The unnamed sailors had been missing in the western Pacific Ocean for nearly three days when their giant message outlined on the beach of tiny Pikelot Island was spotted from above by searchers in Australian and U.S. aircraft on Sunday. All three men were found in "good condition," according to a press release from the Australian government's Department of Defense.
The men had apparently set out on a 23-foot skiff from Pulawat atoll on July 30, intending to travel about 26 miles to Pulap atoll, but they sailed off course and ran out of fuel.
Search and rescue teams from the U.S. territory of Guam had asked the Australian Defense Force for help on Saturday afternoon. The Royal Australian Navy's ship HMAS Canberra happened to be sailing in the region and agreed to change course to join the U.S. searchers from Guam, according to Australia's Department of Defense.
"The ship’s company responded to the call and had the ship quickly prepared to support the search and rescue," according to the Canberra’s commanding officer, Capt. Terry Morrison, in a statement Monday. "In particular, our embarked MRH90 helicopter from No. 808 Squadron and the four armed reconnaissance helicopters from 1st Aviation Regiment were instrumental in the morning search that helped locate the men and deliver supplies and confirm their welfare."
The missing men were ultimately located some 118 miles west from where they had started their voyage.
An Australian military helicopter managed to land on Pikelot Island to deliver the men food and water, confirm their identities and check they had no major injuries. A Micronesian patrol vessel has been sent to the island to pick them up, according to Australia's Department of Defense.
"I am proud of the response and professionalism of all on board as we fulfil our obligation to contribute to the safety of life at sea wherever we are in the world," Morrison said.