LOS ANGELES (AP)
A 16-year-old Southern California girl attempting a solo sail around the world was feared in trouble Thursday in the frigid, heaving southern Indian Ocean after her emergency beacons began signaling and communication was lost.
Abby Sunderland's family was talking with U.S. and international governments about organizing a search of the remote ocean between southern Africa and Australia, family spokesman Christian Pinkston said.
Conditions can quickly become perilous for any sailor exposed to the elements in that part of the world.
"We've got to get a plane out there quick," said Pinkston, adding that the teen's family in Thousand Oaks was asking for prayers for her safety.
"They are exhausting every resource to try to mobilize an air rescue including discussions with the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Coast Guard and various international rescue organizations," he said. Abby last communicated with her family at 4 a.m. PDT and reported 30-foot swells but was not in distress, Pinkston said.
An hour later the family was notified that her emergency beacons had been activated, and there was no further communication. Pinkston said the beacons were manually activated.
Her brother, Zac, who sailed around the world at age 17, told Los Angeles radio station KNX that Abby was in a heavy storm at the time she called home.
"We're still trying to figure out the rescue situation," he said. "There's two boats headed out to her position, one is an estimated 40 hours, the other is 48. Right now we're trying to figure out if there is any way faster. She's in the middle of nowhere pretty much in the southern Indian Ocean. There's nothing closer."
He said Abby's boat was most likely not completely submerged because another beacon would be triggered at a depth of 15 feet.
Abby set sail from Los Angeles County's Marina del Rey in her 40-foot boat, Wild Eyes, on Jan. 23 in an attempt to become the youngest person to sail around the world alone without stopping. Her brother briefly held the record in 2009.
Abby soon ran into equipment problems and had to stop for repairs. She gave up the goal of setting the record in April, but continued on.
On May 15, Australian 16-year-old Jessica Watson claimed the record after completing a 23,000-mile circumnavigation in 210 days.
Abby left Cape Town, South Africa, on May 21 and on Monday reached the halfway point of her voyage.
On Wednesday, she wrote in her log that it had been a rough few days with huge seas that had her boat "rolling around like crazy."
"I've been in some rough weather for awhile with winds steady at 40-45 knots with higher gusts," she wrote. "With that front passing, the conditions were lighter today. It was a nice day today with some lighter winds which gave me a chance to patch everything up. Wild Eyes was great through everything but after a day with over 50 knots at times, I had quite a bit of work to do."
Information on her website said that as of June 8 she had completed a 2,100-mile leg from South Africa to north of the Kerguelen Islands, taking a route to avoid an ice hazard area. Ahead of her lay more than 2,100 miles of ocean on a 10- to 16-day leg to a point south of Cape Leeuwin on the southwest tip of Australia.
Last year a Netherlands court concerned about safety blocked a 13-year-old girl's plan to sail around the world, sparking debate on the role of authorities and parents when children want to undertake risky adventures.
Such attempts have resulted in success and tragedy.
Last month, 13-year-old Jordan Romero of Big Bear, Calif., became the youngest person to scale 29,035-foot Mount Everest. But in 1996, 7-year-old Jessica Dubroff, her father and a flight instructor were killed in a crash in Cheyenne, Wyo., during her attempt to become the youngest person to fly across the country.