History - Visit Sea Lapland



The first travelogues about Sea Lapland were published in 1555. Throughout history, the area has been at the center of many significant events due to its great location. For the same reason, Sea Lapland currently produces 8% of the value of Finnish exports.


Sea Lapland’s history and present in a nutshell

The first travel descriptions

The Swedish historian and cartographer, the cathedral dean of Strängnäs Olaus Magnus Gothus were the first to introduce the far-off North to the Europeans. The Latin epos the History of the People of the North was published in 1555.

Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis, on the orders of Ludvig XV, King of France, made an expedition to Lapland in 1736 – 1737, thus further enhancing the knowledge of the Sea Lapland region in Europe. His expedition entourage included astronomers and mathematicians, the purpose of the expedition being the geodetic survey of the earth; his results would be that the earth is flattened at the poles.

On his return to France, de Maupertuis would boast of the beauty of the scenery, of the Northern Lights in the region, and of the delicacies he was offered due to the great hospitability of the people. Through these travel description books, people of even this generation have gained detailed information of life and people and their way of living in the 1700’s. Tourism to Sea Lapland, even today, is inspired by these great works.

Iisakki Mustaparta, Isaac Blackbeard, hero of the people in Tornio

Iisakki Mustaparta, born in 1751, was a peasant from Oravaisensaari at the village of Vojakkala, a few kilometers north of the city of Tornio. Together with the peasantry in his neighborhood, he built a decked ship to transport tar to Stockholm, bringing a cargo of grain on his return back north.

Mustaparta and his men were declared outlawed, imprisoned and thrown into a stinking jail in Stockholm. Mustaparta, instead of giving up, went ahead to prove the legality of his actions. Eventually, he was to become the delegate to the Parliament in Stockholm, defending the rights of the peasantry and was nicknamed Robin Hood of the North.

The story of Iisakki Mustaparta is alive and flourishing at the Restaurant Mustaparran Päämaja (Blackbeard’s Headquarters). The maritime interior decoration depicts the feel of the 1700’s, the crystal chandeliers adding a taste of Royal glamor. The delicacies of the Tornio Valley are served on a plank and drinks are enjoyed from a clay mug, just as Iisakki would have done. The scent of the tar around, with the taste of the holy grass and buckthorn in your mouth – what an enjoyable time-travel to be remembered!

The powerful history of the city of Tornio

Since the last Ice Age, the Tornio River Valley has been inhabited in a continuum. As the population migrated to live by the three main rivers in the region, the Europeans found the North and its desirable products of nature as well; the salmon, the hides, and furs of reindeer and other animals in Lapland, which, eventually were brought to the Tsar of Russia as well.

The city of Tornio, founded on the orders of King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden in 1621, became the northernmost city in the whole world at the time. After the Finnish war in 1808, when Finland became the true autonomous Duchy of the Russian Empire, the center of Tornio was to be part of Russia as well, and the Swedes, thus, established the township of Haparanda (nowadays the town of Haparanda) on the western side of the border.

The golden years of log floating

Since the 1890’s log floating has strongly characterized the life in the Sea Lapland region. Timber was transported from Lapland along the rivers to the sawmills in Kemi and Tornio. Workers to the logging sites and to the log floating in Lapland arrived from all over Finland.

Work on the logging sites was done in the winter, from November to March. As the spring floods arrived, the logs were floated along the Kemi- and Tornio Rivers through, in all and all, the over 7000 km long log-floating lanes. Log floating came to its end in 1991; a historical monument erected in the honor of the golden days and several buildings related to the business, are still to be seen in the area.

Steel and paper

Kemi Oy (Ltd), the very first paper mill in North of Finland was established in 1893, helping the region to quickly turn into one of the most important centres of wood processing industry in all of Finland. The second paper mill Veitsiluoto Oy (Ltd) was established in 1932. Nowadays the mills are known as the Metsä Group Oyj (Corp) and the Stora Enso Oyj (Corp).

The ferrochrome factory in Tornio and the chrome mine in Kemi were established for the refinement of stainless steel in 1960. Nowadays the factory is known as the Outokumpu Chrome Oyj (Corp).

The industry, developed and refined from the natural resources of Lapland, alongside with the many-sided cultural history in the region, is the basis for the wealth and well-being of the people in Sea Lapland.