Cruising Jan Mayen Island

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As you sail by this remote island in the middle of the Norwegian Sea, catching a glimpse of its towering, ice-covered volcano through the fog, you might wonder how anyone could live on the desolate spit of land. In fact, the 373-square-kilometer (144-square-mile) island—some 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) west of Norway and 500 kilometers (300 miles) east of Greenland—is, for the most part, uninhabited. Other than a weather and navigation station that houses a few personnel, the only living things frequenting this barren landscape are the numerous seabirds on the cliffs.Discovered in the early 1600s by the English explorer Henry Hudson, the island was named after Jan May, a Dutch sea captain who established multiple whaling bases along its coast beginning in 1615. The whales were hunted to near extinction by 1642, and the island was abandoned. In 1921, Norway opened a meteorological station; nine years later, Jan Mayen became part of the Kingdom of Norway. The island's most distinguishing feature is the 2,277-meter (7,470-foot) Beerenberg, which dominates the northern half of the island and is the northernmost active volcano on the planet, last erupting in 1985.