Jan Mayen

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: European Geography

Jan Mayen
Jan Mayen
Orthographic projection centred on Jan Mayen Island.
Orthographic projection centred on Jan Mayen Island.

Jan Mayen Island, a part of the Kingdom of Norway, is a 55 km long (southwest-northeast) and 373 km² large arctic volcanic island in the Arctic Ocean, partly covered by glaciers. It has two parts: larger Nord-Jan and smaller Sør-Jan, both linked by an isthmus 2.5 km wide. It lies 600 km north of Iceland, 500 km east of Greenland and 1,000 km west of the Norwegian mainland at 70.97° N 8.6° W. The island is mountainous, the highest summit being Beerenberg volcano in the north (2,277 m). The isthmus is the location of the two largest lakes of the island, Sørlaguna (South Lagoon), and Nordlaguna (North Lagoon). A third lake is called Ullerenglaguna (Ullereng Lagoon).


Jan Mayen Island has no exploitable natural resources. Economic activity is limited to providing services for employees of Norway's radio and meteorological stations located on the island. It has one unpaved airstrip about 1585 meters long, and its 124.1 kilometers of coast include no ports or harbors, only offshore anchorages. Commercial whaling took place between 1633 and 1640 by the Dutch but ended when the Dutch team of seven died of scurvy and the Greenland right whale nearly became extinct. A dispute between Norway and Denmark regarding the fishing exclusion zone between Jan Mayen and Greenland was settled in 1988 granting Denmark with the greater area of sovereignty.

Jan Mayen is an integrated geographical body of Norway. Since 1995 it has been administered by the county governor (fylkesmann) of Nordland; however, some authority has been delegated to a station commander of the Norwegian Logistics Organisation-CIS, a branch of the armed forces.


The only inhabitants on the island are personnel working for the Royal Norwegian Defence Force or the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. There are 14 people who spend the winter on the island, but the population may double during the summer, when heavy maintenance is performed. Personnel serve either six months or one year, and are exchanged twice a year in April and October. The main purpose of the military personnel is to operate a Long Range Navigation (Loran-C) base. The support crew, including mechanics, cooks and a nurse are among the military personnel. Both the LORAN transmitter and the meteorological station are located a few kilometers away from the settlement Olonkinbyen (English: Olonkin City), where all personnel live.

Transport to the island is provided by C-130 Hercules military transport planes operated by the Royal Norwegian Air Force, that land at Jan Mayen Airport, which only has a gravel runway. The planes fly in from Bodø Main Air Station eight times a year. Since the airport doesn't have any instrument landing possibilities, visibility is required, and it is not uncommon for the planes to have to return to Bodø, two hours away, without landing. For heavy goods, freight ships come during the summer. But there are no harbours and the ships must anchor up.

The island is inhabited by personnel operating a Long Range Navigation (Loran-C) base with a staff of 14 and a weather services station with a staff of four. The staff members of both stations live in Olonkinbyen (English: Olonkin City), as the living quarters by the Loran-C base are called. The airport is situated near the town.

The island has no indigenous population, but is assigned the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code SJ, the Internet country code top-level domain ( ccTLD) .no ( .sj is allocated but not used) and data code JN. Its amateur radio call sign prefix is JX.


The first certain discovery of the island is from 1614. There are earlier claims and possible discoveries, even as early as the early 6th century. Some historians believe that an Irish monk, Brendan, who was known as a good sailor, was close to Jan Mayen in the early 6th century. He came back from one of his voyages and reported that he had been close to a black island, which was on fire, and that there was a terrible noise in the area. He thought that he might have found the entrance to hell. Viking sailors are also believed to have known about the island.

The island is named after the Dutchman Jan Jacobs May van Schellinkhout who visited the island in 1614. His first mate did some mapping of the coast and named the island Jan Mayen.

It is assumed that Henry Hudson discovered the island in 1607 and called it Hudson's Tutches or Touches. Thereafter it was observed several times by navigators who claimed its discovery and renamed it. Thus, in 1611 or the following year whalers from Hull named it Trinity Island; in 1612 Jean Vrolicq, a French whaler, called it Île de Richelieu; and in 1614 English captain John Clarke named it Isabella.

In 1882-83 a Hungarian-Austrian expedition stayed one year at Jan Mayen performed extensive mapping of the area, their maps being used until the 1950s. Between 1900 and 1920 there were also a number of Norwegian trappers, spending the winters on Jan Mayen, white and blue foxes in addition to some polar bears. But the exploitation soon made the profits decline, and the hunting ended.

The first meteorolgical station was opened in 1921 by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, who annexed the island in 1922 for Norway. By law of February 27, 1930 the island was made part of the Kingdom of Norway. During World War II Jan Mayen was not occupied by Germans as continental Norway was in 1940, but still the meterologists chose to burn down the station. In 1941 they returned with soldiers to rebuild the station. In 1943 the Americans established a radio locating station named Atlantic City to try to locate German radio bases on Greenland.

After the war the meteorological station was located at Atlantic City, but moved in 1949 to a new location. Radio Jan Mayen also served as an important radio station for ship traffic in the Arctic Ocean. In 1959 NATO decided to build the Loran-C network in the Atlantic Ocean, and one of the transmitters had to be on Jan Mayen. By 1961 the new military installations, including a new air field was operational.

For some time scientists doubted if there could be any activity in the volcano Beerenberg, but in 1970 the volcano erupted, and added another 3 square km of land mass to the island during the 3-4 weeks it lasted. It had more eruptions in 1973 and in 1985, the last until this date. During an eruption the sea temperature around the island may increase from just over zero Celsius to about 30 degrees.

Historic stations and huts on the island are Hoyberg, Vera, Olsbu, Puppebu (cabin), Gamlemetten or Gamlestasjonen (the old weather station), Jan Mayen Radio, Helenehytta, Margarethhytta, and Ulla (a cabin at the foot of the Beerenberg).

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