A rare supertide turned this ancient French abbey into its own island

France’s North Atlantic coast was experiencing its first giant tide of the millennium on Saturday as the full moon and this week’s solar eclipse combined to help create an ocean surge not seen there since 1997.

At the picturesque Mont Saint Michel island where some of the biggest tides in the world occur, visitors gathered to watch the sea disappear from sight, exposing areas visible only every 18 years, before returning at pace. The next peak tide is not due until 2033.

France’s National Hydrographic Service was expecting to measure more than 14 meters (15.3 yards) between low water on Saturday afternoon and high water in the evening around the famous Abbey-topped rock off France’s northwest coast. Average tides in the area measure 8.7 meters.

Saturday morning’s high tide was also close to peak levels as the sea rushed in from over 13 km (8 miles) out.

France abbeyReutersSebastien Daligault, a guide at the Bay Saint-Michel, stands knee-deep in water with a group of visitors during a walking tour around the Mont Saint-Michel off France’s Normandy coast March 21, 2015.

Despite warnings from the authorities about the dangers of being caught in the fast-moving water, a 70 year-old man died after being swept away at Soulac in the southwesterly Gironde area, a police statement said.

“Fishing on foot” is a favourite coastal pastime during extreme tides as people set off on the ebb to collect shellfish and crabs in the shallows.

Still, relatively calm weather has meant that some coastal flood preparations look unnecessary and made the phenomenon less spectacular than some had hoped.

“For the ‘tide of the century’, I am a bit disappointed,” said tourist Jean-Bernard Delamarche in Saint-Malo further west along the coast which also has big tides. “We came one year, we were staying at the Hotel Ibisand we could not get out of the hotel because the street was flooded. But it’s true that it is impressive.”

Mont Saint-Michel ReutersAn aerial view shows the Mont Saint-Michel off France’s Normandy coast March 20, 2015.

The lowest tide, measured from the port of Granville up the coast from Mont Saint Michel, was at 3:16 pm local time (1016 EDT) with the highest due at 8:10 pm.

The largest tidal ranges in the world occur in Canada at the Bay of Fundy and Ungava Bay where, according to the Canadian Hydrographic service, tides can reach 17 meters in height.

(additional reporting by Claude Canellas; Writing by Andrew Callus; Editing by Clelia Oziel)

This article originally appeared at Reuters. Copyright 2015. Follow Reuters on Twitter.

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