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HomeArctic blog: Jan Mayen, Spitsbergen → Jan May­en – Elds­te Met­ten – Schmelck­da­len – 19th June 2017

Jan May­en – Elds­te Met­ten – Schmelck­da­len – 19th June 2017

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

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



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last modification: 2017-06-27 · copyright: Rolf Stange