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Abby Sunderland is more adventurous than most. At the tender age of 16, she decided to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe nonstop on a solo sailboat journey.

She originally set sail from Marina del Rey, California on her 40-foot boat Wild Eyes on January 23, 2010. She had to stop in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. On February 6, 2010, she began again only to be derailed when her autopilot failed. After several more stops and starts, the mission seemed doomed but that didn’t deter the teen.

Although she could no longer set the record for a nonstop journey, she was determined not to give up and decided to continue on and become the youngest person to circumnavigate solo. Unfortunately, a 16-year-old Australian girl beat her to it, setting a record on May 15. Undeterred, Sunderland decided to push forward anyway.

On June 10, 2010 while sailing in heavy seas and high winds in the Indian Ocean, her two manual emergency EPIRB distress beacons were activated, triggering a search and rescue effort. The teen sailor is, at least for now, lost at sea.

This morning Abby was reported missing when her family lost contact with her. U.S. search and rescue authorities told the family that they had received a signal from Sunderland’s emergency beacon.

According to Abby’s father, Laurence Sunderland, “Everything seemed to be under control, but then our call dropped and a hour later the U.S. Coast Guard called.”

Rescue ships are not expected to reach her for about 40 hours, although Australian search and rescue crews will have a Qantas Airbus fly over at first light. Her family remains optimistic that she is alive, as a beacon triggered by salt water has yet to go off. This supports the theory that the boat is still upright.

Sunderland’s brother Zac, who solo sailed the world when he was seventeen, expressed his frustration: “It’s weird not being able to help and being at a distance.”

The family posted a letter on her blog site, explaining that she is capable of surviving: “Abby has all of the equipment on board to survive a crisis situation like this. She has a dry suit, survival suit, life raft, and ditch bag with emergency supplies. If she can keep warm and hang on, help will be there as soon as possible.”

Wild Eyes is designed for travel in the Southern Ocean and is equipped with 5 air-tight bulkheads to keep her buoyant in the event of major hull damage. It is built to Category 0 standards and is designed to self-right in the event of capsize.” Read the whole letter HERE

UPDATE: June 11, 2010 – Australian authorities made contact with Abby Sunderland. She told them that her boat mast broke during a storm, and the rigging is over the side and in the water. She also reported that she was not taking on water and felt she was equipped to wait out her rescue. A French fishing vessel is her best chance of rescue, and should reach her in another 24 hours.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority indicates that the weather is moderate and improving slightly. She is about 2,000 miles southwest of Perth. They have communicated with her via marina radio.

See photos and video coverage below:

Photos: Screenshots; PicApp