A Suspiciously Scientific Scramble in Seili

Updated: Nov 2, 2020

On the crisp Friday morning of the 18th of September, 16 of us upper secondary students, along with two teachers, got up and prepared for our upcoming trip. We would spend the next two days on the island of Själö, also known as Seili. The students on the trip included four TT first-graders and 12 second-graders from various streams. Our teachers for the trip were Christian Franklin and Hanna Huhtakallio. During the two days, we would cooperate with teacher-students from the University of Turku and participate in various activities related to environmental science.



At first, the trip had a little setback. More specifically, the Aila storm. I’m sure you can imagine that visiting an island in the archipelago of Turku via ferry isn’t a great idea during a storm. That’s why the trip had to get postponed by one day, but we didn’t let that spoil our moods. Before leaving for Seili, we did have some samples to prepare. The students at the University of Turku asked us to gather sand samples from various beaches in Helsinki. We also had Veli-Matti Vesterinen join us for preparing some leaf samples. Veli-Matti is a lecturer of chemistry from the University of Turku and he, along with his cute dog Kusti, joined us for the trip. Once the samples were ready, all we had to do was wait for the bus to pick us up on Friday morning.



The day came, and everybody made it on time. We picked up our lab coats and goggles and gathered to wait for the bus. As we were waiting, Laura Väisänen and Martti Sloan were lovely enough to take some pictures of our group. Before they left, Martti presented us with a conundrum. There was something odd about the bridges on the island. With this riddle and everyone ready to go, we made our way to the bus and took off. Two hours later, we arrived in Nauvo with a little bit of time before the ferry left. Mainly we were enchanted by the jellyfish at the dock. I also loved the bumblebee Juan who came to hang out on my hand for a bit. We met up with Veli-Matti and his students and let the voyage begin.


Once we arrived in Seili, we had some time to settle in and have lunch before the activities began. My friend and I explored the island and made acquaintances with the cows. They were very sweet and gentle, five owls out of five. Then, for the whole purpose of the trip, environmental research. Us students were separated into three groups. With those groups, we would then rotate around the four activities. In activity 1, the teacher-students sent us out to collect goods such as berries and mushrooms from the forest. This way we could check out the antioxidant levels of them the next day. In activity 2, we prepared the previously made leaf samples for evaporation. That meant the following day we could examine the colors of the leaf samples with spectroscopy. There are various techniques under the term spectroscopy, but they all use radiation to obtain information on the structure and properties of matter. For activity 3, we collected water samples from different depths and looked for any microscopic life in them with a microscope. We still want those microscopes for KSYK. They were excellent. Finally, we received a tour of the island from Veli-Matti.



For the rest of the day, we were free to do what we pleased. Everyone was free to choose whether it was further exploring, taking in the sun, or admiring the jellyfish, Gaby, the students caught. Our amazing group managed to heat up the sauna, so later on in the evening everyone had a chance to go to the sauna and for a swim. As the day got closer to an end, everyone gathered into their houses to relax. Christian and Hanna set a curfew for us, but we of course broke it by inviting students from the neighboring house over to hang out. Whoops! Other than that, Veli-Matti’s tales about the original purpose of Seili and the graveyard at the church were enough to keep us inside. For context, Seili originally had a hospital for lepers and later on a psychiatric hospital.



Saturday morning greeted us with terrible news. Gaby the jellyfish had passed due to someone dumping out the water from the container Gaby was inside of. All of us were grieving but, thankfully, Kusti the dog was absolutely adorable and lifted our spirits. There was still three hours worth of activities to get through before we’d return to Helsinki. On Saturday, the activities were follow-ups to the two previous exercises and a microplastic themed lab. That meant we had one completely new task. Remember those sand samples we took with us? Now was their time to shine. We examined the sand and looked for microplastics, after which we discussed plastics and the different types of it.


Despite the tragic death of Gaby the jellyfish, a couple of students decided to catch another jellyfish. Whether it would be kept as a pet for the TT stream or encased in an ethanol bath would be determined once it was at KSYK. After the compulsory activities, we embarked on our mission to catch a second jellyfish. We actually caught two but decided to let the other one live a (hopefully) long and happy life in the wild. Our second problem was figuring out how in the world we’d get Gaby 2 to KSYK. What ended up happening was that Gaby 2 was in a bucket covered with a plastic bag. One of the students sneaked Gaby 2 onto the ferry and bus and held onto it for the whole trip back. We thought that was reasonable. Susu the dog wasn’t allowed to join us on the journey because dogs weren’t allowed on the bus, but a jellyfish would be okay, right? Once we got back to Helsinki, the fate of Gaby 2 had been settled. Some of the students went to U21 to give Gaby 2 the ethanol bath it deserved.


In the end, our trip to Seili was astonishing, just 10/10, even if we had a little knockback. Thank you to the students, teachers, and personnel from the University of Turku for making the trip an unforgettable experience for all of us.





Text: Annika Lappalainen

Pictures: Fanny Meltovaara, Elina Toivonen, Iiris Tattari, Erica Hanhisalo, Hanna Huhtakallio, Nikola Tanskanen, Christian Franklin, Annika