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News: 06/01/2005

Effort begins to replicate Jack London’s Snark

The Jack London Foundation is exploring the possibility of building a life size replica of the Snark, Jack London’s beloved sailing vessel.

The Foundation has formed the Snark Vision Committee to study the feasibility of the project, with the goal to have the approximately 57 foot, two-mast boat completed by April 22 of 2007. That day marks the 100-year anniversary of the day Jack and Charmian London set sail from Oakland on the Snark on what was to be an attempt to circumnavigate the globe.

“This is an ambitious stretch for us,” said Fred Fischbach, who volunteered to head up the vision committee. Fischbach said estimates he’s gotten so far put the low end of a full scale Snark replica at $3 million, and the high end at $5 million.

“We’re looking for some pretty big angels right now,” said Fischbach, who estimates that $500,000 to $1 million would be needed to get the project off and running.

If the dream comes true, it is envisioned that the boat would serve not only as a maritime and Jack London museum, but would also be a functional ship that would reflect London’s life. Also, Fischbach said, the late Jack London biographer Russ Kingman always had a dream that a new Snark could be used for training young men to sail.

The original Snark was designed by Jack London and built at Anderson Ways shipyard near Hunter’s Point in San Francisco. It had a classic clipper bow and copper bottom. It was called the Snark after Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark.

Much of the money London made with his writings in that period went to pay for the building of the Snark, which went through a number of construction delays. The boat cost $30,000 to build.

The Snark finally set sail in April of 1907, with plans for a seven-year voyage by Jack and Charmian London and crew. The travel route took them to Hawaii, the Marquesas Islands, Tahiti, Bora Bora, Pago Pago, and then to the Island of Guadalcanal, where Jack London fell ill. In December of 1908, the decision was made to call off the cruise, and the Londons sailed on another ship to Sydney to seek medical attention. It was feared Jack London had leprosy, but he was subsequently diagnosed with psoriasis. The doctor advised that the around-the-world venture be called off, and the Londons returned to California.

Though the trip was cut short, the voyage and the Snark were the subject of many magazine articles and books by the Londons.

Whatever happened to the original Snark is somewhat of a mystery. In an article by Winnie Kingman, she wrote that the boat was sold in Sydney, and then was spotted in the area in various degrees of disrepair. One rumor, wrote Kingman, had it that the Snark burned down to the waterline while in the New Hebrides.

Fischbach said he has sent notice of the project to all the major yacht clubs in the Bay Area and California to generate interest and identify possible funding sources. Shipbuilders have told Fischbach that building a life size replica to today’s standards would take about 9-12 months.

With his current timeline, Fischbach said the committee will probably know by September if the project is doable.

Fischbach said he’s looking for people willing to volunteer their time to help on the Snark Vision Committee, as well as anyone who would like to donate to the Snark cause. He can be reached at 996-2888, or by email

The Jack London Educational Research Foundation was founded in 1976. Its mission is to maintain source material and memorabilia, as well as promoting research activities of the life and work of Jack London.

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