America

Teen Sailor Goes Missing In Indian Ocean

Abby Sunderland

hide captionAbby Sunderland, 16, on her cell phone as she departs Marina del Rey, Calif. on Jan. 23, 2010.

Richard Hartog/FR170105 AP

Abby Sunderland, a 16-year from southern California who had hoped to be the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe, apparently encountered serious trouble as she attempted to cross the Indian Ocean, with her parents losing contact with her and her emergency beacons activating.

Abby's family has placed an update on the teenager's blog on their efforts to get a search and rescue operation underway.

An excerpt:

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.

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. If she can keep warm and hang on, help will be there as soon as possible. Wild Eyes is designed for travel in the Southern Ocean and is equipped with 5 air-tight bulkheads to keep her buoyant in the event of major hull damage. It is built to Category 0 standards and is designed to self-right in the event of capsize.

On her blog, Abby explains that she has wanted to be the youngest person to accomplish a solo sail around the world since she was 13. Her brother Zac did as much when he was 17.

Abby left Marina del Rey near Los Angeles in January. She encountered equipment trouble, however, and had to stop for repairs in Cape Town. In May, a 16-year old became the record holder.

However Abby's story turns out, and she has a lot of people around the world pulling for her right now, her misadventure will renew questions about the wisdom of letting teenagers and even younger children take on such challenges.

Coming on the heels of a 13-year old summiting Mt. Everest, some observers question whether parents letting children do such risky activities approaches  foolhardiness.

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