By Liz Miller
Observer Staff Writer 

US Navy Rescues Mariners from Uninhabited Island in Pacific

Stranded boaters found after 7 day, 16,571 mile search


September 2, 2016

US Navy

A pair of stranded mariners signal for help by writing "SOS" in the sand.

A pair of boaters were rescued from an uninhabited Pacific island by a U.S. Navy air crew on Friday after writing "SOS" in the sand. They had been stranded since August 19 on an island in Chuuk State, Federated States of Micronesia. They had limited supplies and no emergency equipment on board, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement.

The two had departed Weno Island on Aug. 17 to make their way to Tamatam Island where they were expected to dock the following day. When their 18-foot vessel didn't arrive, a notification was sent to the U.S. Coast Guard in Guam.

The Coast Guard said it requested help from a U.S. Navy P-8 aircraft crew after light signals were seen coming from a nearby island on Wednesday.

The Navy P-8A Poseidon aircraft crew from Patrol Squadron (VP) spotted the boaters on the beach near the big “SOS” on Friday.

A search and rescue team was called in to collect the couple, and they were transferred by patrol boat to Nomwin Atoll.

Rescuers had searched a total of 16,571 square miles of sea and islands during the extensive 7-day hunt.


SOS is the International Morse code distress signal (· · · – – – · · ·). This distress signal was first adopted by the German government in radio regulations effective April 1, 1905, and became the worldwide standard under the second International Radiotelegraphic Convention, which was signed on November 3, 1906, and became effective on July 1, 1908. SOS remained the maritime radio distress signal until 1999, when it was replaced by the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System. SOS is still recognized as a visual distress signal.

The SOS distress signal is a continuous sequence of three dits, three dahs, and three dits, all run together without letter spacing. In International Morse Code, three dits form the letter S, and three dahs make the letter O, so "SOS" became an easy way to remember the order of the dits and dahs. In modern terminology, SOS is a Morse "procedural signal" or "prosing,” and the formal way to write it is with a bar above the SOS.

In popular usage, SOS has become associated with such phrases as "Save Our Ship,” "Save Our Souls" or "Send Out Succor." It is the only nine-element signal in Morse code, making it more easily recognizable, as no other symbol uses more than eight elements.

SOS has also sometimes been used as a visual distress signal, consisting of three short, three long, and three more short flashes of light, such as from a survival mirror, or with "SOS" spelled out in individual letters (for example, stamped in a snowbank or formed out of logs on a beach). The fact that SOS can be read right side up as well as upside down (as an ambigram) is important for visual recognition if viewed from above.


The pair of stranded mariners.


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