Jack London in Hawaii

Writer Jack London introduced Americans to surfing in 1907.

For two days, London swam in the cool, “crystal clear” waters of Waikiki Beach, hearing the waves “hissing and churning.”  Paddling over and through the waves, he constantly dodged them. When the waves pounded him, London rolled underwater to shore. London eventually caught waves by the end of his first day.

Afterwards, as a “sunburned, skin-peeling Mercury,” London rested, with his sunburn stinging him for days.

In their first visit to Hawaii in 1907, London and his wife Charmian sailed their yacht Snark to Pearl Harbor, examined the sugarcane machinery at the Ewa Plantation, and walked through the dune-like landscape of Haleakala. In Kailua-Kona, Jack London read his works at a gathering in a house. In Molokai, Jack London visited the leprosy settlement and later wrote a candid firsthand account. The Londons have attended dinners and bathing parties, and their names appeared in the Society pages. After the Londons left Hawaii, his checks got returned to Hilo merchants.

The Londons visited again in 1915, this time for ten months. They met Queen Liliuokalani, Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, and Duke Kahanamoku. Jack London delivered a speech at a banquet, advocating restricting immigration. At Kauai, the Londons rested, and Jack London worked on his dog novels.

Shortly after returning to his ranch on Sonoma Mountain, California, Jack London died when he was almost finished composing a Hawaiian novel.

Reporting his death, The Pacific Commercial Advertiser eulogizes London:

“[The news of London’s death] comes as more than a shock. It brings the grief that accompanies the death of a near and a loved relative. Hawaii has lost a great and a good friend.”

One of the first writers to earn fame through their fiction, Jack London showcased Hawaii to American readers through his essays and short stories, and his short story collections included The House of Pride and On the Makaloa Mat.

– Alice Kim

Note: Read more about the Londons’ 1907 South Seas adventures in Through the South Seas with Jack London.

Articles from Chronicling America

“Ban on Jack London”
Pacific commercial advertiser, February 21, 1906, Page 4

“Jack London Coming Here: He Starts on a Cruise Round the World in October”
Pacific commercial advertiser, August 15, 1906, Page 5

“Jack London to Speak in Honolulu: Author of ‘Call of the Wild’ Has Promised a Public Address Where Here”
Hawaiian star, November 14, 1906, Image 1

Pacific commercial advertiser, April 28, 1907, Page 12

“Ketch Snark on the Way: Jack London’s Craft Coming First to Port of Honolulu”
Pacific commercial advertiser, April 30, 1907, Page 5

“One cannot think that the archsocialist, Mr. Jack London…”
Pacific commercial advertiser, May 6, 1907, Page 4

“The Londons Ashore”
Hawaiian star, May 20, 1907, Image 1

“Jack London’s Yacht with All Well Aboard Now at Pearl Harbor”
Hawaiian gazette, May 21, 1907, Image 1

“London’s Reply to President’s Criticism”
Pacific commercial advertiser, May 30, 1907, Image 1

“The Bystander”
Hawaiian gazette, June 4, 1907, Page 6

“Jack London Walks with Difficulty: Goes Surf Riding and Sun Blistered His Legs–Carrying on Work”
The Hawaiian star, June 8, 1907, Page 5

“Novelist Sees Ewa: Jack London Finds Much to Interest at Plantation”
Pacific commercial advertiser, June 10, 1907, Image 1

Pacific commercial advertiser, June 30, 1907, Page 12

Pacific commercial advertiser, July 7, 1907, Page 12

“In the Social Circle”
Pacific commercial advertiser, July 14, 1907, Page 12

“Jack London on Haleakala: The Distinguished Author Enthusiastic Over His Maui Trip”
Hawaiian star, July 25, 1907, Page 8

“London’s Party Returns”
Maui news, July 27, 1907, Image 1

“Ranging over Haleakala: Jack London Sees the Big Mountain Country of Maui”
Pacific commercial advertiser, July 28, 1907, Page 10

“In the Social Circle”
Pacific commercial advertiser, July 28, 1907, Page 12

“Londons to Marcus: The Snark Back Here Preparing to Continue Her Long Voyage”
Hawaiian star, August 1, 1907, Image 1

Pacific commercial advertiser, August 4, 1907, Page 12

“Delights of Surf-Riding: Jack London Describes Sport for Magazine of Large Circulation”
Pacific commercial advertiser, August 9, 1907, Page 6

“Social Notes”
Evening bulletin, September 7, 1907, Page 9

“Jack London’s Checks Returned”
Hawaiian star, November 2, 1907, Image 1

“Jack London’s Checks Returned”
Maui news, November 9, 1907, Page 3

“Why Jack London’s Check Came Back”
Pacific commercial advertiser, November 11, 1907, Page 9

“Lepers of Molokai”
Pacific commercial advertiser, January 4, 1908, Page 5

“Robbin Island Leper Inquires about Molokai”
Pacific commercial advertiser, November 17, 1908, Page 2

“War–A Story by Jack London”
Hawaiian star, November 4, 1911, Page 11

“Jack London Is Coming to Kauai”
The Garden Island, March 9, 1915, Page 2

“Those Who Travel” (Departed)
Maui news, July 10, 1915, Page 3

“London Sounds Warning Note at Burns Banquet: Advises Restriction of Immigration; More Than 500 Honor Scotland’s Poet”
Honolulu star-bulletin, January 26, 1916, Page 4

“Before Adam” – Short Story
Honolulu star-bulletin, June 7, 1916, SPORTS, CLASSIFIED AND SHIPPING, Page 14

“London Died as He Was Creating Hawaiian Novel: Gifted Author Expressed ‘Fond Belief All Hawaii Would Like Book'”
Honolulu star-bulletin, November 23, 1916, Images 1 & 2

“Jack London”
Maui news, December 1, 1916, Page 4

“Hawaiian Lei Lies with Ashes of Jack London”
Honolulu star-bulletin, December 15, 1916, Page 7


One Comment on “Jack London in Hawaii”

  1. […] Today is the 100th anniversary of Jack London’s death. Days before Nov. 22, 1916, the famed American writer was completing a Hawaiian novel. Read about Jack London’s time in Hawaii in “Jack London in Hawaii.” […]

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