Energy Island Utsira
April 2012: Lighthouse of Norway’s correspondent Sigrid Thorbjørnsen visited Utsira Island.
Text and photographs by Sigrid Thorbjørnsen.
Edited by Rick Shupper.
Energy Island Utsira is the motto of both Utsira District Council and Utsira Tourist Association. The phrase has many connotations, one being that people can recharge their batteries there. Utsira is Norway’s second smallest municipal district in geographical extent, being an island of 6.15 square kilometers with a population of 220 residents from eight different countries or continents (Scotland, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Philippines, Vietnam, and Africa), ages ranging from new born to 103 years old.
Utsira island is out in the North Sea, 11 miles/18 km west of Haugesund. Utsira is great for birdwatching – 324 different kind of birds have been observed on this island. The grocery store has everything from spaghetti to wasabi, fresh cabbage, and stockings. You can stay on the island for a long time and have all you need.
The construction of Utsira Lighthouse started in 1843. Two towers were built to help distinguish Utsira from the lighthouse at Kvistøy. The north tower is built of granite, lined with brick on the outside. These two lighthouses were lit for the first time on August 15, 1844. The south tower was deactivated in 1890. This is Norway’s sole remaining twin light in a single district, and is now listed under the Culture Heritage Act. The north tower is not very tall (43.6 feet/13.3 meters), but standing 256.6 feet/78.2 meters above sea level, it is the tallest lighthouse in Norway.
The north lighthouse were automated in 2003. Since then it has been a tourist attraction as well as a haven for artists and musicians – no wonder since the natural light here is quite unique.
Utsira Lighthouse is part of an art project that includes all the lighthouses in Rogaland county. Glowing red heads mounted atop columnns and facing the sea are one of Christian Sunde’s installations on Utsira. The project is a collaboration with local students.
Utsira municipality maintains an artist residency at Utsira Lighthouse. The renovated apartment is in a semidetached house built in the late 1950s. This apartment was originally for the lighthouse keeper’s family. All buildings at Utsira Lighthouse are protected under the Heritage Act.
Utsira municipality rents to artists who want to experience the island.
For tourists, here are the options of where to stay.
How to get to Utsira
You can only get to Utsira by ferry from Haugesund, with 4 departures per day. The crossing takes from between 45 minutes and 1hour 15 minutes. Arriving at Utsira you can walk all over the island, but in case you feel the need for transportation, there is a taxi on the island.
April Sunset at Utsira Lighthouse
The road from the dock to the lighthouse takes you through the village of the south side of the Island. With little or no traffic, it is a pleasant walk where you can take a good look at the houses, stone fences, sheep, cows, and wonderful gardening. During summer, the lighthouse is open for tourists and tours of the tower are given. On the west side of the lighthouse there’s a perfect spot to sit and watch the sunset. The view over the ocean is spectacular. Colors, clouds, and sea change continuously. It makes you want to sit and take in the fresh air, the wonderful breeze, and the smell of salt water, for days. Watch the sky changing hues – from blue to grey, to light yellow, then orange transforming into light purple and floating into red – before the ocean swallows the sun leaving the sky with an altered tone of grey.
Energy Island Utsira is a perfect motto. It is true. Here you can really recharge your batteries.
See also Utsira as a way of life (flicker page of photographs).