NASA satellite image of Jan Mayen, Beerenberg covered with snow
|Highest point||Beerenberg (2,277 m (7,470 ft))|
|Largest city||Olonkinbyen (pop. ca 18)|
Jan Mayen Island is a volcanic island in the Arctic Ocean, 55 km (34 miles) long (southwest-northeast) and 373 km2 (144 mi2) in area, partly covered by glaciers (an area of 114.2 km2 around the Beerenberg). It has two parts: larger northeast Nord-Jan and smaller Sør-Jan, linked by an isthmus 2.5 km (1.6 mi) wide. It lies 600 km (about 400 mi) northeast of Iceland, 500 km (about 300 mi) east of central Greenland and 1,000 km (about 600 mi) west of the North Cape, Norway. The island is mountainous, the highest summit being the Beerenberg volcano in the north. The isthmus is the location of the two largest lakes of the island, Sørlaguna (South Lagoon), and Nordlaguna (North Lagoon). A third lake is called Ullerenglaguna (Ullereng Lagoon). Jan Mayen was formed by the Jan Mayen hotspot. It is part of the Kingdom of Norway.
Jan Mayen Island has no exploitable natural resources. Economic activity is limited to providing services for employees of Norway's radio and meteorological stations located on the island. It has one unpaved airstrip, Jan Mayensfield, which is about 1,585 metres (5,200 ft) long, and the 124.1 km (74.1 mi) of coast has no ports or harbours, only offshore anchorages.
There are important fishing resources outside the island, and the existence of Jan Mayen establishes a large Exclusive Economic Zone around it. A dispute between Norway and Denmark regarding the fishing exclusion zone between Jan Mayen and Greenland was settled in 1988 granting Denmark the greater area of sovereignty. Significant deposits of oil and gas are suspected in the island's offshore areas.
Jan Mayen is an integral part of Norway, not considered a dependency with special status. Since 1995, it has been administered by the County Governor (fylkesmann) of the northern Norwegian county of Nordland which is closest to it; however, some authority has been delegated to a station commander of the Norwegian Defence Logistics Organisation, a branch of the Norwegian Armed Forces.
The only inhabitants on the island are personnel working for the Norwegian Armed Forces or the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. There are 18 people who spend the winter on the island, but the population may double (35) during the summer, when heavy maintenance is performed. Personnel serve either six months or one year, and are exchanged twice a year in April and October. The main purpose of the military personnel is to operate a LORAN-C base. The support crew, including mechanics, cooks and a nurse, are among the military personnel. Both the LORAN transmitter and the meteorological station are located a few kilometres away from the settlement Olonkinbyen (English: The Olonkin City), where all personnel live.
Transport to the island is provided by C-130 Hercules military transport planes operated by the Royal Norwegian Air Force that land at Jan Mayensfield, which only has a gravel runway. The planes fly in from Bodø Main Air Station eight times a year. Since the airport does not have any instrument landing capabilities, good visibility is required, and it is not uncommon for the planes to have to return to Bodø, two hours away, without landing. For heavy goods, freight ships visit during the summer, but since there are no harbours the ships must anchor up.
The island has no indigenous population, but is assigned the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code SJ (together with Svalbard), the Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) .no (.sj is allocated but not used) and data code JN. Its amateur radio call sign prefix is JX. It has a postal code, N-8099 JAN MAYEN, but delivery time varies, especially during the winter.
The first known discovery of the island was in 1614. There are claims of earlier discoveries: some historians believe that an Irish monk, Brendan, who was known as a good sailor, was close to Jan Mayen in the early 6th century. He came back from one of his voyages and reported that he had been close to a black island, which was on fire, and that there was a terrible noise in the area. He thought that he might have found the entrance to hell.
The land named Svalbarð ("cold coast") by the Vikings in the early medieval Landnámabók may have been Jan Mayen (instead of Spitsbergen, which was renamed Svalbard by the Norwegians in modern times); the distance from Iceland to Svalbarð mentioned in that book is two days sailing, consistent with the ~530 km to Jan Mayen and not with the ~1550 km to Spitsbergen. The knowledge of Jan Mayen probably disappeared along with the Viking colonies on Greenland around the 14th century.
In the 17th century many claims of the island's rediscovery were made, spurred by the rivalry on the Arctic whaling grounds, and the island received many names. According to Thomas Edge, an early 17th century whaling captain who was often inaccurate, "William [sic] Hudson" discovered the island in 1608 and named it Hudson's Touches (or Tutches). However, Henry Hudson could only have come by on his voyage in 1607 (if he had made an illogical detour) and he made no mention of it in his journal. Douglas Hunter, in Half Moon (2009), believes Hudson may not have mentioned his supposed discovery of the island because he was "loath to address a crew insurrection that might well have erupted at that time, when the men realized where he was trying to take them." This is, however, merely speculation on Hunter's part. There is absolutely zero evidence to support such a claim.
According to William Scoresby (1820: p. 154), referring to the mistaken belief that the Dutch had discovered the island in 1611, Hull whalers discovered the island "about the same time" and named it Trinity Island. Muller (1874: pp. 190-91) took this to mean that they had come upon Jan Mayen in 1611 or 1612, which was repeated by many subsequent authors. There were, in fact, no Hull whalers in either of these years, the first Hull whaling expedition having been sent to the island only in 1616 (see below). As with the previous claim made by Edge, there is no cartographical or written proof for this supposed discovery.
Jan Mayen was discovered in the summer of 1614, probably within one month by three separate expeditions. The English whaler John Clarke, sailing for a Dunkirk firm, had observed the island on June 28 while hunting Bowhead whales and named it Isabella. In January the Noordsche Compagnie (Northern Company), modelled on the Dutch East India Company, had been established to support Dutch whaling in the Arctic. Two of its ships, financed by merchants from Amsterdam and Enkhuizen, reached Jan Mayen in July 1614. The captains of these ships (Jan Jacobsz May of Schellinkhout on the Gouden Cath (Golden Cat) and Jacob de Gouwenaer on the Orangienboom (Orange Tree), named it Mr. Joris Eylant after the Dutch cartographer Joris Carolus who was on board and mapped the island. The captains acknowledged that a third Dutch ship, the Cleyn Swaentgen (Little Swan) captained by Jan Jansz Kerckhoff and financed by Noordsche Compagnie shareholders from Delft, had already been at the island when they arrived. They had assumed that the latter, who named the island Maurits Eylandt (or Mauritius) after Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange, would report their discovery to the States General. However, the Delft merchants had decided to keep the discovery secret and returned in 1615 to hunt for their own profit. The ensuing dispute was only settled in 1617, though both companies were allowed to whale at Jan Mayen in the meantime.
In 1615, Robert Fotherby went ashore, apparently thinking it a new discovery and naming the island Sir Thomas Smith’s Island and the volcano “Mount Hakluyt”. Jean Vrolicq renamed the island Île de Richelieu.
Jan Mayen first appeared on Willem Jansz Blaeu’s 1620 edition map of Europe originally published by Cornelis Doedz in 1606. He named it Jan Mayen after captain Jan Jacobsz. May of the Amsterdam-financed Gouden Cath, perhaps because he was by that time based in Amsterdam. Blaeu made a first detailed map of the island in his famous “Zeespiegel” atlas of 1623, establishing its current name.
From 1615 to 1638, Jan Mayen was used as a whaling base by the Dutch Noordsche Compagnie, which had been given a monopoly on whaling in the Arctic regions by the States General in 1614. Only two ships, one from the Noordsche Compagnie, and the other from the Delft merchants, were off Jan Mayen in 1615. The following year a score of vessels were sent to the island. The Noordsche Compagnie sent eight ships escorted by three warships under Jan Jacobsz. Schrobop; while the Delft merchants sent up five ships under Adriaen Dircksz. Leversteyn, son of the one of the above merchants. There were also two ships from Dunkirk sent by John Clarke, as well as a ship each from London and Hull. Heertje Jansz, master of the Hope, of Enkhuizen, wrote a day-by-day account of the season. The ships took two weeks to reach Jan Mayen, arriving early in June. On 15 June they met the two English ships, which Schrobop allowed to remain, on condition they gave half their catch to the Dutch. The ships from Dunkirk were given the same conditions. By late July the first ship had left with a full cargo of oil; the rest left early in August, several filled with oil.
That year 200 men were seasonally living and working on the island at six temporary whaling stations (spread along the northwest coast). During the first decade of whaling more than ten ships visited Jan Mayen each year, while in the second period (1624 and later) five to ten ships were sent. With the exception of a few ships from Dunkirk, which came to the island in 1617 and were either driven away or forced to give a third of their catch to the Dutch, only the Dutch sent up ships to Jan Mayen from 1616 onward. In 1624 ten wooden houses were built in South Bay. About this time the Dutch appear to have abandoned the temporary stations consisting of tents of sail and crude furnaces, replacing them with two semi-permanent stations with wooden storehouses and dwellings and large brick furnces, one in the above-mentioned South Bay and the other in the North Bay. In 1628 two forts were built to protect the stations. Among the sailors active at Jan Mayen was the later admiral Michiel Adriaensz de Ruyter. In 1633, at the age of 26, he was for the first time listed as an officer aboard de Groene Leeuw (The Green Lion). He again went to Jan Mayen in 1635, aboard the same ship.
In 1632 the Noordsche Compagnie expelled the Danish-employed Basque whalers from Spitsbergen. In revenge, the latter sailed to Jan Mayen, where the Dutch had left for the winter, to plunder the Dutch equipment and burn down the settlements and factories. Captain Outger Jacobsz of Grootebroek was asked to stay the next winter (1633/34) on Jan Mayen with six shipmates to defend the island. While a group with the same task survived the winter on Spitsbergen, all seven on Jan Mayen died of scurvy or trichinosis (from eating raw polar bear meat) combined with the harsh conditions.
During the first phase of whaling the hauls were generally good, some exceptional. For example, Mathijs Jansz. Hoepstock caught 44 whales in Hoepstockbukta in 1619, which produced 2,300 casks of whale oil. During the second phase the hauls were much lower. While 1631 turned out to be a very good season, the following year, due to the weather and ice, only eight whales were caught. In 1633 eleven ships managed to catch just 47 whales; while a meager 42 were caught by the same number in 1635. The Bowhead whale was locally hunted to near extinction around 1640 (approximately 1000 had been killed and processed on the island), at which time Jan Mayen was abandoned and stayed uninhabited for two and a half centuries.
During the International Polar Year 1882-83 the Austro-Hungarian North Pole Expedition stayed one year at Jan Mayen. The expedition performed extensive mapping of the area, their maps being of such quality that they were used until the 1950s. The Austrian polar station on Jan Mayen Island was built and equipped in 1882 fully at Count Wilczek's own costs.
Polar bears appear on Jan Mayen, although in diminished numbers compared with earlier times. Between 1900 and 1920, there were a number of Norwegian trappers spending winters on Jan Mayen, hunting white and blue foxes in addition to some polar bears. But the exploitation soon made the profits decline, and the hunting ended. Polar bears are genetically distinguishable in this region of the Arctic compared with other world regions such as the Canadian Arctic.
The first meteorological station was opened in 1921 by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, who annexed the island in 1922 for Norway. By law of February 27, 1930 the island was made part of the Kingdom of Norway. During World War II continental Norway was invaded and occupied by Germany in the spring of 1940. The four man team on Jan Mayen stayed at their posts and in an act of defiance began sending their weather reports to Great Britain instead of Norway. The British codenamed Jan Mayen 'island X' and attempted to reinforce it with troops to counteract any German attack. The Norwegian gunboat Fridtjof Nansen ran aground on one of the islands' many uncharted lava reefs and the 68 man crew abandoned ship and joined the Norwegian team on shore. The British expedition commander, prompted by the loss of the gunboat, decided to abandon Jan Mayen until the following spring and radioed for a rescue ship. Within a few days a ship arrived and evacuated the four Norwegians and their would-be reinforcements after demolishing the weather station to prevent it from falling into German hands. Nazi Germany attempted to land a weather team on the island on November 16. The German trawler carrying the team crashed on the rocks just off Jan Mayen after a patrolling British Destroyer picked them up on radar. Most of the crew struggled ashore and were taken prisoner by a landing party from the destroyer.
The Allies returned to the island on 10 March 1941, when the Norwegian ship Veslekari, escorted by the patrol boat Honningsvaag, dropped 12 Norwegian weathermen on the island. The teams radio transmissions soon betrayed its presence to the Axis, and German planes from Norway began to bomb and strafe Jan Mayen whenever weather would permit it, though they did little damage. Soon supplies and reinforcements arrived and even some anti aircraft guns, giving the island a garrison of a few dozen weathermen and soldiers. By 1941 the Germans had given up hope of evicting the Allies from the island and the constant air raids stopped.
On 7 August 1942 a German Focke-Wulf Fw 200 "Condor", probably on a mission to bomb the station, smashed into the nearby mountainside of Danielsenkrateret in fog, killing all 9 crewmembers. In 1950, the wreck of another German plane with 4 crew members was discovered on the southwest side of the island. In 1943, the Americans established a radio locating station named Atlantic City in the north to try to locate German radio bases in Greenland.
After the war the meteorological station was located at Atlantic City, but moved in 1949 to a new location. Radio Jan Mayen also served as an important radio station for ship traffic in the Arctic Ocean. In 1959, NATO decided to build the LORAN-C network in the Atlantic Ocean, and one of the transmitters had to be on Jan Mayen. By 1961, the new military installations, including a new airfield, were operational.
For some time scientists doubted if there could be any activity in the volcano Beerenberg, but in 1970 the volcano erupted, and added another three square kilometres (1.2 sq mi) of land mass to the island during the three to four weeks it lasted. It had more eruptions in 1973 and most recently in 1985. During an eruption the sea temperature around the island may increase from just above freezing to about 30 degrees Celsius (86 °F).
Historic stations and huts on the island are Hoyberg, Vera, Olsbu, Puppebu (cabin), Gamlemetten or Gamlestasjonen (the old weather station), Jan Mayen Radio, Helenehytta, Margarethhytta, and Ulla (a cabin at the foot of the Beerenberg).
Jan Mayen consists of two geographically distinct parts. Nord-Jan has a round shape and is dominated by the 2277 m high Beerenberg volcano with its large ice cap (114.2 km2), which can be divided into twenty individual outlet glaciers. The largest of those is Sørbreen, with an area of 15.00 km2 and a length of 8.7 km. South-Jan is narrow, comparatively flat and unglaciated. Its highest elevation is Rudolftoppen with 769 meters. The station and living quarters are located on South-Jan. The island lies on the world's smallest microplate. The island was previously attached to Greenland.
In the movie "K-19: The Widowmaker", Captain Polenin remarks that the island has "one mountain, no trees, fifteen men, and one radio station".