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. Barbara Reitz

    What about helicopters and search planes? If her beacon is working.... they should be able to locate her.

    June 10, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Colleen

      It is her DISTANCE from 'helpline bases' that makes the options limited. Helicopters can only fly out a limit to LESS THAN HALF of their fuel tank. They need some fuel to look for her, plus she is drifting farther from them as they travel toward her 1st point of the locator beacon AND to assist her, pull her up etc. and make it BACK. If she is too far out for such a flight with the equipment available to them then the nearest boat is the only option. 40 hours is a damned long ways from shore/aid. She'll start shedding blood in less time if she is in teh water for an extended period as her skin will start to hemorrage. The fish will show up afterwards.

      June 10, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Oleg

    When will we learn – children riding bikes or subway home – good, children doing extreme feats that few adults can handle – bad. We don't HAVE TO go to extremes of 200 pound homebound teenagers and five year old girls flying airplanes.

    June 10, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. John

    Quite a few poorly thought out comments.

    Get a plane out there!? What's a plane going to do? Seaplanes can't land on water in a storm with 45 knot winds. A helicopter might be useful, but even that would be a difficult rescue from a sailboat with the mast and rigging pitching about in a storm. But the distance would require a refueling plane, and doing that in a storm is difficult as well.

    If it's not taking on water, a sailboat left to itself can ride out most storms. Hopefully that will be the case and all will be well.

    June 10, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. geckopelli

    Out of communications in the middle of the ocean is hardly the same as lost.

    Sail on girl!

    June 10, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  5. I'm just saying

    If she's hurt or dies, its her parents fault.. PERIOD. My 6 year old nephew wants to drive my car... should I allow it???

    June 10, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • LongRanger

      It'd be illegal on public roads, but if you want to allow your 6 year old nephew to drive your car on your private property, IT IS YOUR CHOICE. Not ours.

      June 10, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • russ

      Not everyone raises their kids in front of a tv, covered in bubble wrap. I'm sure this 16 year old was far more capable at sailing then a large number of adults, especially many of those on this post criticizing her parents. Some kids grow up doing something all their life. Seriously comparing a 6 yearold driving a car to a 16 year old who has sailed for many years is just moronic.

      June 10, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jim

    Bob, you need help! There is a God capable of anything. You need to seek him out.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • lolwut

      Except for the god that killed this girl while she was out alone on the sea.

      As if god or satan have anything to do with this? If they were real, either god killed her or satan killed her. If god let her die, it was his will. If satan killed her, it was god's will. If it wasn't god's will and satan did it anyway, then it looks like god isn't even as strong as satan so why would I even want to follow god?

      Too bad it's all fake anyway.

      June 10, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Marc

    I'm glad this girl gets what she deserves. How stupid is someone to set off sailing alone around the world at 16 when your body and skills are not fully developed? Unfortunately no one will learn and some other idiot will attempt to do this. Neither my thoughts nor my prayers go for her because she brought it upon herself.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • tony

      man....that's cold.

      June 10, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • sactoman

      Yeah,,, blame it on her parents who wanna be famous by risking their kid's life like that.

      June 10, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Lyli

    I agree with other posters that say this was an irresponsible move from the parents. I also do not agree with tax payers $$ being used for the rescue of an adventurous girl. People obvioulsy thought highly of her ability of doing this trip solo, thus I hope the media, TV shows and the likes will foot the bill to rescue her.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Kat

    If they don't send a plane out there IMMEDIATELY someone should be prosecuted. 40 hours...ya right! The girl's parents could get there faster than 40 hours! Sheesh...really hoping that was a typo. And yes people.....I'm sure her parents are just SICK about 'allowing' her to do this but now that tragedy has struck does saying 'i told you so' really make you feel better

    June 10, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • John K

      She didn't get lost going to the corner doughnut shop, she is (or rather was) in the middle of the Indian Ocean. She just can't dial 911 and expect the po po to come pick her up.

      June 10, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Speedro

      Who, exactly, should be prosecuted? And for what? She is not in the U.S. She may well be in international waters. Who would you deem negligent for not sending help quickly enough? The manufacturer of her rescue beacon? Australia? Her parents? What would you charge them with? And in what country? Duh.

      June 10, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Wow

    Wow, what's up with the hate towards her parents? Sounds to me like these parents were trying to allow their daughter to reach a goal in her life. Better to take the risk for something then sit at home on the couch spewing insanity... I do hope they find her alive and safe. Best wishes and I pray to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that He will protect her during these next hours and days as they look for her.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Julia

      SHE IS ONLY 16!!!! HER PARENTS ARE TOTALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS HORRIBLE TRAGEDY!! she is ALONE in the middle of a storming winter sea! insane! I live in the same neighborhood as this family and i can tell you the children here have been sheltered and protected. they tend to be naive about the dangers which exist in the "real world." Although my heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of this dear little girl–her parents are idiots and far to permissive! I believe they are like stage parents wanting to ride the coat tails of their child's risks so allowed her to do it for the glory they would receive. Well there will be no glory only a funeral now!

      June 10, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Speedro

      While I agree with you Julia that this is irresponsible in some ways, I highly doubt that you live in the same neighborhood as these people. Just sayin...

      June 10, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. tony

    wow. i cant imagine how terrifying that is. being stuck out there in the Ocean with no one and no help. ugh.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • pg

      If she's thinking like that, she's a goner. People who survive these sorts of things stay calm, keep their wits about them, and take it one step at a time. That's why the military trains soldiers to react automatically in battle; keep calm; focus on what you need to do; stay alive.

      June 10, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ben

    All of you, Pray for her.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tommy

    For those of you who REALLY think praying would have helped this girl, it is YOU that leads a sad existence. Open your eyes and realize that only YOU taking responsibility for YOURSELF will get you anywhere. Don't go out and eat at McDonalds, smoke a pack of cigarettes, and drink alcohol, and then pray to god that you don't die of cardiovascular disease. HELLO!?! Anyone there? It's called PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. Look into it...

    June 10, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Really?!! Seriously?!!

    Are you serious? Let's smash the hopes and dreams of people at an age to actual achieve their goals and dreams. Yes, let's force the children to stay at home, watching t.v. and becoming fat slobs just like the rest of us because outdoor activity is too dangerous. That's what is wrong with America. We are teaching children they shouldn't take risk and have no ambition. Thanks mom . . . hope you can support me puntil I'm 40 y.o.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Speedro

      Yes, dude! I could not express it better.

      June 10, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Carl

    Father God, please protect this young lady and bring her out of the situation safely, We ask your grace and mercy to fall on on Abby, we know this is your will and e praise you for it. Amen

    June 10, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
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