The men had been missing in the Micronesia archipelago near the Philippines for three days before their internationally recognized distress signal, which originated from Morse code, was spotted Sunday on the uninhabited Pikelot Island by searchers on Australian and U.S. aircraft.
Located in the western Pacific Ocean, the Federated States of Micronesia is comprised of more than 600 islands. The three-person crew aboard a 23-foot skiff set out from Pulawat atoll on Thursday. They intended to travel about 27 miles to Pulap atoll when they sailed off course and ran out of fuel, the defense department said in a statement.
In this photo provided by the Australian Defence Force, an Australian Army ARH-90 Tiger Helicopter lands on Pikelot Island in the Federated States of Micronesia where three men were found safe and healthy on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, after missing for three days. (Australian Defense Force)
The Australian Defense Force was asked for search and rescue support by the Rescue and Coordination Center in Guam on Saturday. The military ship, Canberra, which was returning to Australia from exercises in Hawaii, diverted to the area and joined forces with U.S. searchers from Guam.
The men were found in good condition about 118 miles from where they had set out. Their SOS message was first spotted by a U.S. Air Force plane and an Australian Army helicopter was able to land on the beach to give the men food and water. A Micronesian patrol vessel was due to pick them up.
“I am proud of the response and professionalism of all on board as we fulfill our obligation to contribute to the safety of life at sea wherever we are in the world,” Canberra’s commanding officer, Capt. Terry Morrison, said in a statement
The Associated Press contributed to this report.