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Castaways rescued from Pacific island after making ‘HELP’ sign with palm leaves

This photo provided by U.S. Coast Guard shows HELP" spelled out with palm fronds by three stranded mariners on Pikelot Atoll, Yap State, Federated States of Micronesia, Monday, April 8, 2024. The three mariners are safe after the coordination of U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam and the U.S. Navy, after being stranded for more than a week. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Three fisherman who were stranded on a small Pacific island for more than a week were rescued after making a “HELP” sign with palm leaves on the beach .

The men, experienced sailors in their 40s, set out from the Micronesian island of Polowat in a 20-foot skiff on Easter Sunday. On Saturday, a family member made a distress call about the fisherman’s whereabouts.

A Coast Guard and Navy search ensued, covering an area of roughly 80,000 square miles.

On Sunday, a Navy aviator spotted a large “HELP” message made on the beach of Pikelot , a remote island about 100 nautical miles away from home.

A day later, another plane dropped a radio and supplies. The men confirmed they were healthy but that their boat was too damaged to return to Polowat.

The men were finally rescued on Tuesday and returned to their home.

“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,” Lt. Ray Cerrato, commanding officer of the USCGC Oliver Henry, said.

“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,” he continued. “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.”

A nearly identical rescue occurred in 2020 on the very same island , but those stranded fisherman spelled out “SOS” with leaves.


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