Måseskärs Lighthouse

IALA Heritage Lighthouse of the Year 2023 Nominee

Location: SWEDEN - Västra Götalan., Kärringön.

Lighthouse Operator: Swedish Maritime Administration (SMA)

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Source: (photos as submitted to accompany nomination form by Swedish Maritime Administration (SMA) 2023)

Lighthouse Description and History

(Text extracted from nomination form submitted by Swedish Maritime Administration (SMA) 2023)

The Måseskär lighthouse was erected efficiently on a rocky outcrop on the Swedish west coast during 1865. During this period there was a big expansion in completing a chain of lighthouses along the outer coastline of Sweden. The industrialism increased the export and import by ship and a combination of numerous accidents at sea triggered the construction of cheaper lighthouses.

This model, commonly known as a Heidenstammare, and was originally constructed by head engineer Werner von Heidenstam working for the lighthouse and pilot authority. Total construction time from arriving until the light was working was less than 8 months, short compared to building a more traditional stone tower lighthouse.

The old lighthouse was saved by local engagement after Swedish Maritime Adminitration (SMA) decided to tear down the tower and they managed to renovate the rusting shell of a lighthouse in the 1980s. In 2017 the whole island with its buildings and lighthouses was declared a heritage site and SMA took ownership once again. In 2022 a huge restoration took place and once again the lighthouse was saved for future generations.

Reason For Nomination

(Text extracted from nomination form submitted by Swedish Maritime Administration (SMA) 2023)

Intrinsic Heritage Interest of the Lighthouse

The type of lighthouse is an important part of Swedish maritime history. Foreign counties handling with goods to/from Sweden raised the issues with too many shipwrecks and too few lighthouses. A huge expansion took place 1850-1900.

Werner von Heidenstam was the man for the job, head engineer at the lighthouse and pilot authority; he spent a lot of time on the west coast to point out the perfect spots for new lighthouses.

Måseskär is the fourth of this design that was built and in the context its predecessors you can see how the design is being developed so to withstand the harsh conditions better and better. It was the first one being erected on the west coast and was followed by another four in the area. Eleven Heidenstam-lighthouses was built in total. Engineers behind the final design on Måseskär was engineers A O Alrutz, C F Carlsson, L Fr Lindberg.

Måseskär was produced (with cast iron, rolled iron and wrought iron) and assembled in Eriksbergs Mechanical workshop in Gothenburg, it was then dissembled and transported to Måseskär to be erected on the island. During construction of the 22m high lighthouse the living quarters, outhouses and a harbour were built for the personnel in about 8 months. 44 men was working on the site.

The light was originally red steady light of the 2nd order (1400 mm Ø) dioptric drum lens with 5 parts with 60° + spherical mirror 1 part á 60° and catadioptric 6 parts crown (12 rings) och 5 parts crown (5 rings), Henry Lepaute, with three wicks light for crude oil with a red glass. The light was visible 12 Nm. In 1884 the light was changed to a lamp with four wicks run on kerosene. 1887 the lens was changed to new 3rd ord rotating lens driven a sinker in a clockwork mechanism. 1950 electricity was connected by sea cabel.

In the beginning they used a gong gong during fog, later canons was brought in and in 1873 the lighthouse was equipped with a steam engine to run the fog horn. Several generations of foghorn technique has passed until the 1970-s when its purpose was outdated. The history of foghorns are clearly visible on Måseskär, many traces are left on the island.

1978 a new lighthouse in glass fibre was built and the old one was turned off. (The second lighthouse is also protected today.) The old lighthouse is still working and is turned on every new year and during the international lighthouse day.

Måseskär has lots of original features left and it shows the new materials and building technique of the time and the new type of engineering architecture of Gustav von Heidenstam. The whole island, with lighthouse, related buildings and harbor has a very high cultural value in the area and in Sweden.


The whole island made a heritage site in 2017. Today the lighthouses and harbor are in good condition and we have now to save the other buildings.

During 2022 the major restoration on the old lighthouse was taken place. The salty conditions om the west coast is not suitable for iron if regular maintenance is not being made. The island was fully automated in 1978 and all the personnel left the island. Local engagement, Save Måseskär, that once saved the lighthouse was out of money for another restoration. Due to the island becoming a governmental heritage site, the SMA once again took over the responsibility for maintenance. After inspection in 2017, there was obvious, the work had to commence sooner rather than later.

When the scaffolding was raised and the blastering started it became obvious the rusted areas made the tower instable and close to collapsing. (see link nr 2 above for pictures)

The area on the outer steel wall in the staircase, which is hidden on the inside by the wooden floor, had never been maintained since the lighthouse was built. The double wooden floor was dissembled and the inside wooden wall had to be cut short so inspect and fix the whole circumcircle. It was rusted throughout to 70-90% and this is where the main instability came from. The work with welding new steel in place was done swiftly and luckily the weather was calm during the initial works. A lot of shackle, bolts, rigging screws and beams have been changed to matching sizes with material as close as possibly as the original.

A new entrance was designed and built on site. Today a stunning copper laden oak door leads you inside. The restoration have been overseen by Swedish national heritage board and on top of that a team of experts. Luckily the contractor was engaged in the project and the project team and the result couldn’t have been better.

When we have sorted out power, potable water and sewage issues the rest of the houses will be restored and put to use again.

In September 2023 the lighthouse was nominated to the Helgoprize, as one of five outstanding restorations during the past five years. The final prize ceremonial will be hold in November 2023.

Public Access and Education

The main bulwark and jetty was renovated 2022 and the island is free for access for everyone. There are taxi boats to be rented from the mainland.

Two small museums of the spectacular nature and the lighthouse history is located on the island but they are rarely open due to the lack of sleeping quarters (water and sewage). Once we restored the buildings on the island the museums will be open during summer.

A new informative sign has been put up at the lighthouse and there will be more signs coming up for every building as being restored.

Photos and Diagrams