Jan Mayen

One of the most exotic parts of Europe is the almost deserted island Jan Mayen. In the sixth century, the island was discovered by the Irish monk Brandaan in a expedition to see if there were any pagans left at the outer edges of Europe. The black island featured a terrifying smoking mountain. Brandaan understandably believed he had found the gates of hell. 

Jan Mayen is a small isolated island in the Arctic Ocean, lonely situated between Greenland, Iceland and Svalbard. The Dutch conquered stationed some troops on the island in the 17th Century, to support their whale hunt, but deserted Jan Mayen again after 1650 when the whales were gone. In the 20th Century the Norwegians discovered that the island provided ample opportunity for the fox hunt. Equally successful as the Dutch whale hunts, all foxes were gone by the 1920s and few Norwegians desired to stay on the freezing island afterwards. 

Because Jan Mayen could not be occupied by the nazi’s during WOII, the Norwegians who were manned the weather station formed a small independent free state. They actually needed to defend themselves against the nazi’s on several occasions, of which some plane wrecks still testify. 

Jan Mayen has one of the most minimal histories of any European place. The remoteness of the island is striking: to reach the island you need to board on a 20 meter long sailboat, the Aurora, which leaves from the quays of Iceland. The journey takes two days. The only tourist attraction is the ascent of the Beerenberg, the characteristic volcano on the island.          

Since Europe is currently facing a crisis, as a result of nationalism and an unstoppable influx of immigrants, I would like to urge everybody to undertake a trip to Jan Mayen. It appears extremely necessary in a time when national borders are being redefined to discover what had been perceived in the 7th Century as the border between with the underworld. Jan Mayen might offer us refreshing and possibly spiritual new look on contemporary Europe and its outer edges.


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