and drank it regularly because of that and the fact that pints of Stella took some getting used to over schooners of whatever.

    3. Martin Budden


      May I direct you to my reply higher up ^^^

  17. Harvey Trowell

    Take it from a Pom in exile in Sydney

    I've given the matter some attention and the beer here really isn't that bad. Sure, if you take your beer seriously you wouldn't drink the VB, the Carlton or the Tooheys any more than you'd have a Carling or a wifebeater back home. There are decent options though.

    As already mentioned by the balloonanautist, Coopers make a couple (I like the green one, called Pale Ale but isn't, more of a cloudy live light ale, think Summer Lightning) and if it's a crisp lager you're after, Bluetongue, which is probably rare outside Sydney as it's brewed in the Hunter Valley, is deliciously hoppy and bitter (although still a class apart from the multitude of Bavarian Beer Cafes around town offering litres of Stiegl, Paulaner, Spaten and so on, it does a good job and is affordable by the case).

    For real ales, if you put the effort in and visit the likes of the Admiral Nelson in the Rocks or the Red Oak brewery in the CBD there are some excellent beers to be found (the Organic Pale Ale in the latter is a personal favourite).

    On the subject of Fosters, whilst you don't often see the lager on tap here in Sydney, their Fat Yak, which is a bit like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, is popping up more often and is very quaffable and something a revelation considering who makes it.

    It's a bit different outside of Sydney, I grant you. Tasmania does better than Queensland and Victoria in my experience and I haven't spent enough time out west to form an opinion, but you can be sure that when I do I'll be sure to bore you with it. Cheers.

    Oh yes, big well done to Mr Balloonanautist for getting the record and also for getting your live tracking to work so well. Good luck with the next one.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Aussie Beer

    I remember visiting Imperial College whilst a Student. It struck me as a great recycling initiative that the Gents Loo was directly above the Bar. What a great way to refill the Fosters supply....

    Now living in Singapore, I have to put us with such rubbish as Tiger Beer.... Getting a proper pint is a rare treat. Boddingtons or Kilkenny in a can is often the best you can get :-(

    Lester - Have you considered launching LOHAN in Aus? Not too many people to hit if it goes wrong..... Is one problem though no good supply of Beer (Wine's not bad though)

  19. passionate indifference

    Welshman living in Melbourne

    and missing decent beer. Oh yes, they'll tell you about Coopers Vintage and Boags' Wizard Smith's, but they'll serve you supercooled Carlton Draught and Toohey's. I miss Brains' SA...

    1. Harvey Trowell

      Have you visited The Local Taphouse in St Kilda?

      We have one in Darlinghurst and it's awesome, something I forgot to mention in my earlier ramble.

      1. passionate indifference

        Huge fan

        That place regularly takes away all of my monies in exchange for an enormously overpriced glass of something wonderful. Live music is good too.

        Darlinghurst, eh? You must be a fan of Shady Pines...

        1. Harvey Trowell

          I am

          I am, although I've only been a couple of times. I don't live in Darlinghurst but frequently visit the Local after watching the rugby (Go Tahs!) at the football ground, and called in after the ashes test too. That was a great day. I went with my dad who was out visiting. Cook and Bell piled up ridiculous scores, Mitchell Johnson was roundly abused by the army, and after the VB Gold on offer in the ground, you can imagine how good it felt retiring to the roof terrace of the Local to mull it all over. Good times.

  20. Mips

    Get him onto the LOHAN team now

    Yes. Now.

    I originally titled this "Get him onto LOHAN now". But I know how your minds work.

  21. Anonymous Cowbard

    Boag's St. George

    Would be appropriate beer.

    It's bloody good stuff too.

  22. SDH

    Since we're using proper beer measurements... very well down to -40F (the only place the blasted froggy measurements get the numbers right.)

    Fixed :)

    (and in the dim and distant, if I ever hadf a canned fizzy "beer" I actually preferred the big imported cans of Fosters to the British brewed stuff - but then beer is really supposed to be flat, warm and more hoppy than a roo with a firecracker suppository)

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