Polar Record

Research Article

Benjamin Leigh Smith's second Arctic expedition: Svalbard and Jan Mayen, 1872

P.J. Capelottia1

a1 Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Penn State University, Abington College, Abington, PA 09001, USA


In 1872, the British yachtsman and explorer Benjamin Leigh Smith led his second expedition to the Arctic. Seeking to further the impressive oceanographic and geographic research of his first expedition in the summer of the previous year, Leigh Smith first explored Jan Mayen and then sailed to Svalbard. There, after investigating Moffen, adverse ice conditions precluded effective continuation of the voyage and almost wrecked his research vessel, Sampson. During a brief meeting with Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld's Swedish polar expedition, a bond was formed between the two explorers with fortuitous benefits for the Swedish expedition the following year as it struggled to escape from the north coast of Svalbard. Leigh Smith was forced to make for England in September 1872, without sailing nearly as far to the north or east as during his first expedition. His 1872 experiences led him to reconsider his method for Arctic exploration, and consequently, for his third expedition in 1873, he decided to include a chartered steamer as his primary research vessel with Sampson relegated to the role of support vessel.

(Received November 2007)