shark or seagull for dinner dear?

A 25 year old Chinese steward on a British ship during World War 2 spent a remarkable 133 days adrift on a life raft

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Poon Lim shipped out as a second steward on the British merchant ship Ben Lomond. The ill fated vessel was torpedoed by a Nazi U-boat on November 23 1942. The ship was sinking rapidly, so Poon Lim leaped over the side. His first concern was simply to stay alive. After struggling for two hours he saw a life raft several hundred feet away. He swam to it and climbed aboard.

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The timber raft 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.

To keep his body in shape, he swam routinely twice a day when the sea was quiet. He used the ocean swimmer’s looping stroke as he circled the raft, always keeping his head above water, his eyes open for sharks.

Australian Whale Shark found here

He took apart the electric torch to get a wire, which he made into a fishhook then spent days shaping the metal, using the water jug as a hammer. The tough hemp rope that held down his almost exhausted supplies of food and water served as a fishing line.

He used a piece of biscuit for bait. After finally catching a fish, he cut it in half with the edge of the biscuit tin and ate the raw flesh, using the remains as bait to catch his next meal. 

More British Biscuit Tins to be found here

About the end of the second month on the raft, he spotted sea gulls. Hoping to catch one, he gathered seaweed from the bottom of the raft, matted it in bunches and moulded it into a form that resembled a bird’s nest. By this time he had caught several fish, which he baked in the sun to improve their taste. Some he ate and some he left next to the nest, so that they would rot and the stench would attract the gulls.

seagull chick found here

When he finally saw a gull flying towards him, he lay still so it would land. As the gull attacked the fish, Poon Lim grabbed it by its neck. A fight ensued, which he won, but only after he was the victim of deep cuts from the bird’s beak and claws.

Next he set out to catch a shark. 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, Pooh 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. 

Basking Shark found here

On the morning of the 133rd day, April 5 1943, he saw a small sail on the horizon. He had no flares left, so he waved his shirt and jumped up end 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, at the mouth of the Amazon River in Brazil. He had crossed the Atlantic.

Activists in Belem found here

Poon Lim was able to walk unaided. His total weight loss during the drift was 20 lb. He received numerous honours. King George VI presented him personally with the British Empire Medal, the highest civilian award.

Kylie’s got one too