Stranded men rescued from Pacific island after writing SOS in sand
A handout photo from the Australian Defence Force shows a helicopter landing near the letters "SOS" on a beach on Pikelot Island, where the three men were rescued. © AFP, Australian Defence Force

Three men have been rescued from a tiny island in the Micronesia archipelago after writing a giant SOS sign in the sand that was spotted from above.

The men had been missing for nearly three days when their distress signal was spotted Sunday on uninhabited Pikelot Island by searchers on Australian and US aircraft, the Australian defense department said Monday.

The men had apparently set out from Pulawat atoll in a 7-meter (23-foot) boat on July 30 and had intended to travel about 43 kilometers to Pulap atoll when they sailed off course and ran out of fuel, the department said.

Searchers in Guam asked for Australian help. The military ship the Canberra, which was returning to Australia from exercises in Hawaii, diverted to the area and joined forces with US searchers from Guam.

The men were found about 190 kilometers from where they had set out.

“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," said the Canberra’s commanding officer, Captain Terry Morrison, in a statement.

The men were found in good condition and an Australian military helicopter was able to land on the beach to give them food and water. A Micronesian patrol vessel was due to pick them up.

SOS is an internationally recognized distress signal that originates from Morse code.

In a similar incident in August 2016, a pair of stranded mariners were rescued from another uninhabited island in Micronesia after a US Navy helicopter spotted their SOS sign.

Months earlier, three other people whose boat had capsized two miles from shore were spotted on a nearby island after writing "Help" in the sand.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)