16-years-old Abby Sunderland has been attempting to sail non-stop around the world all by herself, but after hitting stormy weather, she activated distress beacons and lost contact. Thankfully she has now been found alive and well, but it could just have easily ended in tragedy. The Australian government has sent resue teams to assist Abby, which would of course have to be paid for by taxpayers.
Just recently, Jessica Watson successfully completed her bid to become the youngest person to sail non-stop solo around the world just before her 17th birthday. However, there is no official world record for being the youngest person to sail around the world because they don't want to encourage people to do stupid and dangerous things. The Guinness World Records no longer keeps records for "World's Fattest Cat" because they didn't want to encourage cat owners to put their cat's health at risk for the sake of fame.
Where does it end? In Europe, a 13-year-old was prevented from attempting the same solo journey as Jessica Watson and Abby Sunderland, and there have been several reports of other teenagers wanting to risk their lives for the sake of adventure. In fact, solo around-the-world sailing trips should be banned altogether, regardless of the age of the person. Before setting off on her "record attempt", Jessica had a test run where she collided with a ship while she was asleep. No-one should be allowed to sleep when they are in charge of a moving vehicle, whether it's a boat, a car, or a plane.
Nevertheless, that hasn't stopped the media from going crazy over Jessica Watson's acheivement. Jessica is now a "hero". She is also now very famous and very rich, with all those paid interviews, TV appearances and book deals. Now, I don't think Jessica did it for fame or fortune, and I do agree that what she has done was an amazing achievement, but I think that it sets a bad example. While Jessica was sailing around the world in her high-tech boat plastered with sponsorship stickers, other 16 year olds in Australia were studying at school so that they could make a useful contribution to society. Those other 16 year olds may go on to become scientists, doctors, engineers, etc… but they won't be getting the same "hero" treatment from the media.