Aurora Businessman Stranded in Antarctica: Safe, But Bored - NBC Chicago

Aurora Businessman Stranded in Antarctica: Safe, But Bored

Robert Bonifas, 74, is founder of Alarm Detection Systems in Aurora



    Aurora Businessman Stranded in Antarctica: Safe, But Bored
    Chicago Sun-Times
    Robert Bonifas

    Stranded on a ship on a wintry island 7,000-plus miles away from home, Bob Bonifas says he’s fine. Just bored.

    "We’re not in any danger," the Aurora businessman and world traveler said via satellite phone Monday.

    But he’s less than happy to be "stuck going nowhere."

    Bonifas, 74, founder of Alarm Detection Systems in Aurora, has been stranded on a ship in the Antarctic for about a week. His daughter Connie Busby said he is one of 73 passengers, including about a dozen Americans, who are stranded in port at South Georgia Island in the Atlantic Ocean, near the Antarctic Peninsula.

    Bonifas is traveling with Janis Christiansen of St. Charles, president of FlagSource in Batavia, said his sister-in-law, Debbie Bonifas. They are on the Plancius, a 291-foot former oceanographic research vessel and cruise ship that travels to remote areas of the Antarctic.

    The ship made it into port on April 10, but could go no further after losing power.

    On board the ship Monday afternoon, Bonifas said the passengers have been told they will be back in Montevideo, Uruguay, on April 24.

    "The crew on board is trying to get us hiking and stuff to keep our minds busy," Bonifas said. "But I’m a busy guy. I’ve never sat still for 16 days in my life."

    Trouble started 12 days into a 31-day journey from Argentina to Ascension Island, an isolated volcanic island near the Equator.

    "We were out on an island seeing birds on a different island, and when we got back to the ship, [the ship sustained] a power failure," Bonifas said.

    The crew was able to fix the problem and set course to avoid a fierce storm system, but then it suffered another engine failure.

    Bonifas said Monday he has been in contact with his family three times a day via his satellite phone, the only one on board. Passengers have racked up 1,500 minutes on the phone.

    The cruise line has chartered a passenger vessel to sail from Argentina, to get them.

    "It took four days to find a ship to get us," Bonifas said. "Life on board is fine, but this is our eighth day in this spot."

    He said the ship is docked in Grytviken in King Edward Cove on South Georgia Island, a British scientific station.

    South Georgia Island is part of a remote and inhospitable collections of islands, consisting of South Georgia and a chain of smaller islands, known as the South Sandwich Islands. It was about 40 degrees there Monday.

    Bonifas said he isn’t scared by his current predicament -- he was in Algeria and Iraq earlier this year.

    "I’ve been places the devil hides," he said. "But I really don’t want to die on a damn ship."

    When he lands in Uruguay, Bonifas said he’ll do two things: “Get down and kiss the ground and go have a great big drink.”