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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 Sea 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.
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.
The Hunting of the Snark
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 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. It isn't.
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It was the real thing. The fact that they were to pour the keel for the jack London's ketch on the day that San Francisco was struck by the infamous earthquake may have been an omen to an ill fated trip. When I ran across this book I was excited for another adventurous title as London's fiction. So many thing go wrong for him, his wife and crew in their attempt at a circumnavigation that it required London to be hospitalized in Australia for a month and recuperation for additional months before returning to California The fact that they were to pour the keel for the jack London's ketch on the day that San Francisco was struck by the infamous earthquake may have been an omen to an ill fated trip.
So many thing go wrong for him, his wife and crew in their attempt at a circumnavigation that it required London to be hospitalized in Australia for a month and recuperation for additional months before returning to California.
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There are plenty of photographs of the South Seas Islands. It was quite charming to read this book.
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I think it shows a different style of Jack unseen in his other books. It reminded me of the 's travel documentaries that I used to watch on my black and white TV. At a given point one loses the perception that the book was actually written in and that Jack and his wife love those adventures at that time, despite all the dificulties at the early 20th century. Great little book. I wanted to read the adventures al It was quite charming to read this book.
The Cruise of the Snark
I wanted to read the adventures all the way to Europe. But that wasn't possible. Also wanted to get to know a bit more of how was life after the adventure. Nov 10, Teamyago rated it liked it. Oct 16, Roy Macgregor rated it liked it. Well written narrative describing a sea journey fraught with difficulties and challenges.
Provides interesting perspective of life at the turn of the 19th century. Not London's best, but well worth the read. Mar 26, Simon rated it liked it. The Cruise of the Snark By Jack London I read most of this book on the Journey home from Russia and it somehow seemed appropriate considering the start of our trip to be reading a book about a trip that had more than it's share of disasters.
This Jack London book chronicles his attempt to go on a round the world trip with his second wife Charmaine in a boat of his own design and build. The trip was meant to last 7 years but was cut short to about 18 months in due to the accumulation of diseases a The Cruise of the Snark By Jack London I read most of this book on the Journey home from Russia and it somehow seemed appropriate considering the start of our trip to be reading a book about a trip that had more than it's share of disasters. The trip was meant to last 7 years but was cut short to about 18 months in due to the accumulation of diseases and disasters befalling Jack and his crew.
His first mistake was to try to build his own boat it went way over budget and didn't live up to Jacks hopes for the Snark, it was almost falling apart on the first leg of the journey and leaking where it was meant to be water tight. But his descriptions of the events as they unfold and the good times they had in going from San Francisco to Hawaii are totally gripping they then make the insane mistake of sailing on to the Marquesas that takes them through the doldrums and some of the toughest oceans on earth. Through good times in Tahiti and the Society Islands and then into the troubles that came in the new Hebrides and Soloman Islands it really sounds like places you would never want to go to, with horrible descriptions of all sorts of nasty fleash eating Ulcers and scratchy scratchy, as well as fevers caused by malaria and islanders that wanted there heads on platters.
The fact that Jack never fully recovered from this trip and died a few years later adds to the sense of foreboding I got as I read this book. It is an absolute classic travel tale and my copy is published by National Geographic and a must for all travel junkies. Living in Jack London Square and being an avid sailor I'm probably predisposed to like his writing. However, he's by no means a magnificent writer and sometimes a subpar storyteller his corny ending to Sea-Wolf being a good example.
Much has been made of London being an expert sailor, and you'd think this would be the book to confirm that. His honesty about himself allowed me to take issue with this.
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He had no knowledge of navigation when he left and barely learned enough later to survive - an Living in Jack London Square and being an avid sailor I'm probably predisposed to like his writing. He had no knowledge of navigation when he left and barely learned enough later to survive - and more through luck than skill. Who leaves San Francisco for Hawaii with no knowledge of navigation?
Oh that's right; he had his uncle as captain and navigator. Through lack of vetting by London this guy turned out to be an ignoramus. London then bungled the shot from Hawaii south and they almost died in the doldrums. He also employed other captains during the voyage. To cap it off, once he and everyone onboard fell terribly ill he decided to stay put until they almost all died and his flesh was literally sloughing off him. To me, an expert sailor can captain their own boat and tries to make wise and timely judgements.
I see London as an enthused deckhand at best. The best point this book makes is that sailing is not all romance and beautiful scenery. It can be dangerous, hard work.
But for all that this book just adds to my passion for the sea. Jan 07, Pam rated it really liked it. I loved the short fiction stories in "House of Pride" and wanted to try more Jack London. Don't know why I had never read anything other than "White Fang" to this point in my life.