Pi looks around for other survivors as the ship disappears beneath the waves. He is surrounded by wreckage, but can see no other humans. After a while Pi needs to change position, as he is getting sore and wants to be able to look for other lifeboats. He assumes that Richard Parker is hiding under the lifeboat’s tarpaulin. Pi climbs atop the tarpaulin, expecting the tiger to attack him, but Richard Parker remains hidden.
The human loss of the Tsimtsum is enormous, but Pi has to focus on his own survival so much that his grief is delayed. He hopes for human companionship or rescue at first. The tarpaulin becomes an important boundary in the boat.
Pi notices that the zebra is still alive too, though its back leg is gruesomely broken. Pi admires the dying creature’s beauty and wonders why Richard Parker hasn’t killed it yet. Then a hyena appears from under the tarpaulin. Pi assumes that Richard Parker must have drowned, as a tiger and a hyena could not both be on the lifeboat together.
We later learn that this account is only one version of Pi’s survival story, and in another version there are humans on the lifeboat with him instead of animals. This first account is so believable (and maybe factually true) because the wild animals act like wild animals, instead of as humans given animal identities.
Pi wonders how the hyena got aboard. He realizes that it was already in the lifeboat, and the crew members threw him down as bait for the hyena, hoping to clear the lifeboat for themselves. Pi is afraid of the hyena but less so than he was of Richard Parker. He decides he prefers the “upfront ferocity of a dog” to the silent, stealthy tiger. Dawn breaks and Pi is surrounded by an empty ocean.
Pi knows about animal territories and “alpha” animals from his upbringing at the zoo, so he immediately recognizes that two alpha predators – a tiger and a hyena – could not be peacefully sharing such a small space.