The changing marine landscape exists in the interactions of man and nature

Both human activity and the interactions between man and nature from prehistory to the present are visible in our environment. This will continue far into the future. However, not all of the impacts have been good. For example, the condition of our seas is a cause of worry.

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Mikko Härö

The author works as a Head of the Department of Cultural Heritage Services in the Finnish Heritage Agency

The cultural heritage is to be preserved and passed on to future generations

Cultural heritage changes over time. It is a kind of process that involves identifying or creating values and meanings. We want to maintain the good, enduring, and beautiful features of culture. The concept of cultural heritage usually refers to these positive things. To us, these inherited material and intangible objects and phenomena are important. They are considered so important, that we want to pass them on to future generations. At the same time, however, we have inevitably renewed and developed them.

A complex of landscapes, built environments, and archaeological heritage of different ages is commonly referred to as a cultural environment. This also includes wrecks and underwater structures. We may also talk about the underwater cultural landscape.

The village of Jurmo in the outer archipelago of Parainen.

Maritime cultural heritage also embodies human innovation

Maritime cultural heritage can be examined from many perspectives. The key issues are settlement and livelihoods, the heritage of the administration, and the importance of the archipelago and the sea as a recreational environment. Anyone is free to complement this  set of issues in their minds. Or question it.

Maritime cultural heritage is characterised by challenging and sometimes dangerous locations, which can also be difficult to access. It tells about how mankind has used the diverse resources of the sea and what kind of communities they have been able to build, based upon these assets. On the other hand, the selection of awkward locations also indicates the type of technology needed to adapt to the demanding conditions. Later, technology has not only been used to overcome but to outright defeat adversity. Thus, the maritime heritage we have preserved also tells us about the history of human innovation.

In the marine environment, natural heritage is linked to human achievement

Our relationship with nature is determined by our culture. A concept related to cultural heritage is that of natural heritage, which generally refers to natural sites. In marine environments, it is difficult and often even futile to distinguish between natural and human impacts. The fine national parks in our archipelagos are an excellent example of this. At the same time, preserving marine nature is similar to taking care of our cultural heritage.

One of the important features of our coastal and archipelago environments is the variability of water and land. The transition from the sea to the mainland. Or the lack thereof, i.e. an open shoreline. In the inner archipelago, the starting point and conditions for life and livelihoods have been different from those living at the borders of the sea or on the open coast. Human activity has been linked to this zone. Thus, the prosperous areas of the inner archipelago are quite different from the seasonal dwellings of the outer archipelago. This diversity was once wealth.

View out to the sea from Isokari lighthouse.

The permanent settlement of the archipelago changed to summer residency

Our cities were once founded along the coast. However, technological and economic changes, as well as the ensuing social upheavals since the late 19th century have marginalised and partially emptied the archipelago. The shift from relative self-sufficiency to trade and consumption has, paradoxically, made archipelagos remote places. The relative population decline of the archipelago, along with its livelihoods and opportunities for mobility, led to the need for special archipelago policies.

The permanent population decline of the archipelago was somewhat reversed at the end of the late 19th century due to its increasing importance as a leisure environment. This change was expressed in the shift of summer residency from former large villas to cottage landscapes and corporate holiday islands. Likewise, the development of sailing from peasant boats to trimmed race boats and the classic pavilions of yacht clubs, embodies the transformation of the archipelago into a leisure environment.

Moreover, fine art also expresses this aspect in its own way. In particular, the aesthetic and visual power of the marine environment from the sensitivity of a lull to the drama of storms, to a human life subordinate to nature.

Isokari cliffs and the seaview in Kustavi.

Seafaring needs have contributed to shaping the seascape

The nautical landscape is almost literally a line drawn in the water, or a momentary wake left behind a boat. The shipping lanes are the backbone of the maritime landscape. Mobility needs have been created by seeking out a place to live, as well as conducting business, such as fishing, freight, and trade. Natural fairways and harbours have been, and may still be, the home places of coastal inhabitants. From the 17th century, the state began to build safety equipment, the most visible of which was lighthouses and pilot stations. At the same time, the government offered professions, work, and livelihoods. The seafaring landscape also includes charts, radar or an illuminated array of security equipment in the dark. For those unfamiliar with such scenery, these landscapes may even seem confusing.

Military defence has also shaped the coastal landscape

It has always been in the interests of the crown to defend the coast while safeguarding the transit traffic travelling along it. This has manifested over history, among other things, in the form of fortresses and battlegrounds, along with their associated wrecks.

Of particular importance have been the Swedish fortifications of the 18th century, as well as the Russian operations of the early 20th century to secure St. Petersburg and the Gulf of Finland. There is particular drama contained in the battles of the Second World War in the Hankoniemi Archipelago, as well as in the remnants left behind by the Soviets during the rental period of Porkkala, during the Cold War.