Abby Sunderland, who is attempting to become the youngest person to sail around the world solo, has apparently disappeared somewhere in the Indian Ocean. A search and rescue mission has commenced.
Her family has been unable to establish radio contact with the 16-year-old after she sent two distress signals.
If Sunderland cannot be found there will undoubtedly be an international outcry to ban this sort of activity. At the very minimum, the efforts to stop 14-year-old Laura Dekker from her own around the world solo expedition. At present, Dekker is a ward of the Dutch court until July 1st. However, Dutch child protective services are petitioning the court to extend their custody of Dekker. A hearing is scheduled to take place on June 17th. Should Sunderland still be missing by that date I would be shocked if the Dutch court didn't grant the petition.
In July 2009, Sunderland's older brother Zac briefly became the youngest to sail around the world solo when he was 17-years old. The following month British sailor Michael Perham eclipsed that record. Then last month, Australian Jessica Watson claimed the record when she sailed into Sydney Harbor greeted by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. She arrived three days shy of her 17th birthday after having sailed non-stop for nearly seven months.
Sunderland's expedition has had difficulty from the outset. She initially set sail in January but aborted this attempt just over a week due to inadequate equipment on her boat. Sunderland launched her second attempt in February and sailed non-stop for nearly 2½ months until repairs forced her to land in Cape Town in May. While that put an end to her objective of sailing non-stop she still intended to sail around the world. Sunderland resumed her journey three weeks ago.
Obviously, I hope she is found alive and well. But if not I think we ought to keep in mind that neither she nor her parents had any illusions that this was going to be a walk in the park. They knew what they were getting into.