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Photographer's Note

The Étang de Thau or Bassin de Thau is the largest of a string of étangs (lakes or lagoons) that stretch along the Languedoc-Roussillon, French coast from the Rhône River to the foothills of the Pyrenees which form the border to Spain.

It is the second largest lake in France, being about 21 kilometres long and 8 kilometres wide, with an area of 7,012 hectares. The average depth is 4.5 metres, but in the central navigation channel it can be 10 metres deep. Near Bouzigues there is a 100 metre diameter depression of 30 metres known as the 'Fosse de la Vise' and which is the source of a hot spring that feeds the spa in Balaruc.

Until relatively recently the étangs from Marseillan to the Rhône were a continuous stretch of inland waterway. Early settlers described this as 'une petite mer intérieure et tranquille' ('a small calm inland sea'). It provided access to, in particular, Marseillan - a fishing village that later became a trading centre.

Now linked by the Canal du Rhône at Sète to the river Rhône and by the Canal du Midi to Bordeaux via Toulouse, the étang also has access to the Mediterranean at Sète. There is also a small canal 'le canal des Allemands' or the 'pisse-saume' that links the western end to the sea at Marseillan Plage. This latter canal is only suitable for small craft since both road and railway bridges restrict height.

To the east, between Balaruc and Sète, the borders of the lagoon are largely industrial. The south bank is formed by the coastal strip from Sète to Cap d'Agde. The northern side has villages dedicated to fishing and the production of shellfish. There are harbours in the towns of Marseillan, Mèze and Bouzigues, with smaller ports dedicated to shellfish on the northern shore.

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Additional Photos by Stephen Nunney (snunney) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5902 W: 61 N: 16984] (76358)
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