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. Stephanie

    Abby is OK! her parents posted to her blog last night...she is fine....vessel should be with her soon.

    June 11, 2010 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  2. George Oommen

    I am glad she is alive.Who is going to meet the expense of search and rescue operation? Is it parents, tax payers of some country or BP?

    June 11, 2010 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  3. cc

    I am saying my prayers that shw will be found alive. The parents should be charged with endangering the welfare of a CHILD, yes child. Who lets a minor do a stunt like that? She risked her life for a world record? It doesn't seem like that was a very intelligent decision.

    June 11, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. cc

    I am praying that she will be found alive. The parents should be charged with endangering the welfare of a child, yes CHILD. Who lets a minor do a stunt like that? She risked her life for a world record? Not a very intelligent or mature decision.

    June 11, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bbdj

    well even if i think she is too young all ai want to see her come home safe i live a few citys aways

    June 12, 2010 at 2:38 am | Report abuse |
  6. PaulaKay

    During the Depression many teen-aged boys and girls (mostly boys) left home and lived on the road. They did this for many reasons: one less child in the home to feed, looking for work, looking for independence and thrills. Yes, there were many dangerous days, loneliness, hunger yet these kids learned to care for themselves, some became very successful later in life. In fact, my dad was on the road for a while in the 30's. Hitchiking around Hy 99 in California looking for work. Certainly no one was talking about prosecuting these kids' parents.
    There was a v. good episode on PBS last month about these kids who rode railroad cars and follow-ups with them in their 70's talking about the experience. Of course, we never want our country to return to that level of hard times, but it does help keep things in perspective, especially when today we wrap our kids in emotional bubble wrap and deprive them of the experiences of pain, decision-making, physical joy of movement, independence.

    June 12, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. s. Stacey

    My prayers go out to her and her family. All of u people who have ur negative opinions should really keep them to yourselves at this point. Her family is going through a lot right now. And what really is the difference if this girl was 16 or 20.. The risks are still the same. This family probably lives a different life than most of you squares... People are on here (I.e Jessica V) talking about how they lock their kids in the house..they won't know how to act when they finally get out of your house. They are going to go wild with a little bit of freedom. Anyway, I think she's brave.. I wouldn't choose to sail around the world.. but she's brave. Most of u lames that are judging her and her family's decision are unhappy with your own boring lives anyway.. I guess she should be more like u.

    June 16, 2010 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  8. Liz

    Wow, some pretty heartless and disgusting comments on here.

    16 is a young adult by my standards and plenty old enough to decide to go adventuring. The infantilization of the rich world's youth is absurd. I have two young children and I can only dream that they'll grow up to be as independent, skilled and adventurous as this young woman. Geez.

    Where would the world be without bright young adventurers like this? I'm glad she's okay.

    June 18, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
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