The rig in question can be seen near to the left-bank Bacalan district of Bordeaux, more or less mid-way between the Chaban-Delmas lift bridge and Pont d’Aquitaine suspension bridge. When the subject was initially raised by Sud Ouest, journalist Jean-Paul Vigneaud asked more questions than he provided answers about what he called the “phantom of the Garonne”, a structure “where nobody goes and which nobody is interested in” and which now resembles a “mid-river heap of scrap iron” (un tas de ferraille au beau milieu de l’eau).
Theories were aired about the original purpose of the rig, such as its possible use in the 1970s to drill for oil near Cap Ferret before being brought up to the Garonne and abandoned. Speaking to the newspaper, a representative of the Bordeaux port authority, who had been familiar with the sight since he moved to the city in 1985, was adamant however that the rig had instead been used for underwater rock excavation.
|The disused rig as viewed from Pont Chaban-Delmas lift bridge, with Pont d'Aquitaine in the background.|
The rig, which was a veritable “floating workshop”, would be towed between locations by tugs belonging to the port of Bordeaux. The legs of the rig would then be lowered into position and teams would have a secure platform from which they could work on clearing the path for boats. Assignments were carried out near the point where the Dordogne and Garonne rivers meet, further downstream between Lamarque and Blaye, and towards the mouth of the Gironde Estuary near Le Verdon.
|I tried hard but was unable to find a spot on the left bank of the Garonne where the rig was clearly visible. This shot was taken from the right bank, from Quai de Brazza, close to the Crèmes Jock factory.|
Come 1995, Saint Jean sought to move the rig but its legs were already stuck in the riverbed. One option would have been to dismantle the platform alone but that would have meant escalating costs for the entrepreneur. The removal project was abandoned and the years have passed; Saint Jean’s company is no more and the rig is still exactly where it was.
But surely if the rig really is here to stay, it deserves its own name. How about “la plate-forme ETPO” or “Saint Jean”? “La plate-forme Fantôme”? Or it could be “la plate-forme Vigneaud” as a tribute to the Sud Ouest journalist who compiled all the information which features here. How about the “Invisible Bordeaux Rig”? Suggestions welcome, and then the lobbying campaign can begin!
- Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map:
- Rig with no name, Bacalan district, Bordeaux.
- As you will have gathered, much of the information for this article was obtained from two items penned by Jean-Paul Vigneaud for Sud Ouest: "Le fantôme du fleuve" and "La plate-forme de la Garonne livre ses secrets". Jean-Paul Vigneaud has also penned the authoritative guide to Pont Chaban-Delmas, "Un pont s'élève dans la ville" (Éditions Sud Ouest).