They arrived at Dyea Beach. Each day brought a new shock and surprise, as life here was totally different from Santa Clara; "No peace here, nor rest or safety for a moment. Every moment was confusion and action. The men were not the ordinary Townsmen or dogs of town, but rather they were all savages, and it was only the law of Club and Fang".
Buck had never seen dogs fight like wolves, the way these animals did.
Buck learned a vicarious lesson the first day. Curly made friendly overtures at one of the sled dogs, a fairly large Husky. In reaction, the dog leaped like a flash at Curly and ripped open Curly's face from jaw to eye. This was the wolf manner of fighting that Buck had never seen before. By then some 30 or 40 other huskies had circled around the combatants; Buck could not understand their eagerness in watching this fight. Curly rushed her opponent but was knocked to the ground. The other Huskies were waiting for just this and when she was down, they pounced on top of her and joined in the final kill. Buck was taken aback by this savagery.
Spitz also watched this incident but he was unmoved by it and appeared to be laughing. From that moment on, Buck hated him with a bitter death-like hate.
Francois swung his axe and jumped into the mess of dogs. It took in all, two minutes to chase off the last of the assailants but Curly lay torn to pieces and lifeless on the ice. Buck always remembered this and it caused him to have nightmares but he learned his lesson that there was no fair play … "down, and that was the end of you." He determined to see to it that he would never be "down".
The next day Buck learned yet another lesson. Francois placed straps and buckles on him. It was similar to a harness that he had seen on horses hauling wagons but he had never seen one on a dog. Buck was upset that he was being treated like a draught animal, but he knew better than to rebel. "He buckled down with a will and did his best though all was new and strange."
His harness was fastened to a sled and with the other dogs he was expected to drag Francois to the forest and return with firewood. Buck was positioned in front of Dave who was an experienced wheeler dog. He would nip Buck's hind whenever he was wrong on the track. Spitz, being experienced, was the leader of the team. He knew how to shift his weight in the traces to maneuver Buck in the way he should go. Buck learned quickly both from Dave and Spitz. He became familiar with "Mush" (Go ahead) and HO (stop) and to swing wide on curves. Francois told Perrault that Buck learned fast and pulled well.
Two more dogs arrived - Billee and Joe. They were brothers but totally opposite in nature. Billee exuded a good disposition and Joe was sour, and angry. Spitz immediately proceeded to make sure that they would know their place on the team and whom they had to obey, but he was only successful in getting his message across to Billee. Joe would not be bossed around and stood his ground glaring at Spitz when he tried to discipline him.
Perrault brought back another dog, named Sol-leks that evening. He was an old husky, with only one eye. He walked amongst them with a haughty indifference, immediately indicating to them that he wanted to be left alone. No one challenged him and even Spitz didn't bother him. "Ask nothing, give nothing, expect nothing", that was Sol-leks. He did not like to be approached on his blind side and when Buck unwittingly did that, Sol-leks turned on him and ripped open his shoulder.
That night Buck had a problem of where to sleep. He entered the tent occupied by Perrault and Francoise and was surprised and shocked when Perrault and Francoise kicked him out. It was new not to be wanted or received inside a home. Out in the cold, the chill wind blew gustily around him. Miserable and disconsolate he wandered in the cold. Savage dogs charged him. He bristled and snarled back at them and they didn't bother with him. It was getting colder and he was very tired. He lay down to sleep but the ground was too cold. He looked to see where his team-mates were sleeping but could not find them. He was astonished that they had disappeared and were not to be seen in the camp. He kept walking around and around when suddenly the snow gave way and he sank down. Fearful of the unseen and the unknown, he sprang back. When he heard a friendly yelp from below, he went back to investigate. A whiff of warmth came to his nostrils and he was greeted with a friendly yelp. Soon he realized that Billie was curled up under the snow in a snug ball and the puzzle of where the others had gone was solved.
That was another lesson; he followed suit and dug a hole for himself in the snow. Before long, it was filled with his own warmth as he crept into it to sleep.
It had been a long and arduous day and he slept soundly. He didn't open his eyes with the rousing camp and for a moment forgot where he was. He felt confined by snow walls and a sense of fear of being trapped overcame him. It was a strange sensation, as he had never experienced being in a trap. He did not yet realize that ancestral instincts were being awakened within him. He quickly jumped up and out of the hole. Then he saw the camp and remembered all from when he went on a stroll with Manuel, to the dig.
In a quarter of an hour they were in harness and on the trail toward Dyea Canon. Work was hard but Buck seemed to like it. He was surprised at everyone's eagerness. It communicated itself even to Dave and Sol-leks and they were alert, active and anxious for everything to go smoothly. "The toil in the traces became the supreme expression in their being; all that they lived for and the only thing in which they took delight". Buck pulled in front of Dave, followed by Sol-leks. The rest strung out ahead in single file up to the leader - Spitz. Buck had been put between Dave and Sol-leks for instruction. They enforced their teaching with sharp teeth. Buck was an apt learner and they taught him never to linger or err. Once he tangled in the traces and caused the team to be delayed. Sol-leks and Dave immediately pounced on him and straightened things out. Before long, he mastered his role on the team and both Francois and Perrault were impressed. Perrault even examined his feet carefully after a hard day's run across glaciers and snowdrifts 100s of feet deep. This special treatment was an honor not given to the other dogs.
Buck had to contend with another problem - eating. His ration was a pound and half of sun dried salmon but it was not enough and he was perpetually hungry. The others who were born to that life seemed to manage well with the one pound they got. Additionally, he was a dainty eater and if he would eat his portion slowly, his mates would rob him of the unfinished ration. Necessity taught him to eat fast and he was not above stealing too in order to squelch his hunger. He watched and learned some cunning maneuvers from Pike, a newcomer to the group. Pike was a sly malingerer; who was able to steal a slice of bacon without being caught. Buck learned so well that he even took Perrault by surprise by stealing his food without even being suspected. The blame went to Dub who was an awkward blunderer always getting caught, and punished.
Buck learns the lessons of survival necessary for life in the hostile North - think only of yourself and not of love or kindness. This discovery comes to him very easily as his ancestral instincts sharpen and his civilized mannerism slowly fall away. "When he pointed his nose to the stars and howled, it was his ancestors dead and dust howling through the centuries through him, his cadences voiced their woe, their meaning for stillness cold and dark. The ancient song surged through him and He came into his own again."
Buck is an able student and learns his lessons well. He quickly becomes a team member and does his share extremely well. He also realizes that the Arctic region is too wild to include the civilized concept of fairness and only physical fitness and cunning is required for survival. It is interesting to note the interactions that exist between the dogs as well as between the dogs and their masters.
London emphasizes that civilized behavior is merely a cloak that hides wild ancestral instincts when one has to fight for survival. He emphasizes this when he describes how Buck's eating habits are changing from being a slow eater to becoming a fast one and gulping down his food. "He found that his mates, finishing first, [robbed] him of his unfinished ration". He also resorts to stealing food to squelch his hunger.
The chapter foreshadows the eventual fight for leadership between Spitz and Buck when Buck becomes angry after Spitz tries to steal Buck's sleeping spot.