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Balloonist braves shark-filled waters to build children's hospital to be named for Mandela

Nic Bothma / EPA

South African Matt Silver-Vallance floats through the mist across the Atlantic ocean in False Bay between Robben Island and the mainland during his crossing flying beneath a cluster of helium filled party balloons in Cape Town, South Africa, April 6. This is the first Helium Balloon cluster flight in Africa crossing the distance between the former prison Island and the mainland approximately eight kilometers suspended beneath a cluster of 157 party balloons.

Matt Silver-Vallance, 37, took around an hour to float across the Atlantic Ocean from Robben Island, home of the prison where Nelson Mandela was confined, while harnessed to a mass of multi-colored balloons in grey, drizzly conditions with low visibility. It was the first stunt of its kind from the site.

The goal of the 3.7-mile crossing was to raise $1 million to help build a children's hospital named after 94-year-old Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president in democratic elections in 1994 after negotiating an end to white racist rule.

Mandela was released from the hospital on Saturday after more than a week of treatment for pneumonia that raised global concern about the health of the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader.

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Balloonist to fly from old Mandela jail

 

Mark Wessels / Reuters

South Africa's Matt Silver-Vallance floats above the sea.

Rodger Bosch / AFP - Getty Images

Matt Silver-Vallance reacts after he flew across the sea from Nelson Mandela's apartheid island prison using helium-filled giant party balloons.

Nic Bothma / EPA

Balloons are released into the sky after South African Matt Silver-Vallance completed his crossing.

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Nelson Mandela was discharged on Saturday from the hospital where he had been undergoing treatment for pneumonia, South Africa's presidency said in a statement. NBC's Ron Allen reports.