Recently I noticed that I have been finding lonely islands rather attractive. I somehow like the feeling to be far away from “civilization” as we know it. The knowledge that none or few other humans would be nearby, that I would be dependent on myself, is fascinating to me.
This statement does not imply I’d like to live continuously or for a long term on a lonely island. My aunt and uncle own a cabin located in the mountains upstream of Låtefossen in Norway. This cabin is rather isolated, although the neighboring cabin as well as the access road (hard-surfaced even) are both less than 100 m away. (If you think that’s still to civilized, you can always go hiking up into the surrounding beautiful Hardangavidda. Carrying warm clothes, a tent and foodstuffs for several days is advisable.) That cabin intentionally has no infrastructure at all – besides that road, of course. There is no running water; fresh water can be fetched with bottles from a nearby brook. The only sources of electricity are the batteries of the (little-used) flash light. There is no telephone. The only heating is supplied by the fireplace in the kitchen. Spending a few days at the cabin is quite enjoyable, but I definitely wouldn’t look forward to live there for much more than a week.
My initial statement also does in no way imply that I dislike to socialize. What I really mean when I talk about me being dependent on myself is that I am dependent on myself and my companions, who join me on my journey to temporary isolation. The problem is that I haven’t yet been able to find someone who’d like to accompany me on a journey to solitariness (although I have to admit that I haven’t spread this desire around until now). I do, however, know several of my friends who would join me on a journey to a lonely island for other reasons than to get a feeling of isolation. In fact, two of them recently did.
In the summer of 2003 my friends M. and P. joined me on a two-week sailing tour in the Baltic Sea. Together we chartered a 34-foot Elan yacht in Burgtiefe (Germany) and sailed along the Danish and Swedish coast to Allinge on the island of Bornholm (Denmark). From Allinge we tried to reach Utklippan via Christiansø. Alas, reaching our intended destination within the charter’s time frame was out of the question because of the northeasterly wind of up to 30 kt. The time constraints were the reason that Christiansø, a mere 50 nm southwest of Utklippan, was our Point of Return.
Christiansø is the largest island in a petite Danish archipelago called Ertholmene (the Pea Islands). Christiansø and the third largest island, Frederiksø, are the only inhabited ones. Together they have an area of 26 ha and share about 100 inhibitants. This theoretical population density of almost 400 people/km² and the daily ferry service to Bornholm disqualify Christiansø as a lonely island by my definition. Utklippan, by contrast, qualifies fully.
Utklippan is a group of small Swedish rocks located 15 nm off of the Swedish southern coast. Because of its exposed position it has always been an ideal light house site. The first light house was operative from 1839 until 1870 when its function was replaced by the new light house, which has been remotely controlled since 1972. Both light houses are situated on the south rock. The inlet between the south and the north rock constitutes a small natural port. I believe it was an emergency harbor once, but nowadays it is mostly used as an intermediate stop by yachts.
The first time I stumbled upon a mentioning of Utklippan was in about 1998 in the German novel “Oft spritzt mir Neptun Gischt ans Deck.” Although the book’s description of the island fascinated me from the very beginning, I soon forgot about Utklippan for the next five years or so. Then, in the early summer of 2003, my friend M. called and inquired about the possibility to organize a sailing trip for that summer. It was soon decided that we wanted to sail towards Sweden. Therefore, we favored any harbor on Rügen as our starting-point. Alas, a boat that matched our notions was not available around Rügen on such short notice, for which reason we settled for the more westerly Burgtiefe.
While studying the available charts, preparing possible routes and thinking about whether we need any additional charts [de] for our trip, I suddenly realized that Utklippan is not very far from Bornholm. In fact, when sailing northeast from Bornholm, Utklippan is the very first patch of Swedish soil on your course. Since Bornholm is easily reachable from Burgtiefe in two week’s time, I started researching for more information on Utklippan. I found one reference [se] on a site about some Swedish harbors, another reference [se] concerning nature reserves and one article in the German magazine “Yacht” [de]. The pictures I saw weren’t quite what I expected, but no less fascinating than my imagination. (Especially in “sportlich erquickendem Wetter,” M.!)
Although we didn’t reach our planned destination in 2003, we had a great time together sailing the Baltic Sea. We will probably try reaching Utklippan again in the future. And, lonely island or not – it surely was a superb trip. See the sidebar on sailing.
I found Information on Shemya mainly on the web, but I seem to recall that it was a setting in one of Tom Clancy’s ryanverse novels. I need to do more research.
[Shemya is as lonely (or inaccessible?) as it can get, especially since it is / was an USAF base: Even if someone would get to it, he probably wouldn't get in. …]
[Why does Shemya qualify as a lonely island while Christiansø does not? Because I haven't been there yet? …]
[work in progress]