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The Cruise of the Snark (1911)


The snark was named after Lewis Carroll's poem The Hunting of the Snark. The Snark had two masts and was 43 foot long at the waterline for which London claims to have paid thirty thousand dollars. The snark was primarily a sailboat, however, it also had an auxiliary 70 hp engine. It was further equipped with one life boat.

In 1906, Author Jack London began to build a 45-foot yacht on which he planned a round-the-world voyage, to last seven years. After many delays, Jack and Charmian London and a small crew sailed out of San Francisco Bay on April 23, 1907, bound for the South Pacific.

"We ran down the Langa Langa Lagoon, between mangrove swamps through passages scaresly wider than the Minota, and passed the reef villages of Kaloka and Auki. Like the founders of Venice, these salt water men were originally refugees form the mainland. Too weak to hold their own in the bush, survivors of village massacres, they fled to the sand banks of the lagoon. These sand banks they built up into islands and they were compelled to seek their provender from the sea. They developed canoo bodies, unable to walk about, spending all their time in the canoos, they became thick armed and broad shouldered with narrow waists and frail legs" (p 138)

"I sailed in the teak-built ketch, the Minota, on a blackbirding cruise to Malaita, and I took my wife along. The hatchet-marks were still raw on the door of our tiny stateroom advertising an event of a few months before. The event was the taking of Captain Mackenzie's head, Captain Mackenzie, at that time, being master of the Minota.... As we sailed in to Langa-Langa on the shore side of the lagoon, was Binu, the place where the Minota was captured a year previously and her captain killed by the bushmen of Malaita, having been hacked to pieces and eaten" (p 135)

The Log of the Snark states:

"..still bore the tomahawk marks where the Malaitans at Langa Langa several months before broke in for the trove of rifles and ammunition locked therein, after bloodily slaughtering Jansen's predecessor, Captain Mackenzie. The burning of the vessel was somehow prevented by the black crew, but this was so unprecedented that the owner feared some complicity between them and the attacking party. However, it could not be proved, and we sailed with the majority of this same crew. The present skipper smilingly warned us that the same tribe still required two more heads from the Minota, to square up for deaths on the Ysabel plantation. (p 387)

One of London's crew members was young Martin Johnson from Kansas. Following the cruise of the Snark, Martin became an adventurer and world traveler, making some of the earliest motion pictures of unexplored or less-explored areas and peoples of the earth.

More information on Wikipedia.

The Cruise of the Snark. In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved October 11, 2009, from