Kemi archipelago

Kemi is an industrial town in northern Finland, right by the sea. The town was born in 1869 with a lot of wood processing industry. There were sawmills in the town, and later pulp mills. There are still a lot of logs underwater outside the town of Kemi, not least because Stora Enso lost a shipload of logs in the fall 2017 just outside of Kemi harbour, and there is still a lot of wood processing industry in the area. Nowadays Kemi has a large industrial harbor. International relations already started more than 150 years ago when the town got a permission for overseas trading.

A log on the bottom of the sea, almost hidden by bottom sediments.
Old log in Kemin Kiikkara. Photo by Noora Kantola, Metsähallitus.

What makes Kemi a unique town in the northern Bothnian Bay is that it has a large archipelago mixing with the Kemijoki River estuary. Many of the islands are used year-round – with small recreational boats in the summertime, when local residents go to their summer cottages, and with skis and walking during wintertime, when people take to the solid sea ice for skiing, ice-fishing and leisurely walks.

Bow of a boat, heading towards the shore. Half cloudy, but nice weather.
Rocky & shallow beach in Kemi. Photo by Suvi Saarnio, Metsähallitus.

Kemi archipelago islands have been used for leisure for more than a hundred years. In the beginning of the 20th century, malnourished and skinny kids from poor families were taken to Selkäsaari island for a few weeks “fattening camps” where they were properly fed while they had time to get fresh air and exercise as well. In the 1930s prohibition time, there were camps for kids and youths organized by the local temperance movement organization. In contrary to the temperance movement, booze was smuggled to Selkä-Sarvi island in the Bothnian Bay national park from where it was distributed for example through Kemi to the whole of northern Scandinavia.

Two people walking on the shallow sea. Bedrocks on the background. Cloudless summer day.
Beautiful bedrock “islands” south from Ajos. Photo by Suvi Saarnio, Metsähallitus.

Nowadays the underwater nature of Kemi archipelago is mostly influenced by the large freshwater river runoff and the estuary, but also by the surrounding factories. Of course, the worst discharges of the factories were cut of already decades ago, when everything that the pulp mills produced were pumped right into the sea. Now we are wondering what the new Chinese-Finnish bioproduct mill by Metsäfibre will do to the surrounding sea area. At least they will produce a lot of warm water year-round and some people are concerned about the extent of sea ice in the future winters in the Kemi archipelago.

Right now, the underwater nature in the archipelago is a unique estuarine mixture of freshwater species (many species of water mosses, lilies, duck mussels etc.) and more marine species (Charales, filamentous algae etc.). A peculiar and quite rare water solder can be found in the lower reaches of the Kemijoki River and the invasive alien species Canadian waterweed (cousin of Nuttal’s water weed which has still not yet spread to Finland from Haparanda area) can be found in some ponds, lakes and river areas at Kemi shore.

In the future, when the Bothnian Bay is getting less and less saline, the freshwater species might spread even further from the archipelago and the river estuary.

Blue sea and sky. City of Kemi in horizon.
Calm sea in front of Kemi. Photo by Suvi Saarnio, Metsähallitus.

Written by Essi Keskinen, Metsähallitus

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