Monday, 20 September 2010

Olonkinbyen, pioneer town for the XXI century

Olonkinbyen is a settlement on the Norwegian island of Jan Mayen, a XX century prefabricated arctic base in a desert island.

Olonkinbyen houses the staff that operates the weather station and the radio station. Currently there are 18 members stationed in Olonkinbyen who make up the entirety of the island's population, therefore making it the "capital" of Jan Mayen.

Jan Mayen is an integrated geographical body of Norway. Since 1995 it has been administered by the county governor of Nordland; however, some authority has been delegated to a station commander of the Norwegian Logistics Organisation-CIS, a branch of the armed forces.

Notice that Jan Mayen island is Europe! The mid-atlanic ridge crosses there - therefore the volcan - but the Jan Mayenians of Olonkinbyen are European.

Teams change every 6 months: an Hercules C 130 takes care of the transport, the airfield is safe. On the contrary, the sea coast is savage with very few points for landing in safety.

These planes fly to Jan Mayen from Bodø, it is a 1000 km flight of 2 hours. They also bring supplies and mail, but there is only 8 flights each year, so letters from home are scarce. On Jan Mayen there is a 1.5 km landing strip of gravel, used for the scheduled C130 landings, but also for other missions like ambulance planes to collect sick or injured fishermen.

The team in Olonkinbyen is mainly from Norway. They live in a complex of interconnected climatized containers studied for isolation and resistence and decorated inside as much as a small hotel as possible, with lots of labs and working offices; as for comfort, there is a media room, a library, a museum, even a swimmimg pool !

Interior: Room

Interior: corridor

Interior: museum

Interior: post office

The crew runs the navigation and meteorological stations and maintains the infrastructure - airstrip, power station, buildings.

airport building

As for visits, just some cruise ship in the summer, a polar bear comes now and then, and they have old cabins from the first settlers (fishermen) restaured for logging, mostly for scientific teams.