For people who were ever asked what they might do if they get stuck on a deserted island, spelling out the word “HELP” on the beach may strike them as funny. In fact, it seems so cartoonish that not many may think of it in this modern world.
Fortunately for three castaways in a remote Pacific island, such act really did save them. The three sailors were set to go on a three-hour sailing trip to Weno Island in a Micronesian atoll. However, just four nautical miles into their trek, their 19-foot flat-bottomed boat was capsized and they ended up swimming to the nearest shore at night.
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The Coast Guard was alerted when the three failed to turn up for their flight from Chuuk, an island in the Central Pacific. Four ships, which were used to track the routes of lost sailors, were then deployed.
Among the deployed ships were the automated mutual-assistance rescue vessels called Brilliant Jupiter and Ten Yu Maru, both of which conducted a combined 17 hours and 178 mile of track-line looking for the missing 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,” said Lt. William White, the public affairs officer for the Guam public affairs said in a statement.
The men spent three days off their course, fearing that they will never again see their loved ones—the island they were found in, called Fanadik Island, is one of more than 600 islands of Micronesia. To help rescuers find them, they decided to use the old-fashioned tactic of writing the word “HELP” in palm fronds.
When they were found, officer Michael McCandles also added that besides the word in fronds, they were also waving their life jackets. Despite their three-day terror, they all seemed to remain in good spirits.
After the three were rescued, they were transported to the island of Pulap. Sara Mooer, the spokesperson for the coastal guard, said that a total of seven separate searches and rescue missions were carried out by the US Coast Guard since March 28.
Rescuing people who have been stranded on the high seas is not an easy feat, and the three men had been lucky. As noted by search and rescue mission coordinator at the Coast Guard Command Center Honolulu, Jennifer Conklin, “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.”
Such rescue efforts already saved 15 lives, and Coast Guard members have conducted outreach in Chuuk, a small and remote region, providing safety equipment such as life jackets, radar reflectors, and signaling mirrors as part of the Pacific Partnership that started in 2015.