Three missing sailors have been found on a tiny island in the western Pacific after a desperate message saying SOS in the sand that was spotted from the air. 

The men were found on Sunday after they had been missing for three days, and were reportedly “in good health”, according to the Australian Defence Ministry. 

Their call for help was written on the beach of Pikelot Island, 190 kilometres west of where they had set out and was seen by Australian and US aircraft.  

A ship, the HMAS Canberra, headed to the sailors' aid and a helicopter landed on the beach. 

The ship brought water and food for the men as well as carrying out identity and health checks. 

The men were reportedly sailing between the atolls Poluwat and Pulap, a journey of 42 kilometres when they veered off course and ran out of fuel. 

A Micronesian patrol vessel, FSS Independence, is heading to the island to pick up the men. 

Canberra's Commanding Officer 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 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. 

“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.”

Photo credit: Australian Department of Defence

This article originally appeared on Over60.