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Sailor Abby Sunderland is alive and seems unharmed

Abby Sunderland, 16, looks out from her sailboat, Wild Eyes, as she leaves Marina del Rey for her solo around the world sailing attempt.

Global sailor Abby Sunderland has been found, alive and apparently unharmed, sighted by a crew of spotters aboard a Qantas Airways jetliner, who also made radio contact with Sunderland.

Her 40-foot sailboat, Wild Eyes, is upright, but the mast had been knocked off by rough seas. She was in good health and had plenty of food and was waiting for the arrival of a fishing boat in about a day, said Jeff Casher, a technical advisor for the voyage.

Here's the latest dispatch from Abby's parents, Laurence and Marianne Sunderland, which they posted on their daughters blog at 11:27 p.m. Thursday:

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. 

More updates as news comes in.

Laurence & Marianne

A rescue effort went out for the Thousand Oaks teen early Thursday morning, after she manually activated one emergency-beacon locating device on her survival suit or life vest and another on her sailboat from the southern Indian Ocean.

Sunderland, 16, was just past the halfway point of her attempt to become the youngest person to  solo circumnavigate the globe.

Three French vessels heading to the area from the territory of Reunion, off the African coast, are still hundreds of miles away. Australian and American search-and-rescue authorities are cooperating in the rescue attempt.

More details on Sunderland can be found in Times staff writer's Catherine Saillant article, linked here.

Outposts has been following Abby's journey since she left Marina del Rey in January, and will keep readers updated as news is available. Needless to say, I'm relieved to hear that she survived this incident. 

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Abby Sunderland, 16, looks out from her sailboat, Wild Eyes, as she leaves Marina del Rey for her solo around-the-world sailing attempt. Credit: Richard Hartog / Associated Press


Teenage sailor Abby Sunderland's parents comment on the rescue effort for their daughter

Rescue effort underway for teenage sailor Abby Sunderland

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Comments (22)

As for Scott and his story. The big difference between you and Abbey is that your father had enough sense to accompany you and not send you around the world alone.

This is all about attention and very little to do with anything else. How can I say that? Simple, Abbey can sale anywhere she wants and enjoy that anytime she wants. Even if it includes circling the globe. If thats what she and the family were really after though they wouldn't need to announce it to the world. But. They do announce it to the world because what they are really after is the attention it brings not the actual sailing itself. It wasn't enough when they did this with the son. They needed more, now it's the daughter and I have no doubts another of there kids will attempt this also.

I don't know who pays for the rescue but don't burden tax payers with this kind of absurd and avoidable nonsense. You can afford a 40ft yacht then you can handle the rescue as well.

A shout out to "Scott" for his moving story about his own sailing experiences earlier in this thread, and his spot on commentary about the nature of risk and as it relates to sailing and to life. I couldn't agree with Scott more. I was also taught the marvels of sailing and navigation by my dad when I was a child, however, we were never bold enough to chuck everything and attempt a round the world voyage as Scott and his family did. Now, I do most of my "surfing down the face of a wave" from a chair - in front of a computer, and get out onto the ocean for a taste of the real thing rather infrequently, I'm sad to say. How much different would my life be now if my family and I had taken the course that Scott's did? I'll never know, but still I am haunted by the possibilities of a life not lived. I commend the Sunderland’s for giving Abby the chance of a lifetime, and I hope Abby uses the experiences and memories gained from her attempt to launch as many new adventures as life will afford her!

I sailed with my dad from the time I was very small until an adult. When I was very little I just went along for the ride. When I turned 10 though we sailed around the world on a 41 foot ketch he and my mom designed which was paid for by selling our house and what was left of retirement savings. We were middle class, not rich. It's amazing what you can do if you sell your house. In that trip we were attacked by pirates, the boat ran into a whale, the boat suffered failure after failure, and many other things that are completely normal for this sort of trip. It's no secret that you take your life into your hands. On this trip I learned to sail and learned a lot about the world. When I returned to school, classes were boring and I was able to pass tests without studying for them because my time sailing was such a huge growth experience.

When I was 16 we took a smaller sloop across the Pacific. Due to his health problems I handled the sails and did the navigation, by sextant. There was no problem with this because I knew what I was doing from my years of experience.

On this particular trip, despite timing for the best weather and so forth, we happened to run into a hurricane which wiped us out. At the time we were farther from land than Abby is now. We were rescued by blind luck and random chance, or let's just call it the hand of God. Back then there were no rescue efforts organized for people lost at sea in the middle of the pacific. It was far more likely that we would have died at sea. And we knew the risk and we accepted it. At 16 I was an adult. I am older now and still an adult. A 16 year old with sufficient experience and preparation can sail around the world. But it's not going to change the odds that doing so is very dangerous. For some of us, they are acceptable risks. Myself personally, I would not have left Cape Town at this time of year, but harbored there over winter and relaunched in six months.

Abby made the decision to try it, lost the boat, and is fortunate she will now be rescued. She could have made the same decision as an adult as well. It's not correct to say that she is irresponsible at 16. She's responsible - she has proven herself able to handle a very difficult boat at sea on a trip that spanned half the globe including the treacherous Cape Horn, which having survived, proves she knows what she is doing. Criticizing her or her parents is unwarranted. She will be a better person as a result of her experience. If she had died, that is the nature of sailing. It's also the nature of driving your car to school in the morning. Auto accidents are the #1 cause of death to children.

For all of you who attack Abby's parents my question to you is how many of you would have the guts to do this?Thats what I thought,none of you have the brass to do some thing but fast to attack some one who does.How ahbout the Australian teen ager Jessica Watson.Went around the world non stop unassisted but I do not hear any one attacking her parents.These people are the same people years ago who said the world was flat and do not venture out to see if this is true or not.

"Why hasn't anyone her age done this before?" - Citiboy

What are you talking about?

Jessica Watson just did it. She finished last month. 16 years old, 210 days non stop solo around the world. She was referred to as a National Hero by Australia's Prime Minister.


Good question John, "who pays for her rescue". The Australian taxpayer pays for the rescue flights. Sure, good news that she's ok but frankly her parents ought to be certified. That part of the ocean at this time of year? It's notoriously unpredictable, she's really foolish but it's her parents who bear the full responsibility. Why do they allow her? Because they're the sort of people who bow to every whim of their children. Why hasn't anyone her age done this before? Because it's NOT SENSIBLE.

Opinion: What's Wrong With Extreme Teens Like Abby Sunderland?


(June 11) -- Over my coffee this morning, I found myself engrossed in the tale of Ben, 17, and his harrowing boat journey.

Setting off by himself, he intended to travel several hundred miles. But then he got caught in a squall that tore his sails to pieces. After spending a night soaked on the deck, he managed to get ashore, where he then faced a 50-mile walk to the nearest town. Exhaustion soon overtook him, but he found a rowboat. So he hopped in, rowed late into the night, got lost and then had to make a fire out of an old fence to keep warm in the cold October air.

I know what you're thinking. Another extreme teen.

They're everywhere these days, like 16-year-old Abby Sunderland, who recently ran into trouble as she attempted to sail around the world solo, or 13-year-old Jordan Romero, who climbed Mount Everest. Articles about them tend to contain the requisite quotes from concerned child development experts. "How young is too young?" a recent "20/20" episode asked. We wonder what their parents are thinking.

But I know Ben turned out OK. Indeed, he went on to live a rather fascinating life as a signer (last name: Franklin) of the Declaration of Independence.

That journey Ben Franklin made at age 17 was hardly even crazy for him. By then, he'd already worked several years in his brother's print shop, had gotten his brother briefly imprisoned for some of the political pieces he'd written and eventually decided to run away to try to set himself up in business.

Yes, this was the 1700s, but a 17-year-old then had been on the planet just as long as a 17-year-old now. What's changed is that we've started treating the teen years as an extension of childhood rather than a proving ground for adulthood.

We've forgotten that teens are capable of far more than we give them credit for, and that for most of human history, people were getting married and having families and setting themselves up in careers (or "trades" as they called them in Franklin's day) before they turned 20.

These days? Well, teens watch a lot of TV. Many hours per day, in fact. We should keep this in mind when we fret that extreme teens aren't having a "normal" childhood. Yes, there are risks to attempting adventurous feats.

But perhaps the biggest risk is that these young people will discover that the rest of life won't match up to these adventures. Or maybe today's extreme teens will turn out like Ben Franklin, and life will be just as interesting -- and, given all Franklin did, that would be great for the rest of us.

"I've always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can't afford it." "What these men can't afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of security. And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine - and before we know it our lives are gone."

-Sterling Hayden

To those that question why do this, you will never understand the spirit of adventure.

Avoidance of danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. H. Keller

I love that this young woman pursued her dream in such a big, exciting way. It must be inspiring to so many other people, young and old. Good for her. However, with great pursuits comes great responsibility. The family should have to pay for any and all costs for not only the search and rescue, but also for the specific monitoring and tracking for the event. If you're going to pursue such unnecessary dreams, you have to pay their costs. I'll be annoyed if I hear that they weren't held responsible for the bill.

Power of Prayer!

Although single handed sailing is dangerous and rescues are expensive. I am so disappointed to hear people criticizing Abby and her Family for embarking on her dream and challenge. Parents and teens make the decision all the time to go on to football fields with the possibilities of injury or worse. Let alone driving at age 16. It's a lot safer at sea than on the freeways.

i hope her attention-whore parents have to pay for all these rescue efforts.

I am glad she is safe but with that said, I hope the District Attorney for Los Angeles County looks into charging these parents with neglect and abuse. Per our Penal Code no parent can place their child in a position that may lead to unnecessary harm. He should have already charged them with the son's trip but failed to act. These parents are nothing more than egomaniacs who want attention. Press charges MR. DA.

First, thank goodness she is alive and well.

To her parents: WHY encourage your child to do something this dangerous? Grown men on much larger ships have died doing the same thing. A 40 ft sailboat is hardly a match for the open ocean in a storm with one 16 year old girl at the helm.

The parents should pay the bill for the cost of the search and retrieval of their daughter.

@Pete. Awesome comment. Cannot stop laughing out loud. And I agree with your view point.

Who pays the rescue cost for this?

Thank god! This is such good news :). I'm so happy for her and her family!

thank god she was found alive,i was worried she was going to be missing

Happy to read the foolish girl is safe and sound. Too bad her dream to sail the ocean alone in order to get fame and money got washed away by the waves, but that's life. You can tell this family is nothing but a bunch of attention whores. I mean, their son sailed solo, now their daughter attempted it. Isn't one in the family enough to attempt this dangerous stunt? It's amazing what people will do for 15 min of fame and her face on a box of Wheaties cereal. I have a feeling we haven't heard the last of these attention craving people. They have 7 kids, 5 younger than Abby. Want to make a bet one of their other kids is gonna attempt this solo sail also. Stay tuned for Sunderland, part 3, coming soon to an ocean near you!!!


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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.