An SOS message written on a beach on a small uninhabited island called Pikelot Island in the Federated States of Micronesia has led to the rescue of three missing mariners.
The three men had embarked on a journey from Pulawat to Pulap atolls in a 23-foot (7 meters) boat 5 days ago on Thursday. At one point they strayed off their course and subsequently, ran out of fuel.
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They ended up in the uninhabited Pikelot Island, which is about 118 miles (190 km) west-northwest from their embarking point, Pulawat atoll. Their intended destination, Pulap atoll is some 26-miles (42 km) northwest from Pulawat. The mentioned islands are about 500 miles (800 km) south of the U.S. island territory Guam. After the people in Pulap didn't see anyone arriving at their port, a request for a search and rescue operation was made through US Coast Guard's Joint Rescue Sub Center in Guam, reported CNN Hong Kong.
After a search lasting three hours, the three Micronesian men were spotted by a Boeing KC-135 tanker that lifted up to the US Air Force Andersen Base. Lt. Col. Jason Palmeira-Yen, the pilot of the KC-135 told "We were toward the end of our search pattern," and continued "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."
A helicopter from Australian marine assault ship HMAS Canberra landed on the island, dropped off food and water supplies, and checked that they had no major health problems. Meanwhile, a C-130 plane belonging to the US Coast Guard dropped off a radio on them to communicate with a Micronesian patrol ship that dispatched from the island of Yap.
Mind you, US Coast guard stated that they've complied with social distancing practices throughout the operation. Even the first rescuers from the helicopter kept their distance. Coast Guard Statement read "After discussions between the responding partners it was decided the safest course of action for both the response agencies' crews and the mariners was to limit exposure to one another due to the COVID-19 Pandemic,"
Captain Terry Morrison, who is the commander of Canberra praised the personnel saying: "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," he said.
A Micronesian vessel, FSS Independence, has embarked on a trip to pick up the men.
Below you can also find the video captured by the first plane: