Short history of becoming a joint World Heritage Site

The road to the joint World Heritage Site has had little detours. The work towards a joint World Heritage Site began between 1994 and 1996, when the Council of Nordic Ministers investigated which nature areas in Nordic countries could be World Heritage Sites. The council identified also the High Coast and the Kvarken Archipelago as potential World Heritage areas.

The High Coast applied for the World Heritage Status already in 1998 but received the status in 2000 because UNESCO needed more background information. The High Coast became World Heritage Site because of the exceptional geology and the rapid and extensive land uplift phenomenon.

The journey to a joint World Heritage Site required two more applications to UNESCO. Finally, in 2006, the Kvarken Archipelago joined the High Coast. Together they form a transboundary World Heritage Site with outstanding geology. The Kvarken Archipelago is also only natural World Heritage in Finland, whereas Sweden has two.

There are about 20 World Heritage Sites in the world that are nominated because of their unique geology. Our joint World Heritage Site belongs also to a group of 50 marine areas that are World Heritage Sites. Transboundary World Heritage Sites that are in two or more countries are also quite rare. There are approximately 40 transboundary World Heritage Sites among the over 1000 World Heritages in the world.

Two exceptional reasons

The High Coast and the Kvarken Archipelago have exceptional geological value for two main reasons. Firstly, both areas have the highest postglacial land uplift record in the world since the latest Ice Age. The record means that the Earth’s crust has risen here hundreds of metres after the melting of the inland ice. The land uplift phenomenon was first recognised and studied here, which makes the World Heritage Site a key area for understanding how the Earth’s crust responded to the melting of the inland ice.  

Secondly, the Kvarken Archipelago has distinctive moraine formations among its 5,600 islands. The inland ice created moraine formations such as De Geer moraines, which make the landscape and seascape diverse in the region. That is why the Kvarken Archipelago is globally an excellent place to study moraine archipelagos.