Close call in Antarctic hasn’t slowed Aurora world traveler
By Stephanie Lulay firstname.lastname@example.org December 28, 2012 1:14PM
Flags from the 800 places places around the world that Aurora Business man Bob Bonifas has visited circle the ceiling of his office at Alarm Detection Systems in Aurora on Wednesday, April 25, 2012. The ship Bonifas was on, the Plancius, was stranded for over two weeks on South Georgia Island due to engine trouble. "Fortunately I got to 800, I would have been really upset if I didn't get my 800th place." Bonifas said of his trip as tv crews interview him inside his office. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 31, 2013 6:35AM
AURORA — In true jet-setter fashion, Aurora businessman Bob Bonifas is calling from tomorrow.
“I’m back — the satellite keeps going in and out,” Bonifas said Thursday — well, Friday, his time — from a ship near Macquarie Island, about halfway between New Zealand and Antarctica.
Bonifas’ close call last spring hasn’t slowed the 75-year-old’s wanderlust.
“Has it slowed me down? Hell no,” he said. “I’m the busiest man I’ve ever met. And I’ve got to keep moving.”
In April, Bonifas, founder of Aurora-based Alarm Detection Systems, found himself stranded on a ship in port at King Edward Cove on South Georgia Island near the Antarctic Peninsula for 16 days.
Trouble started 12 days into a 31-day journey from Ushuaia, Argentina, one of the southernmost cities in the world, to Ascension Island, an isolated volcanic island near the Equator.
The Plancius — a 291-foot former oceanographic research vessel and cruise ship that travels to remote areas of the Antarctic — suffered a complete power failure and engine failure, making the journey too dangerous to sail in rough open ocean conditions.
The cruise line sent another ship to rescue the passengers, and Bonifas was soon back to work at his Aurora office on Church Road — when he’s not traveling.
This year alone, Bonifas has been to Bear Island, Norway; Ascension Island; St. Helena Island; Johannesburg, South Africa; North Korea; China; Tahiti; Pitcairn Island; Auckland, New Zealand; a few sub-Antarctic Islands; Hong Kong; and Kota Kinabalu and Layang Layang in Malaysia, according to his secretary, sister-in-law and itinerary planner Debbie Bonifas.
A longtime world traveler with two passports in hand, Bonifas said Thursday he’s now visited 807 of the world’s 872 places — defined as countries, territories, autonomous regions, enclaves, geographically separated island groups, and major states and provinces by the website MostTraveledPeople.com. By the end of this trip, he’s hoping to make that number 810.
Bonifas ranks third on the MostTraveledPeople website. This time around, he’s traveling with Don Parrish Jr. of Downers Grove, who is ranked the fourth-most traveled person in the world on the extreme travelers’ website.
“When you have been to as many place as we have, the risk-reward scenario gets greater as fewer destinations are left on the map to visit,” Bonifas said earlier this year.
There are places that are scarier than being stranded, too, he said: he was in Algeria and Iraq earlier this year.
“But I really don’t want to die on a damn ship,” he said in April.
Although he was stranded, the accidentally extended trip on South Georgia Island gave Bonifas and traveling companion Janice Christiansen of St. Charles some unique opportunities to enjoy the natives. Walking among a colony of 300,000 penguins was his favorite moment of the year, Bonifas said Thursday.
“It was amazing. I’ve seen penguins 10 times in my life, but never like that,” he said.
Bonifas said he remains focused on staying healthy so he can make it to his real dream destination — the South Pole.