The Influence of Whaler William Scoresby, Jr. on the Arctic Observations of Sir James Lamont

  • C. Leah Devlin
Keywords: James Lamont, William Scoresby, Jr., Benjamin Leigh Smith, Charles Darwin, Arctic, biology, palaeontology, oceanography, Svalbard, Novaya Zemlya


Scottish adventurer James Lamont led hunting expeditions to Svalbard (1858 and 1859) and to Svalbard and Novaya Zemlya (1869 to 1871), voyages chronicled in his two publications, Seasons with the Sea-horses (1861) and Yachting in the Arctic Seas (1876). These works were modeled on the English whaler William Scoresby, Jr.’s An Account of the Arctic Regions, with a History and Description of the Northern Whale-Fishery, Vol. 1, written in 1820. Scoresby’s book, as well as a correspondence with evolutionary theorist, Charles Darwin, inspired Lamont to pursue science during an Arctic hunt. Lamont’s scientific endeavours included geographical surveys, the collection of geological specimens, and basic experiments in physical oceanography. However, most importantly, Lamont provided the first account of Arctic wildlife in the context of natural selection. Lamont’s legacy as an Arctic explorer linked the early sea-hunters like Scoresby to a later generation of Victorian hunter-explorers, such as Benjamin Leigh Smith, who followed Lamont’s lead and journeyed northward to hunt and conduct scientifically grounded explorations.