Jan Mayen is tiny. Only 18 people live on the island. It used to be a Dutch whaling station in the 1600’s until the whales were almost hunted to extinction. It remained abandoned for a couple of hundred years. Now Jan Mayen is used by the Meteorological Institute or the Norwegian Military for Cyber Security. Although we never could get a straight answer out of the commander about the cyber security thing. They receive goods via a C-130 landing on the gravel runway without instrument landing capabilities. It comes in each month, but if it can’t land because of low visibility, they also received goods via ship which anchors offshore as there are no port facilities. It is rather a bleak place, but everyone we spoke to volunteered to be stationed there.
One of the more interesting sights was the road from the town to the airstrip. There was an incredible amount of driftwood shoved off to each side. The driftwood looks like it all came from shipwrecks with notches cut in them or metal attachments. We were told it all comes floating in from Russia.
The next place we stopped was Greenland. Did you know that Greenland is Danish? I didn’t. They are taught Danish in school but speak Greenlandic. It’s all double letters and really long words. I have no idea what the sign says below, but it’s certainly fun to try to pronounce everything.
Ittoqqortoormiit is an Inuit village with a population of around 500. It’s known for its animals: polar bears, muskoxen, and seals. They hunt them all for meat and fur, which they eat and make into things. Well, actually, the polar bears are only hunted when they come into the area. It’s a safety issue. But the Inuits eat the seals and the muskox. The seal skin makes some nice looking mittens. But, of course, we couldn’t buy any of the seal skin items without having it confiscated once we entered pretty much anywhere.
We met a Danish woman took the Muskox fur and spun it into yarn from which she made hats and scarves and mittens and things when she wasn’t dog racing with her team. It was amazingly soft. And expensive. The tour guides told us to stay away from the dogs. The dogs are strictly “working” dogs. No petting or interacting at all with them. In fact, the law states that if any of the dogs bite, the whole team was to be destroyed. So, we stayed away from the dogs. But, it was difficult when they looked at you with those eyes wagging those tails.
I always like to go to the grocery stores when visiting a foreign country. I like to see what they eat and what kind of snacks and things they have. Because the town is only supplied every few months, we were asked not to purchase anything. (Sorry, Bruce, no Oreos for you.) It was a grocery/hardware/sporting goods/furniture store. What an interesting place. Guns next to the diapers. Guns and ammo on shelves at hip level for anyone to grab. A different world indeed.
Our next stop is Iceland.
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