The Sea Wolf

The Sea Wolf

by Jack London

Overview

Set adrift after a collision with another vessel, ferry passenger Humphrey van Weyden is picked up by the seal-hunting schooner the Ghost. His relief at being rescued slowly turns into concern once he meets her captain, the brutally terrifying Wolf Larsen. The crew of the Ghost live in terror of their fearsome commander, and van Weyden is not made any safer because Larsen is attracted to his new passenger's comparable intelligence.

Van Weyden's time aboard the Ghost turns him from a gentle, domesticated man into an altogether tougher soul as he is caught between Larsen and his crew during the rescue of other castaways, an attempted mutiny, a cataclysmic storm and the appearance of Wolf's equally terrible brother, Death Larsen.

Wolf Larsen is one of the greatest characters in early 20th century American fiction. Like Captain Ahab before him, he is a man who has spent too long at sea. We might assume he has become inhuman, but the novel gradually but subtly reveals that it was the nature of life at the mercy of the angry oceans that turned him into the sea wolf.

This special edition includes an exclusive Foreword by adventurer Bear Grylls, which takes a fascinating look at the character of Wolf Larsen from the perspective of someone who has also stared nature in its unforgiving face.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780886900915
Publisher: Newman Communications
Publication date: 12/11/1985
Product dimensions: 4.25(w) x 2.75(h) x 6.30(d)

About the Author

Jack London was born in San Francisco in 1876. He is best known for his novels The Call of the Wild and White Fang, written either side of his writing The Sea Wolf. Coming from a working class background and having served a prison sentence for vagrancy in his youth, London would go on to become an activist for social reform. He died in 1916, aged just 40.

Bear Grylls went from Eton to the SAS before a near-fatal spinal injury ended his career in the military elite. His undeterred thirst for adventure led him to become the star of the TV show Born Survivor, which has been seen by over a billion viewers worldwide.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



I scarcely know where to begin, though I sometimes facetiously place the cause of it all to Charley Furuseth's credit. He kept a summer cottage in Mill Valley, under the shadow of Mount Tamalpais, and never occupied it except when he loafed through the winter months and read Nietzsche and Schopenhauer to rest his brain. When summer came on, he elected to sweat out a hot and dusty existence in the city and to toil incessantly. Had it not been my custom to run up to see him every Saturday afternoon and to stop over till Monday morning, this particular January Monday morning would not have found me afloat on San Francisco Bay.

Not but that I was afloat in a safe craft, for the Martinez was a new ferry-steamer, making her fourth or fifth trip on the run between Sausalito and San Francisco. The danger lay in the heavy fog which blanketed the bay, and of which, as a landsman, I had little apprehension. In fact, I remember the placid exaltation with which I took up my position on the forward upper deck, directly beneath the pilot-house, and allowed the mystery of the fog to lay hold of my imagination. A fresh breeze was blowing, and for a time I was alone in the moist obscurity–yet not alone, for I was dimly conscious of the presence of the pilot, and of what I took to be the captain, in the glass house above my head.

I remember thinking how comfortable it was, this division of labor which made it unnecessary for me to study fogs, winds, tides, and navigation, in order to visit my friend who lived across an arm of the sea. It was good that men should be specialists, I mused. The peculiar knowledge of the pilot and captain sufficed for many thousands of people who knew no more of the sea and navigation than I knew. On the other hand, instead of having to devote my energy to the learning of a multitude of things, I concentrated it upon a few particular things, such as, for instance, the analysis of Poe's place in American literature–an essay of mine, by the way, in the current Atlantic. Coming aboard, as I passed through the cabin, I had noticed with greedy eyes a stout gentleman reading the Atlantic, which was open at my very essay. And there it was again, the division of labor, the special knowledge of the pilot and captain which permitted the stout gentleman to read my special knowledge on Poe while they carried him safely from Sausalito to San Francisco.

A red-faced man, slamming the cabin door behind him and stumping out on the deck, interrupted my reflections, though I made a mental note of the topic for use in a projected essay which I had thought of calling "The Necessity for Freedom: A Plea for the Artist." The red-faced man shot a glance up at the pilot-house, gazed around at the fog, stumped across the deck and back (he evidently had artificial legs), and stood still by my side, legs wide apart, and with an expression of keen enjoyment on his face. I was not wrong when I decided that his days had been spent on the sea.

"It's nasty weather like this here that turns heads gray before their time," he said, with a nod toward the pilot-house.

"I had not thought there was any particular strain," I answered. "It seems as simple as A, B, C. They know the direction by compass, the distance, and the speed. I should not call it anything more than mathematical certainty."

"Strain!" he snorted. "Simple as A, B, C! Mathematical certainty!"

He seemed to brace himself up and lean backward against the air as he stared at me. "How about this here tide that's rushin' out through the Golden Gate?" he demanded, or bellowed, rather. "How fast is she ebbin'? What's the drift, eh? Listen to that, will you? A bell-buoy, and we're a-top of it! See 'em alterin' the course!"

From out of the fog came the mournful tolling of a bell, and I could see the pilot turning the wheel with great rapidity. The bell, which had seemed straight ahead, was now sounding from the side. Our own whistle was blowing hoarsely, and from time to time the sound of other whistles came to us from out of the fog.

"That's a ferry-boat of some sort," the newcomer said, indicating a whistle off to the right. "And there! D'ye hear that? Blown by mouth. Some scow schooner, most likely. Better watch out, Mr. Schooner-man. Ah, I thought so. Now hell's a-poppin' for somebody!"

The unseen ferry-boat was blowing blast after blast, and the mouth-blown horn was tooting in terror-stricken fashion.

"And now they're payin' their respects to each other and tryin' to get clear," the red-faced man went on, as the hurried whistling ceased.

His face was shining, his eyes flashing with excitement, as he translated into articulate language the speech of the horns and sirens. "That's a steam siren a-goin' it over there to the left. And you hear that fellow with a frog in his throat–a steam schooner as near as I can judge, crawlin' in from the Heads against the tide."

A shrill little whistle, piping as if gone mad, came from directly ahead and from very near at hand. Gongs sounded on the Martinez. Our paddle-wheels stopped, their pulsing beat died away, and then they started again. The shrill little whistle, like the chirping of a cricket amid the cries of great beasts, shot through the fog from more to the side and swiftly grew faint and fainter. I looked to my companion for enlightenment.

"One of them dare-devil launches," he said. "I almost wish we'd sunk him, the little rip! They're the cause of more trouble. And what good are they? Any jackass gets aboard one and runs it from hell to breakfast, blowin' his whistle to beat the band and tellin' the rest of the world to look out for him, because he's comin' and can't look out for himself! Because he's comin'! And you've got to look out, too! Right of way! Common decency! They don't know the meanin' of it!"

I felt quite amused at his unwarranted choler, and while he stumped indignantly up and down I fell to dwelling upon the romance of the fog. And romantic it certainly was–the fog, like the gray shadow of infinite mystery, brooding over the whirling speck of earth; and men, mere motes of light and sparkle, cursed with an insane relish for work, riding their steeds of wood and steel through the heart of the mystery, groping their way blindly through the Unseen, and clamoring and clanging in confident speech the while their hearts are heavy with incertitude and fear.

The voice of my companion brought me back to myself with a laugh. I too had been groping and floundering, the while I thought I rode clear-eyed through the mystery.

"Hello; somebody comin' our way," he was saying. "And d'ye hear that? He's comin' fast. Walking right along. Guess he don't hear us yet. Wind's in wrong direction."

The fresh breeze was blowing right down upon us, and I could hear the whistle plainly, off to one side and a little ahead.

"Ferry-boat?" I asked.

He nodded, then added, "Or he wouldn't be keepin' up such a clip." He gave a short chuckle. "They're gettin' anxious up there."

I glanced up. The captain had thrust his head and shoulders out of the pilot-house, and was staring intently into the fog as though by sheer force of will he could penetrate it. His face was anxious, as was the face of my companion, who had stumped over to the rail and was gazing with a like intentness in the direction of the invisible danger.

Then everything happened, and with inconceivable rapidity. The fog seemed to break away as though split by a wedge, and the bow of a steamboat emerged, trailing fog-wreaths on either side like seaweed on the snout of Leviathan. I could see the pilot-house and a white-bearded man leaning partly out of it, on his elbows. He was clad in a blue uniform, and I remember noting how trim and quiet he was. His quietness, under the circumstances, was terrible. He accepted Destiny, marched hand in hand with it, and coolly measured the stroke. As he leaned there, he ran a calm and speculative eye over us, as though to determine the precise point of the collision, and took no notice whatever when our pilot, white with rage, shouted, "Now you've done it!"

On looking back, I realize that the remark was too obvious to make rejoinder necessary.

"Grab hold of something and hang on," the red-faced man said to me. All his bluster had gone, and he seemed to have caught the contagion of preternatural calm. "And listen to the women scream," he said grimly–almost bitterly, I thought, as though he had been through the experience before.

The vessels came together before I could follow his advice. We must have been struck squarely amidships, for I saw nothing, the strange steamboat having passed beyond my line of vision. The Martinez heeled over, sharply, and there was a crashing and rending of timber. I was thrown flat on the wet deck, and before I could scramble to my feet I heard the scream of the women. This it was, I am certain,–the most indescribable of blood-curdling sounds,–that threw me into a panic. I remembered the life-preservers stored in the cabin, but was met at the door and swept backward by a wild rush of men and women. What happened in the next few minutes I do not recollect, though I have a clear remembrance of pulling down life-preservers from the overhead racks, while the red-faced man fastened them about the bodies of an hysterical group of women. This memory is as distinct and sharp as that of any picture I have seen. It is a picture, and I can see it now,–the jagged edges of the hole in the side of the cabin, through which the gray fog swirled and eddied; the empty upholstered seats, littered with all the evidences of sudden flight, such as packages, hand satchels, umbrellas, and wraps; the stout gentleman who had been reading my essay, encased in cork and canvas, the magazine still in his hand, and asking me with monotonous insistence if I thought there was any danger; the red-faced man, stumping gallantly around on his artificial legs and buckling life-preservers on all comers; and finally, the screaming bedlam of women.

This it was, the screaming of the women, that most tried my nerves. It must have tried, too, the nerves of the red-faced man, for I have another picture which will never fade from my mind. The stout gentleman is stuffing the magazine into his overcoat pocket and looking on curiously. A tangled mass of women, with drawn, white faces and open mouths, is shrieking like a chorus of lost souls; and the red-faced man, his face now purplish with wrath, and with arms extended overhead as in the act of hurling thunderbolts, is shouting, "Shut up! Oh, shut up!"

I remember the scene impelled me to sudden laughter, and in the next instant I realized I was becoming hysterical myself; for these were women of my own kind, like my mother and sisters, with the fear of death upon them and unwilling to die. And I remember that the sounds they made reminded me of the squealing of pigs under the knife of the butcher, and I was struck with horror at the vividness of the analogy. These women, capable of the most sublime emotions, of the tenderest sympathies, were open-mouthed and screaming. They wanted to live, they were helpless, like rats in a trap, and they screamed.

The horror of it drove me out on deck. I was feeling sick and squeamish, and sat down on a bench. In a hazy way I saw and heard men rushing and shouting as they strove to lower the boats. It was just as I had read descriptions of such scenes in books. The tackles jammed. Nothing worked. One boat lowered away with the plugs out, filled with women and children and then with water, and capsized. Another boat had been lowered by one end, and still hung in the tackle by the other end, where it had been abandoned. Nothing was to be seen of the strange steamboat which had caused the disaster, though I heard men saying that she would undoubtedly send boats to our assistance.

I descended to the lower deck. The Martinez was sinking fast, for the water was very near. Numbers of the passengers were leaping overboard. Others, in the water, were clamoring to be taken aboard again. No one heeded them. A cry arose that we were sinking. I was seized by the consequent panic, and went over the side in a surge of bodies. How I went over I do not know, though I did know, and instantly, why those in the water were so desirous of getting back on the steamer. The water was cold–so cold that it was painful. The pang, as I plunged into it, was as quick and sharp as that of fire. It bit to the marrow. It was like the grip of death. I gasped with the anguish and shock of it, filling my lungs before the life-preserver popped me to the surface. The taste of the salt was strong in my mouth, and I was strangling with the acrid stuff in my throat and lungs.

But it was the cold that was most distressing. I felt that I could survive but a few minutes. People were struggling and floundering in the water about me. I could hear them crying out to one another. And I heard, also, the sound of oars. Evidently the strange steamboat had lowered its boats. As the time went by I marvelled that I was still alive. I had no sensation whatever in my lower limbs, while a chilling numbness was wrapping about my heart and creeping into it. Small waves, with spiteful foaming crests, continually broke over me and into my mouth, sending me off into more strangling paroxysms.

The noises grew indistinct, though I heard a final and despairing chorus of screams in the distance and knew that the Martinez had gone down. Later,–how much later I have no knowledge,–I came to myself with a start of fear. I was alone. I could hear no calls or cries–only the sound of the waves, made weirdly hollow and reverberant by the fog. A panic in a crowd, which partakes of a sort of community of interest, is not so terrible as a panic when one is by oneself; and such a panic I now suffered. Whither was I drifting? The red-faced man had said that the tide was ebbing through the Golden Gate. Was I, then, being carried out to sea? And the life-preserver in which I floated? Was it not liable to go to pieces at any moment? I had heard of such things being made of paper and hollow rushes which quickly became saturated and lost all buoyancy. And I could not swim a stroke. And I was alone, floating, apparently, in the midst of a gray primordial vastness. I confess that a madness seized me, that I shrieked aloud as the women had shrieked, and beat the water with my numb hands.

How long this lasted I have no conception, for a blankness intervened, of which I remember no more than one remembers of troubled and painful sleep. When I aroused, it was as after centuries of time; and I saw, almost above me and emerging from the fog, the bow of a vessel, and three triangular sails, each shrewdly lapping the other and filled with wind. Where the bow cut the water there was a great foaming and gurgling, and I seemed directly in its path. I tried to cry out, but was too exhausted. The bow plunged down, just missing me and sending a swash of water clear over my head. Then the long, black side of the vessel began slipping past, so near that I could have touched it with my hands. I tried to reach it, in a mad resolve to claw into the wood with my nails, but my arms were heavy and lifeless. Again I strove to call out, but made no sound.

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The Sea Wolf 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 88 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story begins with the protagonist Humphrey Van Weyden on a ferry steamer called the Martinez. Humphrey is a literature critic who depends on his father for income, and is weak and frail. The Martinez eventually ends up in a collision with another ship. Humphrey is then rescued by seal-schooner called the Ghost ruled by the brutish yet intelligent Wolf Larsen and his cruel men. From here he must use his wits, gain strength, and courage to survive in his harsh new environment filled with madness. I could practically read the philosophy of Naturalism in every line of the story. The characters acts, thoughts, and personality only added more emphasis to this philosophy. For example some characters can have a caring nature, while others can have a more empathetic one. Humphrey also constantly describes the horrible conditions of his new environment and how he learns from it, which gives another great example to this theme. With this piece of classic American Literature, London also heavily highlights the need of self-reliance. He does this with his character Humphrey. Stuck on a boat with no one to support him, there would be no one else to trust but himself. London shows through Humphrey ways that self-reliance is an advantage that individuals can use as a benefit, then as a burden. I loved the way Jack London describes every event in perfect detail. His word choice and imagery could practically play a little movie or paint a vivid picture in my head. The pace of the book was very interesting too. It sped up right from the beginning and maintained its pace until the story was finished. Many of the characters could be likable depending on the person. I personally favored Humphrey because his ideals are similar to mines. Though Wolf Larsen is the antagonist of this story I could not hate him because of the pain of loneliness he feels. Many of the other characters I felt were average and were only used to make the story dramatic, which they succeed in doing. The main thing that disturbed me in this book though, was the precise detail of blood, gore, and crimes committed on the ship. Other than that little topic, I found this book very exciting, and adventurous. This book was very enjoyable to read, and was hard to put down. This characteristic can be shared in London’s many genius pieces of literature such as, Call of the Wild (one of my personal favorites), White Fang, and A Daughter of the Snows. If anyone is thirsting for a good sea adventure, then the Sea Wolf is the perfect choice.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good book. Interesting.
Davidinwonderland More than 1 year ago
Any Rand must have loved Wolf Larsen. I found myself attracted to him, but, in the end...no, Dick Cheney personified. Humphrey Van Weydon is the true hero. This book causes us to question our beliefs. Hopefully, if you're not too dogmatic, you'll side with Van Weyden....be an arbiter of peace and love, rather than animalistic carnivorism. Beautifully written...a classic that should be revisited.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I realy love all of Jack Londons books, and this one is good too, but it is hard because my favorite character is the Wolf. Hummphery Van weidein was not good enough of a guy for the whole setting.
BellGuginofan1 More than 1 year ago
it is okay. worth reading once. i was disappointed because i love most of his work. he is such a grest writer. but i was little let down by this one. great character in Wolf Larson. but no great character to match him. the hero's i ended up booing. no great chemistry was there between the hero and heroine. they were very naieve i felt and you would think after all Wolf put them through they would be a little more hardened or wiser for it but no just a couple of crazy intellectual kids in love in the middle of the north pacific. they were really good even great moments in the book - but they were very few and far between. recommend? yes. more than once? no.
Prop2gether on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I had forgotten how readable and thrilling Jack London could be--The Sea Wolf is a thrilling story of survival on multiple levels, with a sadistic (and yet sometimes sympathetic) title character, a "young man grows up" narrator, and full-on nautical descriptions based on London's own experiences. Highly recommended.
HankIII on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't like it as much as I did when read many years ago; still, Wolf Larsen is a character not soon forgotten.
dele2451 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A gentlemen is taken aboard a schooner full of seal hunters captained by a much-feared and revered Wolf Larsen who kidnaps him who replace a fallen crew member. It is a wonderfully told tale although I must admit that, having only a minimal amount of nautical experience, I found some of the more detailed sailing terminology a bit confusing. Fans of Mr London's other notable works will certainly not be disappointed by this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Laiser. Those fu<_>cking Annex's? There were TITO'S ki<_>lling them!"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sorry Para. She's still a bit sick right now. Feel free to guess again though :) Plus, does Randi have a story written? If so, l demand to know where it is right now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Where is the bios book spacific? And may i rp one?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Does the worm. Like a bauss. <(*-*<) <(*-*)> (>*-*)> <(*-*)> <(*-*<)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lie on the ground. There was too much blood.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Striking to Randi! Swift!<p>Hey guys! I miss you two so much. Swift, I had a chance to post at our book yesterday, so go read it please. :) I hope you two are doing good, not getting into too much troubles without me around. Lol. I'm grounded right now, for who knows how long. I won't be around much for at least into the summer, if things continue with how they are. Please, don't forget me in that time. :D I won't forget anyone I've met long ago. I gotta run before the teacher locks my account again. Randi, I'mma post at our book tomorrow during school. Check sometime!</p>
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She watched the camp boredly from her tree.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"I find it funny that Punction thinks my death would upset anybody." xD xD "Okay."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow. I have family in Texas. But i dont like him and the other woman he married. I never talk to my father. Anywho! Im bored. Ooooooohhh!!!!! Plat! Do you want to play Truth or Dare?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Meant to ad a to"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She purred, "Hello, my love." She nuzzled him.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kicked him in the b<e>alls. "Stay out of this."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Watch from the shadows
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Okay!! Seeyas!!"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Testy test test.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If l disappear, then l've gone to bed. Fyi, tomorrow is Platinum's IC birthday, so you can except some strange behavior from her! Today's the birthday of someone in real who l am more or less friends with, and Sunday is not only my own birthday but also the 19th birthday of Kaete (KAY-tuh). She taught three of my dance classes at my homeschool group. Anywho. Oh yeah, l'm having dinner at my grandparents' house on Sunday so l won't be on 3:30-4PM ET. I'ma having pulled pork! #SoNotVegan l also have church that morning.