Stranded on a remote island, they wrote 'SOS' in the sand

By Peter Holley

A pair of stranded mariners signal for help by writing SOS in the sand as a US Navy P-8A Poseidon aircraft crew from Patrol Squadron (VP) 8 flies over. Photo / US Navy
A pair of stranded mariners signal for help by writing SOS in the sand as a US Navy P-8A Poseidon aircraft crew from Patrol Squadron (VP) 8 flies over. Photo / US Navy

The two mariners left Weno Island en route for Tamatam Island in an 5.5m vessel over a week ago with "limited supplies and no emergency equipment".

When the two men failed to arrive at their destination a day later, a search effort was launched in the western Pacific on August 19, according to a statement released by the US Coast Guard in Guam.

In recent days, crews from Coast Guard District 14 - which covers the Hawaiian islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Saipan area - searched nearly 44,030 sq km using 15 boats and two aircraft, the statement said.

They had their work cut out for them.

"The Coast Guard 14th District covers an area of responsibility more than [31.5 million sq km] of land and sea, an area almost twice the size of Russia," Jennifer Conklin, search and rescue mission coordinator at the Coast Guard Command Centre Honolulu, said in a statement earlier this year.

"Oftentimes, we are thousands of miles away from those who need help and because of that our partnerships with the Navy, other search and rescue organisations, partner Pacific nations and AMVER are essential."

AMVER is a voluntary Coast Guard-sponsored global ship reporting system.

Rescuers caught a break after a search vessel spotted flashing lights on an uninhabited island in Micronesia, the statement said. When a helicopter was sent to investigate, the pilots noticed "SOS" etched into the sand.

The castaways were spotted "on the beach near the makeshift sign".

The men - identified by the US Embassy in Kolonia, Micronesia, as Linus and Sabina Jack, both in their 50s - were picked up late last week and transferred to Nomwin atoll, the statement said.

"The Search and Rescue Operation for Linus and Sabina Jack has been successfully completed," the embassy posted on Facebook. "They are found and are waiting for a ship to take them home."

It is the second similar rescue in the region in recent months.

In April, three men were rescued from the uninhabited Micronesian island of Fanadik after a large wave capsized their 5.8m skiff 3.2km offshore.

Stranded several hundred kilometres north of Papua New Guinea, the men arranged palm fronds in the sand to spell out HELP.

It would take three days for a crew aboard a Navy plane to spot them waving life jackets next to their sign.

Once found, their families were notified and, in the end, they were put on a small local boat back to Pulap, from where they initially set out to sea. No injuries were reported.

- Washington Post

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 11 Dec 2016 07:02:18 Processing Time: 784ms