Meaning of a line in Call Of The Wild

The following line is from a section of the story showing the foolishness of some total greenhorns:

Is the point that it was futile to even think of hauling canned food with them; or is it that in their quest to get rid of excess weight they dumped quality imported food that was usually unobtainable?

I have no idea about the historical context, but from the sentence structure it looks like the canned goods made men laugh, not the turning out thereof.

Since the canned goods were things to dream of, I took it to mean that the men were amused by the disparity between how well endowed yet hopelessly clueless these city slickers were.

It sounds to me like the canned goods were filled with nonessential luxuries like fruit. Anyone traveling in the Far North (especially by dogsled, which is exhausting and bone-chilling) would know that what you need are things like bully beef, loaded with animal fat, which is what your body would crave under cold and wet conditions. If you’re worried about scurvy, you’d bring along something like sauerkraut.

Another thing that’s implied is that if, for some reason, you run out of canned food along the way, you can always eat the dogs. Explorers like Scott and Amundsen often did this at the antipodes.

The fact the inexperienced people brought canned goods makes the more experienced people laugh at their naïveté. Anyone who knew how to survive the run never brought heavy canned goods. They might dream about the tempting food in those cans, but bringing that weight meant failure and death.

Yes; pemmican might actually have been preferable to bully beef, as it doesn’t need to be packed in heavy tins.

Right, it’s like a hiker on the Appalachian trail would laugh at someone who carried an accordion. Sure, it’s useful, for certain degrees of useful, but not worth the weight.

Another sentence only someone experienced with Alaska would write:


A better example would be bringing a big can of peaches, instead of dried fruit.

Which is what you’d want when traveling by dogsled. It ensures a nice cover of hard snow and little chance of ice over bodies of water giving way. Plus, the dogs are more than able to withstand the cold.

Have you ever read London’s To Build a Fire? The guy there was traveling on foot in frost cold enough to freeze his tobacco-juice spittle before it hit the ground! It was when he hit a warmer patch that things got rough.