Bonifas heading home after being stranded on remote island

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04/17/2012

Talk about overages.

Stranded on a remote island in the South Atlantic with more than 70 other travelers, Bob Bonifas had the distinction of being the only person with a satellite phone. That meant using a lot of minutes: about 1,500 as of Wednesday, with five or six more days of dialing ahead until the group finally gets back to the mainland.

Bonifas, president and CEO of Aurora, Ill.-based Alarm Detection Systems, is among 73 passengers who were diverted to South Georgia Island last week aboard Plancius, a 293-foot polar cruise ship. The vessel was en route from Argentina to Ascension Island on a 31-day sightseeing tour, but engine problems brought the trip to an early end. That resulted in nine-day stay on South Georgia, a desolate former whaling outpost near Antarctica that doesn’t have much to offer beyond gulls and grass.

The layover wasn't easy for Bonifas.

“He’s not a guy who sits around a lot,” said Connie Busby, Bonifas' daughter, who told Security Systems News on Tuesday that she had talked to her father every day of his layover via his satellite phone. “On the nice days like yesterday—he said it was 45 and sunny—they did get out and do some hiking. There’s a chapel on the island that’s not inhabited, and they went to that on Sunday and just kind of hung out for awhile.”

A chartered relief ship picked up Bonifas and his fellow passengers Wednesday and is bringing them to Uruguay. They are expected to arrive on April 24.

Bonifas isn’t a stranger to spending time in remote places. He is ranked No. 3 on MostTraveledPeople.com, a website that tracks adventurers trying to become the first to visit 872 global destinations. South Georgia Island was the 800th destination for Bonifas, but his quest is on hold while he bides his time and tacks on phone minutes.

“When you’re an extreme world traveler, I guess sooner or later it kind of catches up to you, and I guess it did this time,” Busby said.