Captain Alex MacLean

Jack London's Sea Wolf

Don MacGillivray

  • Published: 2008. Paperback 2009
  • Subject Listing: History
  • Bibliographic information: 416 pp., 11 photos, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: US rights only
  • Distributed for: UBC Press
  • Contents

Alex MacLean was the inspiration for the title character, Wolf Larsen, in Jack London's bestselling novel, The Sea-Wolf. Originally from Cape Breton, MacLean sailed to the Pacific side of North America when he was just twenty-one and worked there for thirty-five years as a sailor and sealer. His achievements and escapades while in the Victoria fleet in the 1880s laid the foundation for his status as a folk hero.

Although MacLean is a colourful character both in his own right and as mythologized by London, his biography reveals more than the construction of a legend. Don MacGillivray opens a window onto the complex world of pelagic sealing in the North Pacific. The sealing dispute brought the United States and Britain to the brink of war, with Canadian sealing interests frequently enmeshed in espionage, scientific debate, diplomatic negotiations, and vexing questions of maritime and environmental law. This vivid account brings history into focus.

MacLean's story will appeal to maritime historians, historians of the Pacific Northwest, and readers interested in the history of sealing, international relations, and environmental politics. It will also appeal to readers interested in this fascinating character, both in his own right and as mythologized by Jack London.
List of Illustrations
1. Cape Breton and Going Down to the Sea, 1858-82
2. Pelagic Sealing: Victoria, 1883-87
3. Conflict in the North Pacific, 1888-89
4. Home Port San Francisco, 1890
5. The James Hamilton Lewis and the Russians, 1891
6. The Japanese Coast and the North Pacific, 1892-95
7. The Bering Sea Claims Commission Hearings and Percy Sherwood, 1896
8. The South Pacific Expedition, 1897-98
9. The Klondike, 1898-1903
10. Poaching with the Carmencita, 1904-05
11. The Carmencita Returns to Victoria, 1905
12. Setting the Record Straight: Vancouver, 1906-08
13. The Final Years: Vancouver, 1909-14
14. The Legend of Alex MacLean