Picture harvest of sea salt Picture harvest of sea salt

The art of the "saunier".

Peasant of the sea, with his hand deep in salt and clay and his feet dipping in water, the salt harvester, the saunier, performs a unique art, at the edge of two worlds.

This know-how is very particular. First of all because it hasn't changed since when it was invented, about 2000 years ago. THe harvest is still exclusively handmade, with no mechanical or technological support whatsoever. It is only after years of experience and practice that one can start to understand and harness the seasons, the winds, the sun, but also its own salt flat to optimize and perfect the harvesting process.

Few jobs on earth are as dependant on the elements than the salt harvest.

First of all, only the summer season has weather conditions (temperature, dryness, etc) good enough to consider harvesting. Durant the other 9 months of the year, the harvest waits, restore its flat, worn out by the previous season of harvesting, sharpens his tools, etc. He has to be ready because when the seasons starts, only one thing matters : to harvest.

Then, twice a month, the high tides of the full and new moon fill the water channels, the "├ętiers", who run all along the island to bring sea water to each and every salt marsh.

Then the sun and the high winds from the Bay of Biscay come into play, to dry and evaporte the water from the flats. Contrairement to many farming works, rain is actually the enemy of the salt harvest, because it dilutes the water in the flat and slows down the evaporation process.

But often enough, these conditions come together and the magic can happens. But not before Man has actually earned its due : because it is only with the strength of his back and his hand that the "saunier" harvest the freshly formed salt crystals. On a good day, he can pull out of a harvesting pond up to 100 kgs of salt ! Which he then has to carry back to the flat's banks...