A "help" sign created from palm fronds helped locate three men stranded on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean (Credit: US Navy)

Three men stranded on a remote Pacific island for a week were successfully rescued on April 9, 2024, thanks to their clever "help" signal made using palm fronds.

The mariners' ordeal began on March 31, 2024, when they set out to fish from Polowat Island aboard their 20-foot (6-m) open skiff. About 115 miles (185 km) into their journey, a large wave struck their boat, damaging the outboard motor. Fortunately, the fishers managed to scramble onto Pikelot Atoll, a small, uninhabited coral island. But their radio ran out of battery power before they could call for help.

The search for the three sailors began on April 6, 2024, when a woman contacted the US Coast Guard in Guam to report them missing. Initially, bad weather and a lack of aircraft hindered the rescue efforts. However, the Guam rescuers soon received support from the US Navy team based in Japan and another Coast Guard crew. Together, they carefully searched an area of over 100,000 miles (160,000 km). It only took a day for the Navy aircraft to spot the massive "help" signal on the white sand.

"This act of ingenuity was pivotal in guiding rescue efforts directly to their location," said Lt. Chelsea Garcia, the search and rescue mission coordinator.

The three men were stranded on the Pikelot Atoll (Credit: US Navy)

The sailors had been living off coconut meat and fresh water from a small well on the island and were all in good health. The Navy crew dropped some emergency supplies, like food and water, and relayed their location to the rescue center. The three men were picked up and delivered to their loved ones shortly after.

Polowat and Pikelot are part of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The island nation spreads across 1500 miles (2,414 km) of the western Pacific Ocean. FSM comprises more than 600 small islands, only 65 of which are inhabited.

Resources: NPR.com, CNN.com, Telegraph.co.uk