In the middle of nowhere, between mainland Norway and the east coast of Greenland, is a little island called Jan Mayen. The location is unusual, the geology and human history are special, the weather conditions are generally rough, and the lack of sheltered landing sites makes Zodiac landings impossible much of the time. The probability of a full, calm day of sunshine on Jan Mayen is low. But this morning, we won the lottery! Just before breakfast, the sun appeared over the horizon. Jan Mayen, a volcanic island on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, has a characteristic triangular mountain – Beerenberg – which is almost constantly hidden behind clouds. Today was one of those rare occasions when the whole of Beerenberg was visible in its majestic grandeur, decorated only with a tiny, scarf-like cloud around the lower part. Many guests seized the moment out on deck as National Geographic Endurance made her gentle approach over calm water. Expedition leader Russ announced over the PA system, “We will make a landing!
In the most beautiful weather, we stepped ashore on a black beach and were met by a Norwegian Base Commander, who gave us a briefing about Jan Mayen and its Norwegian base. She told us about the importance of the island as a weather station in the North Atlantic and what it is like to live on a military base in such a remote place. We were guided to a great viewpoint and then went for a pleasant walk along a couple of roads.
After lunch, we had a safety briefing about polar bear safety to prepare for landings and hiking in northeast Greenland.
In the afternoon, naturalist Carl Erik Kilander gave a lecture on the pioneering polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen and the first successful crossing of the Greenland icecap. Just as tea time started, a fin whale was spotted in the distance, and the ship was carefully maneuvered for a closer look at the whale.
After tea time, guest speaker Peter Hillary shared with us a fascinating story, “7 Summits & 3 Poles.” He talked vividly about his father, Sir Edmund Hillary, who, together with Tenzing Norgay, was the first to set foot on the summit of Mount Everest. We got to see exciting videos from that feat and also from several of Peter’s own expeditions.
In the late evening, when many of the guests were already in bed, a message about northern lights was announced over the PA system. What could be a better finale for such a memorable day of exploration!