Hysvær consists of a couple of hundred islands and islets, and has been inhabited for centuries. People have lived on thirteen of the islands; mostly a single family on each, but forming a tight-knit community numbering 120 people at the most. Hysvær had a shop, fish-landing facilities, a post office and a steamship office. The boarding school was on Svinskjæret, and children came to this islet from the rest of Hysvær and from Skjærvær. It had 30 pupils about 1930 and closed in 1985. Many buildings on Hysvær remain intact and are used by the landowners as holiday homes. Haymaking and grazing still take place on large parts of the islands to maintain the cultural landscape.
The people living on Hysvær combined fishing with farming, and kept cattle and sheep. Pot fishing was common from 1930. The eiders provided a valuable supplementary income, and the landowners still maintain the custom of collecting and processing down.
The former school is now owned by Gåkkå Mathus, which provides meals and accommodation, partly in newly built premises. The owners, Snefrid Jakobsen and Øystein Ludvigsen, received the Nordland County Cultural Landscape Award in 2008 for their efforts over many years to look after the cultural landscape and safeguard the eider customs. The World Heritage Memorial Stone, which was unveiled by Queen Sonja in 2005, also stands on Svinskjæret.
Guided boat trips visit Hysvær in the summer, and Gåkkå Mathus provides snacks. A boat can also be hired if the hosts are contacted beforehand.
Much of the vegetation at Hysvær consists of quite poor heath. Seaweed that was spread on the formerly inhabited islands and neighbouring islets formed a basis for vegetation that is richer in grasses and herbs, thus providing better grazing and hay production. These areas now provide valuable grazing for barnacle geese, which rest here briefly in April and May on their way to their breeding sites in Svalbard. The protected areas are also important nesting, moulting and wintering sites for seabirds.
Traffic in the area
Hysvær is part of the Hysvær-Søla Protected Landscape Area, which is an outstanding cultural and landscape heritage. The animal and bird life, including nesting and breeding areas, is therefore protected from damage and destruction. New species must not be introduced. Dogs must be kept on a lead.
Please show consideration when you are walking or boating around the islands. Keep to marked paths, and respect people’s privacy. Please take your litter with you.