Abby Sunderland, the 16-year-old California sailor attempting to circumnavigate the globe alone, activated her distress beacon Thursday after hitting rough weather in the Indian Ocean. A search is now underway. Update: She has been found "alive and well."

Sunderland's engineer, Jeff Casher, told reporters from her family home in Thousand Oaks, California that she is "most likely floating" in a remote part of the Indian Ocean between the coasts of Africa and western Australia, and that he believes she is alive. Casher said that under specific guidelines, Sunderland was not to activate the emergency beacons for just losing the ship's communication system and that she could be injured or have lost the mast on her 40-foot boat.

In the last entry from Sunderland on her blog, on Wednesday, she wrote:

The last few days have pretty busy out here. I've been in some rough weather for awhile with winds steady at 40-45 knots with higher gusts. With that front passing, the conditions were lighter today.

Her family said she had hit 30-foot swells. The Australian government has dispatched rescue ships and an airplane in the search, which is focused some 2,000 miles west of Australia.

Her older brother, Zac, sailed solo around the world last year, at age 17. Unsurprisingly, her parents are being criticized for letting their daughter, who is an accomplished, competent sailor, attempt this trip.

Update: Sunderland has been found by searchers alive and is doing well.

[Image via Getty]