Micronesians assist own rescue from remote island with makeshift ‘HELP’ sign

U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia / Sector Guam The crew of a Hawaii-based aircraft makes contact on Monday with three mariners stranded on Pikelot Atoll, Yap State, Federated States of Micronesia.

The U.S. Coast Guard saved three Micronesians on Tuesday from a remote, 31-acre island near Guam after the trio of stranded fishermen spelled out “HELP” on a beach using palm leaves.

After crashing into Pikelot Atoll around Easter Sunday, the mariners foraged for water and ate meat from coconuts for more than a week until they received airdropped deliveries on Monday from a U.S. Navy P-8 aircraft, according to a spokesperson for USCG Micronesia/Guam.


The fishermen were reported missing on April 6, which kicked off a search and rescue mission spanning over 78,000 square nautical miles. They were located the following day with assistance from an aircraft based out of Air Station Barbers Point in Hawaii.

“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,” Chelsea Garcia, the search and rescue mission coordinator, said in a news release.

The three men in their 40s scavenged enough food to survive on the island, but “not for much longer,” a USCG spokesperson wrote to the Tribune-Herald in an email.

They were “excited and relieved” at the approach of the rescue boat Oliver Henry, which happened to have on board Eugene Halishlius, originally from the Yap State, who spoke to them in their native language, the spokesperson added.

While dehydrated, the three men are reportedly in good health and returned home to Polowat Atoll, Chuuk State.

“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, in a news release.

“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.”

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