The grounding of the Lydia, June 11, 1967

In the early morning of Sunday, June 11, 1967, the Lydia was in sight of her last port of call.

In the early morning, the cliffs of Leucate were visible to the north, while a low, deserted, wind-battered strip of sand appeared in front of her: her final home port.

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In the weeks leading up to the ship’s landing, the ground had to be prepared, i.e. a 600 m long and 7 m deep channel had to be dug by a floating dredger. To bring this one from the pond of Salses to the sea, we made him go through 750 m on the sand, on socks inflated with air.


Leaving Marseille the day before and accompanied by two tugs (the Provençal 6 and the Phocéen), the Lydia arrived in sight of Le Barcarès in the early morning of Sunday, June 11, 1967. 

The first step of the grounding was to attach cables to the bow of the ship, then to attach them to powerful construction equipment on land, while the tugs were attached to the stern of the ship to maintain the axis of the channel. The Tramontane, which was a bit strong, did not facilitate the operations

Finally, the construction machines started to pull the ship. 

Le Lydia est maintenu dans son chenal par les remorqueurs et il est tracté par les engins de chantier

Well aligned in front of the channel by the tugs’ push, the Lydia advances slowly between the buoys that mark the limits of the access channel. A sling suddenly broke under the effect of the wind and the ship started to drift, risking running aground. On the beach, the tension was extreme while the two tugs intervened to put the vessel back on its axis. More fear than harm, but when the senator turned around, all the engineers around him were livid. False alarm!

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Nevertheless, the operations were not over. Meter after meter, the Lydia penetrated inland followed like its shadow by the Provençal 6. Despite a few scares due mainly to the Tramontane wind, which did not weaken, the Lydia stopped at the planned location, and the Provençal 6 was able to unhook its trailer and return to the open sea.

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The technicians in charge of the manoeuvre were not done yet. The Lydia floats a hundred meters inland, but several successive operations must still rotate it, then raise it to bring the waterline to the level of the beach, that is to say 3 meters above sea level. Finally, it is a question of immobilizing it definitively in its sand bed. The schedule calls for the beaching to be completed by June 30.

The bulldozers first began to fill in the channel and close the harbour to isolate the Lydia from the sea, which was completed two days later. The dredger, which acted as a giant pump, then intervened and filled in part of what was left of the small harbour, replacing the water by sand.

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Next phase: a sand dam, covered with plastic sheeting, is raised all around the Lydia.

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The dredge soon discharges hundreds of cubic meters of water and the Lydia gradually rises, as in a lock chamber. Its waterline is now above the level of the beach and it can be slowly brought by the bulldozers to the vertical of the cradle that has been made for it. All that is needed is to pump the water so that it can be gently placed on the cradle.

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In the end, the dredger and the bulldozers will finally make all traces of the port disappear.

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Copyrightvidéo: France 3 – Pays catalan

The “Sand Liner” was born!

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Soon an army of craftsmen will take the ship to the boarding to transform it into a palace of tourism but that’s another story ….


The rest of her story : HERE

                                   Olivier Alba

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