Sailor on Snowshoes: Tracking Jack London's Northern Trail.


234 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-1-55017-384-7
DDC 971.9'102'092






Reviewed by Merle Massie


Fresh from reading Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild and learning about Chris McCandless’s fascination with the novels of Jack London, I cuddled up to read Sailor on Snowshoes, looking forward to an introduction to the man whose northern adventures infused The Call of the Wild. What I found was a historical detective story and regional history that reflects the Yukon not so much as it was during the 1890s, but the 1960s. Author Dick North, a northern historian and journalist, has provided an account of his search for Jack London artifacts, most particularly the cabin on Henderson Creek in the Yukon where local lore said that London stayed and wrote his name on the log wall.


Weaving in and out between the 1890s and modern expeditions, and infused with colourful episodes culled from local history and Jack London’s novels and short stories, Sailor on Snowshoes provides a pleasant introduction to the Yukon through the eyes of its most famous writer. The author is particularly adept at finding the “real” stories that London drew upon to create his fiction—for example, the dog that became “Buck” in The Call of the Wild and the wolf-dog that became White Fang.


The narrative shifts between chapters that focus on London to details of the author’s search for the elusive cabin by canoe and dogsled through the Yukon landscape. But the last third of the book zeroes in on the hunt for London’s cabin, the triumph of the find, and a detailed account of dismantling and moving the cabin. To maximize tourist exposure, the cabin was split: the lower logs from the original were paired with new logs to duplicate the original, and the resulting structure was moved to Dawson City; the original upper logs, built onto a new base, were moved to Oakland, California, where Jack London lived and wrote his stories.


This book is of interest to those who work in historical reconstruction and tourism, as well as fans of Jack London and his Yukon stories.


North, Dick., “Sailor on Snowshoes: Tracking Jack London's Northern Trail.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 12, 2024,