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(ABC News) -- Five people who went missing off Australia's coast when their boat drifted away were rescued after a search plane spotted a large 'SOS' scrawled into the sand.

Their trouble began after they set out for a fun day of snorkeling Monday near the Whitsunday Islands. After they dropped anchor to explore, their boat drifted away, leaving them marooned on a rocky island without food, water or cellphones.


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After nine hours, the group grew desperate, hoping their message wouldn't be washed away with the tide. Lyn Forbes-Smith, one of the rescued snorkelers, worried about her safety.

'We did suspect that we would be bunkered down on those rocks for the night so that was a fairly grim prospect,' she said.

Helicopter crewman Damien Kross said he wasn't hopeful. But in a stroke of luck, another boat spotted the drifting vessel and alerted authorities.

Rescue crews set out to find the missing group. Eventually, the group's giant message emerged.

'We saw the 'SOS' in the sand and knew that it must be them,' Kross told ABC News.

Rescue crews lowered down to the island's rocky surface and whisked the marooned snorkelers to safety.

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