UPDATE: Sunderland was spotted late Thursday by an Australian Search and Rescue plane, according to the teen's Web site. Her mast was heavily damaged, but radio communication was reestablished and she managed to report that she is O.K. A fishing vessel should reach her sometime tonight. It is still unclear whether the boat will be salvageable.
Sixteen-year-old sailor Abby Sunderland was on her way to becoming the youngest person to sail around the world alone when she sent out a distress call from somewhere in the Indian Ocean and then lost contact with her family on Thursday.
The teen sailor had already become the subject of controversy as critics questioned her parents' judgment.
It wasn't the first time Laurence and Marianne Sunderland had allowed one of their children to embark on such a journey. Abby's brother Zac last year became the youngest person to complete a solo circumnavigation of the globe and the first under 18 years old. SoCal Connected followed his trip with several updates along the way, beginning with "The Year of Living Dangerously."
At the time, Sunderland was already planning her own trip with the help of her parents. Her father told SoCal Connected correspondent Angie Crouch that he would be more worried about his daughter than about his son, but that she was quite capable of taking care of herself.
"She's beautiful and she's young, and I will be in every port that she goes to," Laurence Sunderland said. "She's done her self-defense classes, and has fired guns, and shotguns, [which] she's not afraid to use in her self-defense and what have you. But all the same I would worry more about Abigail out there than [Zac]. Not so much out there—it's more when they're in port."
As the Los Angeles Times reports, two rescue boats are now two days away from the expected location of Sunderland's modified racing yacht.
Sunderland's family has said they remain hopeful that she is still alive because a beacon designed to activate automatically when the boat sinks has not begun transmitting.
Link photo by Flickr user mattbuck007, used under Creative Commons License.