"HELP" sign made with palm leaves saves 3 sailors stranded on Pacific island for more than a week

Three experienced sailors in their 40s were rescued from an uninhabited island in the Pacific after they spelled out "HELP" with large palm leaves.

The sailors, who were related to each other, had traveled on Easter Sunday from Polowat to Pikelot, both atolls in the sprawling archipelago of Micronesia. But when their 20-foot skiff sustained damage, the men became stranded, surviving on coconuts for six days before their niece called the Coast Guard to report them missing.

It took another two days before their SOS message — "a crucial factor in their discovery" — was spotted from above by the Coast Guard.

"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," said Lt. Chelsea Garcia in a statement via NBC News.

From NBC News:

They were rescued after coordination by the U.S. Coast Guard stationed in the region and the U.S Navy. …

The initial search area was more than 78,000 square nautical miles. Only the sailors' palm tree sign alerted authorities to their whereabouts, when a Coast Guard HC-130J Hercules aircraft spotted it from the sky. …

The rescue operation was hindered by poor weather and a lack of planes, the Coast Guard said. "Persistent efforts" eventually saw the USCGC Oliver Henry, already at sea in Micronesia, diverted to join the rescue. ..

The plane dropped survival packages and a radio onto the island while the Oliver Henry was diverted to pick them up.

This is the second Pikolot rescue in four years. Three other men were rescued in 2020 after writing "SOS" in the sand.