3 Men Trapped On Deserted Island Get Rescued After Spelling 'Help' With Palms

April 12, 2024

Today's good news story comes from Micronesia.

On April 9, 2024, a dramatic rescue operation led by the U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam and the U.S. Navy successfully saved three mariners who had been stranded for over a week on the isolated Pikelot Atoll in Yap State, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).

coast guard rescues sailors HELP island
Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

The harrowing ordeal began on Easter Sunday when three men in their 40s set sail from Polowat Atoll in a 20-foot skiff, equipped with an outboard motor and navigational experience. Their journey took an unexpected turn, leaving them stranded on the remote Pikelot Atoll, 100 nautical miles northwest of their starting point.

The alarm was raised on April 6 when a distressed relative contacted the Joint Rescue Sub-Center (JRSC) Guam to report that her three uncles had not returned as expected. The immediate mobilization of a comprehensive search and rescue operation spanned an expansive area of over 78,000 square nautical miles, despite challenges posed by limited air assets, operational commitments, and adverse weather conditions.

A breakthrough came on April 7 when a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft from Kadena Air Force Base in Japan spotted the mariners on Pikelot Atoll. In a display of remarkable resourcefulness, the stranded men had spelled out "HELP" on the beach using palm leaves, a crucial factor that guided rescue efforts directly to their location.

coast guard rescues sailors HELP island
Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

on April 8 when a U.S. Coast Guard HC-130J Hercules aircraft from Air Station Barbers Point in Hawaii established communication with the mariners, dropping a radio to confirm their well-being. Despite the damage sustained by their skiff and outboard engine, the mariners were in good health and expressed a strong desire for assistance.

On the morning of April 9, the USCGC Oliver Henry rendezvoused with the mariners on Pikelot Atoll and successfully rescued them along with their equipment, returning them safely to Polowat Atoll.

"Whether we're out there protecting valuable resources or saving lives, we're not just visitors – we're members of this vibrant maritime community that connects all these islands," said Lt. Ray Cerrato, commanding officer of USCGC Oliver Henry. "This recent operation near Pikelot Atoll hits home the kind of difference we can make. It's about more than just performing a duty; it's about the real human connections we forge and the lives we touch. Every day, I'm reminded of the impact we have and the bonds we build. It's incredibly rewarding to see the faces of those we've helped. Here on Oliver Henry, we're not just a crew; we're part of the heartbeat of the Pacific, and I couldn't be prouder of the work we do."

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