(YAP, Federated States of Micronesia) — Three sailors were rescued from a remote Pacific Island after being stranded for over a week and writing “HELP” with palm leaves on the white sand beach, the U.S. Coast Guard announced this week.

The unnamed sailors, all men in their 40s, were rescued from Pikelot Atoll — one of the outer islands of the State of Yap, part of the Federated States of Micronesia — on April 9, the U.S. Coast Guard announced in a press release.


“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, the search and rescue mission coordinator on the day they were located, said in the release. “This act of ingenuity was pivotal in guiding rescue efforts directly to their location.”

The men were on a fishing trip that began March 31 when their 20-foot open skiff sailboat equipped with an outboard motor was damaged and non-functional, leaving them stranded ashore Pikelot Atoll, according to officials.

The search and rescue mission began on April 6 when a relative of the sailors called the Joint Rescue Sub-Center (JRSC) Guam, reporting the men had not returned home.


The U.S. Coast Guard says a “breakthrough” in the rescue efforts came the next day, when a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft flying over the island identified the sailors, “confirming their presence and condition.”

On April 8, a U.S. Coast Guard aircraft crew relocated the men and dropped a radio to establish communication. “The mariners confirmed they were in good health, had access to food and water, and recovered their skiff,” according to the release.

The aircraft crew successfully deployed survival packages to the stranded sailors until the USCGC Oliver Henry could re-route to Pikelot Atoll on April 9 to complete the rescue operation, officials said.


The ship rescued the sailors and their equipment, and returned them to their home island Polowat Atoll, more than 100 miles away, according to the release.

“Our unwavering dedication to the search and rescue mission not only ensures the safety and well-being of mariners and coastal communities, but also reinforces the strong bonds of friendship and cooperation between the United States and the FSM and with our DoD partners,” Capt. Nicholas Simmons, commander of U.S. Coast Guard, said in the release.

In August 2020, a similar search-and-rescue operation took place on Pikelot Atoll when three men had been missing in the western Pacific Ocean for nearly three days when their giant message outlined on the beach of tiny Pikelot Island was spotted from above by searchers in an Australian and U.S. aircraft.


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