Anthony Smith (explorer)

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For other people named Anthony Smith, see Anthony Smith (disambiguation).
Anthony Smith
Born (1926-03-30)30 March 1926
Taplow, England
Died 7 July 2014(2014-07-07) (aged 88)
Oxford, England[1]
Nationality English
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
Occupation Explorer, Author, Balloonist
Known for Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean on a raft
Notable work(s) The Body (originally published in 1968 and later renamed The Human Body)
Television Tomorrow's World presenter

Anthony Smith (30 March 1926 – 7 July 2014) was, among other things, a writer, author, sailor, ballonist and former Tomorrow's World television presenter. He was perhaps best known for his bestselling work The Body (originally published in 1968 and later renamed The Human Body), which has sold over 800,000 copies worldwide and tied in with a BBC television series, The Human Body, known in America by the name Intimate Universe: The Human Body. The series aired in 1998 and was presented by Professor Robert Winston.

Life and work[edit]

Smith read zoology at Balliol College, Oxford, became a pilot in the RAF and went on to write as a science correspondent for the Daily Telegraph. He also worked extensively in both television and radio, writing for several natural history programmes.

Smith's first expedition was to Persia, exploring the Qanat underground irrigation tunnels. This expedition was documented in his book Blind White Fish in Persia; a species of fish that he discovered is named after him.


In 1962, he led "The Sunday Telegraph Balloon Safari" expedition (with Douglas Botting), Alan Root and others, flying a hydrogen balloon from Zanzibar to East Africa, and then across the Ngorongoro crater (documented in Throw Out Two Hands). The following year he became the first Briton to cross the Alps in a balloon.

Jolly Boat[edit]

In the late 1990s, Smith was instrumental in securing an exhibit for the Imperial War Museum, London. The Jolly Boat, a small lifeboat launched from the SS Anglo Saxon on 21 August 1940 after its sinking by the German auxiliary cruiser Widder. It carried the surviving members of the ship's crew west across the Atlantic Ocean for sixty-eight days, before finally landing in Eleuthera. By the time the Jolly Boat made landfall, only two of the seven survivors of the attack were still alive.

For the next fifty years, the boat was kept by the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut. Smith, personally interested in the story of the lifeboat, secured its return in 1997, after which it was restored for display in 1998 at the Imperial War Museum, London.[2]

Crossing the Atlantic by raft[edit]

On 30 January 2011, Smith and a crew of three volunteers (Andrew Bainbridge, David Hildred and John Russell, none younger than 56) departed from La Gomera in the Canary Islands in a custom-built raft, with the intention of crossing the Atlantic Ocean within three months, eventually arriving in Eleuthera. The raft, which was given the name An-Tiki in reference to the Kon-Tiki raft used by Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl in his 1947 expedition from South America to the Polynesian islands, was assembled during November and December 2010.

The raft's superstructure consisted of a small hut within which the crew shared two bunks, while the hull was fashioned from plastic gas pipes which carried either supplies for ballast or air for buoyancy. Its facilities were designed to be modest and it was equipped with a gas stove for cooking and telegraph poles which would act as masts, as well as solar panels, a wind generator and a foot pump which would power its electronic devices, as the crew used computers and digital cameras to communicate with the outside world and document their journey.

According to an article Smith wrote for the Daily Telegraph, in its final form the An-tiki measured approximately 40 ft (12 m) by 18 ft (5 m).[3] Its hut is approximately 20 ft (6 m) by 7 ft (2 m).

Smith had been interested in crossing the Atlantic by raft as far back as 1952, when he devised a plan to begin somewhere in the Canary Islands and to rely on fresh fish as his source of food. "I was a student then and I ran out of money," he told the Telegraph. "But the idea has always niggled me."[4] The voyage began as a concise advert listed in the Telegraph in 2006, which simply read: "Fancy rafting across the Atlantic? Famous traveller requires 3 crew. Must be OAP. Serious adventurers only."[5]

From his applications, Smith recruited Robin Batchelor, also a professional balloonist, to help design and build the raft. AnTiki's crew consisted of David Hildred, a yacht master and civil engineer, and two experienced seamen Andy Bainbridge and John Russell. The crew set sail with the intention of raising money for the clean water charity WaterAid and completed their journey successfully on the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean.[6]

Smith then recruited another crew to join him on the final leg of the voyage to Eleuthera – Alison Porteous, Bruno Sellmer, Nigel Gallaher and Leigh Rooney. They departed St. Maarten on 6 April 2012 and 24 days later were washed up on the island of Eleuthera in a storm. The fact that it was the very same beach on which the Jolly Boat[7] landed is nothing short of miraculous.[8]


Smith continued both travelling and writing well into his later years whilst residing in London, UK. In 2000 he wrote The Weather: The Truth About The Health Of Our Planet and in 2003 wrote The Lost Lady of the Amazon: The Story of Isabela Godin and Her Epic Journey, detailing the experiences of Jean Godin des Odonais.


Smith died from acute respiratory failure on 7 July 2014, in Oxford, England. He was 88.[9]


  1. ^ Martin Weil (26 July 2014). "Anthony Smith, adventurer who crossed the Atlantic by raft in his 80s, dies at 88". The Washington Post. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "The Fate of the Jolly Boat". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 2011-02-22. 
  3. ^ "Four men on a raft: Farewell La Gomera – next stop the Bahamas". London: Daily Telegraph. 30 January 2011. Archived from the original on 10 March 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-02. 
  4. ^ Howie, Michael (22 August 2010). "Adventurer, 84, to cross Atlantic on raft". London: Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 31 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-02. 
  5. ^ "Anthony Smith interview on BBC News". BBC News/YouTube. Retrieved 2011-02-02. 
  6. ^ "Presenter to cross Atlantic Ocean by raft for WaterAid". BBC. 1 Feb 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  7. ^ SS Anglo Saxon's Jolly Boat.
  8. ^ "Voyage to the brink of death", An-Tiki, 6.05.2012
  9. ^ Martin Weil (26 July 2014). "Anthony Smith, adventurer who crossed the Atlantic by raft in his 80s, dies at 88". The Washington Post. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 

{{Obituary published in The Daily Telegraph 17 July 2014.}}

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