The boat has been drifting the ocean for the past nine years.
The boat has been drifting the ocean for the past nine years.

Ghost boat found off Australian coast

A GHOST boat that has been missing for eight years has been discovered off Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia.

"Wild Eyes" has been adrift since June 2010 when it was abandoned by then teenage captain Abby Sunderland, who was trying to set an around-the-world sailing record.

Wild Eyes suffered equipment failure in the Indian Ocean following wild weather, where Ms Sunderland ultimately had to be rescued by French and Australian authorities.

The boat had its mast removed and was stripped of equipment before being left to drift through the ocean.

The boat was spotted near Kangaroo Island by a tuna spotting plane and a police helicopter was sent to investigate, determining it to be the abandoned vessel.

Wild Eyes was spotted by a tuna spotting plane before being investigated by police vessels. Picture: SA Police.
Wild Eyes was spotted by a tuna spotting plane before being investigated by police vessels. Picture: SA Police.

Wild Eyes was discovered on New Year's Eve floating upside down and covered in barnacles.

The cost to taxpayers for Abby's rescue and the shut down of her vessel was between $200,000 and $300,000.

Abby first set sail from California in January 2010 but encountered technical problems early, with her solar panels failing, and had to stop in Mexico. She then continued on to Cape Town in South Africa over the next three months, and became the youngest ever sailor to pass the treacherous Cape Horn, with its unpredictable winds and wild waves.

Abby Sunderland aboard Wild Eyes in 2010.
Abby Sunderland aboard Wild Eyes in 2010.

She then continued on to the Indian Ocean, but was lashed by wild winds and nine metre waves.

She endured many knockdowns, which is when the boat capsized to the point where the mast descended into the water.

Here, in the Indian Ocean north east of the Kerguelen Islands, (isolated islands which are midway between Australia and Antarctica), both her satellite phones failed.

She decided to trigger both her emergency signals. She waited overnight 3,200km off the coast of Australia to be located by a Qantas plane, and was eventually rescued by French commercial fishing boat.

After being rescued, Sunderland said she hoped to reattempt the round-the-world journey.

She has not yet re-embarked on this.

The upturned hull of ‘Wild Eyes’ is caked in barnacles after eight years adrift at sea. Picture: SA Police.
The upturned hull of ‘Wild Eyes’ is caked in barnacles after eight years adrift at sea. Picture: SA Police.
French ship Ile De La Reunion, top left, comes to the aid of the then 16-year-old sailor. Picture: Grant Pipe
French ship Ile De La Reunion, top left, comes to the aid of the then 16-year-old sailor. Picture: Grant Pipe

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