John Low, a 60-year-old Singaporean diving instructor, spent four days and three nights drifting in the South China Sea with nothing but a small buoy and a useless backpack, after his boat was capsized last month.
On May 4th, John Low was getting ready for a leisurely dive off the coast of Tioman Island, in the South China Sea, when a strong wave hit his anchored boat and threw him into the water. Before he even could even realize what had happened, the boat, started taking water and eventually sank. All John could retrieve was a ring buoy and his backpack, but he wasn’t too worried at first, as he figured he could swim his way back to land. However, try as he might, he couldn’t fight the currents, which constantly pushed him out into the open sea. By 10 pm, he could no longer see the shore, and he started panicking. For the next four days, he was all alone, with no food and potable water.
John Low recently talked about his grueling experience, telling Chinese newspaper Lianhe Zaobao that out of all the things he had to endure, the mental torture of being by himself with nothing but salt water as far as the eye could see was the toughest to deal with. At one point, things got so bad that he started to talk to the inanimate objects he had as company, calling the buoy he clung to “bro”, and the Rolex watch on his wrist “boy” and “brother”.
The physical torture was no joke either, though. The scorching sun burned him so badly that the first photos taken after his rescue show the skin on his face and body burned to a crisp and peeling like a layer of, well, dead skin. He told reporters that at one point the t-shirt, shorts and underwear he was wearing in the water started rubbing against his sun-burned skin, and the pain was so bad that he had to take them off. Unfortunately, that only made him more vulnerable to the sun’s rays.
“If you keep your head up, out in the open, you get burnt, which means a burning sensation on your face,” Low said in an interview. “The only way to avoid that is to put your face in the water. But because my face is all scarred, because (I had) been in the water for four days and three nights, when I put my face in the water, it’s like 1,000 needles poking my face. So it’s either I face the pain in the sun or the pain in the water.”
After dozens of hours in salt water, the skin on his armpits literally got stuck to the buoy which caused him even more pain. Then he started marine creatures nibbling on his feet, but by that point he was already too exhausted to do anything about it.
The 60-year-old said that as the mental and physical torture intensified, he started seeing things and hearing voices that told him to let go off the buoy. Luckily, he didn’t listen, instead willing himself to hang on and endure the pain, not for himself but for his family.
On the four night of his nightmarish experience experience, a miracle happened; a passing ship called the Diogo Cao noticed the buoy and lifted the half-dead drifter aboard. All he could remember from his rescue was thinking “I am saved, now I can sleep”.
John Low spent two days in the hospital, including six days in intensive care. Doctors in Singapore said he suffered a lung infection, kidney failure due to the complete lack of fluids, as well severe burns all over his body. Luckily, he has made a full recovery and recently met the crew of the Diogo Cao to thank them for saving his life.
“I hope there will be no one else for you to save but if you do , keep doing the same thing with your bravery,” Low told his saviors, after hugging them.