Stranded by virus, honeymooners hitch home on Antarctic boat

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Feeonaa Clifton

In this July 2020, photo supplied by Feeonaa and Neville Clifton, Neville and Feeonaa Clifton are pictured by the San Aotea II fishing boat in the Falkland Islands. The Cliftons, a honeymoon couple who were stranded on the remote Falkland Islands in March because of the coronavirus have managed to get home to New Zealand, Tuesday Aug. 4, 2020 by hitching a lift of more than 5,000 nautical miles (9,200 kilometers) on an Antarctic fishing boat. (Feeonaa/Neville Clifton via AP)

WELLINGTON – A New Zealand honeymoon couple stranded on the remote Falkland Islands in March because of the coronavirus has managed to return home by hitching a ride of more than 5,000 nautical miles (9,200 kilometers) on an Antarctic fishing boat.

Feeonaa Clifton said she had never spent even a single night on a boat before she and her husband Neville embarked on the monthlong voyage through some of the world's most forbidding seas. After weeks spent watching albatrosses and learning how to don survival suits, they were finally able to set foot on land again Tuesday.

Their adventure began on Leap Day, Feb. 29th, when they were married at their Auckland home. They had been together for 25 years and raised three children but Feeonaa, 48, an artist, said they hadn't believed in the idea of marriage.

“We realized, at some point, we hadn’t actually appreciated or celebrated one another, at least not in front of family and friends,” she said. “It was just something we wanted to do, and the time felt right.”

The plan was to spend two weeks of their honeymoon on the Falkland Islands, where Neville, 59, a communications engineer, was born but left as a young child, and then a month in South America.

They arrived on the Falklands on March 7, just as the pandemic was worsening. Their flight back to Brazil was canceled, and they ended up spending 12 weeks in lockdown with an elderly aunt.

With a population of about 3,000, the Falklands are about 500 kilometers (300 miles) east of Argentina in the south Atlantic Ocean. The islands have reported 13 cases of the virus, all now recovered.

With not much to do, the newlyweds took long walks, climbing every hill they could find. They admired the rugged landscapes that were devoid of trees. But with limited human contact, they began to feel that they were living in an eerie alternate reality.