3 Men Rescued from Pacific Island After Writing ‘Help’ With Palm Leaves

Three men who were stranded on a remote Pacific island for more than a week were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard after spelling out “HELP” on a beach using palm leaves.

The lost men were found on Pikelot, an uninhabited island about 100 miles northwest of their home, alongside their damaged boat on Sunday by an American military aircraft, the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Guam said in a statement.

The men, who were experienced mariners in their 40s, set sail on March 31 from Polowat Atoll, an island that is part of the Federated States of Micronesia, in a 20-foot open skiff powered by an outboard motor. After their unintended delay, the Coast Guard said, the men had been safely returned home Tuesday evening.

The search began on Saturday when a woman sent out a distress call to the Coast Guard, reporting that her three uncles had not returned home after almost a week away. The Coast Guard embarked on the search with a U.S. Navy aircraft crew.

Pikelot is a tiny dot in the Pacific Ocean covered in palm trees and bushes, measuring less than 2,000 feet in length. The Micronesian island was part of a search area that the Coast Guard said spanned more than 100,000 square miles.

This week’s rescue was not the first from Pikelot involving huge letters spelled in the sand. In 2020, three other men whose boat ran out of fuel wrote “SOS” in the sand, allowing them to be spotted by American rescuers.

In this week’s search, a breakthrough came when a Navy reconnaissance aircraft that was dispatched from Okinawa, Japan, spotted the men from the air.

“In a remarkable testament to their will to be found, the mariners spelled out ‘HELP’ on the beach using palm leaves, a crucial factor in their discovery,” Lt. Chelsea Garcia, who coordinated the search and rescue mission on Sunday, said in the statement.

The aircraft crew deployed survival packages to help the men before the Coast Guard dropped them a radio a day later from a military aircraft sent from Hawaii, establishing a line of communication.

“They expressed a desire for assistance in returning to Polowat,” the Coast Guard said, adding that the men had said they were in good health and had access to food and water, but that their skiff had been damaged and its engine was not functional.

On Tuesday, a Coast Guard ship, the USCGC Oliver Henry, arrived at the island and picked up the men to bring them home.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to see the faces of those we’ve helped,” said Lt. Ray Cerrato, the commanding officer of the ship.

A similar rescue also took place in Micronesian waters in 2016 when three men whose boat was overturned swam two miles to reach a tiny island, on which they wrote “HELP” in the sand. The Coast Guard rescued them.

Two other people who went missing later that year were saved from a Micronesian island after writing “SOS” in the sand.

Source link