Jan Mayen Volcano | John Seach


(Beerenberg Volcano)
Territory of Norway, North Atlantic

71.08  N,  8.17  W
summit elevation 2277 m

Beerenberg Volcano on Jan Mayen is the most northern (sub-aerial) active volcano in the world. Jan Mayen island is 40 km long and has high cliffs. Beerenberg is the highest mountain in the Artic Circle.

The northern half of the island is dominated by Mt. Beerenberg. The volcano has an eruption frequency of 150 ± 75 years. A major eruption occurred on Jan Mayen in 1970 accompanied by strong earthquakes.

Jan Mayen is located close to the intersection of the southern end of Mohns ridge and the central part of Jan Mayen fracture zone. Jan Mayen is the northernmost volcanic island on the mid- Atlantic ridge and the northernmost sub-aerial active volcano in the world.

Nord Jan, the northern half of the 380 sq km island, is dominated by the large shield volcano, Beerenberg, which is about 25 km in diameter at sea level and is capped by a nearly symmetrical summit lava cone reaching an elevation of 2277 m above sea level.

1985 Eruption
A two day eruption began at Jan Mayen Island on 6th January 1985. The eruption occurred on the NE flank of Beerenberg at the extreme NE corner of the island, around 35 km from the settlement. The area was inaccessible by land because of steep, crevassed glaciers, and a coastline that is rough and exposed to heavy seas. Smokey clouds and a red glow were seen in the sky and above Beerenberg from the settlement station on the island on 6th January 1985. The eruption occurred on a short fissure at the extreme NE corner of the island. The fissure extended up to the north side of Sarskrateret, a major scoria crater midway between Austkapp and Nordkapp. The fissure was 1 km long and extended from sea level to an elevation of over 200 m. A brown eruption plume reached a height of several kilometres off the coast. Lava flowed northwards down the eastern end of Kraterlia and over the old lava plateau of Kokssletta into the sea. The eruption ended on the afternoon of 7th January 1985.

1970 Eruption
A large eruption occurred at Jan Mayen in 1970 and was accompanied by strong earthquakes. The eruption was described as unexpected and impressive. It was the first eruption at the volcano in 120 years. Staff from the Olonkinbyen weather and navigation station were evacuated to the Norwegian mainland even though the station was 30 km from the eruption site.

Lava erupted from a 6 km long fissure 600 m above sea level on the SW of Beerenberg, and descended nearly to sea level. Activity then moved to five major vents approximately from 1 to 1.5 km apart. Lava fountains erupted from vents several hundred metres high from vents at the highest elevations. Between 600-800 earthquakes were recorded per day on average. It is remarkable that a major volcanic eruption could go undiscovered for three days by nearly 40 men only 30 km away, and they were only realised when notified by plots of nearby aircraft.

The 1973 Heimaey eruption in the Westmann Islands of Iceland, was similar in many ways to the 1970 Jan Mayen eruption.

1851 Eruption
Kossletta is a lava plain at the north end of Jan Mayen which was probably formed in an eruption in 1851.

1818 Eruptions
Explosive eruptions occurred at Dagnyhaugen, SW flank of Beerenberg.

1732 Eruptions
Explosive activity occurred at Dagnyhaugen, SW flank of Beerenberg.

1558 Eruption
A book published in 1558 describes glowing hot stones from the mountain at a location which was probably Jan Mayen.

Further reading
Sylvester, A.G., 1975. History and surveillance of volcanic activity on Jan Mayen island. Bulletin Volcanologique39(2), pp.313-335.

Gjelsvik, T., 1970. Volcano on Jan Mayen alive again. Nature228(5269), pp.352-352.

Fitch, F.J., 1964. The development of the Beerenberg volcano, Jan Mayen. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association75(2), pp.133-IN9.

Jan Mayen Volcano Eruptions

1985, 1973, 1970, 1851, 1818, 1732, 1558, 1350 ± 100