Each of us possesses a limited reach of survival, a finite extension of our bodys’ and minds’ capabilities to endure. Fortunately, we live within the sanctuary of modernity, with a rather slim likelihood of our true survival being tested. This is a good thing. Let’s be honest, if most anyone you know was stranded Castaway-style on a deserted island, wouldn’t they be less likely to befriend Wilson the volleyball and more likely to drill a hole in it so they could use it as a sex toy?
We simply aren’t programmed to survive anymore. We can watch Lost or Gilligan’s Island and think we’ve got what it takes to build a wind-powered vibrating-coconut massage recliner, but we really don’t. At best, our instincts can kick in and hopefully lead us to devour some non-poisonous plants for a while to keep our bodies moving forward. But we won’t last long.
Then again, this might be the very thought that ran through the mind of Poon Lim, moments before he was launched into a most undesirable adventure, forced to contend with the elements and sustain his withering body upon the desolate void of ocean that imprisoned him for the better part of five months. His story is nothing short of astounding, if only because I know I could never have pulled it off myself.
Poon Lim was born in Hainan, China in 1918. When World War II broke out, he was happy to support the Allied cause, since China and Japan were anything but friendly neighbors at the time. Poon was second steward aboard the British merchant ship SS Ben Lomond, which was on its way from Cape Town, South Africa to the Dutch colony of Suriname, which is tucked into the northeastern armpit of South America. The ship was armed, naturally, but it was a slow-moving vessel and despite the constant threat of German U-boats, it was travelling alone. Read more…