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. Captain Tofer

    When I was 16 years old my parents let me ride a bicycle by myself from Wyoming to Alaska... that trip shaped the rest of my life. This girl was raised on a sailboat, lives on a sailboat, her dad delivers sailboats with her brother and her as crew. I also live on a sailboat and my 17 year old son has 30,000offshore miles already. You people are ignorant if you think this girl is a typical 16 year old. Good Luck Abby.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. The Racing Winds Crew

    I think it's great she's pursuing something she loves. I hope they find her so badly. So many kids die from smoking pot, drinking, and making bad decisions, that I think its wonderful to see a girl who is making something good of her life at the age of 16. Also, people, no one cares what you would do if you were her parent. You're not. These parents made a legal, supportive choice. Go bash them somewhere else.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • robert

      what makes you think its legal? i guess your for assisted suicide to right? the whole point is shes to young duh and i hope if something did happen her parents are held accountable.

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

      Your right! Gosh if we all thought the way you and this kids parents think, we could wipe out all the teenagers on the planet within – what – one month!! I hope you don't have kids, but if you do, I am sure Darwin will prevail!

      June 10, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Gordon L.

    The mariners all say she'da made Whitefish Bay if she'd put 15 more miles behind her.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      She mighta' split up or she mighta' capsized, she may have run deep and took water?

      June 10, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Linda Davis

    I am hoping and yes praying for a good outcome for this but think it was a very foolish idea in the first place to take such a high risk voyage at her age. To prove what? -That she can get an entry in the Guiness book of records or some momentary fame? If she perishes at sea it will be a waste of a young life. If she's rescued I hope she sets some more worthy goals for her life.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. mommers

    I remember, when she was preparing for her trip, hoping that child protective services would take her away from her parents. I will pray for her safe return but prayers are more effective when coupled with good common sense. Sadly, It may be too late.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Serge

    This is what is wrong with a lot of people. They think they can control the world, and when they can't they control their kids. People need to learn through experiences for themselves, both good and bad. Kids learn from them.
    Usually people like this have no faith in the intelligence of youth. Really sad, only the kids will suffer
    You job as a parent it to guide and advise them, teach them morals and values. Not keep them under lock and key so that when they get in the "real" world there is a huge shock value and a huge learning curve.
    I am speaking as a father, who was not allowed to cross a road at 14 years old and moved out at 15. I have a great job, family and a strong set of morals and values..... on my own.
    You don't give your kids enough credit and you over value your worth....... poor kids.
    As for Abby, I really hope to hear some good news, she had been preparing for this for many years, it was her dream.
    The human spirit is stronger than any shackles.
    Peace, love and understanding everyone!

    June 10, 2010 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lee

      not being able to cross the street at 14 and sailing around the world at 16, knowing the dangers and consequences is like comparing apples to bananas. While I agree with you that parents should let their kids experience the world and not keep them locked up, this is a bit extreme. Your story has no relevance at all to this story, no one cares you moved out at 15 and have a wonderful life.

      June 10, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Serge

      Sorry, I took out the part the was pointing to other comments earlier. I reposted thinking it would still make sense, which I guess is a stretch. A lady above was commenting that her kids don't go out without her, if you look above you will see it.

      Either way, yes you are right, but I was replying to some people on this board.

      June 10, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. KRR

    While I fully hope that everything is all right I cannot help but be absolutely outraged at the pure ridiculousness of the venture. What parent allows a child to undertake this type of activity? How can any parent risk living with themselves in an outcome such as this? If something does happen to this child what charges shoud the parents face for willingly putting a child into an extremely dangerous situation? And that doesn't even touch on the financial impact something like this will have – while we can say that you can't put a price on life – let's be realistic...serious money will be expended in the search for this poor girl and who's assuming responsibility for those costs? The same parents that allowed this trip?

    June 10, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mel

    The french have launched an air search 10 minutes ago. Let's just visualize our
    joy when they find her.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. obxsurferbabe

    @ Reality...who's to say they sepnt hundreds of thousands of dollsrs?! I agree this is poor judgement on the parents' part...and also, if they are so rich, according to you, Reality, then they can pay an aircraft to go looking for her...but they are begging anyone to go, sounds like a bunch of rich snobs to me *sarcasm*

    June 10, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Linda Davis

    Don't think she's brave but rather foolhearty.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Forildo

    Only the Flying Spaghetti Monster can save her now

    June 10, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Danny

      Flying Spaghetti mosnter?!
      I have to admit, that was pretty funny

      June 10, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Joey

    her parents suck

    June 10, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  13. sssimon

    I remember when Robin Lee Graham sailed alone around the world. He left at 16 but took 5 years to do it with numerous stops along the way to experience different cultures and people. He had a real adventure. How do these recent stunts compare to that? They are more about enduring loneliness and monotony than actually having a real life experience.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Al

    wow a lot of you are ignorant. on abby's site it said she's been around boats and has had a lot of training and has gone out with her father on boats to learn all about it. and it's not just her parents that allowed it, if abby hadn't had all this training, the laws probably wouldn't have allowed her to go. i hope she's okay.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Geosuicide

    I absolutely cannot believe some of the comments I've read here. Execute the parents? Take away future children? Child Abuse? People who posts comments like this are most certainly part of the problem and not the solution. You're real quick to point out WHY someone shouldn't have done something but you won't do the first damn thing to help someone. It seems like your only purpose in life is to judge others.

    I feel sorry for people who make comments like this – I really do. It's like you are miserable and unhappy and want to bring everyone else on board with you. Like you're the model of perfect parents? You've never made mistakes?

    This girl is an accomplished sailor – more than you can say for yourself as you sit at your computer screen and eat Cheetos while judging everyone on what you think is right and wrong. I wish her the best and hope she returns safely. If she did perish at sea, then she died doing something she loved and while fulfilling a dream. Good for her.

    Wait..you miserable people are going to die doing what you love to do too – complain, judge and make stupid idiotic comments. Truly sad and pathetic.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • robert

      Hey arent you being judgemental right now? sounds like to me your being a hypocrite because you are judging us for not agreeing that sending a 16 year old into immence danger is a good thing.

      June 10, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • brainlessinseattle

      Hey, Aren't you doing the exact same thing? Face it Geosuicide your just as much a clone as the rest of us. Your not hiding anything!

      June 10, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49