August 4, 2020 – 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 2 August in good condition on tiny Pikelot Island, 190km west of where they had set off in their seven-metre vessel on 30 July.
Their SOS message outlined on a beach was spotted from the air by Australian and US aircraft during the search.
The ADF had been asked for search-and-rescue support by the Rescue and Coordination Centre in Guam on the afternoon of 1 August.
HMAS Canberra is part of Task Group 635.3 conducting a Regional Presence Deployment.
Canberra was returning to Australia while the rest of the task group continued on its way to participate in Exercise Rim of the Pacific off Hawaii.
The ship 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 1st Aviation Regiment in an Army armed reconnaissance helicopter landed on the beach, delivered food and water, and confirmed the men’s identities and performed health checks.
Commanding Officer HMAS Canberra, Captain Terry Morrison said the response by the ship’s company to the operation was outstanding.
“The ship’s company responded to the call and had the ship quickly prepared to support the search and rescue,” Captain Morrison said.
“In particular, our embarked MRH-90 helicopter from 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.
“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.”
The missing vessel and crew were reportedly sailing from Pulawat to Pulap atolls, a 23-nautical-mile journey, when they sailed off course and ran out of fuel.
A Micronesian patrol vessel, FSS Independence, is on its way to the island to pick up the men.
Independence is a Pacific Patrol Boat built in Australia, delivered and supported by the Australian Government.