Söderskär Lighthouse – Porvoo, Finland - Atlas Obscura
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Porvoo, Finland

Söderskär Lighthouse

A rare octagonal brick beacon on an isolated island in the Baltic. 

The Sōderskār Lighthouse in Porvoo’s outer archipelago is a unique structure in a unique place. Standing tall on a remote rock in the Gulf of Finland, the elegant-looking beacon is one of 14 brick lighthouses in the Baltic country, and one of just three with a octagonal shape.

The eight-sided lighthouse was completed in 1862, but construction was not without its challenges. The plans had called for the tower to be built from granite, but just 26 feet up, the supply ran out. The rest of the lighthouse was thus built with common bricks—and the harsh Finnish weather was quick to expose flaws in this construction.

The relentless winds proved able to sway the brick lighthouse several inches quite easily. As a result, between 1912 and 1917, the structure was fitted and stabilized with an iron corset, a combination of iron bars, bands, and concrete.

The life of a lighthouse keeper has never been a glamorous one, and life on the lighthouse island (majakkasaari) of Sōderskār was no exception. There were few ships to connect the island with nearby Helsinki and Porvoo, making for long, isolated winters. But in traditional Finnish fashion, the island’s sauna was completed in 1876, a full 44 years before the lighthouse masters’ quarters were completed. While the lighthouse keepers tended to their work, the masters served as head of operations as well as the primary educators of the keepers’ families. 

The tiny island housed the lighthouse operators and their families for the next 75 years until the beacon was automated in the 1950s. It finally shut down for good in 1989, and today the tower remains open only to visitors who journey to the island to explore this historic structure and learn about the remarkable lives of its keepers.

Know Before You Go

Convenient day trips out to the island are offered, except in winter. The MS Sōderskār runs daily between May 1 and September 30. It can be taken from Kauppatori in Helsinki or Aurinkolahti in Vuosaari. It's a 1-2 boat ride from the mainland. The lighthouse island is now part of the Söderskär Nature Conservation Area, and access is limited to protect the local wildlife. An exhibit inside the lighthouse tells the history of the tower and the stories of its keepers. There are no toilets or food on the island so pack lunch and plan accordingly.