These Castaways Were Saved Thanks to Handmade HELP Signs

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While Chuck Noland, played by Tom Hanks, was on a deserted island for four years in the movie Castaway, three men were stranded for three days on an uninhabited island -and this wasn’t a Hollywood movie scene. The unidentified castaways were rescued when a rescue plane saw “H-E-L-P” written out in palm tree fronds on shore.

The men told authorities after setting off for a three-hour sailing trip on their 19-foot
skiff
in the Pacific Ocean on Monday, April 4, when a large wave capsized their boat. They were forced to swim two miles overnight before getting to the deserted Fanadik Island in the Pacific ocean, which is just north of Papua New Guinea. On Thursday, a Navy plane noticed their innovative S.O.S. sign along with the men waving their lifejackets to get the attention of rescuers.

A Navy crew based in Japan was responsible for the rescue according to a confirmed statement from the U.S. Coast Guard. The men were on one of the 600 islands that form the Federated States of Micronesia.

The men had been reported missing on Tuesday after they missed a flight they were supposed to catch from Chuuk, in Micronesia in the central Pacific. Immediately, there was a search in the region, which included a search plane and four ships that used radar to track the sailors’ route. The initial search lasted 17 hours, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Navy aircrew joined the search on Thursday morning and found the men after searching for two hours. The three men were retrieved from the island by a small boat and taken to the island of Pulap. “Our combined efforts coupled with the willingness of many different resources to come together and help, led to the successful rescue of these three men in a very remote part of the Pacific,” said Sector Guam public affairs officer Lt. William White.

While these men are safe and in good spirits, we can all note their fast thinking played a major role in their rescue.

Lauren Spiler is a freelance journalist based in Athens, Georgia, but most call her Spiler.