Wednesday 18 September 2013

SGO 100 -- the early days

This month, we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory (SGO). As part of the celebration of this prestigious occasion, we take a look back at the history of the facility and what a tumultuous past it has had.

The first geophysical observations at Sodankylä actually pre-date the 1913 founding of the observatory. In fact, the first observations from the region date back to the First Polar Year (1882-1883). The Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters participated in the Polar year work, by setting up a small meteorological station as the village of Sodankylä. This station included geomagnetic observations ad well and continuous magnetic observations were conducted from 21 August 1882 to 31 August 1883. One last set of measurements was made in August 1884.

Observatory buildings at Sodankylä for the First Polar Year, 1882-1883.

Since then several proposals had been made to carry out magnetic surveys, but it was the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters made the necessary breakthrough. The Academy was founded in 1908 and one of their first tasks was to establish a detailed plan for a permanent station for the purposes of astronomical and geodetic measurements. A large area of land near Sodankylä was acquired and in late 1913 the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory (SGO) commenced operations under the directorship of Dr J. Keränen.

We take it for granted now, but that was in a different age, when winters were brutal and the station, located some 1000 km from the capital city, was a remote outpost indeed.


Nevanlinna, H., "Geomagnetic Observations at Sodankylä during the First International Polar Year (1882-1883)", Geophysica, 35(1-2), 15-22, 1999

Kataja, E., "A Short History of the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory",
Geophysica, 35(1-2),3-13, 1999.

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