Image: Missing mariners
U.S. Navy
A group of 15 mariners form an SOS symbol on the small atoll of Fanano on Friday. The photo was taken from a Navy P-3 Orion long-range search aircraft. Fanano is part of the Murilo Atoll in Micronesia.
msnbc.com
updated 7/22/2011 5:34:45 PM ET 2011-07-22T21:34:45

A group of 15 men, women and children stuck for three days on an uninhabited Pacific island formed the "SOS" symbol by linking hands to help signal rescuers, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

"I've never seen that done before," said Kurt Fredrickson, an assistant public affairs officer for the Coast Guard. "It's like a common search and rescue thing to, you know, spell out 'SOS' in like rocks or something, or in the sand. ... I'm not sure why they did it that particular way."

The group from Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia was believed heading to a festival in Ruo Island when they got stranded about 8 miles from Ruo, though it's not clear how. Another vessel leaving Ruo saw the group's 28-foot skiff marooned and overturned, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

The area is about 1,000 miles northeast of Papua New Guinea.

The Coast Guard was alerted to the missing vessel on Tuesday. Fishermen and commercial ships in the area helped in the search. The group ranged in age from four to 59 years old, and included six children.

"As far as we know, they are all OK, they had enough food and water" given to them by other boats, Fredrickson said. It's not yet known if there were more than 15 people on the vessel.

The Coast Guard was planning to pick up the group on Saturday morning.

"They're really fortunate they were able to make it to this island," Fredrickson said.

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