Pi’s story jumps back to before the shipwreck. They had been traveling peacefully, and Pi was enjoying the journey. They sank four days after they left the Philippines and entered the open Pacific. Pi describes that night – he is awakened by a noise, possibly an explosion. The rest of his family is asleep. Pi tries to wake Ravi to go explore the ship, but Ravi ignores him. Pi sets off on his own.
Pi is saved by mere chance and his family dies through no fault of their own. The reason for the Tsimtsum’s sinking is never explained, but it is most important as a concept – Isaac Luria’s “tzimtzum,” where God withdraws to “make room” for creation, as God now withdraws from Pi.
Pi goes onto the main deck, where it is raining. He notices that the ship is listing hard on one side and making groaning sounds, and he realizes that something is wrong. Pi goes back inside, suddenly panicking. He tries to return to his family but the stairwell is flooded. He hears noises and then sees that the wild animals have escaped their cages and are running around, shrieking. Pi finally finds three crew members, but they only speak Chinese. They put a life jacket on him and throw him over the side of the ship.
Neither is it ever explained how the wild animals got out of their cages. The violent, chaotic act of the Tsimtsum’s sinking becomes the turning point in Pi’s life, throwing him from one universe into another. In a lesser sense, he is very suddenly made independent of his family and support network and forced to act as an adult to survive.