An Expedition to Beerenberg -- Page 1 of 3

Text and photographs by Johan Hustadnes
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Beerenberg, the world's northernmost volcano is located at Jan Mayen, a remote arctic island. Jan Mayen is 53 km long and is dominated by Beerenberg which rises 2277 meters directly from from the ocean. This photo shows the south end of Jan Mayen.

18 people live at Jan Mayen. I was working there 6 months for the Norwegian Metereological Institute together with 3 others. In addition, 14 people work at the navigation system Loran C, owned by the Norvegian military force. Nobody is permitted to stay at Jan Mayen for more than one year at a time, because of its isolation. Mail drops are rare and made by plane. For a long time scientists doubted the volcanic observations from the 18th and19th centuries, until a big eruption added 3 square kilometers to the island in 1970. A huge lava stream from fissures at the north-east side of Beerenberg lasted for 3-4 weeks. During these weeks the sea water along the island was heated from its normal temperature around zero to about 30 degrees Celcius. A smaller eruption occured in the central crater in 1985. These days the only activity is small earthquakes and steam, mostly on the northern side of Beerenberg. In the central crater there is vapor now and then.

The other mountains are older and were made by fissure craters. The highest of these, the Rudolphtoppen, reaches 769 meters above sea level. The station is located underneath the clouds, to the left of the nearest top. It is very difficult to reach Beerenberg, since only employees and a few guests are permitted to join the eight plane flights a year to Jan Mayen. Private expeditions have not been permitted, since a rescue mission would be very difficult. Besides, the nature of Jan Mayen is very vulnerable. Beerenberg has been visited by the station's crew many times, but since 1992 there have been too many crevasses. An attempt was made in 1985, but failed because of a nasty fall. When I got to Jan Mayen in April I was very anxious to reach Beerenberg, and I envied the French scientists who combined their work with a successful climb. Several of the staff at the station were interested in a trip to Beerenberg, so we ordered better equipment and did some training. One of our problems was that we had to make our attempt in one long day because of the daily routines at the station. From May to July the snow was melting, making it impossible to drive to the mountain in any way, so we had to wait. But personally, I got an unexpected chance.

The Dutch Historical Expedition Foundation arrived. The reason for allowing this expedition was that they were skilled mountaineers who make expeditions to places of historical value. (Dutch whalers were the first to make use of Jan Mayen, from about 1620 and onwards, and Beerenberg is one of the few mountains with a Dutch name. Besides, the members of this expedition would be the first Dutch to climb Beerenberg.) Ton Biesemaat, Koos Van Rangedrooy and Roland Prinsen sailed with the author and sailor Eerde Bevuakker in his boat for more than a week up to Jan Mayen. This photo shows the "Totempelen" where the crew places signs, pointing to their homes in Norway. Of course I was anxious to join them, and I was very glad they agreed.

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