Jussaari is located 20 kilometres from the continental Finland, and it lies on an island bearing the same name. For hundreds of years the island has served as a brief stopping place for ships due to its vital location in the middle of sea routes. Earliest written documentation about Jussaari dates back to 1240.
Jussaari is rich in iron ore. In fact there is so much of it that it even causes magnetic distraction for compasses which had been the main reason behind many shipwrecks during history. It has always had a reputation of a mystery island or devil island because sailors were afraid of Jussaari’s underwater rocks and games it played with compass needles. It was true especially during earlier times as sailors didn’t know that it was the iron ore that made compasses to go crazy. Thanks to its reputation, Jussaari even managed to make an entry in 17th century sailing guides which apparently did not help much anyway as the waters around Jussaari hold captive a great deal of sunken ships.
Iron ore was precisely the reason why the island got its first permanent inhabitants. Mining activities started in 1831 and lasted till 1867. Back then Finland was part of Russia who ordered its western subjects to start mining their own minerals rather than buying them for a higher price from neighbouring Sweden. However, mining wasn’t profitable enough, even though prisoners were used as cheap labour to get the job done. Almost hundred years later mining was restarted in 1961 by a Finnish company called Vuokseniska who built all the necessary facilitates on the island. This greatly boosted Jussaari’s poor economy. Unfortunately this happy era only lasted for seven years as everything was shut down in 1967. The reason was simple – Jussaari’s iron ore couldn’t compete with Brazilians who during that time flooded the world market with cheaper and higher-quality iron.
What is more interesting is that the mining was done not only on the island. There are over three kilometres of railroads under the see which are now flooded with seawater. Inside the tunnels large dining halls for workers can still be found. They used to spend a whole day in the mines there extracting iron.
During the happy iron years, mining waste was dumped onto island, and the sand gradually became red. Dumped, processed by-products over time created a unique Iron Beach where sand is still of dark red colour.
However the island was not left alone, and later miners were replace by soldiers. Due to its strategic location, Jussaari has always been of interest to the military. After mining period ended, Finnish armed forces took the island under their wing and set up some light artillery cannons there. Also a post for a coastguard was established whose duties were mainly focused on monitoring any suspicious activities on the sea and catching smugglers.
For a long time the island has been closed to general public and only recently it was opened to visitors. As the empty mining facilities were briefly used for urban warfare training during island’s era under the military, nowadays, visitors can find plenty of used shells and other military waste lying around.
Contributed by Artturi Hämäläinen from Finland