Wild Eyes find off Kangaroo Island prompts emotional response from former sailor Abby Sunderland
A Qantas Airbus found Abby Sunderland in an area about 2,000 nautical miles off the WA coast in 2010. (AAP)
American former sailor Abby Sunderland said her “heart skipped a beat” upon hearing her abandoned yacht Wild Eyes was found off the coast of South Australia.
- Abby Sunderland’s yacht Wild Eyes was spotted on New Year’s Eve
- Yacht was abandoned eight years ago after Sunderland encountered rough seas
- Sunderland said video footage she recorded before abandoning the yacht may still be in waterproof cases
The upturned, barnacle-clad vessel was found by a tuna-spotting plane about 11 nautical miles south of Vivonne Bay, Kangaroo Island at 12.30pm on New Year’s Eve — eight years after it was abandoned in June 2010.
At the time, Ms Sunderland, then 16, was attempting to become the youngest person to circumnavigate the world solo, but encountered rough seas which dismasted her yacht halfway between the Western Australian coastline and Africa.
In a statement to ABC News today, Ms Sunderland said seeing Wild Eyes on the news was “very emotional”.
“My heart skipped a beat. It brought back many memories — good and not so good — but it was neat to see it after so long,” she said.
“It looked a little creepy but that’s to be expected after so long.”
Ms Sunderland was rescued on June 12, 2010 in a joint effort by Australian airline Qantas and a French commercial shipping vessel.
Video footage from journey possibly still onboard
Although emotional over the news, Ms Sunderland was unsurprised to learn it was still floating.
“I’d love to know what’s inside and if any of the video equipment is still there,” she said.
“It would be great to try and retrieve the boat but given the costs I don’t think that will happen.
“I always knew the boat was high quality and very safe so it doesn’t really surprise me that it’s still floating.”
Laurence Sunderland said news of the yacht’s find was “remarkable”. (Photo: http://sunyachts.net)
Ms Sunderland’s father, Laurence, said the find was “remarkable” and said the news, “brings back a whole bunch of memories from eight-and-a-half years ago”.
“It brings back the incredible rescue that was taken part in by the Australians and the French,” Mr Sunderland said.
“It’s still mind blowing, still processing, it’s very humbling to have this all come to the surface after such a long time … remarkable.”
News of the find reached him in his home state of California through a sailing group he is part of on Facebook.
Like his daughter, Mr Sunderland said he would be keen to see the boat and check whether any footage from Ms Sunderland’s journey survived its time adrift.
“There would be footage that Abigail took along the way that would be in waterproof tight cases, and whether or not that would withstand the eight-and-half years that the boat has, it might just all be totally rubbish,” he said.
“If nothing else it would be one hell of a feast for sushi lovers.
“Even if we went out there and dove on the boat, we’d love to see it one last time and see the state of the boat.”
Although the yacht “means something very special” to the family, Mr Sunderland said, “We’ve all moved on”.
“Abigail survived due to the heroic rescue attempt. Now she is a mother of three, soon to be four, happily married,” he said.
“It’s incredible to be put back in that time, when this was such a big, massive part of our lives, almost the world stood still waiting to hear if Abigail had been rescued — it could have gone differently.”
He said he had texted with his daughter, who is now living in Alabama, since news of the yacht’s location broke in America.
“She wanted to know if it could be fixed up — just joking, of course,” Mr Sunderland said.
Tuna spotter makes surprising find
Tuna spotter Peter Stevens said one of his colleagues called in the vessel as it flew over waters off Kangaroo Island.
“We got a boat called the Silver Image which works for our company to come up and have a look, to make sure there was no-one on it or anything like that,” Mr Stevens said.
“He checked it and waited for the chopper to come out and have a look at it.”
After SA Police’s PolAir helicopter investigated, the state Department of Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) was advised of the yacht’s location.
A spokesman for DPTI said the yacht was in waters managed by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, who issued a navigation warning to shipping vessels in the area.
“The salvage of the yacht will only be attempted if it creates a hazard to other vessels, and if the yacht comes ashore, the department will issue a notice of removal of the wreck,” the spokesman said.