Only the rocks remember the secrets of the barren and beautiful archipelago which was created by during the ice age. The Kvarken Archipelago has been inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage List as Finland’s only natural site since the signs of ice age and the land uplift, which started after the most recent ice age, best can be seen in this region. Therefore one of the world’s 200 wonders can be seen in the Vaasa region.
The Kvarken Archipelago consists of the whole outer zone of the archipelago, shared by five municipal areas. The area forms together with the High Coast in Sweden, on the other side of Kvarken, a transboundary heritage site. The shortest distance between the islands of Sweden and Finland is about 20 kilometers.
During the most recent glaciation all of northern Europe was covered by a thick layer of ice. Over the area today known as Ostrobothnia the ice mass was nearly three kilometers thick. The ice started to melt around 18 000 years ago, and 8 000 years later the edge of the ice was about where the Kvarken is now. As the ice melted the land crust, long depressed by the bed of ice, gradually began to rise.
The land continues to rise 8–9 millimeters a year. For a flat area such as the Kvarken Archipelago it translates to several new hectares annually, corresponding to 150 soccer fields. 85 % of the nature heritage site is water. If the land continues to rise with this speed, after 2 500 years we have natural land bridge to Sweden!
The Kvarken Archipelago possesses a unique geological value since the rapid rate of the land uplift is one of the highest observed worldwide. In the Kvarken Archipelago you can find unique formations dating from the ice age, such as De Geer and Ribbed moraines, creating a varying scenery. The archipelago is like a mosaic of thousands of islands and islets in all sizes. Some say that there are as much as 5 600 islands in the natural heritage site.
As a result of the land rise the Kvarken nature types, as well as the flora and the fauna, live in constant transformation – both under the surface and on dry land. The shallow open sea and the sheltered gulfs are important to several fish species. When the land rises the gulfs grow together and form flads and gloe lakes. These gloe lakes are like fish nurseries because in the spring the fish rise along the brooks to spawn there.
The type of forest which grows in the Kvarken area can only be seen in the area which is still rising. The land that rises from the sea is without vegetation. First the certain kind of plants such as seabuckthorns set their roots in this virgin land and at the same time make the soil better for the next plants to grow and replace these pioneer plants. This primary succession can clearly be seen looking from the shoreline towards the main land.
Many rocks are moved by the ice every winter and show up in unexpected places in the spring. Fairways and nautical charts grow outdated quickly and need to be constantly redrawn and updated. There is room to breathe in our sunny and barren archipelago. Let the tender sea breeze sweep your troubles and worries away. Enjoy yourself here and now, all year round.