History of Chinese Life Raft Survivor Poon Lim Part 3

About the history of Chinese seaman Poon Lim who survived on a life raft for over four months.

THE GREAT SURVIVORS

POON LIM--MAN ON THE RAFT

When he saw sharks, he did not swim. Instead he set out to catch one. He used the remnants of the next bird he caught as bait. The first shark to pick up the taste was only a few feet long. He gulped the bait and hit the line with full force, but in preparation Poon Lim had braided the line so it would have double thickness. He also had wrapped his hands in canvas to enable him to make the catch. But the shark attacked him after he brought it aboard the raft. He used the water jug half-filled with seawater as a weapon. After his victory, Poon Lim cut open the shark and sucked its blood from its liver. Since it hadn't rained, he was out of water and this quenched his thirst. He sliced the fins and let them dry in the sun, a Hainan delicacy.

Poon Lim counted the days with notches on the side of the raft, and he counted the nights with X's. On the 131st day, he noticed that the water was pale green rather than black. Birds flew overhead and seaweed floated by. All of these were encouraging signs.

On the morning of the 133rd day, Apr. 5, 1943, he saw a small sail on the horizon. He had no flares left, so he waved his shirt and jumped up and down in an effort to attract the crew's attention. The craft changed direction and headed for him.

The three men in the boat, who spoke Portuguese, took him aboard. They gave him water and dried beans before starting up their motor to head west to Belem, the mouth of the Amazon River in Brazil. He had crossed the Atlantic.

Poon Lim was able to walk unaided. His total weight loss during the drift was 20 lb. He spent four weeks in a hospital in Brazil and then went to New York.

He received numerous honors. King George VI presented him personally with the British Empire Medal, the highest civilian award. The British Navy had booklets printed and placed in all life rafts, describing his survival techniques. His employers presented him with a gold watch. Sen. Warren Magnuson introduced a bill, which was passed by the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, to issue an immigration visa to Poon Lim and to permit him to have permanent residency in the U.S., where he now lives.

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