Castaways rescued from deserted island by writing ‘HELP’ in palm leaves

Click to play video: 'Castaways rescued from deserted island after making ‘HELP’ sign with palm leaves'
Castaways rescued from deserted island after making ‘HELP’ sign with palm leaves
WATCH: Castaways rescued from deserted island after making 'HELP' sign with palm leaves – Apr 11, 2024

Three sailors were rescued from a deserted island in the Pacific Ocean after writing out the word “HELP” in palm leaves on the beach. After a week on the island, their signal for help was finally spotted by a U.S. Navy plane assisting in the search for the missing men.

A photo of the HELP sign was shared by the U.S. Coast Guard, showing the word spelled out with approximately 20 palm fronds. A small lean-to is also seen in the image.

The three men, all brothers in their 40s, were rescued by a U.S. Coast Guard ship on Tuesday from Pikelot Atoll, a remote and uninhabited island in the state of Yap, part of the Federated States of Micronesia.

“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. This act of ingenuity was pivotal in guiding rescue efforts directly to their location,” said Lt. Chelsea Garcia, a search and rescue mission coordinator with the U.S. Coast Guard.

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The brothers, all experienced mariners, had embarked from their home on Polowat Atoll, a Micronesian island with a handful of small communities, on Easter Sunday, March 31. During their voyage, their small, open-skiff-style boat was damaged, as well as their outboard motor. They were marooned on the deserted island about 100 nautical miles from home.

Three stranded sailors were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard after their ‘HELP’ sign, spelled out in palm leaves on the beach of a deserted island, was spotted by a plane. U.S. Coast Guard

When the men failed to return home from their boating trip, a relative sent a distress call to the Joint Rescue Sub-Center in Guam on April 6 to report her three uncles as missing.

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Rescue workers coordinated with the U.S. Navy to divert a P-8 aircraft from the Kadena Air Force Base in Japan to assist with the search. The Oliver Henry, a U.S. Coast Guard ship, which was already in Micronesian waters, was also tapped to help.

Rescuers and the U.S. service members had to contend with adverse weather conditions as they tried to cover as much of the initial search area as possible — a vast expanse spanning over 78,000 nautical miles.

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A day after the search was mobilized, the crew on board the P-8 reconnaissance jet spotted the brothers’ HELP sign.

Photo of the word ‘HELP’ written out in palm leaves. Three stranded sailors were rescued from a deserted island in the Pacific on Tuesday after their sign for help was spotted by a U.S. Navy plane. U.S. Coast Guard

Unable to land on the small, sandy island, the P-8 crew dropped survival packages down to the stranded sailors and radioed for help.

The Oliver Henry ship was rerouted to their location but it would take another two days to reach the men.

In the meantime, a U.S. Coast Guard plane returned to the area where the men were stranded and dropped a radio to establish communication with the castaways. The three men confirmed they were in good health and had access to food and water on the deserted island. They still had their skiff with them, but it was badly damaged.

The next morning, the Oliver Henry arrived and rescued the stranded men. They made it back home to Polowat Atoll the same day.

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“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 (Federated States of Micronesia),” said Capt. Nicholas Simmons, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Forces in Micronesia and Guam.

“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 the Oliver Henry. “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.”

Coast Guard officials added that it’s recommended that all sailors equip their vessels with an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, so that they can be located in case of emergencies.

Just four years ago, in August 2020, three sailors were stranded on the very same deserted island and were rescued after their “SOS” sign, built out of palm branches, was spotted by a passing aircraft.


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