Home Life Human Poon Lim: A Man Who Survived 133 Days At Sea

Poon Lim: A Man Who Survived 133 Days At Sea

Poon Lim from China was working as a steward on the British merchant ship Ben Lomond when it was sunk by torpedoes fired from the German submarine U 172 on 23 November 1942, roughly 1,200 kilometers east of the Amazon Delta in the Atlantic Ocean on its way from Cape Town to Suriname. Lim was the only one of the 53 crew members to survive and to hold himself above water during the first hours in the water thanks to his life jacket. After floating for several hours, he managed to climb into one of the Ben Lomond’s lifeboats which had torn loose during the torpedo bombardment.

Poon Lim on his boat when being rescued after 133 days at sea. Source.

On board he found dry bread and water – too little to not go crazy on the open sea. So at some point, Lim decided to catch a small shark, which he actually did. Later he would tell the story that he even drank the shark liver’s blood immediately, as he hadn’t had any liquids for days. He cut the remaining shark meat into slices and let it dry in the sun.

Lim must have despaired, especially as three ships passed him by during his odyssey without taking him on board. He fought alternately against the effects of sunburn and seasickness – and with every ship he sighted also against the anguish that seized him.


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It would be 133 days before his odyssey came to a happy end. Brazilian fishermen discovered Lim’s raft and saved him. He had lost nine kilograms of body weight, but soon made a full recovery in hospital. Even on his deathbed, Lim said he hoped no one would ever have to break his record. He died in January 1991 in New York, where he had emigrated after his fateful odyssey.

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