Monday 24.9.2007 - Remarks from the tower
Peace on Earth and on Märket! The Eckerman brothers arrived with their boat at 8.30 AM, and a loading marathon began on the North side of the reef due to the wind from S.
All the radio equipment the amateurs brought with them had to go back, together with the windows and the glasses from the lighthouse. The Eckermans were also very kind helping removing the 80 kg heavy Honda from the engine room and taking it with them, a task that would have been impossible for a single lighthouse keeper to cope with but OK with two pairs of helping hands.
The Eckerman boat came and took the radio-amateurs away.
The Eckermans also brought the keys for Carlberg’s cabin and secured the windows that have had been dancing in the wind since the last storm. Special thanks to the Eckermans!
This is also a good opportunity for me to thank all the radio-amateurs Martti, Lars, Antti, Pertti, Ville and Juha that have been here during the week, providing me with good laughs and valuable material for my reportage. I belive we all got along very well. Special thanks goes to Lars Nikko who has been most kind lending me a 220v cord from their generator and washing my coffee cups during the whole week...
The spot is there but no helicopter on the reef.
Therefore, I really don’t mind at all washing up in the kitchen and bringing some litter left down to the recycling station. Now, I manage just fine with car batteries I brought with me for the small electric needs I have: Power for the cell phones, cameras and the computer to enable me to write during the night.
During daytime, everything is solar-cell-charged while I fulfil my keeper’s duties. And even if the Honda still would be around, I would not even dream of starting it up. For the first time since my arrival, I can hear the wind and the waves, a great symphony created by nature.
After cleaning in the kitchen, I gave up early in the afternoon. Enough for today! After all, I am a real lighthouse keeper now and not a maid dancing with a vacuum cleaner all day long ! Pekka gave me indirect a good reminder yesterday about the importance of observing the nature. May perhaps sound funny, but that is really a thing easy to forget, focusing on all the amount of work that has to be done in the lighthouse. A bit like reporting about life but not living it.
So, at first, I opened up all the ventilation shafts again. Humans tend to avoid draft and close everything around them, but ventilation is still the most essential thing for the lighthouse, inspite the fact that humidity at this time of the year constantly lies above 80 per cent. This old lady needs some fresh air!
Suddenly, my soul began to long for more nature and less carbage tins and what could possibly be a better observation point than the tower ?
The observer occupied the high point of Märket.
Soon my watch was rewarded. The seals appeared in my binoculars in the South. Most surely, they had been around all the time, it was just me that had been too occupied. I now managed just to get a non-price-winning shot of one of them, but try to get a closer look at them later in the morning when they gather on the reef on the North side.
Spotted some seals.
There is also a good view from above over the jetty and the marks showing the missing pieces of it. All the strange things about Märket suddenly become clearly visualized from the tower: The whole reef with its unique borderline, the visit cards of force of nature, the seals, the most dangerous toilet of the Baltic Sea, everything is there right in front of me. Along with the most spectacular experience for this day. The sound of silence.
Tuesday 25.9.2007 - Report from a Turkish bath
This keeper sees a lot of sunrises.
Today, dear readers, on this very lovely Tuesday, came a warm wind from S to visit Märket at 12 m/s, bringing no record breaking temperatures, but a very high humidity to the reef and inside the lighthouse.
Already in the morning, I felt like sitting in a Turkish bath when starting my keeper’s duties. A Turkish bath without a heating.
Now I began with arranging everything inside the lighthouse, an impossible task to fulfil as long as the radio-amateurs contest was on. But now the whole lighthouse was empty and I was eager to get started.
Not only is it necessary to bring everything on its right place inside too, this job is of mutual interest. Soon the rooms will appear as they should and I can start photographing everything inside, hope to get on to that by the end of the week. The old wallpaper, the storm windows made of iron, the details showing the soul of the building, everything to be published later in my reportage.
The mould is pretty but unpleasant.
Working inside, I was wetter than on a full-speed run around the reef. I had to check what was wrong. The humidity was high indeed everywhere inside the lighthouse. Between 80 and 89 per cent, the highest level measured where I am sleeping in the Chief keeper’s former bedroom.
The room is facing the North and has, on the same time, the poorest ventilation. That explains why I woke up last night completely wet in my arctic sleeping bag. This has to be taken care of ! But first things first. Humans can always warm up with an extra pullover but ventilation is the second best option for buildings if no proper heating is available and in this case essential.
I checked every ventilation shaft in every room once again and opened up the doors to the heaters, standing in every room to get an additional shaft working. Finally I opened up the door to the tower. Now there was a veritable hurricane that blew in turbo-speed through all rooms , up the stairway and out of the tower. Perfect with the wind from the S pushing all air in the building through the entrance.
The humidity still stays high because of the moist air and nothing will completely dry up any more this year out here, but at least there is a proper air circulation now and one can dry one’s hair by standing still in the stairway.
That is good for the lighthouse but rather unpleasant when you sit down for a while in a storm inside. So, I decided to move up to the small cabin beside the attic instead, just under the tower, to the lighthouse keeper’s small but very cosy room. Here I felt immediately at home, much more than down below in the Chief’s bedroom. Too much luxury for me. This was more like me. A small cabin for a simple lighthouse keeper sitting all night long writing in the candlelight.
And, by the way, how do you get your soaking wet shoes dry again at this humidity level, when nothing dries even outside in the sun or in the wind on the washing rope? When cleaning up in the kitchen I found a 12-pack of eggs. Don’t ask me how old.
Instead of throwing them away, I boiled them all and put the hot eggs in my wet boots as ceramic heaters. After three hours, the boots where perfectly dry and the eggs still a bit warm. And tomorrow I can boil them again. And still eat them afterwards anyway...
The brand new innovation with some olg eggs.
Everything is OK here on the Märker reef.
Wednesday 26.9.2007 - Seals on lunch break
"Temperature 13 C. Partly cloudy, wind S/SW 5-9 m/s decreasing towards the evening."
The forecast in the radio wakes me up as usual to a new keeper’s day at sunrise. Now closer to the tower in the small cabin, I start my day witch a watch from the highest point on the reef.
The light lingers over the reef.
Photographers, lighthouse keepers and seamen always tend to get up high for a better overview so it would be a most suitable thing to start with. I really love the view from up here overlooking this bizarre reef.
In Sweden, 8 ships were passing by Understen lighthouse that still was showing its flashing light and on the reef about half a nautical mile in NW the seals were having a loud conversation in companionship with three large birds which I would hope could turn out to be eagles.
But the distance was to long to make an accurate identification, so don’t send a boat full of bird watches yet. More likely it was the hawks, spotted in earlier reports that now where on the same fish market as the seals.
A daily tour around the reef is one of the keeper’s duties either jogging or like now with a camera collecting new shots in a delightful Nordic light and to determinate if anything had came with the sea during the night, or been washed away.
Everything is in proper order now outside, only the litter and the waste from the construction work have to be shipped away together with the enormous amount of food left in the kitchen, which, dear readers, will be an issue for a whole report of its own, announced later. If the weather is good, the transport will take place on Saturday.
On the tour around the reef, the seals finally appeared. A group of 30 seals where swimming around on the North side on a lunch break from the reef, keeping a safe distance of a couple of hundred meters to the keeper on shore that was pointing a long object directly towards them. Seals probably have a long memory and knew exactly what the former keepers used to do out on the reef at this time of the year carrying long objects...
But in the tin can decade they are perfectly safe and I hope they will come closer next time for some portraits instead of the school group picture shot today.
Three of the party of thirty.
When working inside the lighthouse again I see the small birds outside every window now seeking food and shelter for the winter in an increasing amount than earlier.
No other flying or swimming creatures to be reported from Märket on this lovely warm Wednesday.
The final lighthouse keeper,
Thursday 27.9.2007 - Moonlight Serenade
Last night was an experience to remember. Already on Monday the moon came to pay a visit, but I decided to wait for a couple of days to get a better shot of the reef in full moonlight.
My patience was rewarded. Shortly after 8.00 PM, the moon appeared from a clear blue sky in the East. Together with the last light beams from the sun on the Western side of the lighthouse, they both painted a postcard scenery of the reef. Later, close to midnight, when the stars came out, was the time to be out on the Eastern side again with my tripod.
The result of patience.
Everything was perfect, an occasion that does not come very often at this time of the year. Even the wind had gone home for the evening. The whole reef was wet from humidity again and the plexi-glass windows were soaking wet too, making it impossible to sit outside with a laptop to write.
So the most difficult question last night was to decide whether to sit in my small cabin and write or to be outside moon walking with nature providing enough light from its giant headlamp, accompanied by the laughing sound of the seals in the shadows. Either way, a very pleasant and long night indeed.
The observer equipment.
In the morning, the magic was gone with a wind of change from N in 12m/s, bringing dry fresh air into the lighthouse and the waves on the North side again. A great neighbour to have just outside the keeper’s cabin window, the only window on the N/E side, by the way. Ever thought of that?
Nothing new to report from my favourite site, the tower, so I proceeded with the documentation inside instead, photographing things of interest from the attic down to the basement, all the way in to the former sauna.
I also put up a sign on the door to the attic reminding of the sharp nails pointing out from the sealing. This would be a place to wear a construction worker’s helmet.
From the chief's quarters.
Your lighthouse keeper,
Friday 28.9.2007 - Rain just hates Märket
Today the wind came by. The signs in the sky yesterday, the familiar long thin hooks, announced that a different type of weather was on its way. A rain frontier, yet about 1000 km away.
In the morning, the frontier was clearly visible passing Märket on the Eastern and Southern sides leaving the reef in peace once more, as it had done so many times before. Rain just hates Märket.
But this is the place where the wind lives. In the afternoon, it increased and I decided to try to secure the door to the engine room, a job that turned out to be almost impossible with the tools available, designed for wooden work and due to the condition of the frames.
A face wash for the reef.
Tried out several methods, but there is just to little metal left to fix anything to it. They have to be renoved completely. It is just a matter of time when the next storm will remove the whole door, incuding the frames. So I continued the work inside instead.
In the afternoon, the wind increased to 12 m/s from 65 degrees making it impossible for the announced guests, a group of sponsors to visit the reef. The North side is, of course, out of the question for any landing, but the wind is also pushing the water out from the harbour on the South side, making the whole reef a no access zone for boat people for the time being, but in the same time offering a new angle for pictures of the most visited tourist attraction of the reef.
No, not the lighthouse, but the Most Famous Baltic Sea flushed Toilet shot from almost right below and now being a no-water closet
By the evening, the wind had already got the sea in its grip an pushed the waves far over the reef, giving it a most welcome face wash, the forecast announcing increasing wind speed to 16 m/s by the end of the night.
At the night time.
Your dry lighthouse keeper,
Saturday 29.9.2007 - Preparing for a romantic nautical scene
I was wrong. Rain does not hate Märket. Today it came by at noon, so this will be the day I finish off everything inside the lighthouse. Also, my departure day is coming closer. Every kind of weather here is OK for me and, by now, on my 12th day here on the reef, I had a bit of everything. Everything but a heavy storm.
The wind did probably not quite rise to 16 m/s last night, despite the strong wind alert and no gale warning is in sight for the incoming week either.
As a sea photographer, I have been watching the logic of the waves on this very special location for almost two weeks now, whenever I have had the time between my keeper’s duties, my most important assignment.
How far the waves wash the reef at different wind speeds and directions, how high they climb and with which intervals the biggest ones of them hit the reef, all in an effort to plan what would be the different locations to safely shoot a portrait of the most stormy location in Finland if I would be lucky enough to experience that out here. You know one of these national romantic nautical scenes lighthouse paintings are made of.
On this very low reef, where the highest point raises just 3 metres over the sea level, there are not many spots to catch both the waves and the lighthouse in one shot. Already at a rather moderate wind speed of 15/ms and the lack of a higher dry point at the Eastern end of the reef makes it impossible to shoot anything.
And when the wind speed from N increases over the official gale level of 21 m/s, you do not have any business out on the Easten or Western side, following a painful logic. Great waves, but no access and no shot.
Today was the best opportunity so far. Some waves were left, a dark misty sky and the weather forecast predicted less wind for the evening, making it probably the last chance to shoot anything windy for my whole stay.
The only spot, the outmost reef on the Eastern side was yesterday a no access zone, but today the wind had already decreased just enough to enable a try, and the waves do not stop for a while, a bit like a train that hits the brakes but still passes on for hundreds of meters.
The reef was still surrounded by water and a separate island of its own and the use of the boat was, of course, out of the question. Wading out there was the only way. So, I spent a great deal of time watching from a distance just how high the highest waves hit the spot and with which force, knowing that if a wave strikes you not more than up to your waist, you are washed out in the sea.
Everything looked good and safe, so I decided to hit for the reef, jumped into my survival dry suit packed with distress signals and my VHF, neopreen gloves and hood, inflatable life vest and attached a life cord to the reef, not too much safety at all when you are alone, which I am most of the time spent at sea.
With one eye on the object itself, and the other one on the incoming waves, I stood on the reef just enough to catch at least something from the quiet nice view. Not the best scenery I could imagine, but it was a shot and no wave got any higher than to the knees, so my observation had been adequate this time.
But you never know with the sea and the second golden rule for sea photographers is: When you got the shot, don´t wait for a better one, get out!
My dear readers, you may try this at home, but please do not try it on Märket.
Your still dry keeper,
Sunday 30.9.2007 - A snake in the Paradise
Day 13. Already countdown. My departure is scheduled for Monday afternoon, with weather reservations, of course. So, finally I finished off in the kitchen, the last resort on the reef to fix.
Everyone that have been on Märket for a longer period wants to leave his or her bookmark, ever since 1885 when the lighthouse was build. You can find the first engravings in the cliff down at the harbour. They were the first ones, and the keepers of the new era are the newest.
In the kitchen, I found Diddi´s signature on the kitchen floor, reminding everybody that she was the first one to clean the kitchen floor for years. I could not resist putting my signature there too, as I am the last keeper for this first season, and Diddi was among the first three ladies that came this spring.
When taking the food rests out to the compost, I thought of what an extra-ordinary place this is. You can even have an open air compost since here are no mice, no rats, no snakes. Sounds like a Paradise on Earth.
I shouldn´t have said that loud to myself. Not a minute later I saw it. The snake in Paradise.
Is this an adder or a slow-worm?
Enjoying the last beams of the sun, it was lying right where I take my morning swim every morning at the South harbour. The reef was one of the last places I expected to find a snake, although the Åland archipelago probably has the most of them.
I am not sure whether it is a slow-worm or a black adder, which would be the worse option. An adder bite should always be followed by a visit to a doctor, and that could be difficult to arrange out here. The snake was approximately 60 cm long and had a lighter structure on the lower side, so I would go for the slow-worm.
We hope for the slow-worm.
But just in case, keep the new visitor in mind if spotted next spring and wear rigid boots. I left it where it was, not wanting to interfere with the sensitive eco-system out here. And who knows, it could just turn out to be a welcomed different kind of a meal for the hawk that turned up in the same second.
The flying supervisor and a snake trap.
At noon, a fog frontier swept over Märket and the sight dropped to 150 meters within 10 minutes. Since every kind of weather could jeopardise my return now, I decided to send mail to my family, telling I am on my way, but don’t now when. No, not an email, but sea mail. In a bottle.
The toilet will be covered soon by the fog.
If the weather turns bad, I do not mind spending the Christmas here. Snake or not, this is still a Paradise.
Keeper Adam, without Eve.
Monday 1.10.2007 - Märket over and out
Day 14. Everything has to come to an end. The day of departure was here.
Suddenly life on the reef changes completely. For the third time during my stay. In the morning, it was still the same Robinson feeling, then the whole reef was full of people and turned into a veritable press center.
Daily press, radio and TV, all wanted to come out to the reef and look for themselves what had been done to the lighthouse after 141 days of continuous watch keeping, cleaning and construction work.
A great deal had been achieved after just one summer. The old lighthouse now has a far better chance of surviving. A great deal still has to be done, but the race against time is on.
Ville checked everything once more and closed the lighthouse for the winter. I had, as the last keeper, the great honour of taking down the flag together with Diddy, who was one of the first keepers and present when the flag was raised in May.
Diddy was one of the first, Leif was the last lighthouse keeper this summer 2007 on the Märket reef. (Photo as a friendly courtesy of Daniel Eriksson from Ålandstidningen.)
I have had a great stay on Märket and a unique opportunity to work on a historical site for two weeks and have experience a lot to remember for life. A big thank goes to everybody who made this stay possible.
And when Märket in the late afternoon dissapears in the horizon I know. I will be back.
Märket over and out.
Your last keeper