HMAS Canberra assists in search and rescue of stranded boaters in Micronesia

An Australian Army Tiger helicopter lands on Pikelot Island in Micronesia. The SOS message of the stricken sailors can be seen on the beach. (Photo: Australian Defence Force)

The Royal Australian Navy landing helicopter dock (LHD) HMAS Canberra and its embarked aviation assets assisted in locating the three-person crew of a skiff that had been missing for nearly three days in Micronesia.

The men were found on Sunday, August 2, in good condition on tiny Pikelot Island, 190 kilometres west of where they had set off in their seven-metre vessel on July 30.

Their SOS message outlined on a beach (pictured) was spotted from the air by Australian and US aircraft during the search.

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) had been requested to provide search and rescue (SAR) support by the Rescue and Coordination Centre in Guam on the afternoon of August 1.

Canberra was returning to Australia while the rest of the task group continued on its way to participate in Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) off Hawaii.

The LHD sailed overnight to reach the search area, and in cooperation with US aircraft operating out of Guam, located the men on the island.

Crew of the 1st Aviation Regiment in an Australian Army Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter (ARH) landed on the beach, delivered food and water, confirmed the men’s identities and checked that they had no major injuries.

The missing vessel and crew were reportedly sailing from Pulawat to Pulap atolls, a 42-kilometre journey, when they sailed off course and ran out of fuel.

A Micronesian police patrol vessel, FSS Independence, later sailed to the island to pick up the men.

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