Day 12 |
Sep 02, 2010

Jan Mayen, Norway

By Juan Carlos Restrepo, Geologist

Co-ordinates: N 70º 55’ 21”, W 008º 42’ 59”
Weather: Cloudy
Air Temperature: 6ºC
Sea Temperature: 6ºC
Pressure: 1018 hPa
Wind: 10 knots from the SW

Jan Mayen is one of those rare places that very few people have actually visited, not only because of its remoteness and its inclement weather, but also because it was not open for visits until recent years. It is certainly a treat to be able to make landfall here, as it is a 50-50 deal with the weather.

As the Prince Albert II was dropping anchor the sun was shining beautifully over the black and green hills just above the Norwegian station that runs the place. The Station Commander welcomed us and although the conditions were not ideal for a landing, we decided to give it our best go to get our guests ashore. That would mean that our Expedition Leader Robin West, and three other expedition staff members would have to be waist-deep (and often chest-deep) in the water all morning, as the drivers did stern landings.

I was surprised to find out that the last ship to visit the island was the Prince Albert II a year ago! A group of 18 people man the station and they are involved with a large antenna for long-range navigation, as well as meteorological and seismological research. They were very friendly and welcoming and we took our guests ashore by Zodiac groups. Once ashore we ran guided tours of this fascinating place, which, as a matter of fact, has the northernmost sub-aerial volcano on earth: Beerenberg (2277 masl).

The island is entirely volcanic and only 700.000 years old. There have been 6 historical eruptions between 1732 and 1985. The abundance of bright green moss provides a stark contrast with the dark basaltic rocks. We walked guests up to the station while doing some natural history interpretation and then the station commander welcomed everyone with a briefing on what it is that they do and how they do it. It was most informative and interesting and after the briefing guests went inside to check out the facilities and do some souvenir shopping.

After about half an hour at the base our guests had a chance to walk freely in the surrounding area. It was certainly a welcome activity after two and a half days at sea. Most guests went over to check out the picturesque swimming pool, with palm tree and rubber ducks included. Then over to a pole where station crew had been putting signs pointing the direction and distance to wherever they come from for many years. This was a nice picture opportunity. Some of our guests actually walked all the way to the airport, the long beach and nearby lagoon. On their way back to the base they also had a chance to climb up to an elevated viewing point and a few took advantage of that opportunity.

By 12:30 all of our guests had seen enough of the place and were ready to come back on board for a shower and a hot delicious lunch. At 2 pm Sue Flood gave a presentation on the making of Blue Planet. This was a very fun and interesting talk on the “behind the scenes” of wildlife documentary making. At 5 pm I had a chance to present my “IT’S ALIVE!, Volcanology Juan-O-Juan”, where I explained some concepts on volcanoes and the fascinating geology of volcanic Iceland.

At 6:45 the Expedition Team hosted a Recap & Briefing, followed by dinner. The sunset today was spectacular and at 10 pm the Panorama Lounge was full for the famous Prince Albert II Liars Club! Lots of fun and laughter as four of us came up with outrageous definitions for truly obscure words. Only one of us was actually telling the truth and our guests had a great time trying to determine who was lying and who wasn’t. Good fun to wrap up a wonderful day!