Boat Captain Forced Into Action When A Mysterious ‘Blip’ Appears On Radar

Boat Captain Forced Into Action When A Mysterious

A day out on the water sounds like the perfect way to relax; whether you’re soaking up the sun or catching some fish, you’re bound to have a good time. For a Florida boat captain, however, a seemingly ordinary day in 2021 was anything but soothing. Shortly after the voyage shoved off, something strange showed up on the boat’s radar. When he sailed over to investigate, he immediately realized something had gone seriously wrong.

Something Strange at Sea

In February 2021, Captain Chase Cornell was guiding his boat through the waters off the coast of Florida when he saw something unbelievable. There was a strange shape in the water bobbing above the waves. What could be going on?

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Setting Sail

Earlier that day, Cornell climbed aboard a charter boat called Southern Eagle. As the waves gently lapped against the side of the dock, he set about preparing for what seemed like a fairly ordinary day of work.

Busch Adventures / Facebook

Gone Fishin’

That day, six passengers would be taking the boat for a charter fishing trip. These guests aboard the vessel had no seafaring experience, so Captain Chase Cornell was crucial to their afternoon. While there was no guarantee they’d catch anything, everyone seemed ready for a nice day out on the water.

Photo by Ian Forsyth / Getty Images

Let’s Get Down to Business

Shortly after shoving off, the crew set about their preparations. The guys down on the deck started getting rods and reels ready; once they stopped, all the guests would have to do is drop their line and get to fishing! On the bridge, Captain Cornell eyed his radar.

Photo by Joe Raedle / Getty Images

A Blip on the Radar

About 20 miles off the coast, a spot showed up on the screen. While a tiny green dot may not seem like much to your average fisherman, Cornell knew that he had struck gold.

Saltwater Experience / Youtube

Finding the Fish

A blip on the radar meant there was another vessel on the water. Another vessel, especially one that wasn’t moving, probably meant that someone else had located a school of fish! If the fish were biting, that’s where Southern Eagle wanted to be.

Seacology USA / Wikimedia Commons

Drop the Anchor

Hoping to get in on the fishing action, Captain Cornell headed toward that spot. Along the way, everyone started to prepare to drop their lines and haul in some dinner. Something, however, was wrong. There was no boat on the horizon.

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Something in the Water

As Southern Eagle got closer, Cornell surveyed the scene. The fishing boat that he assumed he’d spot was no where to be found. Instead, he saw something much more serious in the otherwise empty ocean.

Ilha Grande / Wikimedia Commons

Man Overboard!

Rather than a boat, he spotted a lone man adrift in the ocean — who was he? How had he ended up 20 miles offshore? The fishing crew didn’t have time to speculate. The Southern Eagle wasn’t there to have fun; now, the crew had a job to do.

Chase Cornell / ABC News

A Rescue Mission

“As we got closer, I saw the gentleman raise his hand up and start waving at me,” Cornell explained, according to ABC News. “And that’s when I knew we weren’t fishing anymore. We were actually there to rescue somebody.”

Chase Cornell / Facebook

Adrift in the Open Ocean

It wasn’t clear how long the man had been there, but he was stranded in the ocean about 20 miles from the nearest land mass. To make matters worse, his overturned boat was still causing him problems, despite slipping beneath the waves…


Gas Pains

When the boat flipped, it started leaking gasoline into the ocean; the man, with no way to escape, had been floating in the seeping fossil fuel. “His skin was really burned. His clothes were soaked and drenched in gasoline,” Cornell explained.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources

No Time To Lose

Between the open water and the gasoline, time was of the essence. The crew of Southern Eagle sprung into action and, before long, had tossed a life preserver to the man. This was only the beginning of what turned out to be a very interesting afternoon…

Chase Cornell / Facebook

Safe and Sound!

Once the stranger climbed aboard Southern Eagle, the crew cleaned him up. They handed over some food and water, in addition to providing him with some dry towels and warm blankets. Now, they needed to know his story — and it was wilder than anticipated.

Chase Cornell / Facebook

Questions to be Answered

The crew peppered him with questions. Who was he? Where had he come from? How did he find himself sitting on the bow of a sunken boat in the middle of the Atlantic? The man divulged everything.

Photo by John van Hasselt/Sygma via Getty Images

An Unpleasant Journey

The unlucky sailor, it seemed, was Jamaican. He and six other passengers had set sail, only to have their boat overturn in the rough ocean. That scary moment, however, was only the beginning of his story.

via RyanSmith / reddit

Adrift for 100 Miles

Incredibly, the man had been adrift for 36 hours by the time that Captain Cornell and the Southern Eagle found him. He had also floated more 100 miles during that time, all while clinging to the sunken boat. Then, he shared the most tragic news.

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Call the Coast Guard

The man lost at sea told Captain Cornell and the crew that the other six passengers on his vessel were nowhere to be found — they hadn’t clung to the boat like him. With heavy hearts, everyone aboard Southern Eagle waited for the Coast Guard, which soon arrived to pick up the stranded survivor.

Chase Cornell / Facebook

A Miracle

While Southern Eagle set out hoping to reel in some fish, they ended up doing something much more important on that fateful day. “For us to cross paths, it was nothing short of a miracle,” Captain Cornell said. Still, they worried about the other men from the survivor’s ship — was there any chance they were still out there?

Chase Cornell / Facebook

Three Men Set Sail

An incident earlier that year gave them hope for the others. Back in July, three men set sail on a small 23-foot boat to travel around Micronesia. The charted course was only 26 miles, but things did not go according to plan.

Australian Department of Defence

Lost at Sea

The men veered off course and ran out of fuel, and before long they ended up on a tiny, uninhabited isle in the middle of the ocean. They doubted the land — called Pikelot Island — even showed up on most maps.

Dire Straits

Now, a beautiful deserted island may seem like paradise, but being trapped on one would quickly turn into hell on earth. So, how did these unlucky guys respond?

Signal Fire

Elizabeth Swann in Pirates of the Caribbean taught us all that the smoke from a signal fire can be seen for miles at sea. But these guys didn’t seem to get the memo. They did manage to figure out some survival essentials, though.


Shelter In Place

Shelter is important in a desert island situation. Dehydration is one of the biggest enemies on a desert island and shelter is one of the only ways to avoid the heat. These men were able to find some makeshift shelter, but little else.

The Shelter Blog

Calls for Help

When the men didn’t arrive at their destination, a search was requested through the U.S. Coast Guard’s Joint Rescue Sub Center 500 miles away in Guam. Maybe there was hope for these mariners after all.

Wikimedia Commons


The Rescue Sub Center immediately engaged with other rescue ships in the area to begin the search, but after a few hours of looking, they found nothing. Things were looking dark.


Tough To Survive

With such a short trip planned, the men did not have food or water for more than one night. Finding a way to harvest rain and find food was their top priority. These guys were truly fighting for their lives.

A Lot Of Mouths To Feed

With three mouths to feed, it would be tough for the men to collect enough food and water for any extended stay on the island. Their situation was turning south very quickly.

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Attempting To Get Help

While the men could have made a risky play and built a raft, they went with the sit and wait approach, instead. In the end, they made one key decision that drastically changed their situation.

20th Century Fox

Cliche But Effective Move

The men opted for a classic move — they drew an SOS message in the sand. While the method requires a miracle of good luck, it can be effective.

Good Fortune

One of the U.S. Air Force pilots tasked with searching for the lost mariners was starting to get frustrated. He had to make a sudden detour to avoid some bad weather when he made a keen observation.

Dumb Luck

“We turned to avoid some rain showers and that’s when we looked down and saw an island, so we decided to check it out” said the pilot. Then a pattern in the sand had him shouting over his radio.

Kyle Hicks

Their Plan Worked

“That’s when we saw SOS and a boat right next to it on the beach,” said the pilot. The men hit the jackpot with their SOS plan. They had been found, but rescuing them was still a complicated task.

United States Coast Guard

It’s A Numbers Game

Although the search effort was successful, the mariners weren’t out of the woods yet. They still needed to be properly rescued for the mission to be considered a success.

Australian Department of Defence

The Coast Guard Flyover

The U.S. Coast Guard dropped them a radio and some supplies to allow them to stay safe and communicate with rescuers until help arrived. The men were one step closer to home.

Lockheed Martin

The USAF Found Them!

The U.S. Coast Guard called in the Australian navy to lend them a helping hand. Luckily, one of their ships was nearby to offer some much-needed support. They just hoped they weren’t too late.

The Balanced Careers

Australian Navy To The Rescue!

A helicopter was quickly dispatched from the naval ship, zipping over the seas to retrieve the stranded mariners. As the chopper approached, the men could finally breathe a sigh of relief.


A Successful Rescue

In the end, it was the teamwork of the US Coast Guard, the US Airforce, and the Australian navy that made the rescue mission a success. Without their help, these men could have been lost forever.

Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork

The men spent a harrowing four days stranded on the deserted island. After some horrible luck, they are thanking their lucky stars just to be alive.

Australian Department of Defence/EPA