Skjærvær consists of one island and two small skerries, and is located on the fringe of the open ocean. The island rises prominently from the sea, and its chapel stands on the highest point. 16th century sources show that the settlement is old. The island is divided into two farms, Sørparten and Nordparten. As 20 houses, outhouses, warehouses and quays have been extensively refurbished, and eider nesting houses are being maintained, Skjærvær gives us a good impression of how people lived in the Vega archipelago.
Fishermen from Vega have fished the waters around Skjærvær for centuries. Before shacks were built for letting about 1880, they rented accommodation in the homes of the residents. The chapel was built by the fishermen and their families. The men donated money earned from fish caught in some of the fixed nets and the women collected money at charity bazzars and other events.
The harbour was shallow and poor before it was dredged in the 1930s. Two breakwaters were built in 1930-36, the longest being 450 metres long. The work employed between 20 and 30 men.
Bird life and vegetation
The bird life is rich. Tending eiders has been an important means of making some extra income at Skjærvær, and the tradition is being kept alive. A black guillemot colony lives in and near the breakwater, and Nordværet has a cormorant colony that was the largest in the North Atlantic in the 1990s. A number of rare bog plants can be found in moist hollows on the island. One of these is northern yellow-cress, which was probably introduced by birds. The former hayfields are now considerably overgrown, but plans are in hand to restore their original state.
Skjærvær is protected as a nature reserve and a bird sanctuary, and also under the terms of the Cultural Heritage Act. It is also part of the Vega Archipelago World Heritage Area. The purpose of the nature reserve is to safeguard a nationally valuable coastal site with its natural plant and animal life. It is particularly valuable as a staging site for barnacle geese on their spring migration, and as a breeding, moulting and wintering area for seabirds. It is also noted for special species and communities of plants. The purpose of the bird sanctuary is to preserve good, undisturbed breeding and growing-up sites for seabirds.
Traffic in the area
The vegetation is protected from all forms of damage and destruction. New species of plants and animals must not be introduced. The animal and bird life, with nesting sites and vegetation that is important for the habitats of the birds, are protected from all forms of damage and destruction. Dogs must be kept on a lead and should be kept away from the islands in the breeding season. It is forbidden to land in the nature reserve (i.e. anywhere except the island where the houses are situated) from 15 April to 31 July inclusive.
Skjærvær is privately owned. Please contact the Vega Tourist Information Office (Vega Turistinformasjon) regarding overnight accommodation.
Please show consideration when you are walking around. Respect people’s privacy, and keep to paths and marked tracks. Remember never to light a fire, stove or grill, except on the beach. Please take your litter with you.
Photo: Rita Johansen