The Lighthouse

The first lighthouse in Finland was built on Utö in 1753. The round lighthouse building was blown up during the Swedish - Russian war of 1808 - 1809. The present lighthouse was built in 1814 under the supervision of Chief Pilot Gustav Brodd. The lantern and the lights have been modernized several times. The present lens was installed in 1906.

As there was no church on Utö, the islanders furnished the third floor of the lighthouse as a church where services could be held. This lighthouse church is probably the oldest in the world and is mentioned for the first time in 1841. Up until 1856, Utö was a part of the Föglö parish. The vicar came to Utö only twice a year. At other times, people gathered together on Sunday evenings to listen to one of the community elders read aloud from the Book of Sermons.

Initially, the lighthouse on Utö had two lighthouse keepers, but after 1809, when Finland became an autonomous part of Russia, this number was raised to four. Besides these lighthouse keepers temporary lighthouse guards could be hired. They were registered as apprentices and so they were given preference when vacancies were filled. These temporary keepers earned their living by fishing. Some of them also held side jobs; one such example is Daniel Söderlund, who was the village smith.

Under Russian rule, the chief lighthouse keeper was the highest official on the island. He could also act as the deputy Chief Pilot of the pilot district, if a substitute was required.

Before the era of icebreakers, the light in the lighthouse was extinguished for the winter as ice covered the sea. In 1935, the Utö lighthouse was provided with electricity. That same year, the first radio beacon in Finland was installed in the tower of the Utö lighthouse. In 1943, during the World War II, the lighthouse power station provided the whole village with electricity. Subsequently, the maintenance of the generators became the most important job of the lighthouse keepers. After 1983, when the defense forces undertook the production of electricity, the lighthouse keepers were transformed to officials in charge of fairway maintenance. Utö was connected to the electrical network of the mainland in 1996.

At the entrance to the lighthouse there are two memorial plaques. One of them is in memory of the battleship ´Ilmarinen´, which in 1941 ran into a Soviet mine outside Utö and sank. The other describes the attack of the Soviet army on the Utö fort in the beginning of the Winter War in 1939. The Utö fort held out against two Soviet battleships. One of them presumably sank.

Utö was also attacked during the First World War. This time it was battleships from the Imperial German navy that attacked Utö in 1915. Among the casualties were one telegraphist and two wounded gunners.