In pictures: 'Tide of the century' brings thousands to Mont Saint-Michel

DAMIEN MEYER, AFP I An aerial view shows the Mont-Saint-Michel surrounded by the sea during high tide on March 20, 2015. A "supertide" hit the island on March 21, 2015.

Some 10,000 people gathered at Mont Saint-Michel in northern France on Friday to watch the culmination of what has been billed as "the high tide of the century" wash around the picturesque landmark.


The exceptionally high spring tide, swollen by a "supermoon" effect linked to the solar eclipse on Friday, was predicted to cut off the island from the mainland with a wall of water as high as a four-storey building. The surge ends a month of high tides, which has drawn many tourists to France’s North Atlantic Coast. While the phenomenon is rare, it takes place not once a century but roughly every 18 years.

In the end, the tidal surge fell a few centimetres short of predictions, according to Nicolas Pouvreau, a tide specialist at SHOM, the French national oceanography organisation. A tiny sliver of causeway no more than a few metres wide resisted the surge of water pushed by the moon's huge gravitational pull on the sea. Scientists said low air pressure may have lessened the phenomenon.

The fairytale village and monastery of Mont Saint-Michel, which is perched on a rock that becomes an island when the tide is in, was lit up with 60 spotlights for the occasion. Police had difficulty holding back crowds eager to get a picture of the UNESCO world heritage site in the final minutes before the surge on Friday evening. The bay on the coast of Normandy has some of the strongest tides in the world.

"This natural phenomenon is an incredible opportunity for tourism in Brittany at this time of year," said Michael Dodds, the director of the regional tourism committee. More than two thirds of French polled said they’d like to see the tide, according to a survey conducted by OpinionWay.

The last "tide of the century" was on March 10, 1997 and the next will be on March 3, 2033.

Similar surges are predicted along the coasts of Britain and the Netherlands over the weekend.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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