The Unbelievable Story Behind A Man Who Was Lost At Sea For 133 Days

Poon Lim's survival came down to a combination of luck and determination. You'd have to have a little of both in order to survive 133 days alone on a raft, lost at sea. A native of China, Lim found himself the sole survivor of a torpedo bombing after Germans bombed the British merchant ship where he worked as the second mess steward, according to War History Online

It was 1942 and World War II was raging. Lim took the job on the British ship to get out of China to escape the invading Japanese, yet found himself being targeted by the Germans 13 days into the SS Benlomond's voyage from South Africa to Brazil. On November 23, 1942, when the Germans launched two torpedos at the ship Poon and 53 others were on, it was 750 miles from Brazil, War History Online reported. The ship sank in two minutes. Lim managed to survive the bombing and spent two hours treading water in a life jacket when a raft appeared that someone had intended to use but did not get to. Lim was the only survivor of the bombing. 

According to the Vintage News, the raft was even lightly stocked with things like water, milk, sugar, chocolate, and biscuits. There was also a flashlight, flares, and two smoke pots. It was a good start, but he had no idea how long it would be until he was rescued, if ever. 

Military ships, planes, and a submarine likely saw Lim but ignored him

While Lim found himself in a situation no one ever hopes to be in, what was likely more disheartening was the amount of times he saw other ships, planes, and even a submarine that surfaced, and none came to his aid, according to the Daily Telegraph. It's speculated that since there was a war and he was Asian some may have believed the man floating on a raft in the middle of the sea was a trap. 

In the meantime, Lim got crafty. He collected rainwater in a canopy and in his life jacket, per the Daily Telegraph. He fished using unraveled rope and made a hook from a nail in the raft, using a paste made from the biscuits as bait. He ate raw fish and seabirds. He drank their blood and dried their meat. He even caught a shark once, sucking the blood from its liver and preparing and drying the fins in the sun to eat, per Vintage News

Sunburned and weary, Lim was finally rescued on April 5, 1943, by three Brazilian fishermen who were out on their family boat, the Daily Telegraph reported. He was spotted about 10 miles offshore. Lim had lost 20 pounds during his ordeal and spent four weeks in the hospital but made a complete recovery. He eventually immigrated to the U.S. 

Just about 24 or 25 years old when he was lost at sea, Lim lived to be 72. He died in 1991 as an American citizen, according to War History Online.