Saturday, 6 June 2009

An arctic volcano in a remote island:
- The Beerenberg, in Jan Mayen

An active volcano, Beerenberg (2277 m), dominates the volcanic island of Jan Mayen. It is the northernmost active volcano on land in the world.

Jan Mayen is a small (380 Km2) barren island with some moss and grass situated at 71°N , 8°30'W, in the north atlantic ocean, 950km west of Norway, 600 km north of Iceland. It is the most remote place of the northern hemisphere, well north of the Arctic Circle. The upper part of mount Beerenberg is covered by an ice cap, which sends glacial tongues in all directions. The lower landscape is dominated by black lava stone and green moss. The island is a part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

Glacier falling from the crater into the sea.

Jan Mayen became Norwegian in 1922. Only since 1921 has it become inhabitated - a total crew of 18 runs the navigation station, the meteorological station and maintains the infrastructure - buildings, airstrip, power station. The island and the stations are under the rule of Norway.

The main crater - you can see the start of the falling glacier.

Beerenberg has erupted six times between 1732 and 1985. All of these eruptions produced lava flows and scoria cones. The most recent eruptions were in 1970 (the strongest), 1973 and 1985.

The 1970 eruption was the only one witnessed in modern times. It was large, erupting at least 0.5 km³ of basalt from a 6 km long fissure that ran from sea-level to an elevation of 1000 m. There were at least five active craters.

Total evacuation in the event of future eruptions is a real problem, because the island is commonly ice-bound, preventing easy evacuation by ship, and frequent storms and fog obviate evacuation by aircraft at any given time. There are no ports or harbors, only offshore anchorages and a 1.5 km landing strip of gravel for crew transport planes, usually one of the Royal Norwegian Air force's C130 Hercules planes. The planes also bring supply and mail, but there are only 8 flights each year.

Olonkinbyen (Olonkin City ) is the permanent settlement that houses the staff that operates the weather and radio stations. Besides full-equiped offices and labs, it has an unexpected comfort, with several relaxing rooms - library, bar, media room, gym and sauna, large living and dining rooms, decorated corridors, a museum and a swimming pool !

Though unhabitated until the XXth century, and than no candidate to Ultima Thule in classic terms, it's a quest-destination and a place of mistery and isolation; could have been Thule...


Tuesday, 2 June 2009

The arctic Tern - the ultimate Thulean bird

"An animal to represent the planet", an excellent candidate as symbolic animal of the world, the arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea) really travels and lives a lot.

Arctic terns migrate from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back every year, in a 19 000 Km journey each way! This is the longest regular migration by any known animal.

As they enjoy two summers per year, they are believed to spend more time in the sunshine than any other animal. Their feeding and nesting grounds as well as their migratory paths keep them far enough away from people. Arctic Terns usually migrate far offshore. Consequently, they are rarely seen from land outside the breeding season.

It wouldn’t be difficult to create a global myth around such a rarely seen animal.

Arctic terns are long-lived birds, with many reaching twenty years of age; some may reach thirty !

Arctic Terns are medium-sized birds. They are mainly grey and white plumaged, with a dark red beak, legs and feet, white forehead, a black nape and crown (streaked white), and white cheeks.

The arctic stern has a bad temper: it is one of the most aggressive birds, fiercely defensive of its nest and young. It will attack even humans and large predators, usually striking the top or back of the head.

One example of this bird's remarkable long-distance flying abilities involves an arctic tern ringed on the Farne Islands, Northumberland, UK in summer 1982, which reached Melbourne, Australia in October 1982, a sea journey of over 22 000 km in just three months from fledging.

Migration route of the arctic stern

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Thanks Carl Skou

for following "Ultima Thule".

Here you have where I live, in Porto :

And a tipcal view of my town:

One of my favourite spots: