Three mariners were rescued from a remote Pacific island after a helicopter saw their message — an enormous “SOS” written in the sand.
The men, who were headed to the Micronesian island of Pulap, had been missing since Friday after their boat ran out of fuel and drifted off course in the middle of Micronesia, a nation consisting of thousands of islands and atolls, The Associated Press reported.
As one American helicopter finished its search Sunday, one of the crew members on board saw the message in the sand and the tattered vessel on the beach of Pikelot, a minuscule uninhabited atoll, the AP reported.
— Ruptly (@Ruptly) August 4, 2020
“That’s when we looked down and saw an island, so we decide to check it out and that’s when we saw ‘SOS’ and a boat right next to it on the beach,” said Lt. Col. Jason Palmeira-Yen, who was piloting the aircraft.
SOS is an internationally recognized distress signal that originates from Morse code.
What a cracking seafaring survival tale 🌊 Australia’s HMAS Canberra, recently on exercise in the South China Sea, helped rescue 3 sailors marooned on a pacific island in Micronesia. ADF helicopter crew spotted the SOS in the sand. pic.twitter.com/jajayQ0eSv
— Siobhan Heanue (@siobhanheanue) August 3, 2020
Once they had been rescued, the Coast Guard realized that the mariners had drifted over 100 miles from their departure point on Puluwat, another Micronesian island, The New York Times reported.
An Australian crew delivered food to the sailors after their rescue, and a Micronesian ship picked them up Monday and escorted them back to Pulap, according to the AP.
Capt. Terry Morrison, who led the Australian crew in their search, said in a statement from the Australian Defense Ministry that he was “proud” of his crew’s work.
“The ship’s company responded to the call and had the ship quickly prepared to support the search and rescue,” he said.
“In particular, our embarked MRH90 helicopter from No. 808 Squadron and the four armed reconnaissance helicopters from 1st Aviation Regiment were instrumental in the morning search that helped locate the men and deliver supplies and confirm their welfare.
“I am proud of the response and professionalism of all on board as we fulfil our obligation to contribute to the safety of life at sea wherever we are in the world.”
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