By Andrew Atkinson
The future of the craft of the 150 years old salt ships in the pink lagoon of Torrevieja are secured with salt crafts workshops taught in schools in the city, pioneered by La Inmaculada Public School.
The salineros Master Craftsmen, Manuel Sala and Miguel Pérez, now retired from working at the salt company, retain the necessary knowledge to make the salt ships.
Ana Meléndez, historian and researcher, said: “The salt ships that remain submerged in the lagoon for about 24 hours in 2021 have turned out very nice with a hard and shiny grain.
“The skill is over 150 years old, an original and beautiful salt tradition that consists of coating with salt crystals, in a thin and uniform layer, objects made with cane and wood and previously lined with worn white cotton fabric.
“The models made by the artisans are immersed in the lagoon to await their coating with salt crystals.
“The hypersalinity of the Torrevieja lagoon and its wet form of exploitation are amongst two conditions necessary to collect a crust of salt along with winds, environmental humidity and temperatures, insolation, drifts of water currents, and waves.
“The geomorphology of the lagoon bed has to have the above conditions to find the best place to install the platforms for the set, and with the drifts of its currents.
“Only a small number of boats set per season, usually coinciding with the months of June and July.
“The popular ships of salt are made, sticks covered with curd salt, that are souvenirs to thousands of tourists who visit its facilities every summer.”
Following the Gota Fria two years ago the lagoon was severely affected: “Last year, as a result of the Dana in September 2019, they had to delay the setting season to the beginning of autumn 2020,” said Professor Meléndez.
Its compulsory implementation in the industrial exploitation area, within the Natural Park area, focuses on the authorisations of the salt company and the protected environmental space to guarantee its development, when teachers Miguel and Manuel retire.
The salt boats are unique – an icon of the city – a Torrevieja tradition.
Image: Alicante University