Three castaways have been rescued from a remote Pacific island after using palm fronds to spell out the word ‘Help’ on the beach.
The mariners had set off on Monday on what should have been a three-hour sailing trip, but their tiny vessel was overtaken by swelling waves.
The sailors were heading to Weno Island, a Micronesian atoll in the state of Chuuk where they’re from, from Pulap.
Four nautical miles into their trek, a wave capsized their 19-foot flat-bottomed boat, according to the New York Daily News.
The three men were forced to swim two miles to shore at night, Chief Petty Officer Sara Mooer, a spokesperson for the Coast Guard, told CNN.
The Coast Guard was alerted when the men failed to turn up for a flight they were supposed to catch from Chuuk, in Micronesia in the central Pacific.
Four ships, which used radar to track the lost sailors’ route, were deployed.
Among them were the automated mutual-assistance rescue vessels (AMVER) Brilliant Jupiter and Ten Yu Maru, which conducted a combined 17 hours and searched 178 miles of track-line looking for the men.
‘Our combined efforts coupled with the willingness of many different resources to come together and help, led to the successful rescue of these three men in a very remote part of the Pacific,’ Lt. William White, Sector Guam public affairs officer, said in a statement.
The men spent three days fearing they would never see their loved ones again as they remained stranded on Fanadik Island, one of more than 600 islands of the Federated States of Micronesia.
They group decided to use the age-old tactic of writing ‘HELP’ in palm fronds – and it worked.
A Navy P-8 aircrew launched at 6am on Thursday to assist in the Coast Guard’s search.
The trio or sailors were spotted by the Navy P-8 aircrew operating out of Misawa Air Base in Japan just two hours later, according to CNN.
Petty Officer First Class Michael McCandless said: ‘They had the word ‘help’ spelled out and were waving their lifejackets’.
The men were rescued on Thursday night, and were transported to the island of Pulap. They are all said to be in good spirits.
Mooer said that the U.S. Coast Guard carried out seven separate search and rescue missions in the area since March 28.
‘The Coast Guard 14th District covers an area of responsibility more than 12.2 million square miles of land and sea, an area almost twice the size of Russia.
‘Oftentimes, we are thousands of miles away from those who need help and because of that our partnerships with the Navy, other search and rescue organizations, partner Pacific nations and AMVER are essential,’ said Jennifer Conklin, search and rescue mission coordinator at the Coast Guard Command Center Honolulu.
Those rescue efforts have helped save 15 lives, she said.
Coast Guard members conducted outreach in Chuuk and provided boating safety equipment such as lifejackets, radar reflectors and signaling mirrors, as part of Pacific Partnership 2015.
‘There are not a lot of resources in that region. It’s very small and very remote,’ Mooer said.