After a tense 20 hours while rescuers mobilized and moved toward Abby Sunderland’s remote Indian Ocean location, the teen sailor has been found alive and well, Associated Press reported Friday. Sixteen-year-old Abby Sunderland activated two emergency beacons Thursday morning, setting in motion a search and rescue operation. Sunderland’s parents maintained faith throughout the ordeal that their daughter had the skills to survive her ocean challenge.
Why Abby Sunderland Activated Emergency Beacons
What happened to Abby Sunderland that caused her to send out distress signals? Fierce winds battered the sailboat in which Sunderland was making her solo global journey. With a broken mast, dragging sail and no satellite communication with the outside world, Sunderland sought help by manually activating emergency beacons to signal her distress. During the emergency, her sailboat, Wild Eyes, remained sea worthy, and she maintained control over the vessel.
The Crew of a Qantas Airline search plane participating in the rescue mission verified Friday morning that teen sailor Sunderland is alive. The Qantas crew made radio contact with the teen but, as expected, could not otherwise interact with the girl stranded at sea. The plane crew assured Sunderland that help is en route, and Sunderland assured the searchers that she is in good condition with a space heater to keep her warm and a two-week supply of food.
Will Sunderland’s Emergency Affect Other Young Adventurers?
Numerous other young adventurers have made news when they attempted dramatic physical feats in recent years. Sunderland’s own brother, Zac, briefly held the title of the youngest person to sail around the world alone after he completed his global journey last year.
Sixteen-year-old Jessica Watson embarked on a similar journey and, is now the youngest person to have successfully circumnavigated the globe traveling solo by sailboat.
Other young adventurers took not to the sea but to the mountains or the air. Those who can’t claim the title of youngest adventurer to climb the summit or circumnavigate the globe hold out for lesser but still impressive feats like youngest Australian, Englishman or American to accomplish the feat.
Last month, 13-year-old Jordan Romero became the youngest climber to scale the summit of Mt. Everest.
Each time a young person sets off on a dangerous adventure in hopes of setting a record, it seems, public reaction includes both admiration and scorn and inevitable calls for prohibitions.
No one stopped Jessica Dubroff from seeking fame as the youngest pilot to fly across the USA. Dubroff was only 7 when she set out on her flight, her father by her side. But, the overloaded plane experienced wind shear and crashed, and Jessica Dubroff lost her life.
When 14-year-old Dutch girl Laura Dekker sought to set sail on a solo journey last year, a court stepped in and forbade her from making the trip.
And, the World Speed Sailing Record Council recently eliminated the “youngest” category for recognizing sailing feats in the hopes of discouraging ever younger children from taking on adventure risks.
Will the Abby Sunderland scare lead to prohibitions on young solo adventurers? So far, there doesn’t seem to be any serious effort underway. And, with Abby Sunderland discovered alive and well Friday, public frustration over the risks she undertook when she set off alone to circumnavigate the globe may ebb with the ocean tide.