“My first impression...was...of his strength...a strength we are wont to associate with things primitive...” Jack London – The Sea Wolf
Many claim that Wolf Larsen was based on the life of a real sealing captain, Alex MacLean. He was legendary for his prowess at catching seals...and for his brushes with the law. Sealing in the North Pacific was tough and unpredictable, where one could easily win a fortune or lose a life.
In 1886, the American government illegally declared the Bering Sea their territorial waters in order to protect their sealing interests. They began to seize vessels and this became a new hazard for Canadian sealers. The sealers risked losing all their catch and possibly being jailed in Alaska. This is when Alex MacLean’s “outlaw” reputation began.
The fleet continued to grow to 124 ships, most sailing out of Victoria. Many feared that war would break out, but over harvesting soon affected the seal population and industry began to decline.
In 1904, high pelt prices lured MacLean back to sealing and the Americans were after him again! Jack London had just published his novel The Sea Wolf. Once the press learned that the main character was based on the pirate McLean, they went wild. At sea, McLean’s crew lost its resolve and he reluctantly retreated to Canada and gave up sealing for good.
Published by the City of Victoria and the Downtown Victoria Business Association. Also available for printing and other formats at