Three men was rescued from a tiny, uninhabited island in the Pacific after writing a giant SOS sign that led the rescue team to spot their location.
Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot Island east of the Philippines, nearly 200km west of where they set off in a 23-foot boat last Thursday, planning to make a 26-mile journey from Pulawat to Pulap atolls in the Federated States of Micronesia.
The men went off course and ran out of fuel, landing on the uninhabited island.
When the men did not arrive in Pulap, a search was requested through the US Coast Guard’s Joint Rescue Sub Center in Guam that enlisted help from units in the region.
They were first spotted by a US Air Force KC-135 tanker after searching for three hours.
“We were toward the end of our search pattern,” said the KC-135 pilot, Lt. Col. Jason Palmeira-Yen.
“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 SOS and a boat right next to it on the beach. From there we called in the Australian Navy because they had two helicopters nearby that could assist and land on the island.”
An Australian military helicopter then landed on the beach and gave the men food and water, while a Micronesian patrol vessel was due to pick them up.
“I am proud of the response and professionalism of all on board as we fulfill our obligation to contribute to the safety of life at sea wherever we are in the world,” Canberra’s commanding officer, Capt. Terry Morrison said in a statement.
Pikelot Island is a heavilty forested low coral atoll that is less than half a kilometer long, and home to a seabird rookery and turtle nesting site.