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Hanko, Finland

Pike's Gut

The etchings on this narrow channel between two islands bear witness to maritime travelers who have passed through since the Middle Ages. 

Just off the southernmost tip of the Finnish mainland sit Tullholmen and Kobben Islands. Huddling close to one another where the Gulf of Finland meets the Baltic Sea, the islands are separated by a narrow strait that is home to a unique collection of graffiti stretching back over half a millennium.

Pike’s Gut (“Hauensuoli” in Finnish) has served for centuries as a safe haven for seamen awaiting good weather conditions or favorable winds. Sometimes, however, the wait could last for weeks, so to pass the time the sailors came ashore and carved farewell notes, their names and coats of arms on the rocky faces of these islands. The oldest dates back to the 15th century, though most of the extent carvings are from the 16th and 17th centuries. Over time the word spread about this “guest book of the archipelago”, attracting even more people to visit and add their own marks. Over 600 such carvings have been identified.

Due to exposure to the elements and the considerable age of the graffiti, the markings have worn off and are not easy to see. In 1967 the local community was called to donate their used toothbrushes so the rocks could be cleaned of lichen and dirt. Later the lines were filled with dark color so the markings would be more visible. Nearby shipwrecks also speak to the location’s significance as a cultural and historical site. It is a protected area under Finland’s Antiquities Act and is under the care of the National Board of Antiquities.

Know Before You Go

Regular trips to the island are arranged only in July and August (limited departures). Check Hanko tourism information website for more information and booking. At other times you need your own transportation to get to the islands.

Contributed by
ahvenas
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