Struve Geodetic Arc
The Struve Geodetic Arc is a chain of survey triangulations stretching from Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea.
The chain was established and used by the German-born Russian scientist Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve in the years 1816 to 1855 to establish the exact size and shape of the earth.
The area of the Arc designated as a WHS consists of 34 stations, spanning 10 countries and over 2,820 km. Originally there were 265 stations, in only 2 countries (the Russian Empire and the Union between Sweden & Norway).
Visit July 2013, August 2016
I am happy to finally be able to tick off this weird WHS, and present to you a trip report to another one of the measure points. I choose “Oravivuori”, located on the top of a hill some 30km south of Jyväskylä in Central Finland. A GPS or car navigation will stear you close using the provided coordinates. The site is also signposted well from the main road between Tampere and Jyväskylä, and you should follow these signs to reach the improvised parking lot at the foot of the hill. It’s better to turn off the car navigation for the final stretch, as at least my TomTom wanted to take me on a different (unpaved) route.
The site lies 8 km from the main highway. The road is mostly half-paved, and unpaved for the last km. Access is not maintained in winter, and I also wouldn’t advise a visit during or just after heavy rains. From the car park a path leads uphill for one km to the top, where the measuring point is and also an observation tower. “One km” doesn’t sound far, but it is a steep climb on a narrow path. There are information boards at the start and along the way, as well as wooden benches to sit on every 250m. It surprised me how well-looked after it all is, as it isn’t a site where the casual tourist would show up.
There’s an open area at the top of the hill, just enough forest is cleared to hold a stone marker and a large wooden observation tower. I am not really sure which one of the two marks the exact “Struve spot” however. At the foot of the observation tower I wrote my name in the provided log book. It seems that there are some 6 to 8 visitors to this site daily in summer. Of course I went up to the top of the tower too – it has good views over the quintessential Finnish landscape of thick forest dotted with lakes.
My 2nd Struve site I visited during the WH meeting of 2016 in Lithuania. It's location #023, Meskonys. This one can be found in a field some 200m from a main road, and is signposted. There's nothing more to see than a manhole cover-like object, surrounded by a small white fence. There's an information panel about the Struve sites on your walk to the field.
Clyde - September 2016
After seeing several Struve monuments or geodetic points in Norway, Lithuania and Latvia (there are several points which have not been inscribed!), I made an effort to get a better understanding of this WHS by visiting the old Tartu Observatory in Estonia in September 2016. Some pointers to keep in mind if you intend to visit: opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 to 18:00 and if your very keen and have enough time you can also try your luck by booking at least 3 days in advance for a night visit including an observation from the old observatory’s main telescope, a Carl Zeiss Refractor from 1911. The old observatory is situated in the middle of Tartu on a hill full of trees. This means you'll most likely not be able to see it while driving around in circles to find a parking spot. There are stairs leading up to the observatory from different points around the hill. Make sure to bring a mosquito repellent in summer, you won't regret it. There is a Struve Monument just in front of the old observatory and a metal sheet/Unesco plaque just next to the entrance. Once you enter the old observatory, make sure to look where you're standing while paying the entrance ticket. Most probably you'll be standing on the observatory's Struve Geodetic point, the first point of the geodetic arc (centre of my photo collage). Next to the point, there is an information board on Struve and a huge one storey map showing the geodetic points. Although the old observatory interior is mainly geared towards astronomy, there is a special cabinet with several Struve instruments used for the geodetic arc (photo). Finally I could try to understand and appreciate why most of the sites in this transnational inscription had a small point. These instruments were placed on top of this metal point and all sorts of complex mathemical measurements and calculations were made (although I guess the manhole cover in Meskonys, Lithuania was added afterwards!). From the top of the observatory I could see some of the steeples of Tartu but not much because of the tall trees. To celebrate my visit I bought a 1000 piece UNESCO puzzle of the geodetic struve points as well as a very good book on the Struve geodetic arc and the different instruments displayed in the old Tartu observatory. This is definitely one of the strangest WHS on the list but if you manage to fit in a visit to the old Tartu observatory you will get more out of this weird inscription and in my opinion you can safely tick this one off the list. If you're still unimpressed, head to a fine nearby cafe/restaurant called Vilde (Wilde) Health Cafe for a superb dinner and a pint of A. Le Coq!
Solivagant - August 2016
With the Struve Arc being “in the news” on this site because of the 2016 “WHS Travellers Meeting” visit there, it seems a good time to add a review of another location which, as far as I can see, hasn’t previously been reviewed here - UNESCO Ref 1187-013 Porlom II in Finland which was visited by us in Aug 2016.
The site is very conveniently situated about half way between Helsinki and the WHS of Verla Board Mill - a visit to it by car from Helsinki will still get you to Verla in time for lunch. At around 115kms out of Helsinki, turn north off route 6 along 1771 (The WHS is not signed at this turn off). After 10kms you will reach the village of Porlammi. There, take 1751 north for a few kms and you will see a sign to the WHS pointing right (north) along a dirt road which leads to a beach (In Finnish = “Uimaranta”) on the nearby Lake Pyhäjärvi (apparently, there are 39 lakes in Finland named “Pyhäjärvi” which means “Holy Lake” so, if you are using map software, be sure you get the right one!). There are no more signs along a road which has a fair number of junctions - you just have to navigate on dead reckoning north towards the lake following the most “used” tracks!
If you reach the shore you have gone about 300 metres too far. Set back from the road in light undergrowth to the left as you come from Porlammi there is a sign with a full description of the Arc with maps etc and an indication that the “holy grail” is a, pleasingly exact, 420m away! From there a footpath climbs slightly through the forest, carpeted with reindeer moss and plants heavy with berries. You will arrive at a bald rock overlooking the lake and, behind you, will be the object of your journey - the actual marker which is set on a wooden post with a possibly significant “line” cut vertically into it implying that it has been located to the accuracy of a centimetre!! The first notice board states that “it was measured in 1833 by marking the point in the rock with a drill” but I could see no drill hole and the marker wobbled disconcertingly in its setting when pushed – so, how accurately the marker has really been placed is anyone’s guess.
An interesting fact on the first notice board is that, at the time of Struve, this area was free of trees – this was important of course to provide 360 degree sight lines for the triangulation measurements. Today you can only look north across the lake. Another fact mentioned on the notice board is that, in 1922, a re-measure took place and the Finnish Geodetic Institute placed its triangulation point 64.6m away. This was in use until the 1980s when satellite based measurements started. But we could see no signs directing us towards this second point. We were, by the way, the only visitors on this August Wednesday morning.
Which brings us to the “photo of record” for the site! I thought of using one of me looking “triumphant” whilst clutching the marker post (or one of Mrs Solivagent looking distinctly unimpressed) but that would break my "rule" of not using personal “snaps” so it has to be just the marker and a few moss covered bushes!
4 days later on our trip around Finland we were driving round the Gulf of Bothnia from Lulea/Gammelstad (Yes, I know they are in Sweden but Gammelstad was only around 800kms return additional to our Finnish route so we could hardly miss it!) with the aim of getting within 200kms of Rauma that evening - a journey of c650kms. At Tornio, on the Finnish/Swedish border we passed the sign showing that we were within 3 kms of the church which is the location for Struve Arc Ref 1187-11 and I had to ask myself whether I was a prisoner of an obsession or a man of free will!! Where would the “value add” have been? It wasn’t even as if the site hadn’t been reviewed here? I resolved my dilemma by convincing myself to “trade” a visit to another Struve location for a visit to the Finnish T List site of “The large Stone age ruin of Giants Castle at Pattijoki” – near Raahe and still 200kms south. Was I wrong?
Joking apart, I suppose anyone interested in WHS has to visit at least one of the Struve locations but they do seem to represent the “reductio ad absurdum” of the scheme whereby most of the locations have nothing present which needs “preserving” and those that do (like Tornio Church) are only of importance for purely associative reasons.
Ian Cade - July 2014
Four years since my last visit.
Three weeks of internet research.
A three hour flight.
685 km of driving.
One aborted attempt to visit from a more logical place on the map.
One surprise sign post pointing us in the right direction.
6 km of off road rallying.
One creative bit of parking to accommodate another car heading in the other direction down the country lane.
600m of scrabbling over rocks through the forest.
7-8 insect bites.
And this is a photo of our reward.....
Was it worth it?
Mr Cade said yes!
Mrs Cade wasn't quite as enthusiastic.
Jarek Pokrzywnicki - May 2014
Belarus has 5 sites related to Struve. 3 of them are located quite close to Ivanava (Polish name Janów Poleski) in the southern part of Belarus.
Easily to see if you have your own transport. On the main road Brest - Pinsk there are no signs of the site. From Janów take road H472 to Motol (Motal). From there turn right to Osownica (Asaunica). Struve point is located on the top of the hill (south-eastern part of the village).
Next point is in the forest close to Szczekuck (Szczakock) - road Motol - Janów, there is a sign of Struve, the point located some 500 meters from the road.
The last point is completely unmarked located on the hill (in the middle of corn fields) close to the village of Laskawiczy (no road nor path to get there).
All sites looked to be well maintained and recently prepared for visiting
John Booth - January 2014
Last autumn I found some more sites within the Baltic States:
Simuna and Voivere, Estonia - an obelisk in Simuna and an underground stone at Voivere, both sites accessible by bus from Rakvere.
Tartu, Estonia - the observatory, on a hill overlooking the town, is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. There is a memorial to Struve nearby. The site is accessible from Tallinn by bus and train.
Jekabpils, Latvia - the site is located in Struve Park on Struve Street, close to the Daugava River. The town is accessible by bus from Riga.
Tony H. - July 2011
If you want to choose one point to visit Struve Geodetic Arc the best place is probably the Tartu old observatory. The observatory is located on a hill next to the town centre. Inside of a observatory there was small exhibition about astronomy and 2 very helpful ladies who told about the history of observatory and the geodetic arc. There was big map of the Struve arc and some brochures and sign saying it's world heritage site.
Otherwise Tartu is very lovely town, worth of day trip from Tallinn for example. There's buses (and slow train) going all the time between the cities.
I have also visited the Aavasaksa point of arc in Finnish Lapland long time ago. It's right next to the road between Tornio and Kilpisjärvi and good place to stop on your way to north and see the beautiful views to Tornio River valley.
Walter - July 2010
Sturve Geodetic Arc is a very stange multi-location site.
Each location is quite small, some corresponding to a 100 meter diametre circle centered on a traingulation point. Those points may consist just of a small mark on a stone.
I visited 3 of those sites in June 2009.
The first went to Tornea church in Finland. A simple church typical of that area, from which tower Sturve made a triangulation point. Easy to find in an otherwise unremarkable Finnish border town.
The second point I visited was Peera-Vaara in Sweden. It is a point atop a flat hill, which is supposed to be the highest point in the area. It is difficult to find. It is closed to the village of Hedenäset. The dirt road going to the point is not marked, and I was lucky to have printed the map included in the nomination file to find my way. Follow a dirt road going on the left from road 398 from the village. After 10 minutes turn right uphill, and after a few minutes, there is a small parking spot (place for 2 cars only). From there, 10 minutes walk on a wooded path.
You then reach a mark on a stone with a wooden sign above it. It is in the middle of the forest (hence no view). This place is only for the World Heritage collectors, even if the forest walk is quite nice.
The third point is luckily much easier to find ; Avasaksa is a nice hill, which top can be reached by car. The exact location of the site seems to be the big observation tower. The view in the area is quite nice on the river that marks the border between Finland and Sweden.
John Booth - May 2010
So far I have only visited several site on the arc in Scandinavia, although like Ian I fear there may be more in the future.
I reached the Alatornio Church by travelling from Kemi station by bus to Tornio, a town located on an island in the Tornio River. The church with its distinctive clock tower is on another island further south and facing the Swedish town of Haparanda on the opposite bank. The short way to the church is by crossing a footbridge back to the Finnish shore, going south, then crossing the railway bridge linking Sweden and Finland, with its dual gauge tracks. This brought me to the cemetery at the back of the church.
On the bus journey through Lapland from Rovaniemi to Alta I stopped in Enontekio and Kautokino, but didn't locate the Struve markers in either place or in Alta.
But I did visit the Struve obelisk on the Fuglenaes Peninsular near Hammerfest. Although it is in a fairly industrial part of town my only companions were a herd of reindeer grazing on the newly planted lawn. Hammerfest, on an island connected by bridge and tunnel to the Norwegian mainland, is the end of the line for a bus service from Alta. I was amazed to find here at latitude 70 deg N that there is a city, factories, grass and animals. I had previously been at latitude 70 deg S (Antarctic Peninsular) where there are only rocks, ice and penguins.
Ian Cade - March 2010
At some stage this interest in World Heritage Sites turned from an awareness of major tourist sites into a full blown obsession. This was perhaps best illustrated by the fact I found myself alone in a field a few km off of the Vilnius- Minsk highway on a particularly chilly Saturday morning.
The measuring post I visited was at Beresnäki about 18km from Vilnius. It is essentially a slab of concrete with a small concrete fence around it. Next to this is a small obelisk marking its inscription on the World Heritage List. There was also an information board. Aside from that there was nothing else in the field. I walked about 3km to get to the field from a local bus stop. There were a few houses on this route and two locals stopped me to ask where I was going, unfortunately I hadn’t learnt “I’m going to look at a geodetic measuring post in a field up ahead” in Lithuania by this point, and probably never will. Despite being so close to the capital this area did feel particularly rural. You won’t be surprised to find out that mine were the only set of footprints in the snow that led up to the site.
Altogether it took me about 1h45mins to visit this site including about 5 minutes at the site taking photos and doing a few laps.
I’m now left in a quandary about when to count the Struve Geodetic Arc as a visited site. I have certainly put less effort into seeing other inscribed sites however I have seen only one of the 34 inscribed sites which stretch over a mammoth 2830km. I think I may leave the ‘ticking off’ of this site until I have seen a post in a different country or visited the Observatory at Tartu.
If anyone else is also stupid enough to want to visit this site by public transport then Bus 16 from Vilnius can drop you off at Posukus from where it is a 3 km walk. Alternatively the bus company Romeksas run buses to Rukainiai and this will drop you off a little closer at the turn off to the site which is marked with the words Struves Geodezinis Punktas 1 but I have no idea of any kind schedule for them. There is another inscribed post about 2km north or the geographical centre of Europe about 20km north of Vilnius. It would be very easy to get to these points with your own car and a GPS as for once you really can rely on the co-ordinates that UNESCO provide.
All in all was it worth it? Well for me yes it was, as I have another little story to tell of some esoteric travelling, and I had plenty of time to enjoy the other delights of Vilnius.
Would I recommend it to anyone else? Probably not unless you are equally as obsessed with this little list that UNESCO has.
Will I visit more posts in different parts of Eastern Europe? Sadly I'm pretty certain I will.
Sazanami - February 2006
I've been to four sites(Alatornio kirko,Aavasaksa,Dorpat observatory and JACOBSTADT point).
It's scientific interest,but almost sites are difficult to get.
Thus the more these are difficult to get,the more emotional when found.Struve Geodetic Arc is so.
When I've been to the Dorpat Observatory in Tartu,Estonia,it isn't open for public.
But the workers to restore the architecture allowed me to see inside and climb the ladder up to the top so that I could see over the view of city of Tartu.
Share your experiences!
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Full name: Struve Geodetic Arc
2005 - InscribedReasons for inscription
The site has 35 locations. Show all
- AVASAKSA Aavasaksa Ylitornio, Lapin l
- BÄLJATZ-VAARA Baelljasvarri Kautokeino, Finnmark
- BARANOWKA Baranowka Baranivka, Khmelnytskiy region, Ukraine
- BERESNÄKI Paliepiukai Nemežis
- DORPAT Tartu Observatory Tartu, Tartu, Estonia
- FELSCHTIN Felschtin Hvardiiske, Khmelnytskiy region, Ukraine
- FUGLENAES Fuglenes Hammerfest, Finnmark, Norway
- HOGLAND, Z Gogland, Tochka Z Kingisepp, Leningrad Oblast, Russian Federation
- JACOBSTADT Jekabpils Town Jekabpils, Region Jekabpils, Latvia
- KARISCHKI Girei
- KATERINOWKA Katerinowka Antonivka, Khmelnytskiy region, Ukraine
- KATKO Simuna Avanduse, L
- KERROJUPUKKA Jupukka Pajala, Norrbottens l
- LESKOWITSCHI Leskovichi Ivanovo, Brest Oblast, Belarus
- LILLE-REIPAS Raipas Alta, Finnmark, Norway
- LOHDIZHJOKKI Luvdiidcohkka Kautokeino, Finnmark, Norway
- LOPATI Lopaty Zelva, Grodno Oblast, Belarus
- MÄKI-PÄÄLYS Mäkipällys Kingisepp
- MESCHKANZI Me
- OSSOWNITZA Ossovnitsa Ivanovo, Brest Oblast, Belarus
- PAJTAS-VAARA Tynnyrilaki Kiruna, Norrbottens l
- PERRA-VAARA Per
- PORLOM II Tornikallio Lapinj
- PULLINKI Pullinki
- PUOLAKKA Oravivuori Korpilahti, L
- RUDY Rudi Rudi, Soroca Judetul, Republic of Moldova
- SESTU-KALNS Ziestu Sausneja, Region of Madona, Latvia
- STARO-NEKRASSOWKA Stara Nekrasivka Nekrasivka, Odessa region, Ukraine
- STUOR-OIVI Stuorrahanoaivi Enonteki
- SVARTVIRA Mustaviiri Pyht
- TCHEKUTSK Chekutsk Ivanovo, Brest Oblast, Belarus
- TORNEA Alatornion kirkko Tornio, Lapin l
- TUPISCHKI Tupishki Oshmyany, Grodno Oblast, Belarus
- WOIBIFER V
The site has 20 connections. Show all
- Obelisk Struve Meridian Obelisk, Hammerfest
- Built in the 19th Century the surveys were made between 1816-55
- Built or owned by Germans Von Struve was a Baltic German, born at Altona (Hamburg), Germany
- First inscriptions Moldova 2005 (with many other countries)
- Free entrance
- Furthest distance apart Fuglenaes (Norway) and Staro-Nekrassowka (Ukraine) are approx 2830kms/1758 miles apart
- Named after individual people German-born Russian scientist Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve
- Repainted in a different colour Tartu Observatory in Estonia: from bright yellow to white