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Flatholmen Lighthouse: 150 years and going strong

Flatholmen Lighthouse: 150 years and going strong
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2012 marks the 150th year anniversary of Flatholmen’s service.

Flatholmen Lighthouse is located on an islet about .6 miles outside Tananger in Sola, southwest of Stavanger. This area is known as the Jæren Coast. The name Flatholmen is composed of two Norwegian words flat meaning flat and holm, a term indicating a low, flat (and usually treeless) islet. As the name suggests, Flatholmen is completely flat and hardly 32 feet (10 meters) at its highest point.

Flatholmen Light was established in 1862, rebuilt in 1952, and replaced with an electric lamp in 1984. It is 26 feet (8 meters) tall and 57 feet (17.5 meters) above the sea high tide level.

Visiting Flatholmen Lighthouse

As of today, Flatholmen Lighthouse itself is not available for overnight stays or visitors. However, there is an important principle in Norway known as Allemannsretten (the right to access). This “all man’s right,” which gives everyone in Norway – local and visitor alike – a wide-ranging right of access to the countryside, was traditionally an unwritten rule but since 1957 has been codified in legislation, through the Outdoor Recreation Act. Bottom line: you can visit the islet, have a picnic, enjoy the views.

There are plans to make the lighthouse itself available to visitors and guests. We will make an effort to keep this updated as information becomes available.

The Girls of Flatholmen Lighthouse

When the station was in operation the families lived on the island all the time. Right after the WW II, the kids went to school in Tananger and had to be rowed in and out each day. With no electricity or phones there was no way of informing teachers of student’s no-show in stormy weather. The teachers however knew where they lived, and understood.

In 1894, the lighthouse keeper, his wife and two of his sons were trying to get back to the island when a storm suddenly rose up and capsized their boat. Two of the keeper’s young daughters saw what had occurred and struggled valiantly to save their family, launching a row boat in the churning sea, and rowing to the site of the wreck. They were only able to save the youngest brother. The story is famous all over Norway.

A beautiful statue was erected in Tananger. The sculpture The girls of Flatholmen was a gift of SR-bank as a tribute to Bertine and Esther, the two heroic daughters.

The Last Lighthouse Keeper

Karsten Mangor Hellestø is among the last generation of lighthouse keepers. He kept the lighthouse on Flatholmen until 1984, when the lighthouse was automated. Karsten’s father was also the lighthouse keeper at Flatholmen, and Karsten has lived much of his life on the small island. In fact, he and three of his sisters received their elementary education there for seven years, with teachers who came out to the island.

In the video (below) Karsten talks about life on Flatholmen. The video is made by the sons of Karsten, as a birthday gift. Karsten still travels out to Flat Island in his old wooden boat.

It’s a beautiful video even if you don’t speak Norwegian and, like us, you’ll be impressed with his lively and expressive manner.


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5 Responses to Flatholmen Lighthouse: 150 years and going strong

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  3. Colleen Beaver April 30, 2015 at 10:03 pm

    This was amazing to watch! My ancestors also lived on Flatholmen in the 1890’s. The two brave girls who rescued one of their brothers in January 1894 were my father’s great aunts, I think. We were able to visit Tananger in July 2013 and took a pilot boat out to the island. Something prevented us from docking and getting out; it was hard to be so close and not be able to get out and walk around. We were so fortunate to meet other relatives who still live in Tananger. Thank you for a beautiful video!

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  5. Lisa Haaland December 8, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    My great grandmother, Ester is also one of the brave girls of Flatholmen…She was the younger of the two & when my sister & I saw the statue (in pictures) we were very startled by how much she & I looked like my great grandmother & her sisters. I have yet to get to Norway to see the lighthouse & statue (in Habn)…but I pray to see their home (and the lighthouse) as well as their statue. My middle name is Haaland, which was great grandmother’s, her son’s, my grandfather’s children & my father’s children….My brother’s children carry the name as well as my sister’s boys…I thought it went with the Olsen name & erred in not adding it to my daughter’s. I have read that they have an area that is now called Haaland, but is now spelled the proper way with the A and the circle over it. It was wonderful to see this.