Saskatchewan

Sask.-born marine biologist stranded on ship at Argentine port until further notice

Saskatchewan-born marine biologist Jim Zakreski is stuck on a ship about half-a-mile from an Argentine city until further notice because of COVID-19 concerns and restrictions.

Jim Zakreski and others aboard staying positive, but itching to go home

Jim Zakreski is a marine biologist from Regina, currently living in Victoria, BC. (Submitted by Jim Zakreski )

Jim Zakreski is stuck on a ship anchored just under a kilometre out from the city of Ushuaia, Argentina until further notice. 

The Saskatchewan-born marine biologist said it's not so bad compared to what others are enduring amid the pandemic.

"We are in a beautiful utopian bubble here on our ship," he said, speaking from the wheelhouse of the Ocean Endeavour — a massive vessel set up to explore polar regions. 

However, the circumstances swirling around the utopian bubble have been taxing. 

"We were doing operations in the Antarctic Peninsula area, enjoying life," he said.

A Saskatchewan scientist is currently cooped up on a ship

2 years ago
Duration 0:40
Jim Zakreski is a Saskatchewan-born marine biologist who is currently aboard a ship at an Argentine port.

He works with Quark Expeditions and has been travelling with dozens of passengers and staff from around the globe since January. 

Earlier this month, news started to trickle in of ports closing around the world because of COVID-19, also known as the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus.

The company decided they would make a run through the Ushuaia harbour "before they shut 'er down." 

Jim Zakreski is on the Ocean Endeavour — a massive vessel set up to explore polar regions.  (Submitted by Jim Zakreski)

At that time, they were about two days away and were heading into gnarly weather but they cruised madly across the water and made it to anchorage. 

Thinking of what the plan was supposed to be seems far-off to Zakreski, as the situation changes hour-to-hour and day-by-day. 

They were accepted into the harbour and at one point they were told they would leave the ship on the 17th.

There's still no clear departure date in sight two days after. Zakreski said they are in the middle of a mandatory quarantine.

The quarantine ends on Sunday, but more hurdles are ahead: grounded domestic flights and international travel restrictions are growing as the world tries to control the spread of COVID-19. 

Jim Zakreski is currently stranded near Argentina. (Submitted by Jim Zakreski)

"It really is an emotional rollercoaster for us all," he said. "We're tired. I won't kid you." 

On board, they play games to keep things light and food isn't in short supply. 

Necessities were sent out on a barge and then brought up by a crane. People onboard formed a chain and passed the food and medicine into the ship. 

"We're not getting skinny, they've opened up the vault for us." 

For the most part, he and his peers have been able to keep their mental health in check. 

"That's going to change as soon as we step off this ship. That's what all reports sound like —  we're in for a bit of a shock."

Still, Zakreski said the desire to get home grows as uncertainty reigns. 

"We're keeping an optimistic attitude and trying to make the best of things — but all bets are off." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kendall Latimer

Journalist

Kendall Latimer (she/her) is a journalist with CBC News in Saskatchewan. You can reach her by emailing kendall.latimer@cbc.ca.

With files from Garth Materie

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