Russian ship ordeal over for Aussie couple
A Highton couple who were stranded in waters off Uruguay have finally made it to Australian soil after successfully boarding a mercy flight.
But adventurous pair David and Estelle Cameron say the two weeks they spent marooned on a 40-year-old Russian ship, not knowing if and when they would come home, had not tainted their "incredible" two-week Antarctic expedition.
Mr and Mrs Cameron departed for a 20-day trip on March 1 before the coronavirus pandemic had wreaked havoc for travellers and caused many countries to close their borders.
Speaking in isolation from a Sydney hotel room Tuesday, Mr Cameron said he and his wife had studiously checked flight restrictions before leaving for South America and believed they had nothing to worry about.
"When we left there were no cases of the virus in Argentina, we sailed down to the Antarctic," Mr Cameron said. "Even after all we put up with - it was magnificent, we'd do it all again."
The pair and fellow travellers walked on the ice, saw penguins, seals and other wildlife during their two-week trip.
But, when they left Antarctica to continue their trip to the Falkland Islands most countries had shut their ports.
The Chimu Adventures ship tried to go to Argentina and Buenos Aires before eventually going to Montevideo.
The ship was able to wait in waters but Ocean Atlantic passengers were barred from getting off.
"We had a doctor on board and they were taking our temperature most days," Mr Cameron said.
While the passengers were stuck at sea, there were no suspected cases of COVID-19 so they could roam freely on board.
"She's no princess cruise ship," Mr Cameron said of the Ocean Atlantic. "It was a Russian cargo carrier that was converted into an expedition ship - the rooms were like a match box."
But passengers did their best to entertain each other - doing karaoke and ad hoc theatre performances.
"And there was a bar - it was expensive, but it was necessary," Mr Cameron said.
Passengers from other countries were allowed to leave before Australians who were waiting to meet up with passengers from another ship to board a charter plane.
But when that ship recorded cases or coronavirus plans changed.
Ocean Atlantic passengers boarded a charter flight at a cost of $12,000 at the weekend and finally arrived in Australia on Monday after a 30-hour journey.
"When we boarded the flight we clapped, we cheered," Mr Cameron said.
"It had got to the stage where the flight had been changed so many times, five or six, that we didn't know when we'd get off."
Mr Cameron said the couple were comfortable in their isolation accommodation.
"The hardest part was not being able to get in contact with people (while at sea).
"We'd like to thank the community, the press and our family for their concern."