3 men saved after writing ‘SOS’ in sand of Pacific island

3 men saved after writing ‘SOS’ in sand of Pacific island
Three men marooned on a small Pacific island were saved after they scrawled "SOS" on the atoll's sandy beach. (U.S. Coast Guard via U.S. Air Force)

Writing “SOS” in the sand may sound like a cliche, but it worked for three men marooned on a tiny Pacific Island last week.

The men, who were from the Micronesian island of Pulap, were reported missing Friday after leaving the Puluwat atoll the previous day, The New York Times reported. They had left in a 23-foot boat on Thursday to make the 26-mile trip from Pulaway to the Pulap atolls but went off course and ran out of fuel, CNN reported.

U.S. and Australian authorities said the men landed on uninhabited Pikelot Island, which was 118 miles from their destination and 500 miles south of Guam.

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According to the U.S. Coast Guard said, a joint operation that included U.S. aircraft and a ship sent by the Australian military searched the area.

Crew members on the plane saw the scrawled letters and a blue-and-white vessel on the sand of the tiny island on Sunday, the Times reported. Lt. Col. Jason Palmeira-Yen, the pilot of the plane, said he was reaching the end of the planned search grid when he turned the plane to avoid a shower.

“That’s when we looked down and saw an island, so we decided to check it out and that’s when we saw SOS and a boat right next to it on the beach,” Palmeira-Yen said in a Coast Guard news release.

A helicopter from an Australian amphibious ship landed on the beach to drop off food and water for the men, checking to be sure nobody was injured, CNN reported.

“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,” Capt. Terry Morrison, the commanding officer said in a statement released by the Australian Defense Ministry.

“Partnerships. This is what made this search and rescue case successful,” Capt. Christopher Chase, commander, Coast Guard Sector Guam, said in the Coast Guard news release. “Through coordination with multiple response organizations, we were able to save three members of our community and bring them back home to their families.”