June 10th, 2010
02:09 PM ET

Teen sailor missing at sea

Abby Sunderland is trying to sail solo around the world and had reached the halfway point Monday.

[Updated at 7:24 p.m. ET] Electronic signals from Sunderland's boat indicate it is drifting at just 1 mph, which means it still is afloat but not under sail, said Jeff Casher, an engineer on her support team.

The mast might have fallen or Sunderland could have been injured,
preventing her from sailing, he said.

Read the full CNN.com story

[Updated at 4:20 p.m. ET] Abby Sunderland's family is scrambling to persuade any government with an aircraft in the area to help find the 16-year-old sailor, family spokesman Christian Pinkston told CNN.

The California teen's 40-foot boat was in the Indian Ocean, about 2,000 miles east of Madagascar and 2,000 miles west of Australia, when distress signals started coming from the boat Thursday morning California time, Pinkston said. No one has been able to contact Sunderland since then.

Sunderland began her journey from Marina del Rey, California, on January 23 with the goal of sailing her 40-foot boat around the world solo and without stopping. Mechanical troubles forced her to make two stops for repairs, including in Cape Town, South Africa, in early May.

Sunderland's family was told at about 5 a.m. PT about the distress signals. The family had spoken to her just one hour earlier, and although she was in rough seas, she was not in distress at that time, according to Pinkston.

The closest boat - a private fishing vessel - is 40 hours away, according to Pinkston.

The distress signals came from two manually activated distress beacons, Sunderland's family said on her blog Thursday afternoon. When they were talking with her Thursday morning, she told them she had just had a rough sailing day, with winds of up to 60 knots and seas of up to 25 feet, though the winds had subsided to about 35 knots, according to the blog.

"We are actively seeking out some sort of air rescue but this is difficult due to the remoteness of her location," the family's blog post said. "Australian Search and Rescue have arranged to have a [Qantas] Airbus fly over her location at first light (she is 11 hours later). They will not be able to help her other than to talk via marine radio if they are able to get close enough. Hopefully, they will be able to assess her situation and report back to us."

The post also said Abby "has all of the equipment on board to survive a crisis situation like this."

"She has a dry suit, survival suit, life raft, and ditch bag with emergency supplies," the family's post said. "If she can keep warm and hang on, help will be there as soon as possible."

The Australian coast guard and the Reunion Island government - a French island that is the closest land to her last position - are involved in efforts to help Sunderland, according to Peter Thomas, a freelance journalist who spoke to Sunderland's father Thursday.

[Posted at 2:09 p.m. ET] A teenage girl attempting to sail solo around the world has gone missing after sending out distress signals in the Indian Ocean, according to a CNN affiliate in her hometown.

Abby Sunderland, 16, of Thousand Oaks, California, has not been heard from since losing contact with her family during a storm Thursday, her brother told CNN affiliate KTLA in Los Angeles.

Sunderland activated her emergency beacon locating devices an hour after losing contact with her family, and a rescue effort is under way. The nearest boat is believed to be at least 40 hours away, according to KTLA.

Sunderland celebrated passing the halfway point Monday on her quest to circumnavigate the globe alone in a sailboat, according to her website. She initially planned to be the youngest to make the trip nonstop, but that was undone in early May when she stopped for repairs in South Africa.

"I've been in some rough weather for awhile with winds steady at 40-45 knots with higher gusts," she wrote Wednesday on her blog. It took her two hours to repair a torn sail in the wind and high waves, and her internet connection on board her 40-foot boat, Wild Eyes, was failing, she wrote.

CNN's Alan Duke, Allison Blakely and Irving Last contributed to this report.

soundoff (1,190 Responses)
  1. Wheres your god now?

    Can't really blame the parents. People pretend teenagers are like little kittens running into traffic. Theyre not. A 16 year old should be able to know hats dangerous and whats not. There were 18 year old bomber pilots in WW2. and when I was 16, I didnt need someone to tell me that sailing around the world by myself in a small boat was dangerous...

    Use your minds people. Think for yourself and form your own conclusions.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mary (California

    Fame – our society puts such a high price on fame and obviously some of our teens and their parents will take whatever risks to obtain their 15 minutes of fame. I hope she makes it but I hope other parents will take a lesson and value life and safety above fame.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Lee

    God bless her,

    What a remarkable young white woman. I am proud of her, out in the open sea trying to setting a record. Better than being at home listening to rap music and trying to be black. Like most young white teens are doing these days.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Z

      Race has no place in this, had she been black, brown, tan, yellow, red, plaid, she would still be a remarkable young woman.

      June 10, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Futon Torpedo

      Dumb*** comment by Lee. Nothing to see here....move along.

      June 10, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Slim Shady

      rap= crap

      June 10, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • dim3m

      lololo sounds like a 50 yr old troll

      June 10, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. R A Williams

    What in the world do her parents have to do with it? A 16-year-old is an adult for all intents and purposes. She can hold down a job and pay taxes, she can drive, she can sail, she can most likely support herself if need be, and in many states and countries she can even marry or decide whether or not to continue her education. In fact, 16-year-olds from less privileged backgrounds do that sort of thing all the time even without emancipating themselves, and nobody complains. In the USA, the highest minimum age restrictions are on military service (17) voting (18) and alcohol consumption (21). Although it's fashionable to believe that all teens are impulsive and immature (and, where they are expected to be, many do live down to the cultural expectation of them), in many parts of the world the bias does not exist. For example, in the urban USA she'd be considered old enough to raise a family of her own or to lead a household even as a single parent. So there's no point in complaining because she chose to do something difficult. As to her solo attempt, she's as well trained and prepared for this kind of emergency as anyone can expect to be, regardless of age. So she's far better equipped to survive and get herself out of this situation than most adults. Hopefully she survives and makes it back, but even if she doesn't, she knew and accepted the risks involved before she started, and sometimes when you roll the dice it comes up snake eyes. I wish her the best.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Stephanie

    Wow, I cannot believe some of these comments. I hope she is dead?? Really?? What a HORRIBLE thing to say about someone. What is wrong with you people!? Obviously, none of you are from a sailing family and understand boats, weather, seas. Have any of you bothered to read her blog?? She was ready for this. She has been sailing all her life. She took all the precautions she could and set out on a life changing adventure. If she does not make it, atleast she died doing what she loved and that is for NO ONE to judge. She is brave and doing what she was born to do. Life is about risk and doing what you love. Just because you choose to spend your lives being safe or sitting inside watching TV and life pass you by, does not give anyone the right to judge anyone else or their family.
    They all knew the risks. Her brother has already done this. All we (the world) can do is hope for a positive outcome. Good Luck Abby, thoughts are with you.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • TNGirl

      Very well said!!

      June 10, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. fred


    Am I supposed to feel sorry here? Some privileged little girl from Cali. wants to do something incredibly dangerous like sail around the world alone and now she's missing? Sounds like she dug her own grave. No pity for senseless risk takers.


    June 10, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wheres your god now?

      Exactly. Kinda like when a bunji-coord snaps. Should We honestly say "oh no, how could this happen?"

      June 10, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Wayne

    maybe we should STOP PRAYING! Isn't there a saying - "when you're not looking for love.....that's when it hits you."
    With all the prayers everyday for the past thousands of years - you would think we would already be living in paradise....stop asking (PRAY ~ PREguntar / to ask in Spanish), and maybe WE shall receive. You don't like it when people keep complaining / whining – do you?

    June 10, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. The Racing Winds Crew

    All, poster Alex above is exactly right.
    – This family is very sailing oriented. Their 17 year old, Zach, did this a couple years ago, and succeeded. He also briefly held the world record for youngest to sail around the world alone.
    -This is not against the law. She wanted to do it, and they supported her. If your son / daughter had a dream, would you support them too?
    -Abby is sailing near several impoverished countries. They do not keep helicopters and planes around just for fun. It's not as easy as it sounds just to deploy a helicopter. Someone has to pay for the fuel and the crew, whether its a government or a private company. Also, the weather is really rough, and it does no good if the rescue crew is downed just because they wing it and head out there.
    -Finally, this is not the time for your unenlightened, bashing comments. There is a girl out there missing, in danger, and you are saying stupid things that you don't even know what you're talking about.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. MsAledella

    Susan, I like the way you think!!!

    June 10, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. nopeekapanish

    I hope they find her alive and well. Of course, her parents feel guilty, as well they should. She isn't an adult. Only fools would support their daughter in such a foolhardy escapade.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ben

    Good for Abby for having the courage to do something incredibly difficult, while fully aware of the risk! Good for her parents for teaching her well, and having the courage to allow her to take on such a great challenge by herself! Too bad there aren't more Americans like these good people! Imagine where we'd be now as a nation if each of us tried to overcome an intimidating obstacle like that at such a young age.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • just me

      Hey Ben , you want to imagine what America as a nation would be like if we all did what this young girl is doing ? Yeah, let's look. M-M-M , We would be a much , much smaller Nation, because half of us would be dead already and the other half would be crippled from the injuries after doing stupid tricks like this.

      June 10, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      Haha, yeah, you're probably right, and I'd probably be dead by now if left to my own devices when I was 16... But in my opinion it's usually the people with the courage to do stupid things that make a difference and inspire people to do hard things. Columbus, Magellan, Lewis & Clark, etc.

      June 10, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sam

    Bob has a point... there should have at least been one other larger boat accompanying her on the voyage, tailing her at a reasonable distance. It would still be her sailing solo. Regardless, my thoughts and prayers are with the family.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dan in SLC

    it sounds to me like they've lost contact except for the beacons. "missing" has yet to be determined. my best wishes for her safety

    June 10, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. amanda

    Personaly i am praying for the safe return for abby and i hope the best happens and thats to bring her home but at the same time what the HELL!!!! How are you gonna let your 16yr old daughter go out to sea around the world by herself does her parents not know the dangers of the sea man they need to get some brains it was thier jobs to keep her safe and they failed !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 10, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ann LaManna

    I just hope she is found, dead or alive. It is the ocean....her body could end up anywhere.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • sssimon

      I would hope you would wish that she be found alive surely? Frankly if she is dead I hardly see how finding her body matters much.

      June 10, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ann

      Of course I would want her alive, but if she is not, then at least we can find her body so that there would be closure for the family.

      June 10, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
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