The relief that Abby Sunderland, the 16-year-old American lassie sailing solo around the world has been found safe and well after her EPIRBs went off ,was almost palpable online today.
It set me thinking about the benefits of electronic distress signalling. It has shrunk the risk of serious ocean sailing which no one would argue is anything but a good thing.
But I wonder how different the psyche of the lone sailor is today from that of yesteryear. Old salts knew that once their craft had foundered the next wave had their name on it. No one would ever know what had happened and if they had time they prepared themselves for the end. It is a chilling thought perhaps, but it could be said there is a metaphysical beauty to such a confrontation.
Today stoicism in such circumstances is probably still practised, as the sailor cannot know for sure he or she will be rescued. So when the rescue does come the relief must also come as a chastening experience.
Illustration: Getty Images