Ingenious ‘HELP’ sign leads to rescue of 3 stranded sailors on remote Pacific island

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United States Coast Guard News

12th April 2024 – (Palikir) Three men in their 40s were rescued from the desolate reaches of Pikelot Atoll in the Federated States of Micronesia, thanks to their quick thinking. Stranded for over a week, the sailors crafted a lifesaving message, “HELP,” using palm leaves on the island’s white sand beach, which played a crucial role in their discovery.

The rescue, coordinated by the U.S. Coast Guard alongside U.S. Navy forces, occurred on 9th April after the men, who had set out on a fishing expedition on 31st March, found themselves marooned. Their journey took an unexpected turn when their 20-foot skiff suffered damage, rendering it inoperative and leaving them stranded far from their starting point at Polowat Atoll.

The search operation was initiated on 6th April following a distress call to the Joint Rescue Sub-Center Guam by a relative. The breakthrough came when a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft, during a routine surveillance, spotted the unmistakable sign on 7th April. This discovery enabled the rescuers to pinpoint the sailors’ exact location.

The U.S. Coast Guard was quick to respond, relocating the sailors and providing them with essential survival supplies until the USCGC Oliver Henry could reach them for extraction on 9th April. The men, found in good health, were equipped with sufficient food and water and had managed to salvage their boat.