The Story of Kylmäpihlaja

Kylmäpihlaja is the farthest islet at the edge of Rauma archipelago, 10 kilometres from the mainland, and the only islet of the region by the open sea.

The island, that nowadays covers almost 9 hectares, rose from the sea in approximately 1200 CE. Since, the island has risen 4.5 metres above the sea level. The western part of the island shows the granite-striped gneiss and the glaciated rock that was ground by the Ice Age. The stripes stand out clearly from the observation deck of the lighthouse. The black-and-white amphibolite rock, washed by the sea, in the south-western part are especially beautiful.

The average of iced days per year in Kylmäpihlaja is 84 (statistics 1960–1990). The initial freezing over occurs on December 29th and a permanent coat of ice occurs on January 14th. The average moment of the breaking up of the ice is April 4th.


The island was named on maps in the 18th century. At first, the island was known as Kylmä, later as Kylmä-Pihlava and as Kylmä-Pihlaja. A demarcation carving, a weak figure of a crown and lilies, can be found on the rock close to the current harbour of the island. Carvings can be found on the south-eastern rocks as well. One of the carvings is a weak and lichen-covered date from the late 18th century, couple of carved dates are from the late 19th century and some are from the 1930s.

For the first hundreds of years, the islet has probably been visited only occasionally, for hunting birds, for gathering eggs and feathers and as a resting stop for fishermen. In the 17th century, however, the island was already used as a hired pastureland for sheep during the summers.

The busying water traffic brought a need to run the traffic safely. A pilot house was built in 1857 to the neighbouring island, Kylmän-Santakari. In 1867, a lightless beacon Niemen Santakari was built south of Kylmäpihlaja. The beacon is nowadays known as Santkarin pooki, Santkari beacon. All sea marks had been broken a few years earlier due to the Åland war. Around the same times, lightship Rauma was anchored at the shallows of Reilander. The lightship was later, in 1888, replaced with a new lightship, Relandersgrund. The lightship, anchored in spring and brought back to shore before the freezing over, served in front of Rauma until it was necessary to build a lighthouse and a pilot station.

Kylmäpihlaja lighthouse and pilot station

Along with the post-war reconstruction, the water traffic in Rauma increased and a lighthouse and a pilot station became necessary in the early 1950s. The island of Kylmä-Pihlaja (the name at the time) was chosen. Other possible locations for building the lighthouse were Rihtniemi and Nurmes. Pilots have worked both on Rihtniemi and Nurmes (Pihlus) in the course of the history of Rauma.

Kylmäpihlaja lighthouse and pilot station was designed by architects Antero Pernaja and Kaarina Tamminen and was completed in 1953. The building consists of a total of over 900 square metres: a 12-storey lighthouse tower and a two-storey maintenance section.

The seven lowest floors of the tower house two rooms on each floor for pilots and bathrooms in the staircase. The highest floors house a control room, an equipment room and the lens. The light of the lighthouse, 1.26 million candelas and four consecutive flashes, ranged 27 nautical miles, over 45 kilometres. The projection of the light was diminished to 15 nautical miles in 1988, when the lighthouse was renovated. Originally there was also a foghorn, which could be heard 50 kilometres from Kylmäpihlaja. The height of the tower is approximately 31 metres and there are two decks at the top of the tower.

The ground floor of the maintenance section houses technical facilities, storage rooms and a sauna, the first floor houses a kitchen and dining facilities and two apartments. An equipment shed, a storage for a hydrocopter and fuel tanks were built on the island as well. Additionally, Rauma Sea Rescue Association was permitted to build a small shed.

A sheltered harbour was dug and the stones were used to make a breakwater. A water pipe was later brought to the island through Kuuskajaskari, along the seafloor. Sewage is piped to a biological sewage treatment system.

The staff of the lighthouse and the pilot station included twelve pilots, eight cutter drivers, two lighthouse keepers and a matron. Shifts circulated: one week at the station, one week at the harbour, one week off.

Kylmäpihlaja has been an official meteorological station since the beginning. The weather report is read five times a day on Radio Suomi. “Kylmäpihlaja 16, south-west 3, visibility over 20 km”, an example of a weather report reporting 16 degrees Celsius, the direction and speed of the wind and a bright weather. This could be the second Thursday of June.

The lighthouse is still functioning and securing the water traffic, and pilots still visit the island with their cutters and use some hired spaces. The Finnish Border Guards visit the island regularly while on patrol.

A 22.5-metre steel tower, Rauma lighthouse, was built in 1981 on the shallows of Outomatala almost directly west from Kylmäpihlaja, 4.2 nautical miles and 7.5 kilometres from the island.

Recreational use

As the navigation equipment developed, the lighthouse and the pilot station became redundant for the Maritime Administration, and the island with its buildings was sold.

The town of Rauma bought the island, as well as the fortress of Kuuskajaskari, in 2000 and paid in total 5.5 million Finnish marks, approximately 925 000 euros.

The town started to develop the islands for recreational and tourism use. A consultant report was commissioned, and the kitchen and the dining room of the pilot station were renovated suitable for café services. The pilots’ rooms in the tower were renovated to be used as hotel rooms and the observation deck was opened for the public.

During spring and summer 2002 the facilities were further renovated: a meeting room was constructed, the pier was fixed, the number of kitchen appliances was increased, and an entrepreneur was chosen for the next five years.

At the initiative of Rauma parish, a small chapel was built and was opened for the public. The chapel can be booked for weddings, christenings, and other ceremonies. The parish and the entrepreneur organise spiritual retreats on the island.

The town of Rauma renovated a shed as a nature centre, where guides and exhibitions tell about the nature of the island, or rather the nature of the Rauma archipelago. The goal is to have Kylmäpihlaja as a headquarters for the Bothnian Sea National Park.

The seasonal fluctuations on the rough island are differing and strong. The icy silence of the winter, the sound of birds arriving in the spring, the light of the gentle summer and the darkness of a stormy autumn belong to the circulation of seasons, and the seasons are never the same. Before, they belonged to the lives of those who lived in the lighthouse, and now momentarily to those who visit the island.


Original text: Raimo Sundelin