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USF professor shares travel woes after stuck overseas during COVID-19

TAMPA, Fla. — Alastair Graham routinely goes on fieldwork in Antarctica.

He’s an associate professor at USF College of Marine Science and studies ice sheets. So in January, he went on another trip to look at a glacier alongside dozens of others on a vessel.

“It was a tough time but I’m sort of very grateful to a lot of people who helped us,” he said.

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The journey took a turn when the COVID-19 crisis hit.

“We could see headlines coming in every day and they read like the kind of the unveiling of an apocalypse,” Graham said.

They watched as borders shut down. Graham said he was able to spend several nights at the base of a former employer before they got to the Falkland Islands.

He said they quarantined in a hotel for 11 days before he was able to get on a flight back to the U.K. to meet up with his family.

“They had been locked out of the U.S. by the travel bans that kicked in in March so it was basically an active decision to go back to meet them and try to find a way home,” he said.

Graham said his family had traveled to the U.K. for the holidays and to visit family while he was in Antarctica.

“Doors were shut on us basically, don’t know where you’re gonna travel,” said Graham.

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He said they got in touch with Congressman Charlie Crist.

“We couldn’t get a waiver to get him back to the United States but we kept working the case, and working the case and finally, through our embassy in Ireland, in fact, is where we were able to get the waiver,” said Rep. Charlie Crist.

Rep. Crist estimates they’ve helped bring back around 95 Americans.

The U.S. State Department said from the end of January 27 to June 10, it helped bring home more than 100,000 Americans.

“People are exercising much more caution than they were before this pandemic hit, obviously, and I think what’s important is they know where they’re going,” said Rep. Crist.

Graham and his family were finally able to make it home in June.

“I’m not planning to travel anytime soon anywhere,” Graham said.

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