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. Jay bake

    This is a stupid incident. Parents must know when to say no to their kids. Someone said you can't stop a teen-ager from doin what they want to do. Are you serious, I know damned well she ain't have a job that paid for a boat. You say hell no you can't go around the world in our boat, get your own when you are 18 if you want to risk your life. Are you serious? World record? I'll show you a world record for the longest timeout if ya ask me again. Wow, I hope people learn something from this. Sure I feel bad that the girl is lost, but this is why you don't let your kids do anything they want just because you can afford whatever.

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

    When I first heard about this young lady trying to sail around the world alone I said to myself: "What are her parents thinking?!", but kept my mouth shut. I hope she's found, she's just a child. As for her parents, I hope that their efforts for publicity and fame won't end in tragedy, because the world is really going to voice the same answer I kept to myself.

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

    Stop pointing fingers This girl is well trained in sailing. she has a dream, her parents support her dream and ambition. Maybe if more americians actually set goals and dreams for themselves other than weight gain, your country wouldn't be in such trouble.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Brent

    I personally think the parents heads need to be examined. They are living young again through their daughter. Its the record they are after and nothing more. Now, god forbid. They will have pictures and newspaper article to read and look at instead of waking up to their daughter like I do everyday.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Kel

    This whole situation is sad. As a parent, I could not justify allowing my child to take on such an adventure at the age of 16, and someone said earlier you can't control a teenager, I agree to a certain extent, but this wasn't an issue of "control" the parents helped financially support her "dream." I do admire Abby's courage and determination, however, 16 years old is a little too young for sailing around the world by herself, waiting until she is an adult would have been a better choice in my opinion. Even if she is an extremely experienced sailor, there are too many risks whether it be pirates (yes they are in parts of this world), the weather, mechanical breakdown...etc... I think it is perfectly natural to fulfill your dreams, however, the extent of this dream is larger than most 16 year old children. If I sound wishy washy on my words here, it's because I am torn about this situation. I stated I could not justify letting my child take on such an adventure; but sitting here thinking about it, I also think of those children who have a terminal illness and want a wish granted, what if that child's wish had risks, would you say no? Life is all about choices; maybe this wasn't the wisest choice to make, however I don't believe anyone on this message board has the right to judge. My thoughts and prayers go out to Abby, her family and friends.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. CC

    I pray that she is found alive and safe. I am glad she is a driven girl...but this was not a smart choice by the parents to allow her to go. I have a 16 year old daughter who is very outgoing and into trying new things and spreading her wings. BUT as parents, you know what should be allowed...this was not smart. Sometimes you need to tell them when they are 18 they can do what they want, but as a child still...we need to enforce some common sense.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jon

    Parents should go to jail

    June 10, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  8. PhxGuy

    Forgive my ignorance, but I’m confused…are there actually people on this site stating they feel it’s acceptable for a parent to allow their CHILD (and that’s what we’re talking about here folks…a child) to sail alone around the world? I guess I’m missing something but I’m not comfortable allowing a 16 year old to be on Facebook unattended let alone travel across the world on a sailboat ALONE!?!?!?! JEEZ people…
    Peace Out!

    June 10, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jordan

    You people are so stupid. "I don't met my 16 year old out past 11 PM" Give me a break. Everyone is so concerned about the parents being held responsible. This is none of your business anyway. Her older brother was 17 and did it. Age has nothing to do with this. What if she was 18? Would it really make that big of a difference? We are human beings! We take risks. This was her dream, and she knows what she's doing. She knows more about sailing a boat then most grown men do. Shelter your children, keep them safe or whatever you think you're doing right (wrong). Sorry, but 16 is old enough to know right from wrong. Just because you didn't when you were a stupid teenager, doesn't mean she is incapable of determining what is logical and what Isn't. If she had the ability to do it, and wanted to be the youngest to do it, then good for her. At least she's doing something courageous! Go back to your mediocre stay at home life. Keep watching Oprah, and cleaning the kitchen. While you're at it, make me a sandwich.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. DAVID

    when i first heard about this i too thought the parents are crazy to allow a 16 yearold girl venture off byherself around the world...at the very least how is she suppose to defend herself if some sicko wants to board her vessel..did she carry a gun?..then i heard she was broke down in south africa and was relieved that this craziness was coming to an end..then i read this, that she went back out and is now missing.....this girl depends on her parents to lookout for her and be smart about what they allow her to do...i wanted to ride my motorcycle all summer one year when i was in high school...wanted to ride my motorcycle all over the country..and my dad wouldnt let me cause i was 17 even though i was an excellent rider...still am......im glad he stopped me, i felt like nothing could hurt me at that age.....i have done it as an adult and it means much more..and im much safer.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sadie

    A supervised trip, okay. A sixteen-year-old alone? Stupid, stupid idea. At age sixteen, you're still a child. When something bad happens, it's going to fall back on the parents. I just fail to see the sense in it all. Especially with the world the way it is right now.

    Also, I'm not religious at all, nor do I believe in praying- but you all don't need to bash the people that do. Let em believe what they want.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Peter

    There is a reason no sanctioning body has a category for "youngest to go around the world." Because it's not worth loosing a young life to do something that is almost impossible with a lifetime of experience. She may be the best young sailor in the world but life experience puts you in a better position to make better decisions. Too many parents are taking supporting their children's pursuits to ridicules heights. Now we have a missing hiker in dangerous part of the world and a young sailor in the Indian Ocean. Yeah, same ocean with pirate infested waters, sounds stupid to put a teenager in the position huh.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jammindave

    after reading alot of these responses i guess there are those who do things and those who commit on those who do things due there lack of..........?

    June 10, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |


    June 10, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      2000 miles from shore, I doubt it. Plus given the sea conditions, she's probably better outfitted to survive than any of the pirates would be. Best wishes for her, she's in the middle of nowhere. I hope she makes it.

      June 10, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mike vandamme

    sunk for sure...it's one of those things you better be ready to die for...

    June 10, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
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