Teen Sailor's Gamble with Death
A one-in-three chance of being killed! So said the Sunday Today Show’s news report. Jessica Watson, the adolescent sailor was about to leave Sydney Harbour on a solo round-the-world voyage on her yacht Ella’s Pink Lady. She hopes to finish next May before her seventeenth birthday.
There has been an imperfect storm of controversy about her plans. She’s too young, too inexperienced, it’s too hazardous, it’s a public stunt, the parents are irresponsible, the government should stop her.
To top it off, Jessica crashed into a large coal tanker on her way to Sydney five weeks ago and was dismasted. It has been a beast-day for sub-editors and bad punners, the worst being the accusation that she is “out of her depth”.
I was musing on this sensational story whilst walking to Mt. Beerwah in the Glass House Mountains National Park in South East Queensland. According to local indigenous people Mt. Beerwah is the mother of the local mountains. Traditionally, aboriginal people in Australia have given their children a lot of freedom and personal responsibility from a very early age. It is said to be one of the reasons for poor school attendance.
Jessica is going to miss school but is taking schoolwork just in case “I’m over bored.” Hope the pun was unintended. She’s bound to be taking the World Atlas with her.
Anyway back to the forest. The amazing statistic of 1 in 3 was a distraction from the enchanting peaks around me. Is it 1 in 3 lone yachties who sail round the world? Or 1 in 3 teenagers who have made the attempt? How many solo circumnavigators have died? How large was the sample size? Was modern technology factored into the calculations? Is the colour of the boat important? One way or the other Jessica will change the probabilities forever.Continued on the next page