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. Yami

    Lord I pray that you have Abby wrapped around your hands protecting her...And If you have decided to take her Lord i ask you to console her parents.....IN JESUS NAME I PRAY!! AMEN!!!!!

    June 10, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. rich

    I have a 16 year old. Her loss would end my life. I would do anything in my power to prevent her from undertaking such a dangerous enterprise. Having said that I'm in awe of her courage. All my psychic energy goes out to her family, and most especially to her. Be safe and well dear!

    June 10, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Phil

    Prayer asks for God to provide solutions, not to justify ours. "I pray to God that if I stand in front of a feight train I won't be killed and can sell my story to National Enquirere." A little stupid, just like letting a 16 year old, male or female, to endanger their lives with an idiotic sailing trip for no realson whatsoever. Oh, could be to let the parents brag a little.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Buyaboat

    I bet few if any of the people critcizing this have zero knowledge of sailing. She has lived more in her 16 years than most of you people posting. go back to watching tv.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Brandon

    At 16 her parents can't tell her what she can or cannot do. They can try but at that age she can drive and work so she can basically do what she wants whether she is right or wrong. And I'm sure the parents weren't forcing the girl to do it against her own will. Parents are WAY to over protective these days, so when they're babied 20+ year olds want to go live on their own or go to college they get a huge eye-opener to what life is about and fail miserably. Cut off the umbilical cord already!

    June 10, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Gordon L.

    Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?

    June 10, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Toto Too

    RIP honey, you are now sleeping with the fishes. If the parents truely thought this out then they must now live with the consequences. As a parent I've tried to ensure my children survive until adulthood. If they want to mountain climb or sky dive as adults I can not stop that. But allowing a "child" to recklessly endanger their life is unaccectable. I'm not taling about living in a cave. If your 16 year old daughters life dream was to tour the country with a rock band would you let her? Come on people, she is just an impulsive kid. Parents #1 duty is to keep our kis safe. This was as risky an endevour as anything on the planet.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  8. tickles

    Save the sermons. Some of us don't have to believe in your god. I used to. Until he stopped showing me the good things life has to offer and just kept pouring on the crap! If he really was listening, I'm sure the prayers that many people said, including her parents, before she set sail, would have been answered, instead, she is missing and things ain't looking too good for her. Why are prayers only good during and after a tragedy, and not before? Save the preaching. I can't be "saved". Hopefully Abby can be.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. BigFatFan

    you can not stop people from doing stupid things. this is no surprise to me that something bad may come out of parents allowing a child to take on an extremely risky venture. Parents have no one to blame but themselves.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Phyl

    I know nothing about sailing. I was very impressed when I read her story of how brave and adventerous she is. Wish my two teenage daughters were half as adventerous. But I was under the assumption that there would be other boats accompanying her. I understand solo....on the boat by herself but with other boats with her. I pray for a positive outcome.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Shrike

    Aliens came down and abducted her.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dave

    16 years old? shouldn't she be in school? Sailing around the world?...for what? complete nonsense. What a huge waste of time and effort. Her parents should be arrested. She and her parents put her in harms way. Unbelievable.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Concerned

    First and foremost, our thoughts are with Abby and her parents at this time. This is a complicated issue and after reading all these posts I thought I would chime in with my humble opinion.
    There is no denying that Abby was brave. The prospect of sailing solo around the world is daunting even for the most accomplished sailors. Was this dangerous? Well, yes. Is the idea of fulfilling a dream alluring and noble. Of course it is. Were we hoping (and continue to hope) that should would make it safely? Of course we were.
    People here keep repeating that she could have just as easily been injured at a concert or driving or crossing the street. While this is true, the level of risk in these activities is statistically infinitely smaller than the one she embarked on.

    People keep saying that she was brave and noble in following her dream. This is true but if her dream was to sail around the world, couldn't it have waited a few more years along with the accompanying experience she would have gained. What was the rush to do it NOW? Her dream would still have been there waiting for her as an adult.

    The role of a parent is to love, nurture and encourage their children. I respect the confidence they had in Abby, however a child is still a child and sometimes their dreams are bigger than their abilities to see them to fruition. The role of the parent is to be the voice of reason. Again, they didn't have to quash her dreams but maybe temper them a little until she had gained more maturity and experience.
    Now having said that, would two years have prevented this accident. Probably not. When engaging in this sort of high risk activity there are well, high risks and accidents of this type go with the territory.

    I wish that her parents had erred on the safe side. That's all.

    My thoughts are with them and I hope Abby is found safe and sound.

    June 10, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • j.kavoussi

      beautifully said.

      June 10, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dave Hendrix

    Did you of hear of the 10 or 12 year old boy who tried to fly across the US with an instructor pilot? They crashed I think in Colorado. What a misguided stunt!!

    June 10, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Andrew

    I have to say this.....

    After watching some young kid risk his neck to climb Mt. Everst and now seeing another CHILD missing because she too was "chasing a dream" I'm left wondering what kind of parents are so STUPID as to let their child do something as reckless as try and sail solo around the world???

    Give your heads a shake, people!

    My five year old dreams of being a fire-eater in the circus. Guess I should just hand him the lighter fluid and matches. I don't want to stand in the way of their "dream".

    June 10, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
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