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Arcachon Bay (Gironde, France)

Bassin d'Arcachon

Last modified: 2013-04-04 by peter hans van den muijzenberg
Keywords: gironde | arcachon bay | bassin d'arcachon | union des bateliers arcachonnais | steering wheel (yellow) | propeller (white) | mettez les voiles |
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[Flag of Arcachon Bay]

Flag of Arcachon Bay - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 1 April 2012

See also:

Presentation of Arcachon Bay

The Arcachon Bay (c. 155 sq. km at high tide, only 40 sq. km at low tide) is a triangular bay linked to the Atlantic Ocean by a narrow bottleneck (width 3 km).
Permanent supply of freshwater by river Leyre probably prevents the bay to silt up and to become a lake, as happened to the neighboring Lake Hourtin-Carcans and Lake Lacanau, the biggest of an array of lakes spreading parallel to the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.

The particular tidal rhythm makes of a bay a place very suitable for oyster breeding. Wild oysters have been collected from the Arcachon Bay for ages: the Latin poets Ausonius (310-395) and Sidonius Apollinaris (431-487), as well as Gargantua's father, François Rabelais (1494-1553) enjoyed them a lot. The fame of the oysters nearly caused the extinction of the wild beds; in 1859, the naturalist Victor Coste established the scientific basis of oyster-farming, which was strongly supported by Emperor Napoléon III. The Arcachon flat oyster (Ostrea edulis), locally known as gravette, was suppressed in 1920 by an infectious disease, and replaced by the Portuguese hollow oyster (Crassostrea angulata). Killed in 1970 by another disease, the Portuguese oysters were replaced by imported Japanese oysters (Crassostrea gigas).
Today, the oyster beds stretches over 1,800 ha, producing c. 18,000 t per year. Most oyster spat used by oyster farms in Brittany, Normandy, Languedoc and the Netherlands come from the Arcachon Bay. The oyster breeders of the Bay have kept their traditional, colorful huts built very close to each other in small ports such as Larros, Taussat, L'Herbe and Le Canon. The huts were sometimes built on piles, of which only two have resisted aging and storms; known as cabanes tchanquées (from cabane, "a hut", and a local word meaning "stilts"), those huts, located near the misnamed Birds' Island, are the main emblematic element of the Arcachon Bay.
To navigate through the oyster beds whatever the tide is, the oyster farmers designed flat-bottomed boats called pinasses, which were later motorized; the local shipyard produced sophisticated, cosy pinasses highly prized by the local gentry (pinasses de monsieur).

Ivan Sache, 25 October 2011

Flag of Arcachon Bay

The flag of Arcachon Bay (website; burgee for sale) was imagined by Corine Peres, from La Teste de Buch. The graphical and technical artwork was made by Jérôme Deschamps, from the matière à CRÉATION company, also from La Teste de Buch. The design was registered on 6 March 2003 with INPI (National Institute for Intellectual Property).

The blue part represents the Atlantic Ocean, the "bubble" symbolizing Arcachon Bay. Yellow represents the sand beach, while green represents the pine forests.
The emblematic leopard ofGuyenne) is shown, in yellow, on the flag. The white writing "Bassin d'Arcachon" (Arcachon Bay) completes the flag.

The rectangular version of the burgee can be seen hoisted on several boats in different ports (Arcachon, Andernos, Arès...) an also on land, in front of houses (Arcachon).

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 1 April 2012

Union des Bateliers Arcachonnais

[Flag of UBA]

Flag of UBA - Image by Ivan Sache, 15 October 2011

Union des Bateliers Arcachonnais (UBA, website) is the main shipping company operating in Arcachon Bay.
The company operates scheduled lines (Transbassin) between Arcachon, Cape Ferret, and the Great Dune of Pilat, and organizes guided tours of the Arcachon Bay, Birds' Island and the Arguin Sandbank.

The development of tourism in Arcachon Bay in the 19th century required a service of passenger and good transportation, first, from the railway station of La Teste, inaugurated in 1841, to Arcachon, whose station would be created only in 1857, and, second, to Cape Ferret, which would be served by a road only in 1929. Passengers were then transported on rowing and sail boats, mostly steered by seamen's widows or wives. Fares were fiercely discussed and safety on board was inexistent. On 28 August 1844, the Mayor of La Teste issued a Decree regulating transportation conditions and fares. In 1864, the steamer Le Bordelais inaugurated the first scheduled line to Cape Ferret, operated four days a week.
When motorboats superseded the traditional boats, the ship owners formed two rival organizations, the Syndicat des Bateliers Arcachonnais (SBA), subsequently renamed Amicale des Bateliers Arcachonnais (ABA), and the Bateliers Indépendants, who eventually merged in 1952 to form UBA.

The house flag of UBA is blue with the company's logo.
The logo of UBA is blue with a yellow steering wheel placed behind the letters "UBA". The "U" and "B" are of the same blue as the logo's background, while the "A" is of a lighter shade of blue, shaped as a stylized map of Arcachon Bay; the "hole" in the "A" conveniently matches the location of Birds' Island, exaggerated in size. "Union des Bateliers / Arcachonnais" is written in light blue below the emblem.

Ivan Sache, 15 October 2011

Mettez les voiles protest flag

[Protest flag]         [Protest flag]

Mettez les voiles flags - Images by Ivan Sache, 8 April 2012

A group of yachtsmen of the Arcachon Bay have designed a flag to protest again the behaviour of some motorboat owners (blog). The initiative is not targeted at the motorboat owners - a few of them have even joined the campaign and hoisted the flag, but to those who do not respect the rules of speed, distance and comfort. The increased popularity of the Arcachon Bay has triggered the "peoplisation" of a once calm, family-oriented place; the locals do not want the Bay being transformed into a new French Riviera by a small group of noisy jet- setters, coming back every year with bigger motorboats. The claim may seem exaggerated, but a one-day cruise on the Bay, even off-season, will prove its relevance. The same issue is emerging in the Gulf of Morbihan.

The protest flag is black or red (photo) with a propeller inscribed in a ring, over three waves, all white. The motto of the campaign is written in white letters in the base of the flag.
Mettez les voiles literally means "up sails!", but, also, more colloquially, "go away".
On 31 June 2011, the promoters of the campaign announced that the 50 copies of the flag had all been sold.

Ivan Sache, 8 April 2012

Syndicat Intercommunal du Bassin d'Arcachon

[Flag of SIBA]

Flag of SIBA - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 1 April 2012

The syndicats intercommunaux (intermunicipal syndicates) allow municipalities to cooperate together for duties of common interest. The oldest syndicates are the SIVU (Syndicat intercommunal à vocation unique, single-competence intermunicipal syndicates), established by the Law of 22 March 1890; a SIVU shall have a single competence - historically, the supply of electricity to rural municipalities from urban power plants. Some 15,000 SIVU are operating all over France.
The SIVOM (Syndicat intercommunal à vocation multiple, multiple-competence intermunicipal syndicate) were established by Ordinance No. 33 of 5 January 1959; a SIVOM can have extended competences, for instance, garbage collection and treatment, road management and social aid.
The syndicats mixtes (mixed syndicates) were established by the Decree-Law of 30 October 1935; here the municipalities can associate with non-municipal structures, such as intermunicipal authorities or chambers of commerce and industry.

The Syndicat intercommunal du Bassin d'Arcachon (SIBA, website) was founded on 23 June 1964, as SIACRIBA, to protect ostreiculture in the Arcachon Bay. On 29 March 1966, the SIBA was established to manage navigation in the Bay; the SIBA absorbed the SIACRIBA on 9 July 1973. The competence of the SIBA increased with time (public health, urbanism, environment, drainage, dredging, communication, digital resources). The SIBA became a syndicat mixte on 17 December 2001.
The SIBA groups the Communauté d'agglomération du Bassin d'Arcachon Sud (COBAS), formed of the municipalities of Arcachon, La Teste de Buch, Gujan-Mestras and Le Teich, and the individual municipalities of Biganos, Audenge, Lanton, Andernos-les-Bains, Arès and Lège-Cap-Ferret. The SIBA is a syndicat mixte since it associates an intermunicipal authority (COBAS) and municipalities. Overall, all the municipalities with access to the Bay are members of the SIBA.

The flag of the SIBA, hoisted in front of the SIBA headquarters, villa Vincenette in the "winter town" of Arcachon, is white with the logo of the syndicate in the middle.

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 1 April 2012