Jan Mayen

Photo of this volcano
  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 71.087°N
  • 8.146°W

  • 2085 m
    6839 ft

  • 376010
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit

  • Volcano

Most Recent Bulletin Report: March 1997 (BGVN 22:03) Citation IconCite this Report

Weak fumaroles on the inner NE crater wall

On 6 April, members of an SVE excursion visited the volcano and reported only weak fumarolic activity. White steam rose a few meters above the inner low part of the NE crater wall.

Beerenberg is a large glacier-covered stratovolcano at the N end of Jan Mayen Island. Numerous cinder cones have erupted along flank fissures, the latest in 1985.

Information Contacts: Henry Gaudru, Michel Caplain, Alain Hirsh, and Yves Chetcuti, Société Volcanologique Européenne, C.P. 1, 1211 Genève 17, Switzerland (Email: 101626.3303@compuserve.com, URL: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/HGaudruSVE/); Michel Halbwachs, Laboratoire d'Instrumentation Geophysique, University of Savoie, BP 1104, 73011 Chambery, France.

The Global Volcanism Program has no Weekly Reports available for Jan Mayen.

Bulletin Reports - Index

Reports are organized chronologically and indexed below by Month/Year (Publication Volume:Number), and include a one-line summary. Click on the index link or scroll down to read the reports.

09/1970 (CSLP 89-70) Lava from four fissures reaches the sea

10/1970 (CSLP 89-70) Lava flows from multiple craters along a fissure

11/1970 (CSLP 89-70) Description of known historical eruptive activity

01/1971 (CSLP 89-70) Satellite images show September 1970 eruption

03/1971 (CSLP 89-70) Smoke observed above the volcano on 16 and 21 March

04/1975 (CSLP 29-75) Large earthquake near Jan Mayen island

12/1984 (SEAN 09:12) Eruption on NE flank, lava flows reach sea

03/1985 (SEAN 10:03) Steam from new subglacial vent in central crater

03/1997 (BGVN 22:03) Weak fumaroles on the inner NE crater wall

Information is preliminary and subject to change. All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

September 1970 (CSLP 89-70)

Lava from four fissures reaches the sea

Card 1022 (30 September 1970) Lava from four fissures reaches the sea

The following incomplete report of the Beerenberg volcanic eruption was received by the CFSLP on 29 September 1970:

"Two Icelandic geologists, Sigurdur Thorarinsson and Gumundur Sigvaldason, went to Jan Mayen on 26 September to look at the eruption there. They will stay about a week at Jan Mayen to investigate the eruption and will try to get both samples from the eruption and take temperature readings. They had flown over the eruption, which is on the northeastern side of Mountain Beerenberg which is 2,277 m. He said he had seen eruptions in at least four long narrow fissures and that the eruption itself is at about the altitude of 600 m. The lava streams down the side of the mountain but is very thin and flows down to the sandy beach and has already formed a crescent on the region. The lava is running out towards the sea and is enlarging the island of Jan Mayen.

"The explosion eruption is an ash eruption, and vapor clouds appeared from the ridges and fissures."

Information Contacts: Sigurdur Thorarinsson, Division of Geosciences, Atvinnudeild at Hringbraut, Reykjavik, Iceland; Hoerthra Helgesson, Icelandic Embassy, Washington DC, USA.

October 1970 (CSLP 89-70)

Lava flows from multiple craters along a fissure

Card 1023 (02 October 1970) Evacuation of 39 people; ash to 5-6 km height

Volcanic eruption of... Beerenberg on Jan Mayen was reported on Sunday 20 September 1970 at 0300. Four large fissures opened up on east side of the mountain, three being 1.5 km long, the fourth 2.5 km long. Lava flows (basalt) from all four fissures reached down into the sea. Smoke and ash were reported up to 5,000-6,000 m high, visible 100 nautical miles away. Sea temperatures usually 1°C; on Sunday temperatures up to 13°C were measured 7 nautical miles from the island. Thirty-nine persons staying at Jan Mayen during the eruption were evacuated by plane on Sunday evening. Two small earthquakes at the vicinity of Jan Mayen were registered at Uppsala on 18 September, and one at Bergen on the 19th. Small earthquakes are common on the island, being also noticed during the nights before (Saturday and Sunday).

The 380 km2 island, consisting of lava and tuff, is 54 km long and up to 16 km wide. Historical eruptions are not known for certain. Location of Beerenberg is 71°05'N latitude, 8°15'W Gr. Geological investigations are at present being carried out. Detailed report from Norsk Polarinstitutt follows.

Card 1033 (23 October 1970) Data from earthquake coincident with eruption onset

Carl Von Hake of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey supplied the following data on an earthquake that appears to coincide with the onset of the Beerenberg volcanic eruption. Date: 18 September 1970; Origin time: 020630.4 GMT; Epicenter: Latitude 71.2°N, Longitude 7.7°W; Depth: Normal; Magnitude: 5.1 Mb, 5.3 MS. Information from 56 stations was used in the computations. The seismological group at Bergen, Norway reports that the earthquake was felt at an intensity of III-IV on Jan Mayen island.

Card 1035-1036 (23 October 1970) Observations from 21 September through 8 October

The following is based on detailed observations from air, sea and land in the period 21 September-8 October by geologists from the Norsk Polarinstitutt. On 9 and 11 October, additional observations from air were made by geologists from the University of Oslo and Geological Survey of Norway.

Probably the first observation of the activity was made from a Norwegian plane leaving the airstrip on Jan Mayen 19 September at 1000. Definite observations were made from German, Italian, and Japanese planes on 20 September, at about 0300.

The present activity is located along a fissure extending SW-NE for approximately 6 km along the northeastern slope of Beerenberg, a post-glacial stratovolcano whose summit reaches 2,277 m (all heights are measured as above sea level). (The four fissures reported in the letter of 29 September are misinterpretations of the lava streams.)

The fissure runs from Frielebreen (glacier) 1,000 m above sea level, to Tollnerodden 40 m high, and contains the following crater fields from SW to NE: Dufferinbre crater 600 m (activity stopped 26 September), Sigurdbre crater 500 m (still active), Skrukkeli crater 50-100 m (still active), and Tollnerodde crater 40 m (activity stopped probably 21 September). all the craters have, and the active still produce, considerable amounts of basic lava which flows eastward.

All craters had until 4 October built up 3 km2 of new land, with a new from extending 3.6 km subparallel to the old shoreline. The new front slopes down to the sea bottom of 50-100 m depth. Also, smaller amounts of tephra are produced during the eruptions and conspicuous belts of brown pumice flow into the sea outside the island. Clouds which from the first observation were reported to extend 10,000 m up in the sky, were as late as 11 October seen at least 500 m above the summit of Beerenberg. Sea temperatures (surface) 500 m outside the lava-front have been measured up to 39°C. Large numbers of seabirds were observed swimming in the hot water; no dead fishes are recorded.

The station at Jan Mayen which was evacuated on 20 September was partly manned again already the next day and fully manned from 23 September. The station is today equipped with a seismic event counter lent from the Science Institute, University of Iceland. This instrument is set at a background of waves from a full storm on Jan Mayen until 12 October, 600-800 per 24 hours. These are supposedly related with small explosion in the upper part of the Sigurdbre crater, as seen and heard during observations from the sea. The area of eruption is inaccessible without a ship. Landings are difficult and often dangerous with the swell breaking at the nearly vertical lava cliffs which have to be climbed to set onshore. Pack ice surrounds Jan Mayen in wintertime. During the summer fog is common, and all through the year gales and storms frequently occur.

Information Contacts: Card 1023 (02 October 1970) Finn Jørstad, Norges Geotekniske Institutt (Norwegian Geotechnical Institute), Forkskningsvn 1, Oslo 3, Norway.
Card 1033 (23 October 1970) Carl Von Hake, Seismology Division, U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, ESSA, Rockville, Maryland, USA.
Card 1035-1036 (23 October 1970) Norsk Polarinstitutt, Middlethuns GT 27 B, P.O. Box 5054, Majorstua, Oslo 3, Norway.

November 1970 (CSLP 89-70)

Description of known historical eruptive activity

Card 1042-1043 (05 November 1970) Description of known historical eruptive activity

Although Card 1023 stated that "historical eruptions [of Beerenberg] are not known for certain," the fact of the present eruptions affords authenticity to at least two if not three previous eruptions within historical times.

1) 1732 - An explosive outburst at the foot of Beerenberg, probably from Dagnyhaugen crater in the northeast-trending Ekerolddalen on the W flank of Esk crater, was observed by a whaling ship from a point 22 English miles S of Beerenberg (Capt. Jacob Jacobsen Laad), and reported by Johann Anderson in Nachtrichten von Island, Grönland un der Strasse Davis, Hamburg, 1746, page 7 footnote). lava fountain activity of one day's duration was followed by formation of a dark cloud that lasted four or more days. When the ship was 67 English miles away from Beerenberg, the deck was covered with ash and the sails became black.

2) 1818 - William Scoresby (in Account of the Arctic Regions, 1820, Vol. 1, page 166) reported an ash eruption observed at sea from the same area as the 1732 eruption. An eruption or smoke column 4,000 feet high was observed from the north side of Eggöya or Esk crater.

3) 6 September 1633 - An unverified volcanogenic acoustic-seismic event was reported by Karl Sapper in Vulkankunde, Stuttgart, 1927, page 306.

The authenticity of at least the 1732 and 1818 eruptions is supported by the following:

1) Possible tectonic similarity of the northeast trending Ekerolddalen, the reported focus of the 1732 and 1818 activity on the SW flank of Beerenberg, to the NE trending eruption fissure of September 1970, on the NE flank of Beerenberg.

2) Nimbus IV satellite data (image dissector camera system and temperature-humidity radiometer daytime images of 20-21 September 1970) show an approximately 200-mile-long plume related to the explosive activity at Beerenberg. The tephra fall at a distance of 67 miles from the volcano, as observed in 1732, would have been within a similar range and is compatible with description of the 1970 tetraphylla (Card 1036).

3) The 5,000-6,000 m height of the smoke and ash column reported on Card 1023 makes the 1818 report of a 4,000 m smoke column completely credible.

4) The 1732, 1818, and even the reported 1633 observations from the sea are indeed consistent with 1970 reports of observations from the sea, including the reference (Card 1036) to seismic-acoustic events seen and heard from Sigurdbre crater.

Information Contacts: Jules D. Friedman, U. S. Geological Survey, Washington, D.C. 20242 USA

January 1971 (CSLP 89-70)

Satellite images show September 1970 eruption

Card 1078-1079 (04 January 1971) Satellite images show September 1970 eruption

ESSA 8 satellite photographs read by APT in Britain and Germany indicate a dense area presumably of volcanic dust and vapors over the Norwegian Sea and Scandinavia. The volcanic material was spreading above the cloud system, and was particularly clearly seen at 1000 GMT on 21 September 1970 when it was about 150 km broad and extended from near 68°N.2°W to 66°N.8°E. Its illumination was denser than all the cloud systems nearer than the polar front cyclonic wave over the southeastern Baltic. Careful inquiries indicate that the eruption on Beerenberg, Jan Mayen had certainly begun by 0900 GMT on the morning of 18 September (when a "towering cumulus cloud penetrating the stratiform layer" was seen by an aircraft), and that the main event may have been at the time of the strongest reported earthquake, i.e., about 0400 GMT 18 September 1970. It seems safe to conclude that at that time there was an explosive eruption that threw ejecta into the stratosphere. The spread of the dust cloud by the 21st suggested that further explosions had put material into the stratosphere between that time and the morning of the 20th. Also, several small earthquakes in the vicinity of Jan Mayen were reported from Sweden, Norway, and USA on 18 and 19 September. Numerous smaller shocks were still being registered by the equipment especially installed on Jan Mayen in early October. Examination of the gradient winds at different levels by Mr. B. N. Parker of the Meteorological Office, Bracknell indicates that if the dust cloud originated between the 18th and the morning of the 20th, it was probably mainly located somewhat above the 10 millibar ( 30 km) level. The drift may have been somewhat to the right of the theoretical winds. Best fit is indicated with the theoretical winds at heights of close to 3 km (nearly the same as the height of the mountain and therefore improbable) and 30 km from starting points early on the 19th.

The beginnings of the dust cloud can be seen on the satellite photographs of 19 and 20 September at 0900 when it extended from about 150-400 km long, at first E and later fanning out ESE from Jan Mayen. The cloud seems to have begun to reach Norway near 65°N in the afternoon of the 21st and is probably identified with an increasingly diffuse and widening veil crossing central Scandinavia generally southeastwards on the 22nd and 23rd. The continuing emission of vapor from Jan Mayen is very clearly seen on the satellite photographs of the 21st as a narrow streamer-like band extending SE from the island in an area of clear sky to a point where it is lost beneath the dense feature described in the opening sentence of this report. Some less dense emission is still visible at Jan Mayen in a clear sky area in the photographs of the 23rd. Between 21 and 25 September a high-reaching meridional ridge was becoming established with anticyclone centers over the British Isles-North Sea and Norwegian Sea; the ridge moved slowly away E over Scandinavia and the Baltic on the 26th-29th. Volcanic dust sunset colors and prolonged twilights were noticed in southern England on some of those days. No reports of depths of tephra deposit from which a dust veil assessment of the magnitude of this eruption might be attempted have so far reached me.

Information Contacts: H.H. Lamb, British Meteorological Office, London Road, Bracknell, Berkshire RG12 2SZ, England, UK.

March 1971 (CSLP 89-70)

Smoke observed above the volcano on 16 and 21 March

Card 1160 (29 March 1971) Smoke observed above the volcano on 16 and 21 March

New activity has been observed on Beerenberg. The staff of the Meteorological Station, 30 km from the volcano, discovered on 16 March smoke above the crater and on 21 March vapor and smoke was seen as a cover above the eastern part of the volcano. This latest activity was not preceded by earthquakes as was the eruption of September last year. Tore Gjelsvik, of the Norsk Polarinstitutt, says that the institutt is planning an expedition of 12 men to Jan Mayen this summer to make geological and botanical studies in the 3-4 km2-large area formed last year. The activity is still going on; ash rain, however, has not been observed.

The Seismological Institute, Uppsala, Sweden, recorded the following event on 23 March 1971. P: 09 29 55 GMT, S 09 32 45; Distance from Uppsala: 1,710 km = 15.4°; Azimuth from Uppsala: W62°N; Epicentral area: Jan Mayen; Origin time: 09 26 19; Richter magnitude: 5.7; Remark: The size of a shock is a relatively seldom occurrence in this area. The shock has a particular interest in view of the volcanic activity in this area during the last six months.

Information Contacts: Finn Jørstad, Norges Geotekniske Institutt (Norwegian Technical Institute), Forskning Svn. 1, Oslo 3, Norway; Markus Båth, Seismological Institute, Box 517 S-751 20, Uppsala, Sweden.

April 1975 (CSLP 29-75)

Large earthquake near Jan Mayen island

Card 2151 (16 April 1975) Large earthquake near Jan Mayen island

A strong earthquake occurred very close to Jan Mayen Island on 16 April 1975. Origin time: 012715.6 UTC, 16 April. Megnitude: 6.5 Richter. Epicenter: 71.0°N latitude, 8.7°W longitude. Location: On or very close to Jan Mayen Island. Depth of Focus: normal.

Dr. Markus Båth reports that "this earthquake is considerably larger than the largest we recorded from this area during the spring of 1971 in connection with volcanic activity on Jan Mayen. The largest shock at that time occurred on 23 March 1971 with a Richter magnitude of 5.7."

Information Contacts: National Earthquake Information Service, USGS; Markus Båth, Seiemological Institute, Uppsala, Sweden.

December 1984 (SEAN 09:12) Citation IconCite this Report

Eruption on NE flank, lava flows reach sea

A NE flank eruption of Beerenberg accompanied by recorded and felt seismicity occurred 6-9 January. First reports indicated that seismic swarm activity began 5 January at 2329 with typical low-frequency volcanic earthquakes. A later report put the start of the swarm at 0044 on the 6th, with 1-4 events, mostly explosions, recorded per minute and said that "normal" earthquakes did not precede the activity. Earthquakes were initially no stronger than magnitude 3, but magnitude 5.4 and 5.0 events were felt at 1122 and 1332 at the Norwegian meteorological station, about 30 km from the summit. Later that afternoon, at 1725, red clouds and smoke were observed above and N of Beerenberg from the meteorological station. Local topography made visual inspection of the volcano impossible. Seismic activity reached a level of about 100 events/hour on the 6th and decreased to about 5 events/hour on the 7th.

At 0645 on 7 January an eruption with lava flows was observed on the N part of the volcano from a commercial aircraft. At 0915, observers in another airplane saw lava entering the sea. At 1009, a thermal infrared image from the NOAA 6 polar-orbiting satellite showed a wispy plume extending about 60 km NE from the N end of Jan Mayen and a bright spot caused by heat from the lava flow. Weather clouds had obscured the volcano the two previous days.

At 1520, scientists from the NVI flew over the eruption and saw an E-W fissure extending into the sea from about 200 m altitude at the NE end of the island, very close to the site of the last lava-producing eruption (1970). The fissure was somewhat less than 1 km long, but during their flight only about 30 m of its length was active, emitting very low lava [spatter] and gas flames. Lava covered an area estimated at 1 km x 300 m and ash about 1.5 km2. A dark ash column rose to a height of about 1 km; the plume was initially blown E, and then curved gently S, extending for several tens of kilometers.

At 1600 on the 8th, personnel from the Norwegian Coast Guard cutter Senja inspected the eruption area by helicopter and reported a 400-m-diameter crater. A 1-km-long lava flow moved NNE from the crater into the sea, which was "boiling" up to 150 m from the shore. The next day, the crater was again observed from a helicopter and located at 71.147°N, 7.998°W, about 10 km NE of the summit. The lava flow had almost stopped and "boiling" seawater was still present to 150 m from the shore. By 10 January the seismic activity had almost returned to normal levels. The preliminary location of most of the crater seismic activity was 71.13°N and 7.98°W, about 9 km NE of the summit, at depths of about 12 km.

Information Contacts: K. Sandvik, Loran Station, Jan Mayen; J. Havskov, Univ. of Bergen; K. Grönvold, G. Sigvaldason, and P. Imsland, NVI; W. Gould, NOAA/NESDIS.

March 1985 (SEAN 10:03) Citation IconCite this Report

Steam from new subglacial vent in central crater

Weather conditions make observation of Beerenberg rare and difficult, but during clear weather on 3-4 April a steam column could be seen rising 400-500 m above the central crater rim. An expedition from the Jan Mayen Loran station climbed the volcano 7 April. Steam was rising from a new 300-m-wide subglacial vent (figure 1) within the central crater at 71.09°N, 8.17°W, in Weyprectbreen (Weyprect Glacier) near Gjuvtinden crag at 2,113 m altitude (figure 2). No activity was recorded by the Jan Mayen seismic array in early April. During an overflight 17 April, similar steam emission was observed. The pilot of the aircraft reported a strong sulfur smell. Two small craters in the January eruption area were emitting "smoke".

Figure (see Caption) Figure 1. Photograph showing steam emission on 7 April 1985 from Beerenburg's new central crater vent, looking N from the opposite side of the central crater rim.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 2. Portion of a topographic map of Jan Mayen Island showing Beerenburg's central crater and parts of its flanks. The position of the new vent is shown. Figure 1 was taken from the "observation point."

Loran station personnel estimated that the new central crater vent had developed within recent weeks. Very slight and apparently constant steam emission from Gjuvtinden has been observed since September 1971.

Information Contacts: K. Sandvik, P. Dalheim, R. Kirkemo, F. Moen, M. Gundersen, and T. Eliseussen, Loran Station, Jan Mayen.

March 1997 (BGVN 22:03) Citation IconCite this Report

Weak fumaroles on the inner NE crater wall

On 6 April, members of an SVE excursion visited the volcano and reported only weak fumarolic activity. White steam rose a few meters above the inner low part of the NE crater wall.

Beerenberg is a large glacier-covered stratovolcano at the N end of Jan Mayen Island. Numerous cinder cones have erupted along flank fissures, the latest in 1985.

Information Contacts: Henry Gaudru, Michel Caplain, Alain Hirsh, and Yves Chetcuti, Société Volcanologique Européenne, C.P. 1, 1211 Genève 17, Switzerland (Email: 101626.3303@compuserve.com, URL: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/HGaudruSVE/); Michel Halbwachs, Laboratoire d'Instrumentation Geophysique, University of Savoie, BP 1104, 73011 Chambery, France.

This compilation of synonyms and subsidiary features may not be comprehensive. Features are organized into four major categories: Cones, Craters, Domes, and Thermal Features. Synonyms of features appear indented below the primary name. In some cases additional feature type, elevation, or location details are provided.

Eruptive History

There is data available for 8 Holocene eruptive periods.

Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
1985 Jan 6 1985 Jan 9 Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Beerenberg (NE flank, 0-200 m)
1973 Jan 15 ± 45 days Unknown Confirmed 1 Historical Observations Beerenberg (NE flank, Skrukkelia)
1970 Sep 18 1972 Jul 2 (?) ± 182 days Confirmed 3 Historical Observations Beerenberg (NE & SW flanks, summit)
1851 ± 30 years Unknown Confirmed   Historical Observations Beerenberg (Kokssletta, NE flank)
1818 Apr Unknown Confirmed 3 Historical Observations Beerenberg (Dagnyhaugen, SW flank)
1732 May 17 1732 May 18 Confirmed 4 Historical Observations Beerenberg (Eggoya, SW flank)
[ 1558 (in or before) ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain     Beerenberg
1350 ± 100 years Unknown Confirmed   Tephrochronology Beerenberg (Eggoya, SW flank)

Deformation History

There is no Deformation History data available for Jan Mayen.

Emission History

There is no Emissions History data available for Jan Mayen.

Photo Gallery

Steam rises on April 7, 1985, from a new crater formed during a January eruption, and ashfall darkens snowpack in the summit crater of Beerenberg volcano. An explosive and effusive eruption took place January 6-9 from a 1 km E-W fissure on NE flank near the tip of the island north of the 1970 eruption site. Lava flows reached the sea on the north side of the fissure, which had a trend intermediate between the volcanic rift zone and Jan Mayen fracture zone.

Photo courtesy of Nordic Volcanological Institute, 1985.
See title for photo information.
Glacier-covered Beerenberg volcano rises above the western coast of Jan Mayen at the northern end of the island. Remote Jan Mayen Island is located in the Norwegian Sea along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge about 650 km NE of Iceland and consists of two volcanic complexes separated by a narrow isthmus. Beerenberg is a large 2277-m-high glacier-covered stratovolcano with a 1-km-wide summit crater and numerous flank cinder cones. Historical eruptions at Beerenberg date back to the 18th century.

Photo by Gernot Hecker, 2005 (Wikimedia Commons).
See title for photo information.

Smithsonian Sample Collections Database

There are no samples for Jan Mayen in the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences Rock and Ore collection.

Affiliated Sites