department west south miles
LANDES, a department in the south-west of France, formed of portions of the ancient provinces of Guyenne, Bearn, and Gascony, lies between 43° 30' and 44° 32' N. let., and 0° 8' E. and 1° 30' W. long., and is bounded on the N. by Gironde ; on the E. by Lot-et-Garonne and Gers ; on the S. by the Basses Pyrenees ; and on the W. (for 68 miles) by the Bay of Biscay. Its greatest length, from the mouth of the Adour in the south-west to Arx on the border of Lot-et-Garonne in the north-east is 89 miles; its greatest breadth from east to west is about 62 miles, and the area 3599 square miles. The department takes its namefrom the Landes, sandy plains formerly covered by the sea, which occupy its greatest portion, and extend into the departments of Gironde and Lot-et-Garonne. South of the Adour, the chief river of the department, the country changes in character, and is called La Chalosse, - a hilly region, which the various rivers coming down from the Pyrenees intersect like the rays of a fan. The Gabas, Luy, and Gave de Pau are the principal tributaries of the Adour on the left. On the right it is joined by the Midouze, formed by the junction of the Douze and the Midou. North of the Adour the plain of Landes slopes gently to the north-west, and empties its waters partly by the Leyre which flows into the Arcachon basin, partly by brooks which run into the lakes at the foot of the dunes which fringe the coast. The soil of this plain is naturally sterile. It is composed of a mixture of sand, clay, and organic debris, and rests on a subsoil of tufa (alios) which is impermeable to water ; for three-quarters of the year, consequently, the waters, settling on the almost level surface and unable to filter through, transform the country into marshes and morasses, while in summer the heat of the sun, drying up the marshes, produces malarious fevers. But during the last twenty-aye years much labour has been expended in draining operations. More than 1350 miles of ditches have been dug, and of the 1,112,000 acres which were uncultivated in 1850 two-thirds have now been reclaimed, or planted with forest trees. The coast, for a breadth of about 4 miles, is bordered by a succession of dunes or sand hills, in several ranges parallel to the shore, and from 150 to 300 feet in height. Driven by the west wind, which is most frequent in these parts, the dunes were slowly advancing year by year towards the east, burying the cultivated lands and even the houses. Bremontier, towards the end of the last century, devised the plan of arresting this scourge by planting the dunes with maritime pines. At the present time upwards of 98,000 acres have been thus treated, and the forests already supply some fine timber to the navy. In the south-west, cork trees take the place of the pines. On the eastern side of the dunes is a series of lakes (Cazau or Sauguinet, Biscarosse, Aureilhan, St Julien, Le!on, and Soustons), which have been separated from the sea by the heaping up of the sand. The salt water has escaped by defiltration, and they now are quite fresh. The climate of Landes is the Girondine, which prevails from the Loire to the Pyrenees. Snow is almost unknown, even in winter ; the spring is rainy, the summer warm and stormy. The prevailing wind is the south-west, and the mean temperature of the year is 53°'6 Fahr., the thermometer hardly ever rising above 82° or falling below 14° Fahr. The annual rainfall in the south of the department in the neighbourhood of the sea reaches 55 inches, but diminishes by more than half as we proceed to the north-east. Most of the department is still in the condition of landes, traversed by flocks of sheep, which arc kept by shepherds perched upon stilts. These landes are gradually giving place to forests, and in extent of forest land this department occupies the first place in France. In the Chalosse, the richest portion of the department, the vine, maize, wheat, millet, tobacco, vegetables, hemp, and flax are cultivated ; yet, small though the population is, the department does not produce corn enough for its own consumption. The exploitation of the forests forms the chief industry. The resin obtained from the maritime pine furnishes by distillation essence of turpentine, and from the residue we have various qualities of resin, which serve to make varnish, tapers, sealing-wax, and lubricants. Tar, and an excellent charcoal for smelting purposes, are also obtained from the pine-wood. From the numerous iron furnaces in the department there was, in 1878, an output of 17,000 tons smelted with charcoal, and 8139 tons during the first six months of 1881. The cultivation of the cork tree is also very important ; its produce is much sought after both by French and by foreign manufacturers. There are also a number of brick and tile works, and potteries. The department has several mineral springs, the most important being those of Dax, which were frequented even in the time of the Romans. The population of Landes in 1876 was 303,508, or 84 inhabitants to the square mile. In 1801 the population was only 224,272. The department includes three arrondissements (Mont-de-Marsan, Dax, and St Sever), 28 cantons, and 333 communes. Mont-deMarsan is the capital of the department. It is noticeable that in its long extent of coast it has no considerable port. Opposite Cape Breton, however, where the Adour formerly entered the sea, there is, close to land, a deep channel where there is safe anchorage. It was from this once important harbour of Cape Breton that the discoverers of the Canadian island of that name set out.