What do you get your neighbouring country for its 100th birthday? In the case of Norway and Finland, a geophysicist literally tried to move mountains on the occasion of the latter’s 100th anniversary of independence. Here’s what you need to know about this fascinating project and the man who almost managed to change the border between the two countries.
The ‘Birthday Mountain’ idea
It all started back in 1972. Bjørn Geirr Harsson, a geophysicist then working for the Norwegian Mapping Authority, discovered an ‘anomaly’ while conducting a survey related to the Norwegian-Finnish border. What was the anomaly? Namely that, despite Mount Halti being the tallest mountain in Finland, its highest peak actually lies in Norway – just 31 meters from the border. This happened because the border was drawn as a straight line, a common practice back in 1734 when the treaty between Sweden and Denmark was drafted (back then, Finland belonged to Sweden and Norway was under Denmark’s rule). Ever since his discovery, Harsson has been trying to convince the Norwegian government to rectify the border, so that the peak lay on the Finnish side.
Which brings us to 2016. Although retired by that time, Harsson thought that Finland’s upcoming 100-year independence anniversary in December 2017, would be the perfect occasion for Norway to give Halti to its neighbor as a token of friendship and goodwill. He started campaigning for his cause again and gained a significant number of followers; 17,000 signatures were gathered on a Facebook campaign to give ‘Birthday Mountain’ to Finland. MEL Films captured Harsson’s attempts in a beautiful short film called, “Battle for Birthday Mountain” which explains the conundrum and shows Harsson working together with the mayor of Kåfjord municipality where the peak is located, Svein Oddvar Leiros, to make the border change a reality.
The practical problems
Unfortunately, mountains are difficult things to move. Border lines may look arbitrary and irrelevant to them (or to reindeer, for that matter), but when it comes to humans and governments, any change on a border line – no matter how small – has legal and political ramifications. Ever since Harsson brought the matter to the attention of the authorities, legal experts have been trying to figure out whether moving the border like that would violate the Norwegian constitution.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg was reportedly considering the issue for a long time – but ultimately chose to decline Harsson’s request. In a letter sent to Mayor Leiros, the Prime Minister said that she welcomed the fact that the proposal had such a positive response from the public and that she sees it as “a clear sign that Norway and Finland have a close relationship.” However, she went on to explain that, “border adjustments between countries raise complex legal issues,” and that the Birthday Mountain idea was against Article 1 of Norway’s constitution, which states that “the kingdom of Norway is indivisible and inalienable.” Regardless, Harsson is not giving up hope that one day a straight line drawn, out of convenience in 1734, will be adjusted to better reflect the modern, mountainous reality.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.