Abby Sunderland, 16, is alive and apparently well, floundering in rough seas in the Indian Ocean without a mast, but safely aboard her 40-foot boat and awaiting the arrival of rescue ships.
An Australian plane with 11 trained observers found Sunderland, who on Thursday had activated two emergency distress beacons signaling an international rescue attempt, not long after daybreak Friday. Its crew made contact with her on a marine radio channel.
The mariner from Thousand Oaks, Calif., who had been attempting to become the youngest person to have sailed around the world alone, lost her mast and rigging after her vessel apparently rolled in heaving seas. Her position is extremely remote, more than 2,000 miles from Australia and Africa.
“I was envisioning all sorts of nightmare situations,” Marianne Sunderland, Abby’s mom, said when reached via phone at her family’s home in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Marianne and Laurence Sunderland, and six other children, had remained in their home, refusing to talk to reporters, until they learned the fate of their daughter.
Marianne did not talk to Abby but Abby told the airplane crew she “was fine” and not badly hurt.
A rescue has not been made, however. The nearest ship bound for her position is about 30 hours away, but fierce winds and seas that had been upwards of 40 feet are abating. Australian, American and French search-and-rescue authorities are cooperating in the rescue attempt.
– Image courtesy of 2010 Lisa Gizara/GizaraArts.com