‘HELP’ Sign Written On Beach Gets Stranded Sailors Rescued From Remote Island

Photo: U.S. Coast Guard
Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

A large “HELP” sign made out of palm leaves saved the lives of three stranded sailors on a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean for more than a week after members of the U.S. Coast Guard spotted it from the sky. Sometimes you can learn a thing or two from the movies.

The three men were found on April 9 on the Pikelot Atoll – part of the Federated States of Micronesia. It’s just 0.28 miles long and 0.17 miles wide with a population of exactly zero people. As far as islands go, it’s a ’lil guy. The three men survived on coconuts and water from a well on the island, but they were quickly running out of food when they were found, according to a statement from the U.S. Coast Guard.

The three men in their 40s used palm tree branches to make their plea to the sky Gods (pilots.) They were all rescued in good health – but were slightly dehydrated – after a coordinated effort by the U.S. Coast Guard stationed in the region as well as the U.S. Navy. The trio had traveled on March 31 from Polowat Atoll – about 115 miles away from where they ended up – on a fishing trip aboard a 20-foot skiff with an outboard motor, according to the Coast Guard’s statement.

Photo: U.S. Coast Guard
Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

They got a distress call from a woman who said her three uncles were missing and had not returned home from Pikelot Atoll. Here’s what the Coast Guard did:


SC Guam watchstanders immediately began coordinating a multifaceted search and rescue operation. Despite initial challenges in mobilizing air assets due to availability, operational commitments, and weather conditions, persistent efforts led to the engagement of a U.S. Navy P-8 aircraft crew from Kadena Air Force Base in Japan and the diversion of USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140), already underway in the FSM, to the initial search area which spanned over 78,000 square nautical miles.

The breakthrough came when the U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft identified the three mariners on April 7 on Pikelot Atoll, confirming their presence and condition.

“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. This act of ingenuity was pivotal in guiding rescue efforts directly to their location” said Lt. Chelsea Garcia, the search and rescue mission coordinator on the day they were located. “This successful operation underscores the effective coordination and partnership between the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy, and regional partners. We extend our gratitude to everyone involved.”

Obviously, the aircraft couldn’t come right down to them. Instead, the crew sent survival packages down to the stranded fisherman until further assistance could come to the island.

Photo: U.S. Coast Guard
Photo: U.S. Coast Guard

On April 9 the crew of the Oliver Henry was able to meet with the men on the Pikelot Atoll. They rescued the mariners and their equipment and brought them back to Polowat Atoll.

Maybe if Tom Hanks had put up a HELP sign when he was an island his wife wouldn’t have left him and his best friend wouldn’t have been a volleyball. Tough to say.

For the latest news, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.