As I’m reading Jack London’s novel The Sea Wolf, I thought I’d take time out to read another one of his short stories. This time, I chose “Story of a Typhoon Off the Coast of Japan”. This was London’s first short story to be published. It won a contest in 1893 sponsored by the San Fransisco Morning Call and then was published in that newspaper.
The story is about five pages and tells the tale of a schooner named Sophie Sutherland during a typhoon off the coast of Japan (as you might guess). Even early in his career, London wrote beautiful narratives depicting nature in all it’s glory and terror. I enjoyed the way he described each wave that threatened to pummel the ship as a “sea” unto itself.
No major human characters are present in the story with the exception of a sailor called the “bricklayer” who is dying of consumption. His presence is briefly mentioned in the middle of the storm and then in the final line of the story, “…with the storm passed away the ‘bricklayer’s’ soul.”
I’m thoroughly enjoying The Sea Wolf and find Wolf Larsen to be one of the more fascinating characters I’ve run across in some time. I’m looking forward to posting about him soon.
Not being an avid sailor, a few terms in the story were unfamiliar to me. One of those being the “jib”. A jib is a triangular staysail set ahead of the foremast of a sailing vessel. Its tack is fixed to the bowsprit, to the bow, or to the deck between the bowsprit and the foremost mast. In the picture below, four jibs can be seen with a fifth one wrapped around the bowsprit (this is at the front of the ship). This definition and picture are from Wikipedia.