It has been a strange and difficult few weeks as many of us have come face to face with a global pandemic for the very first time. We’ve watched in surprise—and in some cases horror—as the coronavirus has spread and wreaked havoc on numerous countries. Seeing it al play out in front of our eyes each day has been fascinating and scary all at the same time. But what if you were on a journey to a remote corner of the planet while all of this was happening and you returned in the midst of all of the chaos? That’s exactly what happened to National Geographic photographer Pete McBride, who embarked on a trip to South Georgia Island in the Southern Ocean just as things were just starting to ramp up, only to return to a world that had changed while he was away.
McBride shares his story in an article for the Nat Geo website that is fascinating to read. In a nutshell, he was contracted to be a working photographer aboard the National Geographic Explorer on a trip with Nat Geo Expeditions. The three-week long journey departed from Ushuaia, Argentina just as the coronavirus spread was beginning to pick up steam. As McBride tells it, he expected it to rise and fall while he and the other passengers aboard the ship were safely off the grid for awhile. But that isn’t the way things happened at all, and they recently returned from South Georgia to discover just how bad things have gotten during their absence.
As the journey progressed, the ship wasn’t completely isolated. Word reached the Explorer that the outbreak was spreading quickly. Ports and villages were closing to visitors in an attempt to isolate, including those in both Chile and Argentina. Fortunately, the passengers were able to disembark in the British-controlled Falkland Islands, where they were able to charter flights home. McBride says he returned to the U.S. to find empty airports and aircraft, an empty shell of what he left behind just a few short weeks earlier.
I found this article to be a fascinating read, in part because I visited South Georgia myself a few years back, but also because I’ve been thinking about this exact situation recently. I’ve been fortunate enough to find myself in some remote places from time to time, and I wondered what it would be like to emerge from isolation only to find that the coronavirus had upended daily life. That’s exactly what happened here and it must have been mind-blowing for McBride and the other passengers to return home.
Read the entire account for yourself here.
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