16-year old Abby Sunderland found safe at sea

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]

Ship runs aground in the Galapagos

On Wednesday of this week, a tourist ship named the M/S Alta ran aground, and became stuck on a reef in the Galapagos islands while entering the harbor at Puerto Ayora, along the southern coast of Santa Cruz island. The extent of the ecological damage to the reef has yet to be determined, but fortunately no one aboard was injured in the accident, which was caused, at least in part, due to a malfunctioning lighthouse that normally marks the entrance to the harbor.

The 140-foot long sailing ship is operated by Quasar Expeditions and was carrying 16 Canadian passengers, 8 Ecuadorian crew members, and an Ecuadorian National Park Guide at the time of the incident. All of the passengers were evacuated from the boat, and spent the night in a nearby, ocean front hotel, before continuing on to Darwin Station and the Santa Cruz Highlands the following day. They did cut their tour a day short however, leaving the islands yesterday, rather than today as scheduled.

As of Friday, efforts were underway to remove the Alta from the reef, but the process is a slow one, and caution must be exercised in order to contain any fuel that may have spilled. Initial reports indicated that as much as 3500 gallons had leaked into the harbor, but later reports refuted that number, saying that no leaks had been found. All the fuel will be pumped out of the ship before it is pulled off the reef and into dock for a complete inspection before it returns to service.

One of the hottest topics in sustainable travel over the past few years has been the impact of tourism on the fragile environments of the Galapagos. Fortunately, it seems that this incident will not have any long lasting effects on the region, and it seems like the Alta will be back in service shortly.

“Ghost Ship” of the Yukon found

The shipwreck of a gold rush-era steamboat that sunk in a lake located in the Yukon Territory of Canada has been recently discovered and photographed for the first time according to this story from National Geographic. The boat went down in a storm back in 1901, and was found by salvage crew in October of 2008.

The ship, known as the A.J. Goddard, is said to be sitting upright in the water and in remarkably good condition. How good you ask? Apparently it settled to the bottom of the lake with firewood still in the boiler and tools still in place on deck where the crew had left them. There were even five sets of boots still in place where the crew tossed them aside before abandoning ship.

Nautical archeologists are now studying the vessel intently, saying that it is a “snapshot” of what life was like aboard these boats at the turn of the 20th Century. Finding a wreck that is as preserved as the Goddard is a rare and remarkable find, that will no doubt offer some interesting insights into the daily lives of sailors.

Ship graveyards from around the world

Eco-friendly website Environmental Graffiti has an interesting story on their site today that details some of the top cargo ship graveyards from around the world. The article also includes some amazing photos of the rusted out shells of former cargo and cruise ships that have been left to rot in a variety of sun baked locations.

All told, there are five graveyards on the list, including the infamous Skeleton Coast in Namibia, as well as a others along the Aral and Red Seas, the Sahara, and off the coast of Greece. Most of these dumping grounds are desolate, remote deserts that remain uninhabited and mostly unvisited altogether. This, of course, makes them perfect places to deposit these obsolete vessels, but one can’t help but wonder what kind of environmental disasters we’ve created in these places.

Reading about these ship graveyards is sobering to say the least, but it is the excellent photographs that really delivers the story. Seeing these once proud vessels reduced to dilapidated shells left to wither away slowly is kind of sad, and you can’t help but wonder what kind of interesting stories some of these ships have to tell. Looking at them now, it is difficult to think that at one time they roamed the seas, delivering cargo and passengers to exotic locations around the globe. This is kind of an ignoble end to their tours of duty.

Shipwreck victims spend 25 days drifting in an icebox

After losing their wooden fishing boat off the coast of Indonesia, these 2 Burmese men grabbed the only thing they could find in the heaps of wreckage surrounding them.

It turns out that this piece of wreckage would be their home for the next 25 days as they drifted towards Australia in shark infested waters.

When a coastguard plane spotted the men, a helicopter was sent to winch them in, and once on board the plane, the men each consumed about 2 liters of water in a matter of seconds.

25 days is a hell of a long time to be stuck at sea and despite being surrounded by all that water, you won’t have anything to drink. These men are very lucky they were spotted as I doubt they would have lasted much longer. The pilot of the helicopter said it best with “It’s a bloody big ocean to be drifting around in”.

(Via: Adelaide now)