1942- Poon Lim begins 133 days adrift after SS Belmond is torpedoed

November 23, 2022

Poon Lim was a Chinese sailor who survived 133 days on a wooden raft. He was a steward in a British Merchant Navy Ship that had been torpedoed in November 1942. About 75 years ago, on April 5, 1943, Lim was rescued by some Brazilian fishermen off the coast of Brazil.

The Sinking

Poon Lim was on board the SS Benlomond on November 23, 1942, when a German ship torpedoed the vessel. The SS Benlomond sank approximately 1200 km east of the Amazon River's mouth. The ship sank in just two minutes, allowing for a small number of survivors. Lim grabbed a life jacket and jumped overboard before the boilers exploded. Despite being an unskilled swimmer, he swam for two hours and found a wooden raft. Of the 6 who survived the explosion, only Poon Lim made his way back to land.  

Surviving On the Ocean

On board the wooden raft, Poon Lim found supplies, including milk, biscuits, and water. After his supplies ran out, Lim survived by fishing and catching rainwater in his life jacket.

In one of his fishing endeavors, Poon Lim caught a shark. However, the shark attacked him on the raft. Lim was able to kill the shark with a water container and, having gone without water for some time, drank the blood from the shark’s liver.

The Rescue

He saw two groups of potential rescuers. However, one group passed him up entirely and another attempt of rescue was thwarted by a storm.

On April 5, 1943, Poon Lim was successfully rescued by Brazilian fishermen. Despite his condition, and losing 20 pounds at sea, Poon Lim was able to walk immediately upon his rescue. About three days later, he was able to recount the ordeal.

Life After The Rescue

Poon Lim spent four weeks recovering in a hospital while the British Consul arranged for him to return home where he received a British Empire Medal. After WW2 came to an end, Lim tried to move to the US. Unfortunately, the quota for Chinese immigrants had already been reached. He was ultimately able to emigrate thanks to his fame.

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