GIBAS IV Captain's Logs
Sunday, June 4, 2017
The evening following launch, now back at ground, we checked the GPS maps to see only the first few minutes of our craft’s flight. With clear, still skies, the balloon had ascended rapidly into the atmosphere, leaving only a southeastern bearing as a clue. While we enjoyed each other’s company into the evening, I was never far from the computer screen, nervous that we would never catch glimpse of our craft again.
After several hours, and with most of the ground control crew retired for the evening, I sat in front of the radar screen, disheartened, and feeling confident that our craft was lost. The GPS had not, and would not, reconnect with its satellites. I had given up hope of recovering the Gibas IV, and sat alone, stewing in our failure.
However, at 12:17 am, the phone rang. It was a call from Summersville, West Virginia. After a few minutes of phone tag, I was in touch with a man named Jason. He had found the Gibas IV, and we made arrangements to meet the next day in Sutton, West Virginia.
The recovery crew, consisting of First Officer Berry, Lieutenant Fetter, Lieutenant Fauble and I, woke early for our approximately five hour drive to retrieve the Gibas IV. Although we had made similar journeys before, the transformation of the landscape into the towering mountains of West Virginia was still a sight to take awe of. We traveled without trepidation, knowing our craft was in safe hands.
Once in Sutton, we contacted Jason, who was out on his boat enjoying the beautiful weather on Sutton Lake, where he asked us to meet him at the marina. We took in the landscape of the lake, the trees, and the mountains as Jason came ashore and retrieved the Gibas IV. Jason had been out the night before with a group of friends, and was returning home on a dark, dead-end, and rarely traveled dirt road, when they spotted an object in the middle of their path. The stopped their vehicle to investigate, finding the Gibas IV neatly landed in the center of the isolated country road.
While technology had failed us, incredible luck and human kindness had reunited us with the Gibas IV, reminding us of the importance of our search for human connectedness within our exploration of the atmosphere that surrounds and connects us all. With the craft recovered, human connections established, and footage of the incredible journey returned to us, the mission of the Gibas IV was a success.