Being alone has its benefits, right? The peace and quiet. No one bothering you or asking you questions. Yeah being alone can be great it gives you time to really be with the person who matters the most…you! But what about being alone for 133 days. Not just alone but lost. Lost at sea, with no one around. Just you, the deep blue sea, and all the creature that live beneath the surface. How long could you be lost and alone before you became your own worst enemy? Or best friend? Well, there is a man named Poon Lim who lived this reality. Lost at sea for 133 days Lim’s story is an amazing one filled with fears, courage, and patients. This is a story of man vs himself vs nature and what he did to overcome many challenges and fears to stay alive. This is Poon Lim’s Story and his tales of survival.
Early life: Poon Lim was born on March 8th, 1918 on an island south of China called Hainan. Unlike many children on his home island, Lim was very lucky to attend school in his early life, due to his loving brothers sending money from a factory job they where working. With a rising war against the Japanese knocking at their doorstep, Lim's father sent him away at age 16 to go live, and work on a British freight ship with his brother. With British sailors treating the Chinese like second class citizens, if lucky, Lim's living conditions where far from improved. With having his brother being by his side and reminding him “at least we don’t have to fight in the war” and although the living conditions where rough Lim found comfort in knowing that things could be worse. In 1937 Lim decided to leave the shipping industry and move to Hong Kong and enroll in mechanics school. But soon after Lim started getting settled down in Hong Kong, he was forced out again. With the Japanese army about to capture Hong Kong anytime, Lim decided to take a job with his cousin on yet another British freight ship. But with many of the British men gone to fight against the Germans in WW2, and the shipping companies need for workers, living and working conditions were greatly improved. So, to avoid war Lim went back to work on the ships.
Life right before being lost at sea: Poon Lim was working onboard the SS Benlomond in 1942. The Benlomond was set to leave Cape town and arrive in New York making stops through South America along the way. On November 23rd, 1942 completing a whole 2/3rds of the voyage the SS Benlomond was gunned down by a German Nazi U boat. With all but Poon Lim falling to the depths 56 men died. 22 Chinese and 24 British. Lim told his story of jumping off the boat before the boilers exploded, grabbing life jackets to make a small raft. A few hours after the ship went down Lim was bobbing in the water and was lucky enough to come across an 8 foot by 8-foot emergency raft that was deployed during the attack. To his surprise, the raft was fully loaded with supplies. Like fresh water, biscuits, jerky, flares, flashlight, and some chocolate. As he floated off away from the wreckage the German U boat emerged from the water blowing right by him. With the thought of “why did they just leave me here instead of finishing me?” Lim soon realized that the Germans did not finish him… because the sea would.
Life lost at sea: All alone on a small wooden raft Lim started to try and comprehend what to do now. He thought surely someone will come looking for the ship and the crew when it does not arrive at the docks. So with optimism and some hope Lim started to ration out his food. During his drift waiting for help Lim got hit with a nasty storm, throwing much of his remaining supplies off the raft and sailing him in unknown direction. After the storm had settled and Lim was recouped he came to the realization that he was lost at sea. During his 133 days Lim came into many situations and did many things that only a person pushed to survive would do. He made fake bird nest, drinking the blood and drying out the meat of seagulls that fell for his trap. Lim used the tin of the biscuit box that remained on his raft to make sharp hooks attaching them to the rope on the flashlight to makeshift his own fishing pole. He had sharks following him due to the blood of his catches. But Lim did not fear the sharks and instead grabbed a nail out of his raft and used it to hunt them. Supplying him with large amounts of fresh food to eat and hydrating blood to drink. Lim was afraid of the water so he tied a rope around his waist to keep him from falling in. But after a while, he became inspired by the water and decided to swim twice a day to keep his body and mind in tip-top shape. During his time on the waters, Lim came close to rescue three times but thought nobody picked him up due to him being Chinese. An American warplane flew over Lim at one point flying close to the water Lim waved his arms but soon after the plane passed by a storm picked up and took him further away from any chance of rescue. With everything going to hell and seemingly getting worse Lim still stayed strong and kept hunting and swimming.
Being Rescued and Life after: Poon Lim was found floating 10 miles off Brazils coast on April 5th, 1943. The fishing family that found him brought him to a small town called Belem near the mouth of the Amazon river. When he landed on solid ground Lim was able to walk by himself and had only lost 20lbs during his castaway. After spending four weeks in a Brazilian hospital Lim was told that no one has ever been lost at sea alone for as long as he has. He replied, “I hope no one will ever have to break that record". He was sent back to Britain where he received the British Empire medal given to him by King George IV. The royal navy also included his tales of survival into their manual. Lim soon decided he wanted to spend the rest of his life in the United States where he eventually died in 1991 at the rightful age of 72.
Poon Lim’s story is an amazing one. It shows just how the power of perseverance and optimism can save your life, even in the worst of conditions. Lim was faced with conflict right from birth, always around war and discrimination. After being shot down, stuck in storms, and being ignored for rescue, Poon Lim worked with what he was given and adapted to his surrounding. The waters he once feared he conquered and thrived. Lim’s story of survival one that is truly wild.
BE LIKE POON AND BE WILD.