History

The bare, rocky islands of Utö are the main gateway to the Archipelago Sea. Since the 17th century, it has been a base for pilots, lighthouse keepers, custom officials and soldiers. The strange, rough beauty of these wind-beaten islets is an experience for the visitor. The sea, a paradise for pleasure boating in good weather, shows its terrifying power during autumn storms. Due to numerous shipwrecks, these waters have been aptly called the burial ground of ships. However, it is perhaps the colourful history of the island that the visitor finds most fascinating.

The harbour, called ´Fladan´ (Bight) by the locals, was a well-known natural harbour as early as the middle of the 17th century. There is a detailed description of the entrance to the fairway leading to Turku in the ´Seabook´ by first mate Johan Månzon dating back to 1644. For three centuries, piloting and the existence of the fairway have been the two factors that have most influenced life on Utö. The first permanent settlers came to Utö in the 1740´s to ensure pilot and lighthouse services. Before that, Utö was mainly used as a base for fishermen and seal hunters.

Under Russian rule (1809 - 1917), the number of pilots and lighthouse keepers was raised considerably. There was also a small customs house established on Utö. Consequently, the number of inhabitants went up to 129, in 22 households.

During the First World War the village underwent lots of changes. The Russians tore down the old houses and built new ones, and also created a cobblestone street with rails for transporting ammunition. These rails were taken up in the 1960´s.The Russian soldiers left Utö in 1918, but the presence of the Finnish army, particularly after the war, continues to characterize life on Utö. The village life, busy in the summer when the descendants of the islanders come here for holidays, settles down for the winter. At the end of the year 2005 the military withdrew from the island. The appartements are today owned by the islanders and rented to new inhabitants. The garrision is currenty used as a hotel.