A Pine Nut Picker Lost Control Of A Hydrogen Balloon And Drifted For Hundreds Of Miles

A pine nut worker in China lost control of his hydrogen balloon and floated 186 miles away from home.

By Joshua Jones | Published

A new report from CNN revealed that a man from China who lost control of his hydrogen balloon while harvesting pine nuts has been rescued. The man, surnamed Hu, worked alongside his colleague on Sunday in Hailin County, Heilongjiang province, when his balloon suddenly drifted away for hundreds of miles. While Hu’s colleague was able to jump to safety, Hu wasn’t so lucky. He landed in the forest two days after his 300-kilometer trip in the air, 186 miles away from Hailin County. A report from the state-run Global Times notes that Hu was not found until 9 a.m. local time on Tuesday. A recuse team traced Hu’s mobile signal and spotted his balloon stuck in a tree. More than 500 people, including local police and the fire department, came to the man’s rescue.

When discussing the hydrogen balloon incident, Hu told reporters he was close to giving up. He stated that he was cold and hungry but largely unharmed. CNN added that he suffered only minor injuries, though no specifics were given. This isn’t the first hydrogen balloon incident recently in China. In 2019, two men reportedly lost control of their balloon and drifted 10 kilometers before landing. The two men were arrested for breaking aviation regulations. Another incident in 2017 involved a nut picker going missing near the North Korea border, thanks to his hydrogen balloon being untethered. Regarding the recent hydrogen balloon incident, Global News reported that Hu suffered minor back pains due to standing the entire time during the ordeal. Hu reportedly is recovering in the hospital and has decided not to give further details. His hydrogen balloon ended up in the Fangzheng region in China.

hydrogen balloon

Regardless of the hydrogen balloon, harvesting pine nuts in China is considered to be dangerous. In 2017, a pine nut picker named Bi Kesheng disappeared in a gas-powered balloon near China’s border with North Korea. Traditionally, pickers usually scale the trees with the help of spikes attached to their shoes and knock pinecones from branches using a long pole. In recent years, pickers have switched from using this method to utilizing hydrogen balloons. According to Bi Kesheng’s picking partner, Xu Yeyi, the process is more favored by workers due to its ease and being a safer approach. In 2002, pine nut pickers in China earned roughly 50 yuan ($7.50 a day). The wages have increased since then, with pickers making around 20,000 yuan a month. Bi was one of the thousands of workers who headed into the forests in September 2017. After looking for six days, his family abandoned the search. Local forestry authorities have discussed ways to make the whole process safer for workers, including utilizing profitable lifts. However, the cost of those types of machines ran into millions of dollars. There were even attempts to use trained monkeys to pick the pinecones.

Hopefully, this is the last hydrogen balloon incident to occur in China. Considering how lucrative the job has become, there will be more discussions about making the work safer.