Three Stranded Men Rescued After Navy Plane Photographs ‘HELP’ Sign on Beach

Three Stranded Men Rescued After Navy Plane Photographed 'HELP' Sign on Beach

Three sailors — who spent more than a week stranded on a remote, uninhabited island — were rescued after a navy plane spotted a giant “HELP” sign made of palm trees on a beach.

The saga began when three men, who were in their 40s and had sailing experience, set out on a boat from Polowat Atoll, southeast of Guam on March 31.

The trio were heading on a trip toward Pikelot Atoll, an uninhabited coral island about 415 miles southeast of Guam that is occasionally visited by fishing boats.

However, nearly a week later, on April 6, the U.S. Joint Rescue Sub-Center in Guam got a distress call from a woman saying that her three uncles had not returned from their fishing trip.

The distress call prompted officials to begin a rescue operation spanning an area of over 78,000 nautical miles.

The Coast Guard and the Navy sprang into action, deploying a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft based in Japan and a Coast Guard cutter ship called the Oliver Henry.

On April 7, the Poseidon plane passed by Pikelot Atoll and crew members aboard the U.S. Navy aircraft spotted and photographed a huge makeshift sign reading “HELP” on the small and uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean.

‘An Act of Ingenuity’

The trio of sailors had used palm leaves to spell out the word “HELP” on the beach and it was thanks to this ingenious sign that the U.S. Navy aircraft managed to spot the mariners on the island.

“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,” Lt. Chelsea Garcia, the search and rescue mission coordinator on the day they were located, says in a statement.

“This act of ingenuity was pivotal in guiding rescue efforts directly to their location.”

The crew members aboard Poseidon airdopped survival kits to the three stranded men. The next day, a U.S. Coast Guard HC-130J Hercules aircraft based in Hawaii flew over the island and dropped off a radio.

The men radioed back that they became stranded on the island after their vessel’s motor had broken. The trio had since been surviving on a small well of freshwater and fresh coconuts on the remote island. But they were running out of food.

So the castaways gathered palm fronds from the 31-acre island, arranged them to spell out “HELP” on the white-sand beach, and waited.

On the morning of April 9, the trio who were in good health — although slightly dehydrated — were successfully rescued and taken back home after coordination by the U.S. Coast Guard stationed in the region and the U.S Navy.


Image credits: All photos by U.S. Coast Guard.