On Thursday, a U.S. Navy aircraft saw a fire on an uninhabited Pacific island. At closer look the pilot spotted the world “help” spelled out in palm leaves on the beach and three castaways waving life jackets in front of their makeshift sign. When they were saved, it was discovered that they were on the uninhabited Fanadik island (about 2600 miles southwest of Honolulu) for three days.

The three man had been on a 19-foot skiff which departed from the Micronesian island of Pulap, about four nautical miles from Fanadik, on the way to another Micronesian island. The skiff had been capsized by large waves just a few hours after their departure and they spent the night swimming to this island, an estimated two miles away from where they were stranded in the ocean. The trio says that they were inspired by Tom Hank‘s character in 2000’s Cast Away to write the inscription in the sand.

The Coast Guard and Navy collaborated with the Automated Mutual-Assistance Rescue System (a Coast Guard-sponsored voluntary network of ships that participate in search-and-rescues) successfully returned the men to their homes. There were no reported injuries.

Chief Petty Officer Sara Mooer was the spokesperson for the Coast Guard who explained that the U.S. Coast Guard has carried out seven separate search-and-rescue missions in the area since March 28th, helping to save 15 lives.

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