The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Norway ( Gade )

No. 297

Sir: There is transmitted herewith a copy of a note from the Norwegian Minister in Washington, dated May 17, 1926,8a from which it appears that the Norwegian Meteorological Institute has extended its occupation of the Island of Jan Mayen to include the entire Island.

In this connection, you are referred to the Department’s instruction No. 66, dated November 9, 1922, and to the Legation’s reply thereto, the Legation’s despatch No. 244, dated July 5, 1923, together with its enclosure, a note from the Norwegian Foreign Office, dated June 30, 1923.9 You will observe that in reply to the inquiry addressed to the Norwegian Government concerning its definition of the political status of the Island of Jan Mayen the Norwegian Foreign Office, in its note under reference, stated that in the opinion of the Norwegian Government this Island should be considered as “terra nullius”.

It is called to your attention that in the note from the Norwegian Legation, dated May 17, 1926, in referring to the action of the Meteorological Institute, the terms “permanent occupation” and “annexation” are employed. If the Institute in question be officially a part of the Norwegian Government the question possibly is raised as to whether a declaration of “annexation” by the Institute, thus promulgated by the Norwegian Government, might not be regarded as tantamount to a declaration of annexation by the Norwegian Government itself.

With special reference to the previous assertion of the Norwegian Government that they regarded the Island of Jan Mayen as a “terra nullius”, you are requested to make informal inquiries to determine whether the recent activities of the Meteorological Institute have, in the opinion of the Norwegian Government, changed the political status of this Island, and to inform the Department by mail of the result of such inquiries.

You are further advised that this question is not to be regarded as purely academic as, at times, questions have arisen in connection with the administration of the immigration laws concerning the political status of a resident of the Island of Jan Mayen.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Joseph C. Grew