« A long life’s short story »
Built in 1930 in Copenhagen, this black liner called « Moonta » will have an unconventional fate !! Cruise-ship in the Spencer Golf in Australia until 1955, it will then be purchased by a Greek company from the Pirée. Repainted in white, changing its name to LYDIA, it will from then on sail regularly from Marseilles to Beirut until 1966. It is at the end of this very year that the Lydia’s extraordinary fate will be sealed. Purchased by the Société d’Économie mixte des Pyrénées-Orientales, the liner will have all its engines removed and will be dragged on ballast to the artificial port dug especially for the occasion. A delicate operation which will be completed on Sunday 11th 1967 making the Lydia the very first building of the new resort Port-Barcarès. Nowadays, the town of Barcarès has become the sole owner of such an exceptional building, living symbol of the liners in the 1930’s and of the most ambitious of mission Racine’s achievements.
The Lydia flagship of the resort
Benevolent sentinel at the north end of Catalunya, bow side facing the Canigou Mountain and the tramontane stern side, the Lydia can fight opposing winds and lead our town to a new and prestigious definition of its cultural, economic and European identity.
Symbol of the touristic attractiveness of the Languedoc-Roussillon coastline
We have decided to present you this exceptional ship of which much was written about, and still is, despite being definitely tied to the fate of its last home port : le Barcarès. Very logically, its future belongs to the town which will have at heart to take the challenge of its exploitation whilst respecting the mission the liner has already accomplished up to now : giving an exceptional notoriety to our town, during the course of time and fashion, and despite the resentment this extraordinary venture may have caused.
An exceptional fate for a ship turned into an emblematic building
It’s impossible to talk about the Lydia without mentioning its past, and rightly so. The Lydia or « sand liner » is not a building nor an ordinary ship.
The only land-locked liner in the world is now also the oldest one
Terminated in 1931 : 3 years longer than the Queen Mary I. As such, it is a unique historical piece in the navy history. Its past as a liner built in Denmark, exploited in the Australian waters under the name of « Moonta » carrying fret as well as passengers, then becoming Lydia, Greek cruise-ship from 1955 made it legendary around the four corners of the world. Indeed, its size of 90 metres, an important one at the time, but quite modest if compared to actual liners, is certainly a testimony of those ships of human dimensions, which cruise passengers were especially fond of.
Arriving on the deserted beaches of Barcarès in 1967 by Senator Gaston Pams’s will, then chairman of the SEMETA, society which was mandated in the Pyrénées Orientales by the government to carry out the Mission Interministérielle pour l’Aménagement Touristique du Languedoc-Roussillon, the liner was one of the first leisure complexes on our coast and the most prestigious. The Lydia whose hour of glory was during the years 1960’s and 1970’s with Parisian celebrities, remains one of the most visited monuments in the region.
The only ship that did go to land
It’s difficult to quantify the crowds it can attract, aside from its fireworks launched from all desks of the ship, which see, each summer for more than 4 decades, onlookers flock in their tenths of thousands , it is estimated that about 600 000 to 700 000 visitors would not want to leave the Catalan land or the Aude region, without seeing with their own eyes, this unique exemple of a liner turned into a building. Unique yes and rightly so « the only ship that did go to land » as Gaston Pams, chairman of the SEMETA, first owner of the Lydia, used to say, is the result of a little insane endeavour whose superhuman success albeit totally random, was attempted by humans.
An extraordinary human venture
Indeed, if it was relatively easy to built a port that would trap the liner, not even the Zanen Dutch engineers embarked at the time in this venture, nobody then could have been able to precisely restore its correct verticality. During the last stage, the engineer took out his plumb line : the Lydia was « straight »
Exceptional symbol of the eccentric enthusiam from a cheerful time gone by
Incredible luck and implacable uncertainty that can only explain why nowadays this endeavour remains unique in the world, although some other towns, spurred on by its resounding success, did wish to attempt that venture.Exceptional symbol of the eccentric enthusiam from a cheerful time gone by, it is thus one of the fundamental emblems that have contributed to the department’s reputation and its touristic development.
To envision the liner’s future as cultural and historical heritage
In a coherent development policy of the town, the Barcarès’s resolve to maintain its identity, nowadays its sole historical heritage, is more than legitimate. Even before becoming a tourist attraction, the Lydia is rooted in the past and present of Barcarès and its inhabitants’ memory.
Many worry about its future. It’s up to us to shape it a solid future, beneficial to us all
The integration of the liner, which was the first building of the Grande Plage area, has enabled it to be at the heart of the tourist resort, situated at more than 5 km from the heart of the village. The exceptional setting and the numerous lounges offered by the Lydia warrant the town’s will to legitimately consider many possiblities for its exploitation, including rare exhibitions on the theme of the sea and the preservation of marine environment. A cultural dimension can be favorably added, as well as the development of its touristic attractiveness, as a unique oddity and living symbol, representing the liners from 1930’s and the most ambitious of mission Racine’s achievements.