Saturday, 6 June 2009

An arctic volcano in a remote island:
- The Beerenberg, in Jan Mayen

An active volcano, Beerenberg (2277 m), dominates the volcanic island of Jan Mayen. It is the northernmost active volcano on land in the world.

Jan Mayen is a small (380 Km2) barren island with some moss and grass situated at 71°N , 8°30'W, in the north atlantic ocean, 950km west of Norway, 600 km north of Iceland. It is the most remote place of the northern hemisphere, well north of the Arctic Circle. The upper part of mount Beerenberg is covered by an ice cap, which sends glacial tongues in all directions. The lower landscape is dominated by black lava stone and green moss. The island is a part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

Glacier falling from the crater into the sea.

Jan Mayen became Norwegian in 1922. Only since 1921 has it become inhabitated - a total crew of 18 runs the navigation station, the meteorological station and maintains the infrastructure - buildings, airstrip, power station. The island and the stations are under the rule of Norway.

The main crater - you can see the start of the falling glacier.

Beerenberg has erupted six times between 1732 and 1985. All of these eruptions produced lava flows and scoria cones. The most recent eruptions were in 1970 (the strongest), 1973 and 1985.

The 1970 eruption was the only one witnessed in modern times. It was large, erupting at least 0.5 km³ of basalt from a 6 km long fissure that ran from sea-level to an elevation of 1000 m. There were at least five active craters.

Total evacuation in the event of future eruptions is a real problem, because the island is commonly ice-bound, preventing easy evacuation by ship, and frequent storms and fog obviate evacuation by aircraft at any given time. There are no ports or harbors, only offshore anchorages and a 1.5 km landing strip of gravel for crew transport planes, usually one of the Royal Norwegian Air force's C130 Hercules planes. The planes also bring supply and mail, but there are only 8 flights each year.

Olonkinbyen (Olonkin City ) is the permanent settlement that houses the staff that operates the weather and radio stations. Besides full-equiped offices and labs, it has an unexpected comfort, with several relaxing rooms - library, bar, media room, gym and sauna, large living and dining rooms, decorated corridors, a museum and a swimming pool !

Though unhabitated until the XXth century, and than no candidate to Ultima Thule in classic terms, it's a quest-destination and a place of mistery and isolation; could have been Thule...