alone and in the dark

alone and in the dark

It takes all kinds to make a place interesting, and with some 40,000 views of the Abby Sunderland thread in just a few hours, all kinds are certainly interested in the saga of the 16 year-old girl from Southern California who is alone, afraid, and in life-threatening conditions in the Southern Ocean as you read this.

While the debate continues to rage about responsibility, age, preparedness, the search for PR and records, and the Darwin Awards, there will be plenty of time for that later.  For now, we’ll just continue to get you what we can from the scene in the hopes that this young, enthusiastic, and perhaps too naive young girl makes it home alive.

First, it’s important to try to understand why she set off her EPIRB.  Her team says that Abby had a strict protocol for setting off emergency beacons, and losing communications was not a reason for turning to search-and-rescue.  Other sites have reported that Abby may have lost her keel, but without a possibility of anyone knowing this until 35 hours or so when a fishing vessel can hopefully spot her or when a commercial airliner may catch glimpse of Wild Eyes, this is ridiculous speculation created just to drive hits to a few unethical media whore web sites that miss the notoriety their phony stories earned during the Jess Watson campaign.  The benefit of having the builder and first RTW campaigner of Abby’s boat posting on SA is that we know the construction of the boat and her performance – and while not unsinkable, Wild Eyes was constructed with enough watertight compartments to keep her afloat in most conditions.  The keel attachment is robust, the mast is robust, and the boat is overbuilt.

Abby’s report from before she lost her satellite comms mentioned rollovers and some water in the boat, and if her mast is gone, she’s likely facing a very wet and swamped boat, the real danger of hypothermia (even in a survival suit), darkness most of the time, and just no fun at all as she waits for help.  At her position, somewhere just South of 40 degrees, GRIBs put Abby in some nasty gales but nothing too severe, though of course microconditions can be far worse than the models show.  There’s little respite, too, and little likeliness that she’ll face benign conditions when the fishing vessel or French Navy ship reach her sometime over the next two days.  If Abby has to get into the liferaft, her chance of survival drops considerably.

The massive, 2500+ post Sailing Anarchy thread on Abby’s trip is not for the faint of heart.  The Anarchists are an opinionated bunch, but if you want to read the story as it unfolds with more and better information than anywhere on Earth, you’ll stay posted.  The info is coming in so fast and so frequently that it’s hard to keep up, but Friday morning (GMT) posts start around here. Here is the latest from ‘SMSScott,’ part of Abby’s team:

This is direct information.

Abby’s EPIRB position has drifted 12 NM @ 64 degree true in 12 hours….They are still both together……..Not really sure if both have built in GPS i think only one does…..but one of them is giving GPS position.  Third EPIRB with built in GPS has not been activated…..

Qantas Airbus 320 has taken off with spotters aboard and VHF radios they will be there in about 2-3 hours from now.
Sunrise in her location is 2:04 am UTC 7:34 pm PDT

They will make several low passes attempt to make VHF radio contact them climb to altitude to make a lot of noise…they have maybe 2 or 3 hours loiter time…they burn a lot of fuel if not at altitude. She would not activate EPIRB’s for just lost comms. There was a lost comms plan..

The first reported EPIRB position we got from the USCG was 40.513s 74.457e.  The position from Abby about one hour before was 40.50s 74.40e.  The position drifted 12 miles in the first 12 hours @ 64 degree true Anybody in the neighborhood please go for it.

And from Australian Maritime Safety:

AMSA Providing Assistance in Search and Rescue – Wild Eyes
11 June 2010 – 11:30am Update (0130 UTC)
Australia is providing air support assistance to a French (La Reunion) coordinated search and rescue in the Indian Ocean for the US yacht Wild Eyes.

US citizen Abby Sunderland (16) sailed from California on 23 January 2010 to circumnavigate the globe in the yacht Wild Eyes. At approximately 1.00 a.m. (Australian Eastern Standard Time) Friday 11 June the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) detected transmissions from two distress beacons registered to Wild Eyes. The detections are currently in position 40 48 South 74 58 East, approximately 2033 nautical miles west south west from Perth in the central southern Indian Ocean. There are currently no communications with Wild Eyes.

The Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre at La Reunion, operated by France, is coordinating the search & rescue response overall as Wild Eyes is in La Reunion’s search and rescue region. Australia offered to assist if required.

La Reunion has requested air search assistance to establish the situation on scene, recognising that the remoteness of the location would delay any ship response. The most rapid means to get an aircraft on scene is to send a QANTAS A-330 Airbus passenger aircraft from Perth. The aircraft should be on scene mid-afternoon Friday 11 June. The aircraft mission will be to attempt to communicate with Ms Sunderland from high level and, if necessary, to descend and make visual contact to assess the circumstances.

La Reunion is coordinating three seaborne responses. A fishing vessel can be on scene on Saturday afternoon, a French Fisheries Patrol vessel can be on scene on Sunday morning, and an offshore support vessel can be there on Sunday evening. Each of the three vessels should be capable of conducting a rescue, subject to prevailing weather conditions.