A Fort Saskatchewan man is still searching for a wayward piece of a weather balloon that went missing last month.
Grow Your Own Project creator Dennis Stelmack launched the balloon during the Harvest Festival in Legacy Park on August 25. The space launch was part of an afternoon of fun during the summer-end celebration for kids taking part in Grow Your Own.
The balloon carried its payload about 100,000 feet up before popping and beginning its parachute-aided return to the ground. At about 30,000 feet one of the balloon’s two GPS trackers stopped sending its signal. Stelmack believes that's the moment the tail piece of the balloon sheared off, taking one of the trackers, two GoPro cameras and an 18-foot banner with it.
Stelmack has been trying to find the lost equipment ever since.
"Update is we still have not located it,” he said on Friday.
Stelmack has been able to use existing GPS data to figure out where the equipment might have landed and narrow down the search area.
“Using some of our experience in the past and the data that we have collected from one of the trackers and from the one tracker that didn't give a last update to us, our look zone, or our probable zone of the farmers' fields that it is in, has been updated and is pretty precise," he said.
The smaller search zone is a roughly 21 square mile swath of farm fields near Highway 855 and Township Road 544 in Lamont County.
"Which is still a big area but it's a lot more specific than what we originally thought," Stelmack said.
Stelmack has talked to some of the farmers in the area, asking them to keep their eyes open while they’re out spraying their fields.
"If one of the farmers doesn't find it in the field, come fall, after the leaves fall and the crops are off, then I will go for another check and we'll check the trees,” Stelmack said. “And hopefully it will be easy to see if it's hung up in a tree with no leaves."
A $300 reward -- $100 more than originally on offer -- is waiting for the person who gets the balloon parts and the GoPro video footage back into Stelmack’s hands. Stelmack is also promising an enticing bonus – a custom picture taken during the flight complete with his autograph.
"At this time, I guess we're still looking for what some people say is a needle in a haystack,” Stelmack said. “I figure it's a six inch by 18 foot ribbon in a farmer's field."