A terrific storm rolls in and sends Pi scrambling into the lifeboat, where he lies flat on a bench at the end farthest from Richard Parker. He closes the tarpaulin over them both. The storms rages for a day and night, during which time the boat climbs up waves that resemble mountains. When the storm subsides, Pi realizes that the raft is gone; only a couple oars and a life jacket remain. His stores of water are unharmed, but the lifeboat itself has sustained some damage. Pi starts mending the torn tarpaulin and bailing out water. In one bucketful he finds the orange whistle he has used to train Richard Parker.
Pi sees several seabirds. He kills a masked booby, skins it, and eats its edible parts. One day a lightning storm puts Pi in a state of exaltation; Richard Parker cowers in fear. Another day, a tanker appears on the horizon and Pi is sure they will be saved. Instead, the tanker, oblivious to the small lifeboat, nearly runs them over. Later, the lifeboat wanders into a mass of trash, from which Pi salvages a bottle. He seals a message in it and throws it back into the ocean.
Pi’s condition continues to deteriorate, as does Richard Parker’s. Pi is convinced he is near death. His pen runs out of ink and he can no longer write in his diary. He begins sleeping many hours a day, slipping into a state of semiconsciousness. Pi goes blind, and in his sightless delirium, he hears a voice. The voice speaks to him, and Pi responds, talking about food. The voice, with a French accent, speaks of beef and brains and all sorts of food that Pi finds distasteful. Pi assumes he is hearing the voice of Richard Parker, but the French accent does not make sense to him.
Pi asks the voice if he has ever killed anyone, and the voice says yes, a man and a woman. The voice grows weak and Pi urges it to come back. The voice belongs to a blind man, a castaway like Pi, and they join their boats together. The man climbs aboard Pi’s boat in order to kill and cannibalize him. But when he steps down onto the floor of the boat, Richard Parker kills him. Pi cries and rinses his eyes with seawater. His vision returns, and he sees the other man’s butchered body.
The lifeboat comes across a low island covered entirely with algae. Pi and Richard Parker stop for a time, eating the vegetation, drinking the fresh water, and nursing themselves back to health. The island is full of meerkats, small ferretlike creatures, and Pi sees that the island’s fresh ponds are full of dead fish. A storm hits while Pi and Richard Parker are ashore, and the island weathers it beautifully, absorbing the ocean’s ferocious waves. Pi notices that the island burns his feet at night but not during the day. Seeing that meerkats spend the nights in the treetops, Pi, who has been sleeping on the lifeboat, joins them.
One day, Pi discovers a tree that bears fruit. However, the center of each fruit holds a human tooth. From this evidence, Pi decides that the island is carnivorous. He stocks the lifeboat with dead fish and meerkats and eats and drinks his fill of algae and fresh water. Then he waits for Richard Parker to board the lifeboat and pushes off into the sea.
The lifeboat washes ashore on a Mexican beach. Pi sprawls in the sand and Richard Parker bounds away into the jungle. Pi weeps at the loss of his comrade, saddened that he wasn’t able to say goodbye. Villagers rescue Pi and take him to a hospital, where they clean him up and feed him. He cannot understand their language but realizes he is finally saved.
Like the erratic motions of the ocean’s currents, this final section of Pi’s journey contains several unexpected stops and starts. First there is the storm, which Pi feels certain will cause his death. Then, the appearance of the tanker holds the potential for rescue, but ends in hopelessness. Next comes Pi’s dialogue with Richard Parker, which melds into the arrival of the French-accented castaway, whose companionship offers one sort of ending but whose murderous instincts offer a very different sort of ending. The island, too, begins as a beacon of hope, a seemingly healthful oasis that turns out to be dangerous. The real conclusion, when it comes, is sudden and unexpected. Without warning, the lifeboat lands in Mexico, and Pi is saved. The arbitrary nature of this landfall is both convenient to the storyline and emblematic of the changeable nature of the ocean, which has carried them throughout.
As Pi’s situation grows more desperate, his efforts to communicate become increasingly urgent and as frequently thwarted. He waves and shouts to the passing tanker and even tries to fire off a signal flare; all to no avail. The people aboard the ship do not even notice the tiny lifeboat they nearly crush. Later, Pi sends out a message in a bottle, but it is never found. So, desperate to talk, to tell stories, he has a conversation with Richard Parker. When he bumps into another castaway, Pi talks himself hoarse, elated at the company. But, this attempt at communication also ends in disappointment: the death of his new friend. Pi’s journaling, his communion with himself, comes to an end when the pen dries up and he cannot write another word. In Mexico, he is neither able to give Richard Parker a satisfying farewell nor understand the language of his rescuers. Communication fails him at every end.
The odd natural phenomena Pi encounters illustrate his inner struggles. The floating island symbolizes Pi’s own despair. As Pi notes, it would not have killed him immediately had he stayed; rather, it would have eaten away at his soul, deadening his spirit and causing a numbing hopelessness. The carnivorous vegetation represents Pi’s pessimism, his dwindling hope that he will ever be found. To stay on the island would be to give up, to decide to end his days on a man-eating island rather than in civilization. Pi’s choice to leave the island and get back into the ocean is his way of remaining optimistic, however minutely, about his odds of salvation.