No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent ….” – John Donne
Kjeungskjær Lighthouse is located on a tiny skerry (“skjær” is the Norwegian word for skerry) at the mouth of the Bjugnfjord, about 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles) west of the village of Uthaug, and 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) south of the village of Nes in Bjugn. At high tide, there is no island, only the lighthouse that appears as if it’s floating on water.
The red lighthouse is an octagonal-shaped, concrete construction that stands 20.6 meters (68 ft) tall and is lit from July 21 until May 16. During summer, the sun barely sets – with no need for light from the lighthouse. The lighthouse, also called The Red Sailor, is five stories tall and can sleep nine plus provide additional mattresses for seven people. Kjeungskjær Lighthouse was build in 1880, and the lighthouse keepers as well as their families lived in the lighthouse. The lighthouse keeper’s three kids did not go to school on the mainland until they grew older. Rough weather made it unsafe to cross over to the mainland every day. Instead, they had a private teacher also living at the lighthouse.
Today, Kjeungskjær Lighthouse is a popular weekend destination for travelers who want something uniquely different. In August 2012, I had the honor of staying at this lighthouse.
When I arrived at Brekstad after my stay at Molja Lighthouse in Ålesund, I spent the first night at Hovde Gård, a newly renovated mansion that serves as a hotel, spa, and meeting center in the area. Hovde Gård collaborates with Kjeungskjær Lighthouse and provides transport to Uthaug harbor where I met with my new hosts, Anne-Lise Valås and Jarle Albrigtsen (firstname.lastname@example.org). Boat is the only way to get to the lighthouse, although some years ago Crown Prince Haakon Magnus of Norway visited the lighthouse by helicopter.
This morning I was blessed with an almost mirror-like open sea and partly sunny sky. The lighthouse appeared in the distance like a floating, red castle. After a quick crossing we arrived at the lighthouse, practically at its doorstep. The pier that used to greet visiting boats and people was washed away in the large storm of 2011, and has not been replaced yet.
After a tour of the lighthouse and a coffee break on the balcony, my hosts went back to the mainland. With nowhere to go, no Internet, no TV, no games – it was just me, the lighthouse, and the sea. This particular lighthouse is different because there is no space to roam around outside. Only at low tide, the small skerry is visible, and I could walk around outside. During high tide there was nothing but water outside.
My thoughts went to the people who used to live here, and what kind of life they had. I read that the lighthouse keeper at Kjeungskjær Lighthouse had to be married to get the job. It was an odd two-for-one requirement. The coastal authorities expected the wife to share the nightshifts and other responsibilities with her husband on one salary.
The kids couldn’t run around outdoors except during low tide and in good weather, so they had to stay inside much of the time. So, with no space outside the living area for anyone meant that the kids, the teacher, the mother and father all had to get along indoors, 24/7. That’s one close-knit extended family situation. “No man is an island, entire of itself,” but I’m sure it must have felt like that from time to time ….
From 1927 to 1952, Sigfrid and Ingvald Bolsø was the last couple to share the long nightshifts at Kjeungskjær Lighthouse. The lighthouse was automated in 1987.
For weeks the weather could keep the keepers from getting groceries from the mainland. The storms hitting this area are not to be taken lightly. Last major storm, as late as in 2011, washed away the 30-feet concrete pier attached to the lighthouse. Even opening a window could be risky at times. Thanks to lighthouse keepers and their families, ships could set sail and travel safely through the rough coastal areas of Norway.
Now, I am sitting outside, at the peaceful lighthouse balcony – which, by the way, was not there 1927–1952 – looking at the horizon, watching its change of color and the bad weather coming towards me. As the first raindrop hit my forehead, I went inside to avoid the heavy rain, only glad I didn’t have to row over to the mainland this very moment.
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” – John Muir
Maybe this is what Kjeungskjær Lighthouse was to Sigfrid and her family. A place to pray in and a place to play in – the beauty of the place is undisputable.
Today, we all get to stay at the lighthouse because we can and not because it is a job. It is a wonderful stay. It gives peace to mind. It is relaxing. It is nothing less than spectacular. So spectacular, in fact, that it has been fully booked every weekend throughout this summer season.
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