'SOS' in sand on remote island leads search crews to stranded mariners
By PETER HOLLEY | The Washington Post | Published: August 27, 2016
The two mariners left Weno Island en route for Tamatam Island in an 18-foot 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 Aug. 19, according to a statement released by the U.S. 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 17,000 square miles 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 12.2 million square miles of land and sea, an area almost twice the size of Russia," Jennifer Conklin, search and rescue mission coordinator at the Coast Guard Command Center 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 organizations, partner Pacific nations and AMVER are essential."
AMVER is a voluntary Coast Guard-sponsored global ship reporting system.
On Wednesday, 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 U.S. Embassy in Kolonia, Micronesia, as Linus and Sabina Jack, both in their 50s - were picked up Friday 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 Thursday. "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 19-foot skiff two miles offshore.
Stranded several hundred miles 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.