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ABC News reports that the family and support crew of 16 year old solo sailor Abby Sunderland have lost contact with her and fear that she has been lost at sea.
Sunderland, who is attempting to become the youngest person ever to circumnavigate the globe, was sailing in the southern Indian Ocean this morning when she dropped a satellite call and later activated her emergency beacons. When the ABC story was filed, Sunderland’s family said the closest rescue vessel was 40 hours out from her broadcast position near Reunion Island, which is about 120 miles east of Madagascar.
Sunderland’s brother told an L.A. radio station that his sister’s boat, Wild Eyes, was “most likely not completely submerged” because another beacon, which fires automatically when the boat is 15 feet underwater, has not yet activated.
Sunderland reported bad weather in a blog post yesterday:
The wind is beginning to pick up. It is back up to 20 knots and I am expecting that by midnight tonight I could have 35-50 knots with gusts to 60 so I am off to sleep before it really picks up.
Sunderland’s story is fascinating, though its one I haven’t mentioned here because I question the wisdom of parents who their kids take such risks. However, now that the rescue mission is underway I’ll provide updates here. Keep Miss Sunderland in your prayers.
UPDATE 06/10 2:55pm: A spokesperson for the Sunderland family has just posted an update to her blog:
We are working closely with American, French and Australian Search & Rescue authorities to coordinate several ships in the area to divert to her location. There are several ships in her area, the earliest possible contact is 40 hours. We are actively seeking out some sort of air rescue but this is difficult due to the remoteness of her location. Australian Search & Rescue have arranged to have a Quantas 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.
UPDATE 06/10 3:41pm: This from Sail-World.com:
As Abby’s automatic, water-activated EPIRB has not sounded an alarm as yet, this indicates that the EPIRB has not been submerged and Wild Eyes is still afloat. As long as this automatic EPIRB is operative and not damaged, this points to the possibility that Abby has been hurt or that the boat is sufficiently damaged in some way that she can no longer sail it. It is not at all likely that Abby has gone overboard as reported in some of the world’s press, as she would have been unable to activate her alarm.
Sail-World.com has also posted a map of Sunderland’s position.
UPDATE 06/10 6:28pm: (via L.A. Times) Engineer behind Sunderland’s voyage believes Abby is alive and “most likely floating” in the Indian ocean.
Casher said the family is looking at three possible scenarios. Either the boat’s mast came down, giving her no ability to sail the vessel; the keel hit something and possibly flipped the boat upside down; or she may have broken an arm or leg while being whipsawed about in violent waters.
“She set this off not because she lost communication, but because something else was wrong,” Casher said. They had set very clear guidelines for when to activate emergency beacons – and losing communication alone was not enough, he said.
An update from the Atlanta Journal Constitution quotes Jeff Casher as saying the two distress beacons are still broadcasting, providing GPS data that shows them drifting together at 1 mph.
UPDATE 06/11 6:30am: ALIVE AND WELL! The L.A. Times reports that a Qantas Airways jet has spotted Abby and made radio contact with her. Her parents posted the following on her blog:
We have just heard from the Australian Search and Rescue. The plane arrived on the scene moments ago. Wild Eyes is upright but her rigging is down. The weather conditions are abating. Radio communication was made and Abby reports that she is fine!
We don’t know much else right now. The French fishing vessel that was diverted to her location will be there in a little over 24 hours. Where they will take her or how long it will take we don’t know.