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Category Archives: Jan Mayen
Melons on Jan Mayen
Today we went for an extended hike across the active volcano of Jan Mayen – skirting the 2000m high caldera in favour of a more leisurely route over the foothills. All around us was a wasted, twisted landscape of rock with green growth hanging tenaciously on the northern slopes. This hardy growth of moss bore the scars from the occasional boulder plunging down from the heights, but managed to convey an almost tropical feel to the otherwise barren island. From our anchorage in Kvalrossbukta on the North of the island we were intending to go and visit the meteorological station, and since we had no radio contact from the North (due to intervening mountains) we had to wait until we had completed most of the hike before we radioed ahead with our intentions … this was about the same time as we noticed a huge plane on the runway that sprawls over the low lagoon area of the south coast – It turns out our arrival had coincided with a resupply operation and the delivery of the first fresh fruit and vegies for months!
Despite our inconvenient arrival we were soon ushered into a four-wheel drive and lavished with hospitality in total contrast to the forbidding landscape. We were shepherded directly to a hot shower (possibly for the benefit of the station personnel), and then taken for a tour of the impressive station that boasts a pool, a sauna, a bar, a soccer field, a solarium, a gym and countless other luxuries. The guys here have it pretty good, and since they were celebrating the delivery of fresh food we were also invited to share a splendid meal with the high-light of an assortment of melons for desert …. Sumptuous after over a week of ship rations!
Now we are making everything shipshape in preparation for the next offshore leg …. Next stop Greenland!
In 600AD an Irish monk named St Brendan stumbled upon a “black and scorched island, where it boomed and banged”. Since then the island of Jan Mayen has been rediscovered several times – normally by whalers who kept the islands secret close to their chest due to the profitable whales that once frequented the waters. However, the island remains much as it has since the volcano first spewed its molten rock above the cold waters of the Greenland Sea. The island is still covered in fresh black volcanic rock, the island is still occasionally scorched by an eruption (last one in 1970), and it still booms and bangs (we witnessed several landslides on our mornings walk).
We made a rather dramatic approach to the island this morning at 2:00am in a dense cloud of fog – we knew the location of the island thanks to the GPS (a convenience I’m sure old Brendan would have appreciated), yet our world at the time was a rather small world encompassed by a wall of white beginning around 20m from the bow of the ship. Our radar detected the island of course … but according to our electronic chart the island started some 2 nautical miles inland … hmm. As it turned out the fog lifted just in time to confirm that yes, there was an island ahead, yes, it was pretty damn close, and yes, perhaps it was a good idea to throw down the anchor and get some sleep after over six days at sea! We are now anchored in the middle of the island according to our chart.
In the morning a splendid sight was revealed before us. Occasional glimpses of the peak of the volcano peered at us from the summit, and before us was a rocky shore painted in the fresh red hues of a volcano and covered by a veneer of green thanks to the verdant growth covering the rock. In fact, it feels relatively tropical here compared to Svalbard, and the crowd of curious fulmars around the boat looked on as Two in the Blue danced around the deck barefoot and in t-shirts! After our triumphant arrival dance (and some celebratory pancakes) we naturally got down to the serious business of setting foot on this isolated rock – an amazing feeling after nearly a week at sea and a landscape like nothing either of us have ever experienced before. Photos to follow.