Earlier this week, the Coast Guard and the Navy joined forces to rescue three mariners who were stranded on a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for several days. Relatives reported the men missing on April 6, more than 5 days after they set out in a small fishing skiff from their home in the island nation of Micronesia. They were rescued on April 9 after crews spotted their distress signal spelled out on a sandy beach more than 100 nautical miles from their home.

A vintage cover of Field & Stream magazine with a spaniel holding a pheasant.
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“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,” said Lt. Chelsea Garcia, the search and rescue mission coordinator. “This act of ingenuity was pivotal in guiding rescue efforts directly to their location.”

The stranded fisherman were brothers in their 40s, the press release states. They set out from Palowat Atol, part of the the Federated Sates of Micronesia, on Easter Sunday (March 31). Micronesia is east of the Philippine Islands and north of Papua New Guinea.

Apparently, the men had navigated the waters around the small island where they were eventually stranded before. But this time the outboard motor powering their 20-foot skiff took on water sustained damage, USA Today reports.

Survival photo
A Coast Guard file photo shows members of the rescue crew that saved the stranded fishermen.

The Coast Guard’s initial efforts to mount a rescue operation were thwarted by bad weather and limited availability of equipment and military personnel. Eventually they secured an aircraft from a Navy base in Japan and additional support from a Coast Guard air station in Hawaii.

“A pivotal moment in the rescue operation came on April 8, when a U.S. Coast Guard HC-130J Hercules aircraft from Air Station Barbers Point in Hawaii overflew the area,” the press release reads. “The crew was able to relocate the mariners, dropping a radio to establish communication. The mariners confirmed they were in good health, had access to food and water, and recovered their skiff … They expressed a desire for assistance in returning to Polowat.”

On the morning of April 9, the USCGC Oliver Henry set sail for Pikelot Atol, the tiny forested island where the fisherman were stranded. They picked the men up and returned them to their home island, along with their boat and fishing equipment.

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