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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: 2021-08-01
copyright: Rolf Stange