I spend a day watching the camp to make sure no tent is flying away as the weather has changed a bit. This is not quite unnecessary, as it turns out. There is a chance for a little walk in Kvalrossbukta while wind and rain are taking a break. Meanwhile, the others make a visit to the station, where they get a very friendly welcome.
On the next day, the Beerenberg-climbers start their long trip. Matthias, Wolfgang and Magnus will manage to climb up and back down again within 18 hours. Congratulations! Well done! Including the three of them, a good 60 people have come over the years with SY Aurora to Jan Mayen and climbed Beerenberg. Since 2010 (new laws with a ban on landing and camping near Beerenberg), three groups have managed to reach the top, the first of them in 2015. Additionally, there are more or less annual ascents by members of the Norwegian station.
Meanwhile, skipper Vidar, who took care of the boat during the windy weather yesterday, and I have a chance to say hello on the station and to make some short, but fine walks, before I venture on a second, longer trip. This time, I want to explore the area around Eldste Metten, near Beerenberg, but on the south side of Jan Mayen (the shape and orientation of the island can make these terms a bit confusing).
While the north side of Mid Jan and the area around the northern lagoon, just a few kilometres away from this area here, around Eggøya and Eldste Metten, are hills and plains green of mosses and lichens, here it is very barren. A lava desert, sand and rocks, like the high interiour of Iceland. Almost nothing is growing here. The soil has fascinating, roughly circular, structures and bizarre sinkholes. The latter are slightly spooky, just deep holes that can open anywhere here, probably above collapsing lava caves.
I want to have a look at the rugged coastline, where this bizarre landscape meets the sea. The heavy surf has created a wild coastline with many little bays and capes, caves and rocks. Guillemots and puffins are breeding in many places on small cliffs, and some glaucous gulls have their homes on small elevations.
Only some scattered remains are left of „Eldste Metten“, the first weather station on Jan Mayen. The Norwegians had indeed chosen a hostile place! At least, they could get radio contact with Norway from there, and that was important. I take some time to look around. Wind and sand have carved fascinating surfaces and structures in glass and wood over almost a century.
South of Eldste Metten, there is Jamesonbukta, a wide, black sand beach, where the surf is always going high. On the way there, I happen to find a little memorial on a rock for the whaling captains William Scoresby, senior and junior. They did not only hunt whales, but they made a lot of scientific observations and discovery during their journey in the first half of the 19th century. When he was on Jan Mayen, Scoresby junior found out that Eggøya was an island, hence the name („egg island“). Today, Eggøya is firmly connected to the rest of Jan Mayen.
There are still ruins of one or two lookout posts from the war on Eggøya, and soon, there is also a lot of wind. I eat quite a bit of dust while I make my way across the sandy plain from Eggøya to Beerenberg, getting away from that exposed and inhospitable area before the wind is getting even stronger.
My next destination is Schmelckdalen on the foot of Beerenberg. Schmelckdalen is actually not a valley, but a lava flow that solidified when it reached the lowest slopes. It comes out of a valley higher up, but that is hard to see now in the clouds. There are some lava caves supposed to be in that area, and I am quite curious about them. Lava caves are remains of lava flows where the outer layer cooled down and became solid, while the inner part kept moving. If it all flew out, then a cave was the result. They can come in all shapes and sizes.
There are several of them in Schmelckdalen. Some are very small, you have to bend down and watch out for rocks both around your head and your feet. Others are large enough to stand in them or even bigger. There are fascinating structures left by the flowing movement of the liquid lava everywhere!
It is not easy to photograph this alien world properly. Wind and fog do not make i easie either. On top of it all comes the bizarre feeling to be inside Beerenberg! But this is not a place where I would want to spend more time then necessary. Earthquakes are rare, but they may occur. The last stronger on was this spring. An earthquake would not be a great thing while you are in a lava cave, or in any other cave, for that sake. It is a fascinating place, but I do not intend to become a caveman.
The fog is coming down to sea level now in the middle part of the island (Mid Jan), and this does not make the long way back to Kvalrossbukta more interesting. The long and boring road. It may be about 12-13 km from Schmelckdalen to Kvalrossbukta. My feet love it! It will take them a couple of years to get rid of some smaller souvenirs from all these hikes. But the impressions and memories will last much, much longer, and they are worth every single step!
Gallery – Jan Mayen – Eldste Metten – Schmelckdalen – 19th June 2017
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