Friday, May 18, 2012

FINLAND

Bengtskär Lighthouse is the tallest light in Scandinavia and is located on a small rocky islet at the North Baltic Sea, entrance of the Gulf of Finland.  Bengtskär is Finland’s southernmost inhabited island (59°43,4'N 22°30,1'E).  The construction of the tower commenced in early 1906 using granite quarried from Bengtskär itself.  The 46 m (151 ft) round granite tower was first lit on December 19, 1906 and its light could be seen for twenty nautical miles.
In 1914 during the World War I, all lighthouse keepers and their families were evacuated to the mainland, and the lantern was placed in storage. The lighthouse was shelled by two German ships but was not badly damaged. In World War II, Soviet troops attempted to storm the island on 26 July 1941, but they were driven off after a fierce battle. Soviet air raids damaged the keeper's house but spared the tower. After repairs, the lighthouse was reopened in 1950.
In 1968, the lantern was automated and the lighthouse keepers left the island. The building quickly started to turn into a ruin damaged by storms, wind and the invasion of vandals. In 1983, the lantern was converted to wind-powered electricity. Restored in the early 1990s, Bengtskär Lighthouse was opened to visitors on August 18, 1995 and nowadays is a popular touristic destination. The former 3-story granite keeper's house now hosts a lecture hall, a chapel, conference rooms, a café, a museum and post office.  It is also possible to book overnight accommodations and climb the 252 steps of the spiral staircase leading up to the reflector room.