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A plan B success story

In late summer of 1897, two steamers from Alaska pulled into port, one in Seattle and one in San Francisco. Waterfront crowds watched, and journalists snapped pictures of newly-rich prospectors rolling wheelbarrows down the gangplanks overflowing with gold mined in the Klondike.

Jack London, 21, heard the call of the wild and sailed in late July from San Francisco for Alaska. Once there, he and his companions navigated 600 miles through lakes, rivers and rapids to reach Dawson City. They arrived just as the Arctic winter was setting in. London came down with scurvy due to his lack of vitamin C. He had to turn around and go back home without one gold nugget.

London turned stories of his hard-luck adventures into writings that made him a career and a household name.

In one of his first stories accepted for publication, “An Odyssey of the North,” he wrote: “There was a cabin, built by some man, of logs which he had cast down from above. It was a very old cabin, for men had died there alone at different times, and on pieces of birch bark which were there we read their last words and their curses. One had died of scurvy; another’s partner had robbed him of his last grub and powder and stolen away; a third had been mauled by a bald-face grizzly; a fourth had hunted for game and starved — and so it went, and they had been loath to leave the gold and had died by the side of it in one way or another. And the worthless gold they had gathered yellowed the floor of the cabin like in a dream.”

London created a “plan B” that turned his prospecting-for-gold misadventures into timeless adventure stories for all ages worth his weight in gold.