Have you ever heard about the island of Märket? Well, probably not, but this post will remedy to that. As you can see on the photo above, the island of Märket is interesting mostly because of location, not so much because of its topography. When looking at it, there isn’t much there except birds and rocks, except that there is…
Even though we’ve already established that the island itself is little more than a rock (a 0.03km² rock at that), it does have some relevance, however. Since it borders the free water passage between the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia, the surrounding shallows have presented a navigational hazard for quite some time. In 1873 only, eight ships shipwrecked when trying to avoid the island and its treacherous waters.
The fauna and flora of the island remain limited, though there is a certain concentration of grey seals in the area.
Finland & Sweden
But the reason why this post is about Märket isn’t exactly it’s cute inhabitants. Rather, it is the interesting division of the island between Finland and Sweden. The island is located on the Finnish-Swedish border, which divides the island in two parts since 1809, when Finland was brought within the Russian Empire. The original subdivision was a simple straight line, although the border now looks a bit different:
In 1885, to address the dangers presented by the shallows, a Finnish (then still part of Russia) initiative resulted in the construction of a lighthouse on the island. The builders, taking for granted that the desolate island was ”no man’s land”, simply built the lighthouse on the highest point, which then proved to be on the Swedish side of the island.
It took a hundred years, but this was corrected in 1985, when the border was adjusted. As you might have noticed, however, the line wasn’t simply moved to bring the lighthouse in Finnish territory. Instead, some of the Finnish side was given to Sweden to compensate for the loss of territory. Additionally, the ownership of the shores of the island was left untouched. This is because fishing rights are based on coastline, and thus, such a design ensured that the ownership of the surrounding waters remained unchanged.
Ok, maybe not that much, let’s be honest. Nevertheless, the island of Märket holds the title for the smallest divided island at sea. Funnily enough, due to time zones, there is also an hour difference between the two sides.
The lighthouse and the surroundings buildings are not inhabited since 1979. They have fallen into disrepair since then.
Well, now you know more about the tiny island of Märket and its funny border. Thanks for reading!