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The Cruise of the Snark: Jack London's…

The Cruise of the Snark: Jack London's South Sea Adventure (original 1908; edition 2001)

by Jack London

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Biography & Autobiography. Travel. Nonfiction. HTML:

Writer Jack London lived a life that paralleled the amazing exploits of the action-adventure heroes in his novels. The Cruise of the Snark is an engaging travelogue that details a South Pacific sea voyage that London took in 1907 in a vessel known as the Snark.

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Title:The Cruise of the Snark: Jack London's South Sea Adventure
Authors:Jack London
Info:The Narrative Press (2001), Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Cruise of the Snark by Jack London (1908)


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Showing 5 of 5
It has been quite awhile since I read anything by Jack London so I got the free Kindle version of The Cruise of the Snark. In 1907 Jack London decided he wanted to sail the world. So he had a 45 foot sailboat built in Oakland and set out around the world. On the boat were his wife Charmaine and a crew of about seven. The crew was partly recruited in California and others were added in the Pacific. This book could be described as a tale of misadventures. Beginning with the construction problems and cost overruns that began in Oakland and continued with an almost complete reconstruction in Hawaii. The travelers met and were befriended by gracious people on a number of Pacific islands. London describes the islanders they met as generous in the extreme. Visitors were still rare in the South Pacific and every visit by a ship was an occasion for a feast. On several islands their hosts insisted on giving them so much food that it covered the deck of the Snark. I found Jack London's relating how he learned navigation to be one of the most interesting parts of the book. At the beginning of the voyage a captain had been hired to navigate but he had to be dismissed for drunkenness and incompetence in Hawaii. After that London taught himself to navigate by reading books and became quite a competent navigator. The Snark carried quite a large library. London also had to teach himself quite a bit of medicine. They encountered numerous tropical diseases after leaving Hawaii. Everyone on the boat had fevers on much of the voyage and all suffered from skin diseases with ulcerating sores that took weeks to heal. Finally the voyage had to be canceled in the Solomon Islands and London took a steamer to Australia where he spent five weeks in a hospital. The Snark's voyage was not around the world but it was quite an adventure. The Snark was sold in Australia for a fraction of the cost of building it. ( )
  MMc009 | Jan 30, 2022 |
This was an interesting read, last year I'd read Sailing Alone around the World by Joshua Slocum, so this book was a natural for me as London was inspired to try to sail around the world by Slocum, my favorite chapters are LEPERS OF MOLOKAI, and THE AMATEUR M.D.

You can get the book for free at Amazon or Project Gutenberg ( )
  kevn57 | Dec 8, 2021 |
This is Jack London's account of building and then sailing a 43 foot boat from California to Hawaii and the South Seas. Some interesting stories--and a lot about tropical diseases. ( )
  auldhouse | Sep 30, 2021 |
I actually finished with Martin Johnson's book, Through the South Seas with Jack London, about the same voyage, before reading London's The Cruise of the Snark. And it's interesting to contrast the two. Of course, London's is the more literary of the two, although Johnson has a somewhat gifted, albeit exaggerated, style of his own. But the odd thing is that if you want a detailed, even more accurate description of the Snark as it sailed from San Francisco to Hawaii and then on to other South Seas locations, then Johnson's is the better book.

Yet London's book is the more memorable. His imagery, his ability to capture the moment, and his skill at stepping outside himself make for a more psychologically complete picture. That is not to say it doesn't have its more disappointing parts. The long discussion on the physics of waves and the chapter devoted to learning navigation are tedious--although they give insight into how London's mind works and his doggedness in pursuing and solving problems. A similar chapter on London's acquisition of certain medical skills, on the other hand, is humorous and reads through at a snap.

And that brings us to the tone of The Cruise of the Snark, which often is, well, snarky. London says he christened his vessel the Snark because he was inspired by Lewis Carroll's imaginary animal that provided an elusive goal. That did prove the case, here, as London was unable to complete his trip due to serious illness among all the crew. But London is well and truly snarky, in the informal sense of the word, throughout. I'm not sure when the word gained its current usage, but London mocks himself, his crew, his wife, many of the people he encounters, as well as his boat. Especially his boat, because, as it turns out, the Snark was a lemon. Just about everything that could go wrong, did go wrong with it. All the promises made in construction turned out to be lies or pipe dreams, and London paid far above and beyond anything resembling a fair price in the purchase. And never does a man skewer himself with such snarkiness for his naivete than does London.

There are also some dreamlike moments, the greatest of which comes when the Snark visits the valley of Typee on Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas, where Herman Melville's novel and real life experiences took place and from which subsequent readers became so enamored of the South Seas. Melville was there in 1842. London arrived sixty-five years later, just in time to see the very last remnants of the world Melville found disappearing into a sort of twilight memory among the very few survivors of the Typee. It is probably the strongest chapter in the book.

Don't let the tone of the book deceive you, however. This was a dangerous journey. The Americans, Japanese, and Tahitians who undertook it with London were from a generation used to privation and difficulties. They were different. They could set sail in a small ketch and cross the Pacific without detailed knowledge of the means to achieve their goals. They could do so even learning navigation while on the job so to speak. The journey of the Snark was a brave adventure. Don't mistake it for an early twentieth century version of today's fake TV survival/adventure shows. It isn't. It was the real thing. ( )
  PaulCornelius | Apr 12, 2020 |
London and his wife build a yacht called ‘The Snark’ (after the Lewis Carroll poem) and after some delays they set off with a small crew to sail across the south Pacific, setting out from San Francisco in April 1907. This account charts their voyage and the adventures and mishaps they had along the way.

I read this as part of my ‘decades’ challenge, but I’m afraid for me it really didn’t live up to expectations. I found the bit about the leper colony in Molokai to be very interesting, but I also found large parts of it rather dull and it took me a while to read as it was one of those books that became a chore – I’m certain I would have given up if it wasn’t for the challenge. It did improve towards the end, but overall it wasn’t the best reading experience for me – but if I haven’t put you off it is free to download online in various formats!
( )
  Bagpuss | Jan 17, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (36 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jack Londonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Martin, Charles-NoëlTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mikkelsen, AslaugTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mikkelsen, EjnerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pechmann, AlexanderTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vibart, ÉricTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Biography & Autobiography. Travel. Nonfiction. HTML:

Writer Jack London lived a life that paralleled the amazing exploits of the action-adventure heroes in his novels. The Cruise of the Snark is an engaging travelogue that details a South Pacific sea voyage that London took in 1907 in a vessel known as the Snark.


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