Stranded Mariners Rescued From Island In Micronesia, Thanks To 'SOS' Etched In Sand

Aug 4, 2020
Originally published on August 5, 2020 6:24 am

Three stranded mariners were rescued from a remote island in Micronesia on Monday after search crews spotted their "SOS" message written in the sand.

The three-person crew of a skiff had not been heard from since July 29, and were reported missing on July 31. The mariners were reportedly sailing a 23 nautical-mile journey from Pulawat to Pulap atolls in the Federated States of Micronesia, in the western Pacific, when they sailed off course and ran out of fuel.

Australian and U.S. military aircraft located the castaways on the beach of Pikelot Island on Aug. 1, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

"We were toward the end of our search pattern, we turned to avoid some rain showers and that's when we looked down and saw an island, so we decide to check it out and that's when we saw S.O.S and a boat right next to it on the beach," said Lt. Col. Jason Palmeira-Yen, an Air Force pilot.

"SOS" is internationally recognized as a call for help, and responders moved quickly to answer it.

Palmeira-Yen said he called in the crew of Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS Canberra, because they had two nearby helicopters that could land on the island.

The responding agencies decided to limit exposure to one another and the mariners due to COVID-19, the Coast Guard said.

A helicopter crew from HMAS Canberra located the mariners, checked for major injuries and delivered them food and water, the Australian Department of Defence said. Authorities said the men were in good condition.

The U.S. Coast Guard dropped them a radio and told them the FSS Independence was on its way.

On Monday, the crew of the Independence picked up the stranded mariners to take them back to their home on Pulap, Chuuk.

Capt. Christopher Chase, commander of Coast Guard Sector Guam, said the rescue depended on cooperation. "Through coordination with multiple response organizations, we were able to save three members of our community and bring them back home to their families," he said.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Good morning. I'm Rachel Martin, here with the tale of a fateful trip. Three men in Micronesia went missing after their boat ran out of fuel. U.S. and Australian search crews were about to give up looking for them when a rescue helicopter turned to avoid some rain showers and then spotted SOS drawn into the sand of a small island. The men were rescued. Their original plan to sail 25 miles ended up taking them 120 miles off course - not exactly a three-hour tour. It's MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.