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. Kristy

    Some of you people really crack me up. Just because you wouldn't allow your child to do something means that everyone should parent the same way? Do you let your kids drive cars? If they get in an accident and die is it your fault for letting them drive a car? What if you let your child play baseball and they get hit in the head by a pitch and die? Your fault? EVERYTHING in this world is preventable if you want to lead a dull and boring life. Don't get out of your chair and walk outside ..... you may die! Instead of praying that this girl is well you are placing blame on a family and a child you have no interaction with. Shame on you!

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

      Well said Kristy!

      June 10, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • russ

      Good to see some people out there have some brains. Well said

      June 10, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daisy

      I agree with you about everything having risks. But with something like sailing around the world ALONE at 16 the potential risks are screaming in your face. To let your kid do such a thing is stupidity on the parent, who is suppose to protect their kids and help them to make the right choices. Mom and Dad could have said no and told her to sail around the world when she was an adult. I don't think not being able to set the world record of youngest person to sail the world would have been the worse squashed dream. If she could not have enjoyed the trip just as much as an adult and with other people aboard, than all she cared about was some stupid record. A record she may have given her life for.

      I pray they find her alive. Shame on those parents.

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

    Are we sure it is not all made up ... to create around this boring sail trip? Or it is just me always thinking bad... I hope I am wrong!

    June 10, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sn-hear Sn-hear!

    "No honey, not until you're 18."

    My mother commented a few weeks ago, when that 13 yr old kid climbed Mt. Everest, that eventually something was going to give with kids challenging new limits. (Just today China banned children from climbing Everest (CHINA, people!!)) Remember Steve Fossett? People asked "How" and not "Why" after his accident. Old people taking risks should leave death to fate, not a child who doesn't know any better.

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

    Oh my. What a group of self-righteous busy bodies. Do you let your teenagers drive? How about we prosecute YOU if they are killed or injured. Life has an infinite capacity for generating tragedy. Better she goes like this than in a flop house with a needle in her arm. Bad stuff can happen when you take risks. But it's only way good stuff ever happens. Welcome to life. It's unfair and there's no justice. You can hide under your bed and hope nothing will ever get you or your family or friends ... or you can live. This young woman chose the latter. Good for her.

    Hope this has a happy ending, but I doubt it will.

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

      I agree. Kids can and used to be expected to do a lot more than we give them credit for today. We raise them to be stupid. I commend the parents in teaching this girl to accomplish great things. I'm sure she was plenty prepared. Things can still go wrong no matter what age the person is.

      June 10, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Cindy

    I totally agree that prayer is needed for this girl and her family especially since it appears that hse is so far away from help. But I also agree that is was a stupid thing to let her do this. At 16 she is only a young girl not a grown woman. As a parent, i realize all children have dreams and desires but it is our job as parents to have more wisdom to decide what it the best choice to make especially if it involves their safety.

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

    i hope they find her alive, but honestly, the first thing i thought was "what the HELL are these parent's thinking?". no way could I let my child do something like this. Would I encourage her to fufill dreams? sure. But this isn't about "squashing dreams", it's about making smart decisions to keep your children safe. of course she would WANT to do this, it's her passion. but as the wise adult, you need to be strong enough to say "no, not yet". this is a decision those parents will regret. I feel so sorry for them. 😦

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

      Her parents were thinking nothing different than any parent who lets there child explore the limits of their world, whether it is letting them play football, motocross, surf, or any number of activities that are inherantly dangerous, more kids are killed each year riding bikes than sailing.

      June 10, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • karen

      seriously John?! give me a break. um, yea, i don't see kids playing football to become the first one their age to do it!? don't you see why the risks are so great that no one else has accomplished it? this is SOOOO beyond life's dangers. this is putting yourself purposely in harms way. stop trying to compare it to everyday events. sure, i may walk out and get hit by a bus. but does that mean i should run on the freeway to see "if i can do it?!"

      June 10, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Hollie

    Maybe Wilson will find her! ( Castaway)

    June 10, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ali

    Are we sure it is not all made up ... to create "enthusiasm" around this boring sail trip? Or it is just me always thinking bad... I hope I am wrong!

    June 10, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • nkl

      Really? Made up? Yeah, and there isn't millions of gallons of oil spewing into the world's oceans either. Dumba**. I'm sure BP made up a little girl lost at sea to divert unnecessary attention away from the imaginary oil spill that's not destroying the ocean.

      June 10, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Grace

    I pray to God that this young lady is rescued.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. John Z

    Good luck, she will need it, the Indian Ocean is a terribly violent place, been through there in 25-30ft swells, can't imagine that sea in a small sailboat. She is/was a very brave young woman, and I hope she is found safely, the world needs more bright, young, brave people like her.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Slim Shady

      i bet u have

      June 10, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. guest2010

    STUPID, STUPID, STUPID idea. A 16 yr old (irregardless or boy or girl) CANNOT control a boat by themselves when the oceans REALLY get ferocious and her IRRESPONSIBILE "parents" were STUPID to even allow her to try such a STUPID trip. CREWS of GROWN men CAN'T even control their ships in some of the FEROCIOUS weather that develops, what made this young girl think that SHE could. What an UNNECESSARY tragedy!

    June 10, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Beavis99

      Irregardless? Really? Someone is still using that "word"? Its regardless. There is no Ir. I bet you say "whatnot" too–the idiots verbal crutch

      June 10, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Speedro

      Irregardless is not a word.

      June 10, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Paul

    What do you expect when trying to break records? At one point, you're just being foolish.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  13. David (Georgia)

    I don't understand parents who allow/encourage their children to attempt such high risk endeavors, whether it's sailing, mountain climbing or flying a plane. Yes, it can be done but the risks to the child and potentially to others should outweigh the need to achieve these things at such young ages. Do some growing up first. Then do your thing. Doing it just to be an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records is an exercise in vanity and it may come more from the parents than the children.

    June 10, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JMG

    I am happy to have parents let their children undertake high risk and dangerous activities, but NOT at my expense. WE will be footing the bill for any rescue activities that involve our military or other US owned resources. I find THAT unacceptable, the same way fools who ski off paths and get caught in avalanches stick us with their rescue attempts. Selfish, foolhardy!

    June 10, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mike

    I am a parent and I dont care how much sailing and trainning and equiptment you have Bla Bla Bla. I WOULD NEVER LET MY CHILD DO SOMETHING AS DANGEROUS AS THIS. When she set out on this voyage I told my wife this is not going to be a happy ending. Her parents will live with the empty hole in their hearts for letting their daughter lose her life over something as stupid as being the first 16 year old girl to sail around the world by her self. It sounds pretty stupid now that shes missing...........right mom and dad?

    June 10, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • pg

      That's your choice. Not there's. It's frankly none of your business what they decided.

      June 10, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
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