During World War II, Chinese native Poon Lim and 52 other individuals were onboard a British Ship traveling from Cape Town to Surinam. The Germans, however, intercepted them about 750 miles east of the Amazon. And in two minutes, a pair of torpedoes were launched and sank the ship. Eventually, Poon was the only survivor left. Hence holding the world record for the longest time spent surviving as a castaway at sea.
Poon was basically on a ship named Ben Lemmond. Although it was armed, speed wasn’t one of its strengths. His father sent him to join his brothers on the British passenger freight to work as a cabin boy. Both his father and mom believed that he and his brothers would be drafted to fight against the rapidly-advancing Japanese army.
After his ship was sunk by the German troops, Poon spent 133 days at sea.
As the ship began sinking, Poon immediately grabbed a life jacket and jumped overboard. Had he not done it, he would have been burned by the explosion. Luckily for him, he found a floating eight-foot square wooden raft. It even had a couple of tins full of biscuits and chocolates, a bag of sugar lumps, a flashlight, two smoke pots, flares, and a forty-liter jug of water.
By drinking the water and eating the food, Poon was able to survive while adrift at the sea. He later on restored to fishing and catching rainwater using a canvas (a covering for the life jacket). He was not a good swimmer and so he decided to tie a rope around his wrist.
He took a wire from the flashlight and used it as a fishhook.
Whenever there were sharks, he would wait for the opportunity to catch one of them by using remnants of a bird he killed. Knowing that the sharks had incredible strength, Poon made sure that the braided line he used was doubled in thickness.
When the rain stopped for several days, Poon had no water to drink. He quenched his thirst by drinking the blood of the shark he killed. He first sliced the fin and let them dry in the sun – a food preparation technique used in Hainan delicacy.
Poon also suffered from seasickness, sunburn, and the agony of seeing boats or ships go by. First, a freighter passed but did not offer help. The same thing happened when a US Navy Patrol plane went past. Poon believed that no one offered assistance because he was Chinese. He kept track of the days he spent on the sea by tying knots on a rope.
Many were inspired by his will to survive, including famous public figures.
At long last, after 133 days, Poon and his raft were discovered by three Brazilian fishermen. He lost a whopping 9 kilograms and spent around four weeks in the hospital. To this day, no one has ever broken the record he achieved.
Before his death, Poon said:
“I hope no one will have to break it.”
King George VI bestowed Poon with a British Empire Medal (BEM). The Royal Navy, on the other hand, incorporated his experience into manuals for sea survival techniques. After the war ended, Poon decided to migrate to the United States. Although the quota for Chinese immigrants had been reached, the government gave him an exception because of fame and the help of Senator Warren Magnuson.
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