Hildrendeland, literally meaning Almost Phantasmagoric Country or Land, is the name of this Northern Atlantic island covering approximately 2.9 square miles and but a handful of people; 72 at last count. The name came from sailors who would come across the island shrouded in fog and water spray making it appear somewhat like the images displayed using a ‘magic lantern’ in the 19th century. A ‘magic lantern’ was used to project scary images upon walls and semi-transparent screens.
The terrain is mountainous and virtually treeless. There is very little level ground meaning the people live along the coast. The island is covered in a thick grass cover with tiny meadows. The western beaches are tend to be pebbly and narrow. The western beaches are the most difficult to reach by land while eastern tend to be larger, wider and sandy. The island is dotted by about a dozen ponds or small pools of water, most all with rock bottoms. Waterfalls are seen following heavy rains as excess rain works it way back to the ocean.
The island is quite colorful in spring and summer. Wild berries grow throughout the island and wildflowers are so plentiful, the island is a carpet of colors in the warm spring sun.
Hildrendeland has a North Atlantic climate. While milder than the continental climate at this northerly location, Hildrendeland is certainly wetter and windier. Snow and ice is fairly common in winter. Summers are fairly calm with plenty of sunny days and daily highs in the area of 10 to 15 degrees Centigrade.
The island has a huge rabbit population, which has become an attraction on the island.
For years the islanders survived entirely from fishing but as time went on fishing became less profitable. Those quitting the profession generally left the island but some hung on. Over the last century, the population went from nearly 200 to 72 today. The last fisherman retired in the 1980s.
Hildrendeland became an economically depressed island for some time in the 1980s and part of the 1990s.. Income came from mostly crafts made by the islanders and rabbits killed and dressed for export.
Hildrendeland is a North Atlantic island of 2.9 square miles. The mountainous island is dotted with a couple of fishing lakes. The island has a very large rabbit population. The island has a couple of indentations offering some protection from the open ocean. One is on the west side of the island and the east side. Locals claim the two indentations serve to channel winds into the island.
Flowers and berries grow wild on the island. Cloudberries are found throughout the island. Cranberries have been grown for over a century thanks to a barrel that arrived on the island. The island is noted for its rugged mountains covered in wildflowers through the spring and summer months. Visitors claim the island is pristine and very beautiful. The surrounding waters offer good fishing. Fishing today is for sport via line fishing from shore or by small boat near the shore.
While Hildrendeland’s population peaked at around 200 around 1900, today Hildrendeland has a population of 72 living in two small villages on opposite sides of the island, accessible by a gravel track. The west village has a Church. The east village has the small store, restaurant/pub and a small community building.
The store is open 10am to noon Monday through Saturday. The restaurant serves food 8 to 9, Noon to 1 and 6 to 7 Monday through Saturday and Noon to 1 Sunday while the pub is open 7 to 10pm Monday through Saturday evening. The Island Council Office serves as a post office and operates a sort of banking and savings service, open 9:15 to 11:30 each Monday morning. A private small ship brings supplies and passengers to the island weekly from mid-May through mid-September, weather permitting and generally every month or two during winter months, depending on the weather.
The island produces its own electricity and is internet connected. A sewage system has been completed in the east village and was nearly complete in the west village. Plans have already been approved and work beings on the water supply in the summer of 2011.
The Development Board has benefited from precious metals speculation, giving the island a very good return on their investment. Over $740,000 in debt has been paid off. The latest reports indicate the Board has a long way to go to pay off everything but has paid the four homes, restaurant, pub, hot tub and community building off. The Board offers some employment opportunities, hiring a store manager and guides for summer tourists. Revenue include monies from leasing the community building, camping fees and renting the restaurant and pub. The Board is hosting “Mountains of Flowers” for two weeks in late June with guided nature walks, live acoustic music and the Flower Girl contest. This is the first such event the island has hosted. On tap, the Development Board wants to produce a small newspaper for off-island subscribers. Explaining to the residents in a recent meeting, the Board said the newspaper idea was a novel one as the content existed and on-line subscriptions would be nearly pure profit while mailed editions would be mostly profit. They pointed out the paper would serve as a marketing tool for potential visitors. The Board is encouraging crafts and arts projects during winter months, teaching pottery this past winter. They hope to eventually hold an arts and crafts show in the future. At present, the Board is asking families with children to look at Hildrendeland as a ‘safe and friendly’ place with low taxes and responsive government that really works to increase the quality of life.
We should note the Development Board seems to be the most promising potential for the island. Those who did not like the idea of tourism generally left the island or were persuaded the island had to create some activity to replace the fishing industry. The Board has taken a very conservative view and centered on the highest income producing options that cause the least impact on the lifestyle of the islanders. Tourism has been more low key and centers on the natural offerings of the island. We are impressed with the dual purpose of the Board by providing basic services, employment and income possibilities for the islanders.
The Government comprises a Council of 5 elected officials serving two year terms. Two members are elected from each village and the fifth member is by popular vote. To eliminate the ability for one community to rule the other, each two year term the villages take turns in electing the fifth member of the Council. Council Members meet monthly and serve without pay. A Council Member may serve as many terms as voters allow. The Council Office, located in a room off from the restaurant, open once a week, has one employee paid a token hourly wage.
Although not officially a part of government, the Development Board holds great power in directing the island. With one member appointed by the Council and one member from each village elected by popular vote at their election meeting, the Board is responsible for the island’s economic future. The Board meets monthly but the Development Board must hold quarterly public meetings to make sure their direction meets with the approval of the islanders. While a few are critical, most are very pleased with the work of the volunteer Development Board.
Hildrendeland has been settled since about 1200. Initially populated by Sami people who had vacated the island not long after settling there, the population evolved to an entirely Finnish base by the early 1500s. It is thought most of the population was primarily connected to Norway by heritage until around 1600 when the population was split between Scandinavian and European groups. By the early 1600s, Hildrendeland was being visited on occasion by ships. While always relatively poor, the island had a fairly good trade. At some point in the 1600s, a small ship sunk and the spoils of the ship wreck were mostly recovered by the islanders, containing a chest of silver bars, gold and silver coins.
By about 1900, the population had risen to about 200 and the islanders had shown a knack for making use of whatever washed ashore or could be recovered from the waters around the island. Among those finds was a barrel of cranberries that proliferate in the marshy areas of the island. It was around 1900 the island had its own beekeeper. The bees thrive at one of the most northerly locations on earth. MONEY Paper notes and a few coins have circulated on the islands ever since the merchants arrived and the Cooperative took economic control of the islands. In most instances the paper notes and coins were primitive. The Administrator has issued notes for the island. Several coins have been planned but at this point we have no details of denominations and other specifics. We are trying to learn more.
Paper notes and a few coins have circulated on the islands ever since the merchants arrived and the Cooperative took economic control of the islands. In most instances the paper notes and coins were primitive. The Administrator has issued notes for the island.
Several coins have been planned but at this point we have no details of denominations and other specifics. We are trying to learn more.