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HomeArctic blog: Jan Mayen, Spitsbergen → The tour to Sør Jan – 17th-19th June 2016

The tour to Sør Jan – 17th-19th June 2016

The sun is shi­ning and the wind is blowing some­whe­re else today. So we do not was­te much time but get rea­dy for some lon­ger hikes. Most of us aim for the north, to Bee­ren­berg and its sur­roun­dings, the nort­hern lagoon, Maria Musch­buk­ta, Eggøya and so on.
I opt for a dif­fe­rent way and take the rou­te to the south. I know Nord Jan qui­te well, have seen a lot the­re alrea­dy, while in the south, my men­tal map still has a lot of white gaps and my pho­to archi­ve needs some serious com­ple­ting. So some­thing has to be done over the­re, for sure! The oppor­tu­ni­ty is good.

So while the majo­ri­ty is hea­ding nor­thwards – three of them will make an effi­ci­ent, suc­cess­ful dash to the top of Bee­ren­berg – I am going to the south. The view over the back­bone of Mid Jan to Bee­ren­berg, which is more and more get­ting out of the clouds, showing its ama­zing sple­ndor in full sun, could not be more over­whel­ming. To the south, Sør Jan is stret­ching out with its con­fu­sing arran­ge­ment of hills and cra­ters.

Gal­le­ry 1 – The tour to Sør Jan – 17th-19th June 2016

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

The deep, soft mos­ses, which are gro­wing on lar­ge are­as here, the unpre­cise map, the vol­ca­nic ter­rain which is often lacking geo­mor­pho­lo­gi­cal logic, all this con­tri­bu­tes to the deman­ding expe­di­ti­on cha­rak­ter that any lon­ger hiking on Jan May­en will quick­ly have. Ano­t­her fac­tor con­tri­bu­ting to this is the almost con­stant, latent lack of water: soon after the snow melt, the few litt­le streams are fal­ling dry. The­re are only a few litt­le lakes. So you have to rely lar­ge­ly on snow fiel­ds, which means: no water without a sto­ve to melt snow. During the day, the­re is usual­ly no more drink than what you car­ry with you. On this trip, as on pre­vious, simi­lar ones, I quick­ly greet thirst as hunger’s big, evil bro­ther. While stumb­ling over dry lava fiel­ds for kilo­me­tres, I was thin­king of novels that I could wri­te about thirst. Thirst soon domi­na­tes not only my mouth, but also my brain. The idea of a lively spring is para­di­se, a beer worth its own weight in gold.

All this cer­tain­ly far from any real dan­ger, but the­re is this omni­pre­sent, at times rather uncom­for­ta­ble lack of liquid. At any time I have the next snow field in view, my plan­ning is accord­ing to kilo­me­tres in the ter­rain and litres of water in my ruck­sack.

Yet ano­t­her fac­tor making life more dif­fi­cult than necessa­ry are the legal regu­la­ti­ons in for­ce sin­ce 2010. Making life dif­fi­cult for tho­se few still pas­sio­na­ted (and stubborn) enough to tra­vel here is the pur­po­se of the­se rules, I guess. Cam­ping in the field is for­bid­den as is any lan­ding (or pick­up) out­side of Kval­ross­buk­ta or the sta­ti­on area. Des­pi­te sea con­di­ti­ons being as calm as they might ever get, a quick lift or pick­up by boat, tech­ni­cal­ly very easy, logisti­cal­ly con­ve­ni­ent and very safe, is not an opti­on. Ins­tead, the­re are all the­se kilo­me­tres on the long and boring road to the north or south from Kval­ross­buk­ta, to the pla­ces we are lon­ging for. Well, a lot has been said about the sen­se (or, rather, non­sen­se) of this legis­la­ti­on. Enough for now.

So the­se are the frame con­di­ti­ons which you have to be pre­pa­red for when hiking on Jan May­en. Qui­te exact­ly as the trip to the top of Bee­ren­berg, my tour amounts to a good 60 km over land and qui­te a lot of alti­tu­de, alt­hough the ver­ti­cal metres are not con­cen­tra­ted on one pro­mi­nent peak, but hap­pen on many smal­ler hills and slo­pes. The­re are dozens of them.

The short cros­sing of the island from upper Troll­da­len takes me to Sju­hol­lendar­buk­ta. This was the site of the famous win­te­ring of the seven Dut­ch wha­lers in 1633-34, not Kval­ross­buk­ta, at least accord­ing to the Aus­tri­an expe­di­ti­on from 1882-83 (First Inter­na­tio­nal Polar Year). The name of the bay, which trans­la­tes as Seven Dut­ch­men Bay, is ano­t­her refe­rence to the win­te­rers who made it through the dark time just to die from scur­vy weeks befo­re the reli­ef ships came.

We will pro­bab­ly never now for sure whe­re exact­ly this tra­gic adven­ture took place. Today, Sju­hol­lendar­buk­ta is a lovely, beau­ti­ful bay with a wide beach of black vol­ca­nic sand, framed in by the odd-shaped rocks of wide-stret­ching, moss cove­r­ed lava fiel­ds.

Some­thing simi­lar can be said about Titeltbuk­ta, which was ano­t­her important place for the Dut­ch wha­lers. Again, not­hing is left of their „10 houses“ (ten tents = ti telt). All that reminds of lon­ger-las­ting human pre­sence is a small, but charm­ful trap­pers’ hut which has withs­tood the wind now for more than a cen­tu­ry.

Oys­ter­plant, rare in Spits­ber­gen, is colou­ring the black sand in many pla­ces, and the rich colours of the mos­ses and lichens in the lava fiel­ds are ama­zing.

And yes, the lava fiel­ds. If Jan May­en does not have her own legends and myths about elves and trolls, then it is just becau­se the island has not been inha­bi­ted for more than a 1000 years such as neigh­bou­ring Ice­land. Of cour­se, the­re are gob­lins and dwar­ves living here, and count­less other crea­tures that pre­fer the darkness abo­ve the sun! Just as the well-known giants with the strong sun all­er­gy, which react to direct sun­light by immedia­te­ly and com­ple­te­ly tur­ning to stone. One of the­se trolls just wan­ted to show me the way, as it hit him.

Unbe­liev­a­ble what else was around here: turt­les, war­ri­ors, cast­les and towers, giant worms and knights … ever­ything you could think of and more than that. Today, the­re are all silent sta­tu­es of sharp-edged lava rock, secret­ly watching the lonely wan­de­rer who might occa­sio­nal­ly cross their realm.

Gal­le­ry 2 – The tour to Sør Jan – 17th-19th June 2016

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

But even so, I am not on my own. Myriads of Litt­le auks are bree­ding in the lava fiel­ds. Num­bers and den­si­ties over lar­ge are­as that can cer­tain­ly com­pe­te with the bet­ter-known, big colo­nies in Spits­ber­gen. Con­stant screa­ming and cra­zy laugh­ter, ever­las­ting hec­tic acti­vi­ty in the air while big swarms are hea­ding to and fro. In more flat ter­rain, skuas and arc­tic skuas defend their ter­ri­to­ries with aggres­si­ve pas­si­on against any intru­der. In Gui­nea­buk­ta, Com­mon eiders are cal­ling from a coas­tal lagoon. They have their nests hid­den in the lava fiel­ds.

At Jan Mayen’s sou­thwes­tern end, the­re is some low­land cal­led Kra­ter­flya. The name is descrip­ti­ve: several nice cra­ters and cin­der cones are spread over the low­land, inclu­ding Rich­ter­kra­ter, which is bet­ter known than many of his rela­ti­ves, for rea­sons that are not obvious. Not that he would look any dif­fe­rent than many other smal­ler kra­ters on Jan May­en. Neit­her can it have to do with the ice wed­ges that deco­ra­te the steep, moss-cove­r­ed slo­pes with geo­metri­cal pat­terns. Even though they are less com­mon than, say, in Spits­ber­gen, this is not the only place on Jan May­en whe­re you can find them. May­be it is just becau­se it is so nice­ly loca­ted clo­se to the shore, making tho­se who pass by on a ship think: what a nice cra­ter, I just have to visit you one day! Well, at least I have thought this more than once, and now the door has ope­ned a bit, time and wea­ther are on my side.

So now I am here.

Someo­ne has cal­led the low­land bet­ween Gui­nea­buk­ta and Rich­ter­kra­ter Hel­hei­men, home of hell. It is not qui­te that bad, but not without rea­son, as yet ano­t­her espe­cial­ly mean lava field is loca­ted here, giving hiking shoes and wal­king mus­cles a hard time. Be care­ful! No fal­se step is allo­wed, a bro­ken leg would be so much worse here than most other pla­ces in the world.

Then I am stan­ding on the rim of Rich­ter­kra­ter, enjoy­ing the views over bizar­re lava flows and several cra­ters in the sur­roun­dings and the fact that I have now come to ano­t­her place that had been on my wish­list for a long time. My feet remind me that this plea­su­re comes at a pri­ce, but befo­re I start retur­ning to the north, I walk up to the steep cliffs at the sou­thern point of Jan May­en. Ver­ti­cal, rug­ged cliffs, whe­re count­less Glau­cous gulls and Ful­mars are screa­ming, while kee­ping a watch­ful eye on me. Sharp rocks stick like kni­ves out of the cliffs and the coast, for­mer vol­ca­nic intru­si­ons. Fog is rol­ling in from the east, as if to tell me: this is whe­re you wan­ted to come, this is whe­re I allo­wed you to come, but no fur­ther. This is it.

I agree and turn back. The way to Kval­ross­buk­ta is still more than long enough.

Gal­le­ry 3 – The tour to Sør Jan – 17th-19th June 2016

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

By the way, my new book is in print and it can now be orde­red 🙂 it is a pho­to book with the tit­le “Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (1): Spitz­ber­gen – vom Polar­licht bis zur Mit­ter­nachts­son­ne”, with Ger­man text Click here for fur­ther details!

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last modification: 2016-08-12 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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