Leigh Smith Benjamin
Scottish yachtsman, amateur researcher. His
guiding principles in arctic voyages were perseverance, patience,
and immediate use of the opportunity.
Born in Watlington, East Sussex. His
Leigh-Smith, was a member of the city parliament. Leigh-Smith
was educated at the Bruce School, a Christian college in Cambridge,
and in 1856 entered the famous law office of Inner Temple. He
took an active part in the volunteer service, was in the Royal
Hundred, was a good shooter. The
financial situation of his family allowed
Leigh-Smith at the age of 21
to obtain financial independence, which was successfully combined
with his natural freedom of thought.
Leigh-Smith has always been interested in Arctic research, from a
young age he was a great friend of Allen
1871, he chartered the Samson schooner with a displacement of 80
tons and made two successful voyages to Svalbard, beating it from
the north and inspecting its northeastern part. Although
Leigh-Smith was a good shooter and athlete, scientific observations
always dominated his expeditions. Already
his first expedition for the first time showed that the Gulf Stream
runs north of Svalbard. This
was later confirmed by N.A.-E.Nordenskiöld.
Leigh-Smith, having chartered a steam vessel "Diana",
again set sail for Svalbard, but he failed to achieve success of the
previous voyage: for many weeks the vessel, trapped in ice, stood in
In the city of the Scottish whalers Peterhead,
his own steam yacht "Eyre" with a displacement of 240 tons, on which
in 1880 he conducted an expedition to Franz Josef Land. This
was the third proven visit to Franz Josef Land after the
Austro-Hungarian expedition of J.
Payer - K.
the Dutch expedition A. De Bruyne in 1879 on the ship Willem
Leigh-Smith aboard Eira
First, Leigh-Smith visited the island of Jan Mayen, then went to
the shores of Greenland, but, unable to reach them, he rounded
Spitsbergen from the south and approached Franz Josef Land, having
stayed in the archipelago for 14 days. Favorable
ice conditions allowed him to explore all the then unknown western
shores of the archipelago and discover the large islands
of Northbrook, Bruce, George Land, Alexandra Land, Maybel and
several smaller ones. Expedition
members, among whom were V.G.A. Grant,
who had already completed three Arctic voyages earlier, Captain W.
Lofley, surgeon W.
G. Niel, landed in many places on the shore and conducted
interesting botanical, geological, and zoological studies. Leigh-Smith
named the Cape in
the south of the island of George Land, the cape in
the south-west of the island of Alexandra Land and the
the west of the island of George Land, respectively.
Georg Land. Striped
(photo by N. M. Stolbov)
Georg Land. Cape
(photo by N. M. Stolbov)
Alexandra Land. Cape
(photo by N. M. Stolbov)
(photo by S. Tikhonov)
Strait of Cambridge. Shore
(photo by EA Gusev)
At the commemoration of Leigh-Smith in the London Geographical
Society, the following words were said: “The discoveries made by
Leigh-Smith in 1880 will serve as the starting point for future Arctic
will constitute a new brilliant and in its significance a very
important chapter in the glorious history of polar exploration.Along
the western coast of Franz-Josef Land, he first paved the way for
further movement to the north”.
In 1881 Leigh-Smith again visited the archipelago, but this time
the expedition almost ended in tragedy.
"Aira" off the coast of
Franz Josef Land
At the beginning of June, they left Peterhead, after 8 days they
met the first scattered ice floes, and about 90 miles east of
Nordkap they approached the pack ice and, moving along its edge, on
July 1 they saw Novaya Zemlya. Finding
passages in the ice, we went north to our destination. Going
Franz Josef Land, we were forced to stand for some time in the Gulf
of Gray. The
path to the north was closed, and Leigh-Smith decided to land on Bell
from pre-prepared material, a house was assembled, naming it “Eira-House”,
and food was left in it for subsequent visits.
2004 Eira-House. Far
away Meibel island
(photo by N.M. Stolbov)
On August 15 Eyra left Bell
Island and went to Cape Flora on Northbrook Island. They
anchored three miles from the coast and engaged in active scientific
one expected what happened. The
pack ice unexpectedly set in motion, slid onto the ship and
inflicted damage to it, from which the ship sank very quickly.
The death of "Eira"
Almost all scientific results died, all samples from the seabed. Finding
themselves in a difficult situation, polar explorers did not lose
their head. They
dragged from the ice to the shore what they were able to save; they
built a hut with a length of 11.5 meters, a width of 3.5 meters and
a height of 1.5 meters from boards, stones and moss. For
the roof used sail. Having
organized a hunt, the Scots provided themselves with food and fuel
(walrus fat) in sufficient quantities for a successful winter,
during which they did not even have signs of scurvy. During
the winter, managed to prepare for swimming in the Novaya Zemlya.
Leigh-Smith at the Novaya Zemlya
In June 1882 the Leigh-Smith expedition set off to Novaya Zemlya
and, after a difficult 42-day journey, reached it. At
the western entrance to Matochkin Shar, they were greeted by three
ships under the general command of an old friend of
Jung, sent in search of the missing expedition. According
to Jung's memories, travelers were so dirty that they could be
mistaken for Negroes.
Leigh-Smith's expeditions were highly appreciated by the Royal
Geographical Society, which awarded him a gold medal.
Leigh-Smith was a very restrained modest man and did not like to
talk about himself, but even in recent years, having already become
an invalid, he did not lose interest in the Arctic.
He died in Randolph, Indiana, USA from rapidly developing foot
was buried in the Carlos Methodist Cemetery Chapel, Randolph County,
Carlos Methodist Cemetery
Leigh-Smith’s hut at Cape Flora was found in poor condition in 1929
by Soviet researchers on aicebreker steamer “G. Sedov”,
who nailed a board on the wall with the inscription :“Expedition of
the USSR on icebreker steamer “G. Sedov" 1929". But
in the post-war years nothing was left of her, the Arctic erased all
An island in
the south of the archipelago Franz-Josef Land. Opened
in 1899 by the expedition of the American journalist V.
Wellman on the ship
"Capella" and named Jackson island. Subsequently,
the expedition was renamed Fiala, since the name of Jackson has
already been called another island.
the east coast of the island of Northeastern Territory of the
the northeast of the island Northeastern Territory of the Svalbard
The strait separating
the island of Arthur from the island of George Land in the
archipelago of Franz Josef Land. Opened and named in 1897 by the
expedition of F. Jackson.