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Chocolate Factory balloon circled Earth in just 22 days

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With a name like Project Loon, you would expect Google's scheme to be a bit bonkers, but the Chocolate Factory's madcap plan to bring internet connectivity to remote areas using balloons appears to have paid off after one of the devices circumnavigated the globe in just 22 days.

Project Loon is the name for Mountain View's drive to use balloons to provide Wi-Fi coverage in the furthest flung corners of nowhere.

In a post on their Google+ page, the Project Loon team wrote: "One of our balloons has had quite a journey over the past few weeks. It did a lap around the world in 22 days, and has just clocked the project’s 500,000th kilometre as it begins its second lap.

"It enjoyed a few loop-de-loops over the Pacific ocean before heading east on the winds toward Chile and Argentina, and then made its way back around near Australia and New Zealand. Along the way, it caught a ride on the Roaring Forties — strong west-to-east winds in the southern hemisphere that act like an autobahn in the sky, where our balloons can quickly zoom over oceans to get to where people actually need them."

The journey was especially tough this year, because the winds change direction as the southern hemisphere moves from warmer to colder weather, making for an unpredictable journey.

To cope with these winds, Google fitted their balloon with a super efficient air pump which allowed it to change altitudes very quickly.

"We can spend hours and hours running computer simulations, but nothing teaches us as much as actually sending the balloons up into the stratosphere during all four seasons of the year," Google continued.

The balloon has now set off on its second journey around the word.

The name Loon probably refers to a balloon, rather than this reporter's favourite English word for a slightly eccentric person or an aquatic diving bird.

Best non-Google usage of the word loon, you ask? It has to be a line from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in which a character says the immortal line: "Hold off! Unhand me, grey beard loon!"

Which is probably what we'll all be saying to Google one day. ®

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