Poon Lim: a True Survivor (Part 2)

Poon Lim was stranded at sea, he could not swim and tied a rope from the raft in case he fell into the ocean. The worst part? There was only enough supplies to last maybe a week. He first thought this would be enough and so continued to eat the food and drink the water on the raft. Only towards the end of his food supply did he realize he would need to get more somehow to survive. First he created a rainwater collecting system using a canvas tarp and soon began fishing.

Recreation of Lim's raft for the US Navy (who found his survival techniques amazing)
Recreation of Lim’s raft for the US Navy (who found his survival techniques amazing)

To begin fishing he took wire from the flashlight on board and made it into a fishhook, there was also hemp rope to be used as a fishing line. He then understood that he would need bigger fish to survive. He extracted a nail out of the boards of the raft and bent it into a much larger hook. When would capture fish, he would cut it open, with a knife he fashioned out one of the biscuit tins, and dried the fish on a hemp line over the raft.

This was working well until a large storm passed overhead. It was large enough to throw seawater over his raft, spoiling his fish and fouling his water. Poon was barely alive now, and desperate for sustenance. He managed to catch a bird and drink its blood to survive another day.

He began repairing his ship slowly but surely. On two occasions while he worked he saw vessels passing nearby. First a freighter passed, but it did not stop. Poon claims it was because he is Chinese. Then a squad of United States Navy patrol planes flew overhead. This time he was found and one of the planes dropped a marker buoy in the water. But yet again, a large storm hit his raft and he was lost again. At first he counted the days by tying knots in a rope. Thinking this could keep himself sane. But later came to the decision that there was no point in counting the days and simply began to count full moons.

In early April, 1943, Poon Lim noticed that the colour of the water had changed; it was no longer the oceanic deep blue, but a slight reddish tone. This meant he was close to land! Finally, on April 5th, Poon Lim reached land and a river inlet. Three Brazilian fishermen who were on the beach pulled him ashore and took him to Belém, Brazil three days later.

Through his journey, Poon Lim had lost nearly 20 pounds, but was still able to walk unaided upon being rescued. He spent two weeks in a Brazilian hospital and the British Consul made arrangements for him to return to Britain by way of Miami and New York. He had just spent 133 days alone in the Atlantic and was heading home.

Outcome:

A British Empire Medal was bestowed on him by King George VI.

The Royal Navy incorporated his tale into manuals of survival techniques.

After the war, Poon Lim decided to emigrate to the United States, but the quota for Chinese immigrants had been reached. However, because of his fame, and the help of Senator Warren Magnuson, he received a special dispensation and eventually gained citizenship.

Poon died in Brooklyn on January 4, 1991. He was 72.

One thought on “Poon Lim: a True Survivor (Part 2)

  1. I really like your writing style, its not generic and extremly long and tedious like a lot of blog posts I read, you get to the point and I really enjoy reading your articles!

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