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History of Chinese Life Raft Survivor Poon Lim Part 1

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

Poon Lim, a Chinese seaman, holds the world's record as a sea survivor after floating alone on a life raft in the South Atlantic for 133 days. When told of his record, he said, "I hope no one will ever have to break it."

A 25-year-old seaman from Hainan Island, off the south coast of China, Poon Lim shipped out as a second steward on the British merchant ship Ben Lomond. The ill-fated vessel left Cape Town carrying a crew of 55. It was torpedoed by a Nazi U-boat on Nov. 23, 1942. The ship was sinking rapidly, so Poon Lim leaped over the side. He had tied a life jacket around himself, so he surfaced and swam as quickly as he could away from the freighter and the futile calls for help of his shipmates.

When the ship's boilers exploded the Ben Lomond sank below the surface of the Atlantic. Poon Lim paddled in the water, holding his head as high as he could above each wave in hopes of spotting a life raft. He saw one with several sailors clinging to it, but it drifted away. Those five sailors were the only other survivors of the ship.

Poon Lim's first concern was simply to stay alive. He gulped air when he could and kept his head above the waves. After struggling for two hours, he saw a life raft several hundred feet away. He swam to it and climbed aboard.

His raft was built of timbers and was 8 ft. square. Tied to it were some tins of British biscuits, a large water jug, some flares, and an electric torch. By allowing himself a few swallows of water and two biscuits in the morning and in the evening, he estimated that he should be able to stay alive for at least a month.

On two occasions rescue seemed imminent, once when a freighter passed within close range, and once when a U.S. Navy patrol plane buzzed his raft. But both times his frantic shouting was ignored. These were the loneliest times for Poon Lim, with help so near and yet so far away. He was also spotted by a German U-boat, which chose to leave him to his fate rather than kill him. He soon realized that he couldn't expect help from others and must keep himself alive until he drifted to land.

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