Three men were rescued from an uninhabited island in the South Pacific after searchers saw the giant SOS they had written on the beach. The men had been missing for three days after their 23-foot boat ran out of fuel and they drifted 118 miles from their intended destination in Micronesia east of the Philippines.
The men set out from Pulawat Atoll and intended to go just 26 miles to Pulap Atoll. They ended up on tiny Pikelot Island, where they wrote the SOS in the sand that saved their lives.
When the men didn’t arrive at Pulap, their families called for help from the U.S. Coast Guard’s rescue center in Guam, about 500 miles away. It enlisted help from the U.S. and Australian military.
The men were first spotted by a U.S. KC-135 tanker out of Guam. “We were toward the end of our search pattern,” said Lt. Col. Jason Palmeira-Yen, the pilot. “We turned to avoid some rain showers and that’s when we saw an island. So we decided to check it out and that’s when we saw SOS and a boat right next to it on the beach. From there, we called on the Australian Navy because they had two helicopters nearby that could assist and land on the island.”
The Australian amphibious assault ship Canberra had been diverted to help in the search. It was returning home from joint exercises with U.S. forces in Hawaii. A helicopter from the Canberra landed on the beach, gave the men food and water, and determined that they were in good health. It did not take them aboard because of the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 from Hawaii dropped a radio to the stranded men so they could communicate with a Micronesian patrol vessel dispatched from Yap. It picked them up the next day. Read more: