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. jammindave

    she'll make it. epirbs fired, just a matter of time. ya i know, water activated, but i believe she did what needed to be done to survive.leaving the boat is a tough decision, sounds like she may have. if the keel is still attached and below deck hasn't been severly breached, i hope she's still with the boat, but then again i'm not there. as for whether or not she should be there in the first place, go live your own life and quit judging others decisions. sail on!

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

    parent, that's cuz your 16 year old is retarded

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

    Allowing a 16 year old to set sail (during a school year) by herself is criminal. Obviously, the parents are wealthy in that they can afford to provide a sail boat worthy of sailing the globe to their 16 year old. I hope they are wealthy enough to pay the enormous cost for search and rescue, because I certainly don't want to contribute one penny to subsidize their stupidity. I will, however, gladly contribute to funding the jail cell to which they should be housed.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. dumbparents

    I hope her parents have learned their lesson in parenting. Why would you let your underage girl sail around the world by her self. I hope they find her before the sharks eat her!!!

    June 10, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. basenji

    While I hope the outcome is good and the girl is found (entirely possible that she lost the mast and the boat is still afloat, I do think the search & rescue costs should be charged to her parents and not the taxpayers. Hey she's in an Open 40 – not a cheap boat by any stretch – they can afford it.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Observer

    If her parents CARED about her safety, she wouldn't be 400 miles from a rescue ship now.

    If her parents CARED about the rest of us, they wouldn't have made us pay likely tens of thousands of dollars to rescue the girl.

    If her parents CARED about anyone but themselves they wouldn't deserve to be sent to prison for child endangerment like they should.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. carleton banks

    why in the world would she get off the boat?

    June 10, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duh

      I hope she brought her flippy floppies!

      June 10, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Thinktank

    I always watch the fishermen in the high seas as they catch the lobsters and the crabs.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. dave

    Oh well. Darwins theory in perfect check. One girl that has been pampered with living the ocean life and given an expensive boat to use. Parents probalby all like, "you are wonderful honey, we believe in you". Yet thousands of people are killed every day in the country. Big deal for this one girl in the ocean.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JP

    I can see not many blue water sailors in the reply section.All of us have our favorite activity , passion for nature etc..goal in life,challenge,push ourselves. Leave the girl and her parents alone . They chose and acted on what they believe is their life work. If we criticize those who extend themselves( past the couch and tv ) then we might never have seen a heart surgeon save lives or an engineer design a spacecraft. Have compassion and peace in your heart for a human is lost at sea today . It doesn't matter if she is 16 or 60 .

    June 10, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tawny

    Some have a point...Who lets their 16yr old sail across the entire globe alone? I admire the girl for her bravery etc but, being a mother myself I just don't see how I could let my child do such a thing. Now they're wanting anyone and everyone to go out there and be responsible for the search of their kid after they fully supported and accepted the risks? I by no means see much fault with the girl but, the only reason I can a parent agreeing to such a thing is for the publicity...Just an opinion...Doesn't make it a fact : )

    June 10, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Somali Pirate

    Wait! Come back little girl! I've got some candy for you!
    (Durn! missed the chance to kidnap her & hold her for ransom..
    her folks are rich, living in the late actor George C. Scott's
    expensive town...a nice bounty could've been had!!! Shucks!)
    Come back little girl !!!!!!!!!l come back!!!!!!

    June 10, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Lynn

    At 16 how much sailing experience could she possibly have, not sailing around the bay with friends and family, but solo, in a 40 foot boat, in high seas and high winds, and literally, in the middle of the the ocean? What?

    June 10, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tom

    The result of another flawed and foolish decision by a teen who "wants to be the first", and of misguided parents who let her embark on such a foolhardy quest...for what?....5 minutes of fame! She'd have been better off finishing her education, then trying something like this...but then, she wouldn't have been the first teen to do this! I hope this doesn't have a tragic ending!

    June 10, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. EdBnv

    I didn't read anything about bringing 'Child Endangerment' charges against the parents. At a minimum any remaining children should be removed fromn the house - This young lady could have done something with her life... I can only imagine how horrible it would be to die at 16 alone and cold in the middle of the ocean.

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