Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The World's Greatest Archipelago

Archipelagos are literally scattered across the surface of our planet like leaves in the wind. Some are densely contained whilst others are sprawling; but which archipelago is the greatest? Most would say Indonesia or perhaps Japan, which would be a rather educated guess. However, if you were to measure an archipelago's greatness simply by the number of individual islands that it contains, then you may be surprised to find that the world's greatest archipelago is that of the Swedish east coast.

The Swedish east coast archipelago contains a phenomenally mind-blowing 65,666 individual islands, and is formed by a combination of five smaller archipelagos:

1. Stockholm archipelago: 28,945
2. Smaland archipelago: 12,740
3. Oregrund archipelago: 9,722
4. Ostergotland archipelago: 8,888
5. Sodermanland archipelago: 5,371

The Swedish east coast archipelago started to take form 800 million years ago as the land began to triumphantly rise from the sea; and today it covers an area of 3,500 sq km (roughly seven tenths the area of the Grand Canyon) of which less than half is occupied by land. Of the 65,666 islands it is estimated that 10,000 of them are permanently inhabited, most of which are the larger of the archipelago's islands, such as: Vaxholm, Blido and Ingaro - all of which are connected to the mainland by bridges or ferries. A few of the easier to pronounce islands are: Ido, Lido and Moja. However, not all are quite so simplistic and some should not be attempted by the weak-of-tongue, such as: Norrpada skargard, Svenska Hogama and Bjorkskars skargrad.

The closest competitor to the Swedish east coast is the Archipelago sea situated in the Baltic sea near Finland, which contains roughly 50,000 islands. This Archipelago sea began to appear shortly after the most recent ice age, which ended 12,000 years ago; and more islands are still appearing today. The gradual appearance process of these islands is known as 'post-glacial rebound', and there is no anticipated or calculated end date for this process. Hence the rough estimation of this archipelago's size.

To place the sheer vastness of the Swedish east coast archipelago into context, let's imagine that you wish to undertake an island hopping holiday. You have chosen to visit the Swedish east coast and you want to spend one-day on each of the archipelago's islands. So how much time would you have to book off work? Well, the short answer is 180 years (and this does not take into account the additional time it would take to sail from island to island).

The Swedish east coast truly is the world's greatest archipelago.

An extremely basic artist's impression of the Stockholm archipelago. This archipelago contains 28,945 islands, but is only one of the five archipelagos that combine to create the Swedish east coast.

A photograph of one of the Swedish east coast's larger islands. Many of these islands contain holiday homes that are used in both the summer and winter holidays. 

One of the Swedish east coast's smaller islands. A very lonely place to live.

The location of the Archipelago sea. The second largest archipelago in the world. Islands are still appearing within the location due to a process known as post-glacial rebound.

- Until the next Butterfly...