BUGIBBA SALT PANS Situated on the foreshore of the Bugibba area next to the pier, these salt pans have been known to be here for a very long time. Probably like other sites in the region, a fine layer of sand covered and preserved them in the state they are in, to the 21st Century. The site is a pride of bygone engineering skills, basing it’s unique function on the simple law of gravity. The water flow is directed to different pans, through rock-hewn gutters, and controlled by the use of sluice gates and stone shutters. In other parts, circular channels bring the water level to service other canals that otherwise would be excluded from the system. The workmanship is excellent, particularly when one compares the site to other salt pans around the island. Two large salt-water reservoirs linked the rest by a central canal system furnished the smaller pans with water. Previously there may have been as many as six such reservoirs, some of which have been buried under new development. From the reservoirs, the central channel runs to two different sluice gate systems that service a number of pans, six of them being a uniform square type. A complex circular system of water control connected three of the pans. This system making use of stone shutters and canals, would have served to bring up the water level to the desired level so as to service the other pans further along the system.
Information from: Rural Development for Malta 2007-2013 The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development Government of Malta Europe Investing in Rural Areas
Salt is a very good preservative of foodstuffs and here small salt-pans were constructed by private families towards that end. In 1930 the Calafáto company took over this area at Blata and changed it into larger salt-pans, using the salt in it’s animal hides’ tanning factory at Marsa. These bath-shaped salt-pans lead sea water from one to the other by gravity. They were still in use up to the eighties of the last century when a big storm caused irreparable damage to them.
Rural Development Programme for Malta 2007-2013
The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development
Europe Investing in Rural Areas
“This morning we come about half past five, you know. Not much today. The waves come in and make salt. We start from May up till September and always depends on the weather. The big one there; 20% salt, better than nothing. It takes 5 days, 7 days, but it always depends on the weather, the wind and the water. This is my land. It belong in our relations, 170 years. That’s my part, from that part to the edge of somebody else’s. But once it was one.” Emmanuel Cini, Salter. Żebbuġ, Gozo, 30 August 2014.
Salt-pans are reputed to have been used here since Roman times. Salt was a valuable commodity in earlier times; Roman soldiers were sometimes paid with salt – this is the origin of the English word “salary”. The Northern Coast of Gozo proved very suitable for this purpose because it had extensive flat stretches of coastal limestone into which basins and channels could be cut by hand. The hot summer climate with strong drying winds was also an important factor. The basic production process is simple; in early summer seawater is fed into a series of shallow basins through a system of hand-dug channels. After concentration and evaporation by wind and sun during the hot summer months, the white sea-salt can be collected and bagged.
Marsaskala Bay is largely edged by promenade, with low shelving rock ledges cut with salt pans on the seaward face of Ras iċ-Ċerna, which continue on round the eastern point, past l-Abjad iż-Żgħir, and into Il-Bajja ta’ San Tumas (St Thomas Bay) to the south.