A heap of palm fronds spelled H-E-L-P. It was the work of three castaways on the tiny uninhabited Pacific Island of Fanadik, hundreds of miles north of Papau New Guinea. The men had swum to the nearest land after their skiff capsized in rough seas.

They had been missing for three days when a Navy surveillance plane, on the lookout for the trio, noticed their foliage plea. The men’s families were notified, and a small local boat brought them back to Pulap, where they had begun their adventure.

In the Arizona desert, elk bones made the difference.

Ann Rodgers, 72, got lost in the wilderness after a detour to fill up on gasoline on March 31 led to nowhere she knew. She had been traveling from her home in Tucson to surprise her daughter and grandson in Phoenix. She’d asked for directions to the nearest gas station in the town of Cibecue. Instead, Rodgers’ car sputtered out of gas on a deserted road.

For the first three days, she stayed by her car, which also held her cat and 2-year-old dog, a terrier mix. But then she ran out of water. After a hike up a hill with binoculars in hand, she spied a creek in a canyon and headed there with her dog.

“I knew very well that you’re never supposed to abandon your vehicle,” Rodgers told the Washington Post, “but the choice was either leave it or go without water.”

She drank creek water, ate wild plants and roasted a turtle during her ordeal. Search teams brought out cadaver-sniffing dogs by Day 8.

Then, on the ninth day, helicopters joined the search. That’s when pilots noticed the old elk bones. They spelled H-E-L-P.

Later that day, they found Rodgers and her dog, both in relatively good health.

I usually ignore “news of the weird” kinds of travel stories. But I couldn’t resist sharing these because they are uplifting. And they reinforce an important lesson: Never hesitate to ask for help.


Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.