Harakka Island, Finland

We’re starting a new series today on Affinity, courtesy of Ice Swimmer whose photos are always a delight to receive and to share. This time Ice Swimmer is taking us along on an adventure, one delightful chapter at a time and in the spirit of telling a good adventure story we’ll be posting a chapter every few days. I’ll let Ice Swimmer take it from here.


HARAKKA – An Island


This photo series is dedicated to the memory of Caine. The pictures had been taken while she was still alive, but I didn’t get around to making a writeup, so I never sent these to her and then it was too late.


Chapter 1 – Introduction

Harakka from Kaiva, ©Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved

Harakka is an island in Helsinki, Finland. It is located in front of the southern end of the Helsinki peninsula. The island is accessible by boat from Kaivopuisto. The introductory picture is taken from the hill Ullanlinnanmäki, the highest point of the park Kaivopuisto. The island has been home for a lighthouse in the 18th century and during 19th and 20th century in military use, until 1989. The buildings in the island were built for the Russian garrison before the independence and for Finnish forces after that.

Now the island is a nature preserve and there is a Nature Centre to educate children at daycare and in schools about the environmental issues, renewable energy, natural history and conservation coastal and archipelago flora and fauna and also further develop said education. A community of artists also uses one of the buildings in Harakka as studio, exhibition and meeting space.

The Finnish name Harakka means magpie. Supposedly something on the island has looked like a magpie. The Swedish name, which is older than the Finnish name is Stora Räntan. In modern Standard Swedish the name would mean “The Large Interest Rate”, but it was probably something else in the local dialect.


1. Arrival and Boat leaving, ©Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved

The boat is operated by a yachting club and it shuttles between the Ullanlinna Pier on mainland and the islands Särkkä and Harakka. There is a timetable, but you have to signal your intention to get onboard by raising a semaphore (the white paddle/arrow in the left near the crane). The semaphore on the pier in Harakka is pointing down and the boat is leaving for Särkkä. Our tour can begin.


2. Arrival info, ©Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved

Coming from the pier, one can see the map of the island (south is to the left and we’re on the western shore) and some info.


3. History Exhibition, ©Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved

There is a history exhibition to the north of the pier.


4. Look back to Kaivopuisto,©Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved

Picture 4 is taken from next to the history exhibition building towards the mainland. The direction is north northwest. Ullanlinnanmäki is on the right. The fairly crowded white café in front of Ullanlinnanmäki is next to the carpet-washing jetties featured in the alphabet series. Apartments in the buildings in the left are, as far as I know, very expensive.


5. Cart, ©Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved

Picture 5 is from behind the history exhibition building. This equipment, no doubt, makes the internal logistics of the island much easier.



  1. rq says

    “Large Interest Rate”? :D Perhaps someone made a bad business deal and lost an island (“… and all I got was a few of these lousy herring, not even properly salted!!”).
    Looks like an interesting (…) place to explore!

  2. Ice Swimmer says

    rq @ 1

    I’ll have to look if there’s a book about place names in Helsinki Area. Island names are a fairly diverse bunch. There are farm animals ranging from piglets to roosters and chickens, from calfs to rams. There’s one that’s called Pormestarinhepo/Borgmästarhästen, that is Mayor’s Horse. Then there are islands named after trees, at least spruces, junipers, rowans and pines. Also birds, biblical characters and shapes of the islands are eponymous for islands.

    BTW, the intro picture was taken during the Pride week.

    The big crane on the mainland in the “Boat Leaving” picture was used for bungee jumping, it’s been there for many summers, from mid-July to mid-August.

  3. Ice Swimmer says

    Nightjar @ 3

    Thanks! Your comments were the trigger for me to go to Harakka and take the pictures.

    Also, voyager, thank you for your kind words.

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