Aug. 4 (UPI) -- U.S. and Australian military service members rescued three mariners stranded on a small Pacific island after sighting an SOS sign they had etched into the sand.
The mariners had departed on Thursday from Puluwat Atoll for Pulap Island of the Federated States of Micronesia but were reported missing later that day when their 23-foot blue and white boat never arrived, U.S. military officials said Monday.
Joint Rescue Sub-Center Guam received notification of the overdue skiff and requested assistance from the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, the U.S. base said on Facebook.
The three mariners were then located by the crew of a KC-135 Stratotanker almost 3 hours into their rescue mission though near the final leg of their search pattern on Saturday.
"We were toward the end of our search pattern," Lt. Col. Jason Palmeira-Yen, the pilot of the KC-135, said in a statement. "We turned to avoid some rain showers and that's when we looked down and saw an island, so we decided to check it out and that's when we saw SOS and a boat right next to it on the beach. From there, we called in HMAS Canberra because they had two helicopters nearby that could assist and land on the island."
The crew of an Australian Army armed reconnaissance helicopter deployed from the HMAS Canberra and landed on the beach to confirm the men's identities and to deliver them food and water, the Australia Navy said in a statement.
Meanwhile, a U.S. Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules from Hawaii airdropped a radio and a message block informing the stranded mariners that the FSS Independence was en-route to pick them up.
The Coast Guard said interactions with the mariners, who were uninjured, were limited to prevent possible exposure to COVID-19.
"Partnerships," said Capt. Christopher Chase, commander of the Coast Guard Sector Guam. "This is what made this search and rescue case successful. Through coordination with multiple response organizations, we were able to save three members of our community and bring them back home to their families."