Look, there aren’t a lot of people who enjoy traveling more than I do. Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time probably already know that. Most years, I’m on the road multiple times a month and can have as many as 6 or 7 international trips in a year. But right now, amidst a global pandemic, traveling simply isn’t the wisest of things to do. If we require any proof of that, we need only to look at what happened recently aboard an a cruise ship heading to the Arctic, where a coronavirus outbreak is about to make life miserable for a lot of people.
The Roald Amundsen is a passenger ship operated by the Hurtigruten cruise line. The company specializes in taking passengers into the Arctic and Antarctic, with regular visits to the remote Norwegian island of Svalbard. Recently, Roald Amundsen made one of the first cruises to that part of the world, bringing disaster along with it. As a result, the crew, the passengers traveling aboard the ship, and villages visited while en route, have potentially been exposed to COVID-19. Worse yet, Hurtigruten may have actively worked to keep the exposure and outbreak a secret.
According to reports, members of the crew of the Amundsen were allowed to return to the ship without first undergoing a mandatory quarantine period. It also seems that they may not have been tested before hand either, allowing someone to bring the virus aboard the ship. So far, more than 35 members of the crew have now been infected, with the potential for more to follow. Of course, that also means that passengers may have also contracted the disease, as the number of people aboard the ship who have now tested positive has grown to 53 in total.
The story seems to only get worse from there and has been documented extensively at IcePeople.net. According to the site, the passengers on the cruise weren’t notified of the outbreak, nor were those who set sail on the same boat for its next excursion. Company officially reportedly waited two days after they were aware of the situation before publicly announcing it as well and when he cruise ended in Tromsø, Norway, the passenger were allowed to go ashore without quarantine. Worse yet, it seems that crew members of two other ships in the Hurtigruten fleet have tested positive and are now in isolation as well, potentially spreading the virus even further.
As if all of that wasn’t disheartening enough, the cruise ship also stopped to pick up two research scientists that were in a remote location conducting climate change studies for the better part of the past year. Sunniva Sørby and Hilde Fålun Strøm—whom I told you about here—spent the winter in the Arctic collecting data on the impact of global warming. They lived in a cabin that was so far removed from everyone else, that their closest neighbor was 70 miles away. The duo thought they were getting luxurious treatment when the Amundsen agreed to stop and pick them up for their return trip back to mainland Norway. But even though they were able to avoid the pandemic while living in their Arctic cabin, they may now have been exposed to the virus aboard the ship too.
In response to this situation, Norway has now banned all cruise ships of more than 100 people from going to Svalbard. At the moment, there is just one departure scheduled, although this ban is only in place for two weeks. The story only serves to underscore just how risky it is to travel anywhere right now. It also helps to reinforce my decision to stay close to home.