16-year old American Abby Sunderland has been spotted safe at sea by a search plane that flew out of Perth this morning. The California native, who had been attempting to solo circumnavigate the Earth, is reportedly fine, and her ship is upright, although her sails are down, and most likely destroyed.
Yesterday morning, Abby contacted her support team, via satellite phone, to report that she was navigating through 20-25 foot waves, with winds of 35-50 knots swirling around her. She also reported that her ship, the Wild Eyes, had been knocked down twice, which means that the conditions were bad enough to knock the boat onto its side, with the sail touching the water. She hung up the phone saying she was going to make a few quick adjustments to the boat, and that she would call back soon. That was the last anyone heard from her directly. Later, she would set off two distress signals, and many feared the worst.
Abby has been sailing across the Indian Ocean since departing Cape Town, South Africa a few weeks back. She is approximately 2000 miles from Africa and Australia, putting her in an incredibly remote position that is difficult to reach. She is currently too far out for a rescue helicopter to make the journey, but ships are now inbound on her position, with the first expected to arrive sometime in the next 24 hours.
Abby set out on her solo sail around the world on January 24th, hoping to become the youngest person to accomplish that feat. She was also following in the footsteps of her older brother, Zac, who made the same journey at the age of 17 last year. The disappearance at sea comes just weeks after Abby’s Australian counterpart, Jessica Watson, completed her solo circumnavigation, finishing up just three days shy of her 17th birthday.
Friends and family are breathing a sigh of relief this morning, as it appears that this story will have a happy ending.
[Photo credit: ABC News]