When a group of five snorkelers realized their boat was drifting away off Australia’s Queensland coast, they did what any marooned seafarer would do in the movies: scrawl S.O.S. in the sand. Their efforts were rewarded with a dramatic Hollywood rescue via helicopter later that day.
“Just as we got over to the rocks, one of the boat co-owners … turned back and could see that the boat had shifted,” Lyn Forbes-Smith told The Courier-Mail.
With the wind picking up, two of the snorkelers tried to swim after the boat — which had the group’s cell phones and sunscreen on board — but they realized they couldn’t catch it. So they wrote S.O.S. on a sandbar, and then searched out the highest point on a rocky outcrop and prepared to spend the night.
“We knew the sandbar would go under but we were fairly confident that the tide wouldn’t have taken over the rocks,” Forbes-Smith said. “We had reef walkers on thankfully, but we had no food, water, cream, no hats, not much at all…We looked for rocks where five of us could huddle together because we didn’t really want to separate, and we wanted to be out of the wind as best as possible.”
Friends who knew the group’s plans alerted searchers when the group didn’t return to the island they were staying on. A volunteer rescue crew found the boat, and the helicopter found the marooned snorkelers before dark.
No one suffered anything worse than sunburn.
Photo: Close-up of the SOS message scrawled on a sandbar near where five people were rescued. Credit: RACQ-CQ Rescue