The Minister in Norway (Swenson) to the Secretary of State

No. 244

Sir: Referring to the Department’s No. 66, of November 9, 1922, (File No. 857.014/2), relating to the alleged occupation and annexation by subjects of Norway of the island of Jan Mayen, I have the honor to enclose herewith copy, with translation, of a note from the Foreign Office, dated June 30, 1923, in reply to mine of December 5, 1922, inquiring whether the Norwegian Government claims the ownership of the island and requesting a complete statement of the facts on which the claim of ownership is based.

I have [etc.]

Laurits S. Swenson

The Norwegian Minister for Foreign Affairs (Michelet) to the American Minister (Swenson)

Mr. Minister: In a note dated December 5th last regarding the occupation and annexation by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute [Page 634] of a part of the island of Jan Mayen you state that your government has recently considered the question of the nationality of this island and that in order to enable it to arrive at a definite decision in the matter it desires additional information. In that connection you desire to be informed if the Norwegian Government claims ownership of the island.

In reply I have the honor to state that in conformity with the general view relative to the international status of the island the Norwegian Government is of the opinion that it should be considered as “terra nullius”. It has so stated in a note of April 21, 1922 communicated to the Secretary of State of the United States through the Norwegian Minister at Washington, in connection with the occupation of Jan Mayen in the fall of 1921 by the Norwegian Government institution: The Norwegian Meteorological Institute. It has also expressed these views in its notes to other governments on that occasion.

On the other hand the Norwegian Government assumes that there cannot arise any question of the annexation of the island by any other power, in as much as no other country has even approximately as great interests to safeguard there as Norway; interests which appear for instance from the fact that the Norwegian Meteorological Institute has established a wireless meteorological station on Jan Mayen. The timely warnings of the violent Northwest storms which sweep through the open space between Spitsbergen and Iceland have already proved of extraordinary value for Norway, particularly for the fisheries along the Norwegian coast; and also for Norwegian agriculture. It has been of great value to Northern Europe as a whole. By these means, which have been generally commended by foreign meteorological institutions as well as by foreign governments, Jan Mayen has been enlisted in the service of international weather forecasting and a great gap in the international observation system has thus been filled. I may add that the island possesses great value for Norway as a station for Norwegian sealers in the operations which they have conducted in these waters for so long a time.

Accept [etc.]

C. F. Michelet