Geography of Åland


Geography of Åland

The Åland Islands occupy a position of great strategic importanceWho|date=July 2007, as they command one of the entrances to the port of Stockholm, as well as the approaches to the Gulf of Bothnia, in addition to being situated near the Gulf of Finland.

The Åland archipelago consists of nearly three hundred inhabitable islands, of which about eighty are inhabited; the remainder are some 6,000 skerries and desolate rocks. The archipelago is connected to Turkuland archipelago in the east (Finnish: Turunmaan saaristo, Swedish: Åbolands skärgård) — the archipelago adjacent to the southwest coast of Finland.

The surface of the islands are generally rocky, the soil thin, and the climate keen. There are several harbours, most notably at Ytternäs.

The islands' landmass occupies a total area of 1,512 square kilometres (583 sq. mi). Ninety per cent of the population live on Fasta Åland (the Main Island), also the site of the capital town of Mariehamn. Fasta Åland is the largest island in the archipelago, extending over 1,010 square kilometres, more than 70% of the province's land area, and stretching 50 kilometres (31 mi) from north to south and 45 kilometres (28 mi) from east to west.

A transnational Euroregion encompasses Åland and nearby coastal archipelagoes (skärgårdar). During the Åland crisis, the parties sought support from different maps of the islands. On the Swedish map, the most densely populated main island dominated, and many skerries were left out. On the Finnish map, a lot of smaller islands or skerries were, for technical reasons, given a slightly exaggerated size. The Swedish map made the islands appear to be closer to the mainland of Sweden than to Finland; the Finnish map stressed the continuity of the archipelago between the main island and mainland Finland, while a greater gap appeared between the islands and the archipelago on the Swedish side. Although both Finns and Swedes argued for their respective interpretations, in retrospect it is hard to say that one is more correct than the other. One consequence is the oft-repeated number of "over 6,000" skerries, that was given authority by the outcome of the arbitration.


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