Remote and isolated, Jan Mayen is dominated by 2,277 meter (7,470’) high Beerenberg Volcano and its large ice cap. The island has two parts: larger northeast Nord-Jan and smaller southwest Sør-Jan, linked by a 2.5 kilometer (1.6 mile) wide isthmus. The League of Nations gave jurisdiction of Jan Mayen to the Kingdom of Norway in 1921. Except for being used as a meteorological, radio and navigation aid for shipping in the Atlantic, the island has remained untouched, its only inhabitants are 18 military personnel.
In 2010 Jan Mayen was declared a nature reserve for the protection of its wildlife and is recognized as one of the most important breeding sites for over 250,000 seabirds in the North Atlantic. It supports large colonies of northern fulmars, little auks and thick-billed guillemots. Polar bears found here are genetically distinguishable from those found elsewhere.
Although ‘officially’ discovered by the Dutch whaling captain Fopp Gerritsz in 1614, it may have been sighted by exploring Irish monks as early as A.D. 400.