HELP Is on the Way | God's World News

HELP Is on the Way

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    The stranded men spelled out “HELP” with palm fronds on Pikelot Island. (U.S. Coast Guard)
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    A boat crew rescues the three sailors. (U.S. Coast Guard)
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    Three other men got stuck on Pikelot in 2020. They also made a signal for help. (U.S. Coast Guard)
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    This map shows where Puluwat and Pikelot are in the Pacific Ocean. (stock)
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    If you ever get stranded on a desert island, make a shelter from branches and leaves. (Krieg Barrie)
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    Swiss Family Robinson, Nim’s Island, and Island of the Blue Dolphins are all stories about people stranded on islands. (handout)
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Do you ever strategize about how you would survive on a desert island? If yes, you’re not alone. Creative imaginations have spun many a desert island or wilderness tale through the years. Think Swiss Family Robinson, Nim’s Island, or Island of the Blue Dolphins.

For three men setting out from tiny Puluwat Atoll, though, the scenario wasn’t hypothetical or imaginary.

The men left Puluwat in Micronesia on March 31. They were fishing when they hit a coral reef, which tore a hole in the bottom of their 20-foot boat. The boat started taking on water. They landed on deserted Pikelot Island. With no way to call rescuers, they collected palm fronds and spelled out the word HELP in giant letters on the beach.

Days went by without word of the men. On April 6, a relative reported them missing to a Coast Guard facility in Guam. Then the search began.

A U.S. Navy crew from Kadena Air Force Base in Japan spotted the three on Pikelot and dropped survival packages from a plane. The next day, another plane deposited a radio, which the men used to report they were thirsty but otherwise fine.

“The help sign was pretty visible,” says rescuer Coast Guard Lieutenant Keith Arnold. “We could see it from a couple thousand feet in the air.”

A Coast Guard ship picked up the men and took them to their home 100 miles away.

We hope you’ll never get stranded on a desert island—but here are some tips in case you do . . . or in case you write an imaginative desert island story of your own. First, take a cue from the Pikelot castaways and remember how to spell HELP. Then think about the three necessities for human life: water, food, and shelter.

People can survive only around three days without drinking water. Catch rain in anything that will hold it. Move inland to look for a fresh stream while you wait for a drizzle. Remember that even rain isn’t safe to drink as-is. You must boil caught water before drinking.

Without food, humans can survive for one to three weeks. If you’re not in the mood to hunt, you can eat nutrient-dense coconuts.

Find a camping spot under trees and near fresh water. Make a bed of branches; spread palm leaves over it. To fashion a tent, lean a large log against a tree. Use vines to tie smaller branches to it. Cover the frame with leaves.

When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. — Psalm 91:15

Why? Most of us like to imagine what we’d do if we got stuck on a desert island. It’s encouraging to know there is hope for our worst scenarios.

For more about survival skills, see The Complete Wilderness Training Book by Hugh McManners, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell, The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss, and Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe in our Recommended Reading. 

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