Three Castaways Rescued From Remote Pacific Island

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After being stranded on a remote atoll in Micronesia for more than a week, three fishermen are now safe, thanks to the joint efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy.

On April 6, the Coast Guard’s Guam station received a distress call from a relative of the missing men. The caller said that her three uncles had not returned from Pikelot Atoll, about 100 nautical miles northwest of Polowat Atoll in the Federated States of Micronesia. The three fishermen, all in their 40s, had reportedly set out from Polowat on March 31 in a 20-foot skiff.

At first the Coast Guard had some difficulty finding any search assets to visit Pikelot, which is about 350 nm south of Guam in the Caroline Islands. They kept trying, and they managed to get a U.S. Navy P-8 aircrew from Kadena Air Force Base in Japan, as well as the fast response cutter USCGC Oliver Henry, which was already in Micronesia. The initial search area covered over 78,000 square nautical miles.

Luckily, the U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft identified the three mariners on April 7 on Pikelot Atoll. The men had helpfully spelled out “help” in palm fronds on the beach, aiding in the search. The P-8 aircrew dropped survival supplies for them, and a Coast Guard HC-130J out of Honolulu visited the next day to drop a radio and establish communication. The men said that they had food and water, but their boat was damaged, and they asked for help in getting home. 

USCGC Oliver Henry met up with the three mariners on Pikelot Atoll on the evening of April 9 and returned them the 100-nm distance to Polowat.

“This recent operation near Pikelot Atoll hits home the kind of difference we can make. It’s about more than just performing a duty; it’s about the real human connections we forge and the lives we touch. Every day, I’m reminded of the impact we have and the bonds we build,” said Lt. Ray Cerrato, commanding officer of USCGC Oliver Henry. 

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