DuBOIS — Canada called and Pennsylvania answered. Two Penn State students managed to locate a weather balloon that landed about 40 miles east of St. Marys on Saturday, though they were unable to retrieve it. It remains tangled in a tree some 60 feet above the ground.
The craft belongs to a ninth grade science class at H.B. Beal Secondary School in London, Ontario. It’s launch last Monday was the culmination of a class project gone awry; the balloon rose slowly in the cold weather and was more easily swayed by wind as a result. It wound up traveling more than 200 miles before coming down near the westernmost edge of the Susquehannock State Forest.
After determining where the balloon had landed via GPS, Dung Tiet, a teacher at Beal, took to social media in hopes of reaching a good Samaritan willing to locate it in person. A Reddit post of his eventually came to the attention of Penn State graduate student Aaron Fleishman.
“I thought it was a cool challenge to go out in the woods,” Fleishman said. “And being an engineering student...I thought it was something really cool, that this high school was doing that.”
Fleishman is pursuing a master’s degree in engineering design at Penn State’s University Park campus. He’s also something of an outdoorsman, saying in a telephone interview Monday that he’s been hiking and kayaking since his undergrad years. While there are a lot of well-known sites to see around State College, he said, there are others not much farther out worth exploring.
Fleishman was joined on his “recovery mission” by another Penn State student, Brandon Thomas. The two arrived near the spot Tiet identified on Google Maps early Saturday afternoon, he said, and found it within 15 minutes of parking their car. Anticipating that the balloon landed in the treetops, the pair brought climbing gear with them, but it quickly became apparent that it was far out of reach.
He estimated that it’s about 60-70 feet up in the air.
“It’s pretty far up in a pretty thin tree with no branches, so you’d need a pretty skilled arborist to get it down,” he said.
Fleishman said he’s been in touch with others who were interested in finding the balloon as well, ones he said might be able to retrieve it or knock it loose. Otherwise, there’s no way the information recorded on its computer or footage captured on its camera can be viewed by Beal students.