A long-disputed lighthouse built on the wrong side of a Finnish/Swedish island.
The Märket Lighthouse was a highly contentious little prize. In the late 19th-century, Finland decided it needed a lighthouse on a tiny, uninhabited island in the Baltic Sea called Märket. Divided between what is now Finland and Sweden, the treacherous island had contributed to the sinking of eight ships in the year 1873 alone, all of which had overcorrected their courses in order to avoid her rocky shores.
The czar in St. Petersburg eventually had enough (Finland was still part of the Russian Empire at this point), and in 1885 ordered the young, soon-to-be-famous Finnish architect Georg Schreck to build a lighthouse on Märket. Schreck and his crew started the construction on the highest point of the island (10 feet above sea level), which was the spot least likely to be affected by the waves and ice. This spot happened to be on the Swedish side of the border, but that didn’t stop them.
Even though it was officially on Swedish soil, the Finns wouldn’t give up their nautical achievement, and lit and manned their lighthouse anyway. Tensions flared between the two Nordic countries, and eventually they came to a mutually palatable decision: to redraw the island’s boundaries into a haphazard Z-shape. In 1985, the lighthouse became officially reattached to Finnish territory on the island by a thin stretch of land.
Still, after all that land reassignment and finagling, you’d think that Finland would treat the lighthouse a bit better. The lighthouse, unmanned since 1977, fell into disrepair, and Finnish preservationists are trying to raise money for its care. Since 2007 volunteers spend summers at the island repairing and showing visitors around.
Still, it’s easy to see why the lighthouse is both difficult and dangerous to maintain. Märket Island is still treacherous. The windy and portless skerry is only accessible if one navigates through the shallow, rocked-filled shore of one side of the island or steers through the deeper side on a limited number of low-wind days. Perhaps the now-crumbling lighthouse wasn’t worth the fuss, after all.
Know Before You Go
There are tours leaving Käringsunds Guest Harbor every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday during the summer. The boat ride to Märket is around an hour and 2-3 hours are spent there. The tours can be canceled due to bad weather since this is one of the windiest places in Finland. If you have a boat on your own you can contact Märket directly.
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