The islands of the Gulf of Finland

Of the numerous islands of the Gulf of Finland, about a hundred are in Estonian waters. The northernmost is Vaindloo Island (area 6 ha). Keri Island (3 ha) and Uhtju Island (10 ha) are also far from the coast. Other islands are near the coast. The number of islands is the greatest in Kolga Bay, where a protected area of small islands has been established. The largest (18.6 square km) is Naissaar Island north of Tallinn. Most of the islands formed on the Quaternary sediments which emerged from the floor of the Gulf of Finland. Thus, their landscapes are similar to those of the North-Estonian coastal plain. The exceptions are Osmussaar Island and Suur-Pakri and Väike-Pakri islands, built up of bedrock. Their landscapes are similar to those of the North-Estonian limestone plateau.

The plant cover of the islands of the Gulf of Finland is diverse and varies from island to island. The smallest and flattest islands (such as Keri Island) are often flooded with marine water. Their plant cover is less diverse and includes mostly halophilous species, adapted to coastal environments. Somewhat larger islands, like Mohni Island and the small islands in Kolga Bay are covered by bushes and scattered trees, but have no forest. The larger islands, such as Naissaar Island, Prangli Island and Aegna Island have forests, mires and meadows

Naissaar Island
Naissaar Island (area 18.6 square km) separates Tallinn Bay from the rest of the Gulf of Finland. Most of the island is covered by coniferous forest. A 45 meters high lighthouse is situated in the northernmost part of the island and a small beacon on the Hülgekari Shallow near its southern coast. A harbour on the southeastern coast is connected by railway with the northern part of the island. The strategic position of Naissaar Island explains the abundance of military constructions on the island through its history. The island was once inhabited by Swedes. Recently, a nature park has been formed from this former military area.

Aegna Island
Aegna Island (area 2.9 square km) is situated in the northeastern part of Tallinn Bay, northwest of Rohuneeme. Aegna Island has no permanent inhabitants. However, it has a ferry connection with Tallinn and it is used as a recreation area; the daily number of visitors may reach a few hundred in the summer. Early this century, large fortifications were built on Aegna Island. The island is covered by forest.

Prangli Island
Prangli Island (area 6.44 square km) is situated 9 km northeast of the Viimsi Peninsula. A large, 6 km long and 3.5 km wide drumlin extends from the northwest to southeast on the island. The highest point of the island, Kullamägi Hill, is only 10 m a.s.l. Several large erratic boulders can be seen. The plant includes wooded meadows, seashore meadows and heath pine forests. Earlier the island was populated by Swedes, at present, about a hundred permanent inhabitants live in the three villages of the island.

Osmussaar Island
Osmussaar Island (area 4.69 square km) is located 7 km northwest of Põõsaspea Cape, near the western border of the Gulf of Finland. The island is 5 km long and 1.5 km wide, with its longer axis in a northwest–southeast direction. The plant cover is dominated by junipers; there are rare patches of deciduous forest. Two small lakes — In Hamne and Lilla Hamne — are located in the southern part of the island. The 6 m high Osmussaar Cliff in the northern part of the island is the westernmost outcrop of the North-Estonian Klint. Many erratic boulders can be seen in the northern part of the island. The historical records of the island date back to the 13th Century (the island was once called Odinsholm or Odensholm).

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