1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Öland

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ÖLAND, an island in the Baltic Sea, next to Gotland the largest belonging to Sweden, stretching for 85 m. along the east coast of the southern extremity of that country, from which it is separated by Kalmar Sound which is from 5 to 15 m. broad. The greatest breadth of the island is 10 m., and its area 519 sq. m. Pop. (1900) 30,408. Consisting for the most part of Silurian limestone, and thus forming a striking contrast to the mainland with its granite and gneiss, Öland is further remarkable on account of the peculiarities of its structure. Down the west side for a considerable distance runs a limestone ridge, rising usually in terraces, but at times in steep cliffs, to an extreme height of 200 ft.; and along the east side there is a parallel ridge of sand, resting on limestone, never exceeding 90 ft. These ridges, known as the Western and Eastern Landborgar, are connected towards the north and the south by belts of sand and heath; and the hollow between them is occupied by a desolate and almost barren tract: the southern portion, or Alfvar (forming fully half of the southern part of the island), presents a surface of bare red limestone scored by superficial cracks and unfathomed fissures, and calcined by the heat refracted from the surrounding heights. The northern portion is covered at best with a copse of hazel bushes. Outside the ridges, however, Öland has quite a different aspect, the hillsides being not infrequently clothed with clumps of trees, while the narrow strip of alluvial coast-land, with its cornfields, windmills, villages and church towers, appears fruitful and prosperous. There are a few small streams in the island; and one lake, Hornsjö, about 3 m. long, deserves mention. Of the fir woods which once clothed a considerable area in the north the Böda crown-park is the only remnant. Grain, especially barley, and sandstone, are exported from the island, and there are cement works. A number of monuments of unknown age exist, including stones (stensättningar) arranged in groups to represent ships. The only town is Borgholm, a watering-place on the west coast, with one of the finest castle ruins in Sweden. The town was founded in 1817, but the castle, dating at least from the 13th century, was one of the strongest fortresses, and afterwards, as erected by the architect Nicodemus Tessin the elder (1615-1681), one of the most stately palaces in the country. The island was joined in 1824 to the administrative district (län) of Kalmar. Its inhabitants were formerly styled Öningar, and show considerable diversity of origin in the matter of speech, local customs and physical appearance.

From the raid of Ragnar Lodbrok's sons in 775 Öland is frequently mentioned in Scandinavian history, and especially as a battleground in the wars between Denmark and the northern kingdoms. In the middle ages it formed a separate legislative and administrative unity.