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Dutch Treated to Rushin' Finish

September 03, 1986|ANN HEROLD

--A record-breaking balloon flight by a Dutch couple and their pilot turned out to be a truly crashing success. Fifty-one hours and 14 minutes after it left St. John's, Newfoundland, the gondola of the Dutch Viking balloon slammed to the ground at 30 m.p.h., bounced and flipped over in a wheat field in Almere, the Netherlands. But the emergency landing was still the successful culmination of a record-breaking transatlantic balloon flight that was 30 hours faster than the previous crossing. The trouble started when Henk Brink, his wife, Evelien, and Royal Dutch Air Force Maj. Willem Hageman crossed the Dutch coastline after a smooth and cloudless ocean crossing. They ran into turbulence that knocked their 158-foot-tall craft out of control, plunging it to an altitude of a few hundred feet. The three threw out all their ballast, but "we were at that time really in a big emergency. . . . We were fighting for our lives," Hageman said. "Just coasting in, for a couple of seconds we had nothing under control." The balloonists were then plagued by high winds for the next 25 miles but were able to make the jarring touchdown in record-breaking style.

--A 5-year-old boy's parents watched in horror as their son tumbled from a wall into the open enclosure housing the gorillas at the zoo on the British island of Jersey. But a 350-pound gorilla named Jambo only did what experts said any healthy, happy gorilla would do in that instance--he gently patted the boy as he lay unconscious. Levan Merritt tumbled 20 feet into the enclosure at the zoo founded by British author Gerald Durrell. "He (Jambo) wandered over to where the boy lay, sniffed him cautiously, then hearing Levan's whimpers, he comforted him with a gentle pat and stood protectively," the London Standard newspaper reported. The gorilla only backed off as the boy woke up and started screaming. Zoo workers then jumped into the enclosure and pulled out Levan, who was in stable condition with a broken arm and head injuries.

--Naturalist Roger Tory Peterson has been the recipient of such honors as the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize. Now he has a bird named for him. A breed of cinnamon-colored Peruvian screech owl will be known by the Latin name Otus petersoni , a prospect that delights Peterson. "I have a friend who had a bird parasite named after him," said the 78-year-old author of the Peterson Field Guide Series, "but to have a proper bird, especially an owl, that is something!" The bird was discovered in the forested eastern foothills of the Peruvian Andes by bird experts John O'Neill of Louisiana State University and John Fitzpatrick of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

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