Trip to Vallisaari Island

On Friday, 29 August 2014 my workplace had a recreation day. We made a trip to Vallisaari Island just off the Helsinki coast. The island is owned by the military but it is being opened for public use. The placemarks on the map are explained with photos below. The photos can be enlarged by clicking.


At the dock we were welcomed by a friendly sign. Behind it there is an old building. We split into three groups. My group was lead by the nature photographer Petri Asikainen. He warned us about the badger on the island, which according to him are very hungry and like to snatch the last person walking in the line. Badgers aren’t the only animals on the island. He had seen many kinds of creatures there, and had once even bumped into a herd of elks, when neither party had noticed the other in the dusk. This time, we only saw a couple of hawks.

This pond was one the sources of fresh water on the island. An 80-meter concrete ring was built in the pond to keep the spring water separate from the surface waters. Later the pond was also used for swimming.

An overgrown road along which the Russians planted lime trees in their day. Lime trees lined several of the island’s roads, and the Russians had planted a lot of other trees to make the island feel a bit more like home. We saw lilacs, ashes and balsam poplars. The whole island had been badly overgrown, but it is being gradually cleared.

Suomenlinna Island was right next to Vallisaari. We were told there had been sheep keeping the plants in check, but they had tried to swim across to Suomenlinna and drowned.

Several fortifications and ammunition storages were here and there on the island.

This wall had an icon holder; one must of course bless the weapons as well. The metal hatches had a lot of drawings and texts made with pencils. The last picture says among others, “I’ll beat up the officers”.

The biggest battery on the island is called Alexander’s battery, after the Russian czar. We went inside. It was dark, but we had flashlights. We couldn’t go to the beautiful stairs, because they were so rusty. We also saw the only evidence for the badgers here, as they like to use the battery as their toilet.

From the top of the battery we could see the protected black alder forest, and a pond where a boy once drowned while swimming.

Here the lime trees lining the road were big and old, and I had to climb in one of them. According to legend, an officer was hanged in a nearby tree.

In the place called Death Valley there was an explosion in 1937, which killed 12 people. It started from a fire which spread to an ammunition container. The shrapnel flew several kilometres.

On the way back to town, we saw an interesting optical phenomenon which looked like a very wide rainbow.