Poon Lim (b. 1917) is a Chinese sailor who survived 130 days alone in the South Atlantic in 1942.
Poon Lim was born in Hainan Island in 1917. 1942, during the World War Two, he was working as a second steward in a British merchant ship SS Ben Lomond in its way from Cape Town to Dutch Guiana.
On November 23 1942 a German U-boat intercepted and torpedoed the ship. As the ship was sinking, Poon Lim took a life jacket and jumped overboard before the ship's boilers exploded. After approximately two hours in water he noticed an empty life raft and climbed into it.
The raft had couple of tins of biscuits, a ten gallon jug of water, some chocolate, a bag of sugar lumps, some flares, two smoke pots and an electric torch .
Poon Lim kept himself alive by drinking the water and eating the food on the raft but later resorted to catching rainwater in a canvas tarp and fishing. He could not swim very well so often tied a rope to his wrist in case he fell in the ocean. He took a wire from electric torch and made it into a fishhook and used a hemp rope as a fishing line. He also dug a nail out of the boards on the wooden raft and bent it into a hook for larger fish. When he captured a fish, he cut it open with a knife he fashioned out of a biscuit tin and would dry the fish on a hemp line over the raft. One after a large storm had spoiled his fish and fouled his water Lim, barely alive, caught and drank the blood of a bird (unknown type).
Twice other vessels passed nearby, first a freighter and then 7 US Navy patrol planes. Poon contends that the freighter saw him but did not pick him up because he was Chinese. The planes did see him and one droped a marker in the water. Unfortunatly for Poon, a large storm hit the area at the same time and he was lost again.
At first he counted the days by tying knots in a rope, but then deciding that there was no point in counting the days simply began counting full moons.
On April 5 1943 Poon Lim reach land and a river inlet. Three Brazilian fishermen rescued him and took him to Belem three days later.
During his ordeal Poon Lim had lost 20 pounds but was able to walk unaided. He spent two weeks in a Brazilian hospital and then the British consul arranged him to return to Britain via Miami and New York. He later found out that only 11 others of the all 55 of ship's crew had been rescued.
King George VI bestowed a British Empire Medal on him and British Navy used his tale in its manuals of survival techniques. His employers gave him a gold watch . After the war, Poon Lim decided to immigrate to USA but the quota for Chinese was full. However, because of his fame and the aid of senator Warren Magnuson he received a special permission to gain citizenship.
Quote: "I hope no one will ever have to break that record".