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Home → Jan Mayen: Introduction


Some photos and two quotations, a historical and a modern one, may serve as a little introduction to the remote, bizarre, wild, occasionally violent yet beautiful volcanic island of Jan Mayen.

»A few minutes more, and slowly, silently, in a manner you could take no count of, its high dusky hem first deepened to a violet tinge, then, gradually lifting, displayed a long line of coast – in reality but the roots of Beerenberg – dyed of the darkest purple ; while, obedient to a common impulse, the clouds that wrapt its summit gently disengaged themselves, and left the mountain standing in all the magnificence of his 6,870 feet, girdled by a single zone of pearly vapour, from underneath whose floating folds seven enourmous glaciers rolled down into the sea ! Nature seemed to have turned scene-shifter, so artfully were the phases of this glorious spectacle successively developed.

Although – by reason of our having hit upon its side instead of its narrow end – the outline of Mount Beerenberg appeared to us more like a sugar-loaf than a spire – broader at the base and rounder at the top than I had imagined – in size, colour, and effect it far surpassed anything I had anticipated. The glaciers were quite an unexpected element of beauty. Imagine a mighty river of as great a volume as the Thames – started down the side of a mountain – bursting over every impediment – whirled into a thousand eddies – tumbling and raging on from ledge to ledge in quivering cataracts of foam – then suddenly struck rigid by a power so instantaneous in its action, that even the froth and fleeting wreaths of spray have stiffened to the immutability of sculpture.«

Lord Dufferin’s eloquent description of his first impressions of Mount Beerenberg on Jan Mayen, which came out of the fog only after a while. Lord Dufferin visited Jan Mayen on a voyage on board his yacht Foam in 1856. Quoted from Lord Dufferin’s famous Letters from high latitudes. Being some account of a voyage in 1856 in the schooner yacht Foam to Iceland, Jan Mayen and Spitzbergen.

Station on Jan Mayen

Signboard at the entrance to the station on Jan Mayen (2004).

Translation of the signboard:

»Theory is when you understand everything but nothing works.
Practice is when everything works but nobody understands why.
On this station, we combine theory and practice in a way
that nothing works and nobody understands why«

Beerenberg, Jan Mayen
last modification: 2013-12-04
copyright: Rolf Stange