You’re lost at sea. You’ve seen nothing but the endless gray ocean and cresting white waves for days. The sky and the wind are all that have changed. Above you, it’s bright blue one minute, obscured by thick clouds the next, and pitch-black at night. While the wind alternates between cold, bitter cold, and way too cold to stand outside. But at least they vary. The horizon hasn’t changed since you left the west coast of Norway.
Eventually, you’ll reach Svalbard, the northernmost place in the world with a permanent population. You’re traveling to the remote island to see the midnight sun, polar bears and reindeer, and, you’ve been told, a cozy lodge in the middle of nowhere. But you’re taking a little detour first. You’re adding Jan Mayen to the mix.
Jan Mayen is another remote island. It sits in between Norway and Greenland in the Arctic Ocean. Like Svalbard, it’s an unincorporated part of Norway. The volcanic island was first discovered by whalers in the early 17th century and was occasionally used by seal hunters and trappers in the years that followed. It became part of Norway in 1929, but aside from a radio and weather station—which is manned by up to 35 people during the warmer summer months—it remains desolate. Desolate but breathtaking.
Due to the thick fog, it takes a while for the island to come into view. Suddenly, there’s not only land, but a snow-capped volcano ahead of the ship. Waterfalls run down the sides of the mountains. A lake—either Nordlaguna or Sørlaguna—shimmers in the distance. Black-sand beaches line the shore. Plus a little settlement, Olonkinbyen, lies on the south coast.
Since Jan Mayen is now a protected nature reserve, few visitors are allowed. But your ship received permission to land, though not stay, on the island. After anchoring offshore—the island doesn’t have a harbor or a port—you board a rubber zodiac boat to head to Båtvika (Boat Bay). Thousands of little auks, northern fulmars, and thick-billed murres seem to waiting for you on the shore. While polar bears are surely watching from the sides of Beerenberg, that imposing volcano. Your Arctic adventure is finally beginning.