Jan Mayen Sailing
An exclusive journey to the world ́s most northerly volcanic island The isolation of the remote arctic Norwegian island of Jan Mayen ((70°59′N 8°32′W)—lying 600km north of Iceland, 500km east of Greenland and 1,000km west of the Norwegian mainland—calls like a siren from the heart of the far North Atlantic to all lovers and adventurers of the arctic. Inhabited by only 18 people (the crew manning the Olonkin meteorological station) and dominated by the active volcano, Beerenberg (2,277m – last eruption in 1985), Jan Mayen’s inaccessibility and untamed wildness are two of its greatest features. Join the Aurora on a memorable sailing expedition to this breathtaking place and prepare to be captivated by this desolately beautiful and enigmatic island, which only a handful of people have ever set their gaze upon.
An expedition to Jan Mayen is almost guaranteed to be challenging. First of all, even though the dates we choose normally give us the best odds for good weather, the North Atlantic can be stormy any time of the year and we do not know when we can start our trip from Iceland or how long or how difficult the sail will be. Secondly the landing on the island can be a problem as there are no protected harbours and there is often heavy surf on the beaches. Thirdly the weather on Jan Mayen is highly unpredictable, often with high winds and rain or fog.
But for those looking for an exciting and adventurous expedition to an exclusive destination visited by only a handful of tourists annually, Jan Mayen is certainly it! While the island’s setting can come across as daunting, this is an expedition suitable for anyone in search of a true adventure off the beaten path.
Each year we undertake exclusive expeditions to this spectacular place and can only accommodate a few seats annually. This is true exploration—the final itinerary only gets decided upon after setting sail from the Ísafjörður harbour. We take into account weather and other conditions and always look for the best possible option. What is assured is that each trip will be a little bit different. The following description gives an idea of how a day-to-day plan might materialize.
We will sail from Ísafjörður on the North West coast of Iceland on the sturdy expedition sailboat, Aurora, cross the Arctic sea and make landfall in Kvalrossbukta (Walrus bay) on Jan Mayen’s northwest coast. When we arrive in Jan Mayen, the group will move to a base camp on the island and prepare to spend approximately a week exploring the island´s fantastic landscape. The reason for us not to stay onboard Aurora is that the landing conditions can quickly change for the worse and we may not be able to move between the boat and land as we like. All participants will be expected to join in the base-camp chores – cooking, cleaning etc.
For hardy mountaineers, it may be possible to climb Mt Beerenberg (2277m), the world’s most northerly active volcano. This volcano last erupted in 1985. The climb can be a serious arctic mountaineering feat, depending on weather and conditions on the peak. While under good conditions, it is technically easy, it is a long and strenuous glacier climb and it will always be necessary to rope up on the crevassed glacier. Experience of glacier travel and especially long strenuous ascents is necessary as well as good personal clothing and mountaineering gear.
The trip will conclude with a return sail to Ísafjörður where our guests can catch their flight back to Reykjavík.
JAN MAYEN NATURE RESERVE
The Jan Mayen nature reserve was established by royal decree on the 19th November 2010.
The objective of the reserve is to conserve a near-pristine arctic island and its adjacent sea areas including the ocean floor, with a distinctive landscape, active volcanic system, special flora and fauna and cultural remains, including securing;
- the island’s grand and unique landscape
- the island’s distinctive volcanic rock types and landforms
- the island as a very important habitat for seabirds
- the close relationship between life in the sea and on land
- the distinctive ecology of isolated islands
- the historical perspective that remains from all major eras in Jan Mayen’s history represent
- the island and adjacent marine areas as a reference area for research
No landing from boats or camping on land is allowed in the reserve. Only two small areas are excluded: in Kvalross bukta and around Olonkin station.
In order for us to operate in Jan Mayen we need to follow a few rules and guidelines such as:
- we do not go off on hikes without leaving a plan with the group leader
- we do not visit the Olonkin station or the area around it without being invited beforehand
- we stay away from all antennas, huts and other installations belonging to the station
- we do not touch, lift up or in any other way disturb any historic artifacts on the island
The short summer in the North Atlantic can exhibit all kinds of weather. Jan Mayen has a hyper oceanic polar climate, similar to Greenland and Svalbard. The Gulf Stream's powerful influence makes seasonal temperature variations extremely small considering the latitude of the island, with ranges from around 6 °C (43 F) in August to −6 °C (21 F) in February, but also makes the island extremely cloudy with little sunshine even during the continuous polar day—in fact the island is one of the gloomiest places in the world with any sunshine data (!) and it has a bad reputation for being foggy. Expect wind, fog or rain but hope for the occasional beautiful sunny day!
TRAVELLING TO ÍSAFJÖRÐUR
Please arrive in Ísafjörður ahead of our planned sailing time of 19.00 (7pm) to meet the crew, stow your gear aboard our sailboat, and pick up any last minute supplies. Arrival transfers are included from Ísafjörður Airport to the harbour. Let us know your arrival time in Ísafjörður in advance so we can arrange a pickup.
Ísafjörður Harbour (Iceland).
EXPEDITION SAILBOAT AURORA
The sailboat is a 60 foot sloop built by Colvic Craft in the UK in 1996. She was designed by David Pedrick for the Clipper Round the World Race and has been raced around the world four times. AURORA’s previous owner, Clipper Ventures was founded by the legendary sailor, Sir Robin Knox- Johnston, who in 1969 became the first person to singlehandedly sail around the world non-stop. Sir Robin was in Ísafjörður on the sailboat (then named Antiope Clipper) in the summer of 2005, together with Sir Chris Bonington and other friends, en route to Greenland. Over some chicken curry and beer on-board, we decided to fulfil an old dream and buy the boat!
Accommodation is seamanlike—simple and utilitarian—but the vessel is very sturdy and spacious. There are ten single berths, one of which can be turned into a double. Sleeping bags are required for this expedition.
The sailboat has good heaters, hot and cold water, good galley and spacious communal areas, two heads (toilets) and one shower. There is 220V electricity to charge batteries and other electronic devices. The vessel was initially fitted out for 15 crew, but can now accommodate 12 people—2 crew and 10 guests. The boat is equipped according to strict Icelandic regulations in regards to emergency equipment.
- 13 days (12 nights) on a sailboat and in base camp on land
- Use of tents, stoves and other cooking gear
- Ropes and common belaying gear for glacier travel (no personal gear – see list below).
- Services of guides and crew
- Guided walks and land excursions
- Use of wet weather sailing clothing
- Sailing instruction
- All meals for the duration of the trip. Dinner is not served the first night. Alcohol, wine or beer is NOT included.
WILDLIFE IN JAN MAYEN
Jan Mayen has rich birdlife with major populations of Northern Fulmar, Little Auks, Thick-billed Guillemots and Black Guillemots. There used to be a population of Arctic Foxes on the island but they were hunted to extinction. Now there are no land mammals on Jan Mayen. Polar Bears sometimes arrive on the island in the winter but are very unlikely to be met there in the summer. The last sighting of a polar bear on Jan Mayen is many years ago, so we can roam around quite freely and to some degree individually (while respecting common sense of mountain safety), without the need to be in continuous company of an armed guide as it is necessary for example in Spitsbergen. Should, against any expectation, the island be touched by drift ice, then we will have to stay in guided groups all the time on land.
ACCOMMODATION AND TRANSFER
BOREA ADVENTURES can help with arranging accommodation and transfers in Iceland, please enquire.
There is good mobile phone coverage and internet service in Iceland but none in Jan Mayen. There is a satellite phone on board Aurora that can be used for urgent calls or emails.
We are going to be at sea for around 5-6 days in total and seasickness can be problematic for some. It´s a good idea to bring medication if you know you are prone to seasickness or you think it will be helpful.
BOOKING CONDITIONS AND INSURANCES
BOREA ADVENTURES ́s trips/voyages are of an adventurous nature given the relatively remote places throughout Iceland, Greenland and beyond that we travel. BOREA ADVENTURES makes its best effort to stick to the planned itinerary, but participants should appreciate and acknowledge that the trip/voyage requires considerable flexibility. Further, given the unpredictability of travel in such locations, the captain or BOREA ADVENTURES cannot be held responsible for incidents, accidents or physical injuries. The company and captain of the vessel reserve the right to adjust the itinerary without notice for reasons beyond their control, such as weather, ice-conditions or other unpredictable or unforeseeable circumstances. Upon departure, the captain will have the final say on all decisions affecting safety, etc., and this must be accepted by all participants.
Sailing and other outdoor activities in the trips can be dangerous and require an average level of fitness and good health. It is the responsibility of all participants to ensure that they obtain proper and detailed medical advice.
In case of a medical problem arising during the voyage, either on-board or onshore, which results in medical expenses—including but not limited to costs for evacuation with use of aircraft or boat and repatriation—the responsibility for payment of these costs belongs solely to the respective participant.
We require that the participants ensure that such eventualities are covered by travel insurance. If for any reason an incident is not covered by travel insurance, the responsibility still remains with the participant. Be aware that a normal travel policy may not cover you for some geographical areas that we travel and there may be exclusions for what they describe as "hazardous sports," which may include sailing, climbing, skiing and diving (especially in remote areas). Before arrival, participants must provide the name, address and telephone numbers for emergency contacts who can be reached should it prove necessary.
Any personal belongings taken on-board the sailboat by participants are taken entirely at the participant’s risk. As such, BOREA ADVENTURES shall not be liable for any loss or damage occurring to them.
No visa is required for trips to Iceland of up to 3 months for most nationalities. Please check with your consulate in advance of your proposed travel date for requirements for Norway and Iceland.
We will need a copy of everyone’s passport to send to the Norwegian authorities before departure.
All travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully in the group travel experience. If, in the opinion of our captain or guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, BOREA ADVENTURES reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund. We therefore ask that you read the itinerary in these trip notes thoroughly and then realistically self-assess your physical ability to complete the trip as described. Please consult with your doctor if you have any doubts.
While no specific physical preparation is required for this voyage, to get the most out of the land and sea activities, a better than average fitness level is recommended. We recommend that you undertake regular aerobic exercise in the weeks before you travel, particularly if you are not in the habit of regular exercise. Walking, jogging, rowing/paddling, or swimming are all good ways to increase your aerobic fitness, which will allow you to enjoy all the activities to the fullest degree.
Be prepared for some physical activity. This may be long treks in wild terrain. Still, you don ́t have to be a serious sailor or mountaineer to enjoy the trip. As with all trips off the beaten track, you ́ll enjoy the trip more if you ́re in reasonably good shape. A climb of Beerenberg requires an above average level of fitness and experience.
ISSUES ON YOUR TRIP
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible expedition experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit, sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our captain straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
YOUR FELLOW TRAVELLERS
As you travel in a group trip you will be exposed to both the pleasures and as well as the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and are likely to cover a range of age groups. We ask that you be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group—patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember that you have certain responsibilities to the group. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well—this only takes a little effort on your part.
Please note that due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.
GROUP LEADER - GUIDE
From departure from Ísafjörður until our sailboat docks again in Ísafjörður, you are accompanied by knowledgeable yachtsmen and outdoor adventure specialists. Experienced in sailing, skiing, mountaineering and kayaking, rest assured that you are in very capable hands.
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimize the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects.
We take great pride in the food we serve on board Aurora and use local produce and ingredients as much as we can. Fish or lamb for dinners and berries and rhubarb pies for desserts are common. We can cater for vegetarians and guests with dietary restrictions. Please let us know in advance. It ́s a good idea to take some of your own dietary substitutes if you have a specialist diet.
Our expedition sailboat Aurora departs from Ísafjörður at 7pm, weather permitting. The sailing time to Jan Mayen is normally 2 1⁄2 -3 days – can be a bit longer in strong contrary winds! If the weather is not in our favour, we may delay our departure and shelter in the beautiful fjords of the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve where we can do some hiking and/or kayaking.
At sea, enroute to Jan Mayen. We will keep a sharp lookout for various species of whales such as Humpbacks, Fin Whales and Bottlenose Whale. White Beaked Dolphins are also likely to join us and play around the bow of the boat.
Even though Jan Mayen is often covered in clouds, it is possible that we may spot the 2277m tall peak of Beerenberg from a good distance, sticking up above the low clouds. We will arrive along the south island (“Sør-Jan”) and pass the “Seven skerries” rocks, made famous when the legendary British sailor and mountaineer Bill Tillman ran his ex Bristol pilot cutter Mischief on them in 1968. While we cruise along the coast we will get a good view of the landscape, the volcanic geology and some of our proposed destinations.
Our aim is to anchor in Kvalrossbukta and, depending on sea conditions; we may either spend one more night on the boat or start moving our gear to shore to establish base camp. We will provide a common kitchen/mess-tent and smaller tents to sleep in.
This bay was used by whalers in the 17th century and we will respect the fact that all historic artefacts are protected by law and should not be disturbed. We are allowed to use limited amounts of driftwood for campfires, and this we will certainly do.
AURORA has done one to three trips to Jan Mayen almost every year since 2008, and on almost every trip, we have climbed the beautiful volcano Beerenberg. Since 2010, when the Norwegian authorities declared most of the island a nature reserve, landing on, or camping in the reserve is prohibited, which makes ascents of the mountain very challenging. A long hike from Kvalross Bay to where the climb can begin, followed by a full day climb of the mountain, is possible. However, as no camping is allowed on the mountain, this has to be done without any intermediate camps. A total round trip of perhaps 50-60 km overland distance and 2400 metres in altitude with only short bivouac breaks...
Thus, on this trip we will focus on hikes and exploration of this wonderful remote volcanic island—a possible climb of Beerenberg can be an added bonus for experienced mountaineers.
Today we explore Kvalrossbukta and its surroundings. The Jan Mayen station uses Kvalrossbukta to land supplies and, thus has a few small buildings along the bay. Less visible, but relatively easy to find, are remains from the whale hunting period of the 1600s. Between large quantities of driftwood we can spot old whale bones, and on the north side of the bay, the rest of the station stands out of the sand. Beneath the mountain and in the south, a single cross marks the burial place from the first over-wintering on the island in the 1600s, when the seven Dutch whalers that were guarding the facilities against the English died before their relief party arrived in the spring. A small run-down hut was used as an observation post during WWII.
“Kvalrossen” (the Walrus) is a steep cliff that separates Kvalrossbukta from Haugenstranda (Haugen beach). It only takes about half an hour to climb it, after which you are awarded with a good view to the north and the south. This cliff is home to Northern Fulmar, Guillemots and Auks. If you run into the Arctic Tern or Great Skua, watch your head (!), face them, and throw up your arms when they dive towards you.
We ́ll also walk down to the great Haugenstranda and towards the strange looking pinnacles of “Brielle-Tower” and “Katten” (the Cat).
Over the Karl-Stephan peak to the Olonkin station. This is a central mountain on the island which offer great views.
We´ll walk up the hill behind the Walrus and onto a gradually ascending plateau on the middle of the island. On the way we will pass the strange crater of “Holtanna” (“Tooth with a hole in it"). While views pervade the entire walk, the scenery really opens up as we climb the last bit to the top (551m). The summit gives a good overview of the whole island and areas that we may want to visit in the coming days. While the view is at times obstructed by low clouds or fog, often we can climb above the fog and into sun higher up!
Hike over “Pukkelryggen” (The humpback) and “Danielsen-crater” to “Gamlemetten” (Old met station) and back.
Jan Mayen is only three kilometre wide in the middle, where it is mostly sand. A small mountain ridge stands between the sandy beaches. We will follow the road to “Blåsåsen” (Blow hill / windy hill) and then follow the mountain ridge. There will be fantastic views along the whole route. The highest point is Danielsens crater (279m).
On the way down we will walk past remains of a German WWII FockeWulff airplane that crashed here during the war. Further along we will visit the idyllic bay of Marie Musch where the Austrians established their research station during the first International Polar Year of 1882-83, some remains including a grave are still there. From here we continue over “Bommen” in front of the Northern Lagoon to “Atlantic City,” where an American radio station was hosted during WWII. We ́ll arrive at “Gamlemetten” —the old meteorology station—where a few, well-maintained buildings exist. The location is incredible, on top of a cliff facing the Arctic Ocean. Yet, this is also a tough place for weather, and it is here where the most persistent and strongest winds on the island have been recorded (and that includes all of Norway).
On our way back we will follow the road / driving track. We ́ll visit the remains of a station where a small Norwegian military unit kept watch during WW2, before we cross over to “Sørlaguna,” or south lagoon. Afterwards, it ́s an easy walk back to our base even if the sand can sometimes be hard to walk in.
Day 8. Hike out of Kvalrossbukta to where we will use a fixed rope for added safety down a steep section of small rocks and gravel towards another small beach. We continue on the beach south to the small hunter’s cabin of Olsbu. This is one of many huts that were used by hunters in the 1900s. We ́ll continue through “Sjuhollenderbukta” or the bay of the seven Dutchmen, where the station has one cabin. Further south, we will walk on solid sand until the terrain gets more challenging towards the symmetrical Richter crater. The crater is only 108 meter high but gives a nice view over the surroundings. “Helheimen” (Hell / Hellhome) is a labyrinth of moss-covered lava formations, so even though it looks flat from the distance, it is slow going. We ́ll keep an eye out for exciting lava caves. Here, we will also reach Norway’s most westerly point, after which we will return to our base camp.
Options for hikes of the group’s choosing, including a walk to Sjuhollenderbukta or over to the Olonkin station.
Departure day. We will have been monitoring the weather conditions for the crossing back to Iceland and will try to aim for a good weather window for a nice crossing. This means we might leave earlier than depicted here. We´ll pack our gear and move aboard Aurora again.
If weather, time and other conditions permit, we will sail around Jan Mayen before heading to Iceland. This will give us a chance to see the island from the ocean. We will sail under the fantastic Weyprecht glacier and see where it falls almost 2300 meters from the crater of Beerenberg down to where it calves into the sea. We will also have a chance to see the area where the most recent eruptions took place at the northernmost tip in 1972 (smaller eruption higher up on the slope in 1985).
At sea and again we will keep a sharp lookout for whales and dolphins.
Day 13 Arrival in Ísafjörður.
SUGGESTED EQUIPMENT LIST
- Thermal underwear, at least two sets – no cotton
- Wool or fleece thermal mid layer, thick sweater
- Hiking pants – no cotton
- Thermal jacket (down or synthetic) optional but good for nights around basecamp
- Waterproof and breathable pants and jacket for hiking onshore
- Wool/fleece hat
- Two pairs of gloves and one pair of mittens
- 3 to 4 pairs thick wool/synthetic socks and 2 to 3 pairs thinner socks
- Boat shoes or slippers with rubber soles for below decks onboard
- Hiking boots (Vibram sole). Suggest high ankle to offer additional support
- Sleeping bag (comfortable to 0°C).
- Sleeping mattress to use in tents in Jan Mayen
- Soft travel bag (no hard suitcases)
- Dark sun glasses
- Sunscreen/aftersun, and sun hat
- Swim suits and towels
- Ear plugs
- Small backpack for day hikes. 30L is a good size.
- Personal medical kit to include personal medication, band aids, throat lozenges, lip salves, sea-sickness tablets etc. Don't forget regular medication you may need (e.g. Asthma, bring your inhaler, even if you do not always need it).
- 1 litre water bottle
- ...and don't forget your camera!
In case you want to attempt to climb Beerenberg you will need to bring your own personal glacier gear such as harness with carabiners, prussik ropes, ice axe, crampons, bivouac sack etc. Also proper backpack, boots and clothing for high arctic mountaineering.