norra kvarken

The Finnish name Mustasaari literally translated means “black island” but as an ancient word Mustasaari holds more meaning that just the literal translation.

Since the glaciers rolled away some 9,000 or so years ago, the Norra Kvarken has been rising out of the sea. A rebounding of sorts. The weight of millenia of mile-high masses of ice on the land literally forced the crust of the earth to sink. Now that the ice is gone the land is coming back. Year on year it isn’t much but over the course of a lifetime one can see some impressive changes.

For example south of here, off the coast of Turku there is a small bay that I swam in the first summer I came to Finland in 2001. Now, that little bay is nearly dried out and full of cat tails thanks to this isostatic uplift. That isn’t even 15 years.  I hope to go back there again to see when I am an old, old man.

Finland is growing in size. One day it will connect to Sweden, just out there across the water.

In ancient times it was the seal hunters who found these new isands when they first poked their peaks above the water line. Then came the fishermen. Later the hunters and finally the farmers. But early on, some of the islands crowned with forest reletively quickly and when the forest was old already in human years the passengers on an approaching boat saw a mass of black reflected in the often still waters of the Gulf of Bothnia and the island appeared larger than it was and closer and then further, its edges diffuse and fluid and possibly home to a haltija or veden väki.

It is unclear when this land was first called Mustasaari but the name was in regular use by the time the parish was established in 1348. At that time, all of the islands in this photograph were still under water. Later it was called Mustsåår, perhaps a Swedish corruption of Mustasaari.

It is still coming back.


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r/s Faros

Suomen Suvi



  1. Comment by Jim O'Donnell

    Jim O'Donnell Reply August 12, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Is it just me or can you see the curvature of the earth in this photo?

  2. Comment by Jim O'Donnell

    Jim O'Donnell Reply August 13, 2014 at 5:51 am

    Thank you Cynthia!

  3. Comment by Judy Brown

    Judy Brown Reply August 13, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Turku!!!! Been there…interesting article, JT. Awesome picture.

  4. Comment by Jim O'Donnell

    Jim O'Donnell Reply August 13, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    yes. You have been there. And out to those southern islands too. These are a bit different but the water is still perfect for swimming FAJ!

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