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September 2015

The Snark and the Skin: Jack London’s Pacific Voyage

Author Affiliations
  • 1Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, DC
  • 2Children’s National Medical Center, Washington, DC
JAMA Dermatol. 2015;151(9):1016. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2014.2890

Jack London, the American journalist and adventure writer, died at age 40 in 1916 at the height of his popularity from “uraemia following renal colic” due to chronic interstitial nephritis.1 He was known for his novels, notably those set during the Alaskan gold rush, Call of the Wild and White Fang, and for his adventure stories. In The Cruise of the Snark,2 London recounted his 1907-1908 voyage across the Pacific; the book is laden with observations of indigenous populations, with frequent mention of their skin diseases. While in the Solomon Islands, London observed, “[islanders] are afflicted with every form of malignant skin disease. Some have ringwormyaws and many other skin ulcerations”2(p283) (Figure).

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