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Rare Supertide Turns Ancient Abbey Into Isolated Island

Image: An aerial view as a high tide submerges a narrow causeway leading to the Mont Saint-Michel
An aerial view as a high tide submerges a narrow causeway leading to the Mont Saint-Michel, on France's northern coast, Saturday, March 21, 2015. A supertide has turned France's famed Mont Saint-Michel into an island and then retreated out of sight, delighting thousands of visitors who came to see the rare phenomenon. The so-called "tide of the century" actually happens every 18 years (AP Photo) FRANCE OUT AP

A supertide turned France's famed Mont Saint-Michel into an island on Saturday and then retreated out of sight, delighting thousands of visitors who came to see the rare phenomenon.

The so-called "tide of the century" actually happens every 18 years. Although the tide rushes in and out along the whole northern French coast, it's especially dramatic at the UNESCO world heritage site, an ancient abbey normally linked to the mainland only by a narrow causeway at high tide.

Thousands Gather at Mont Saint-Michel to View High Tide 0:55

But the supertide, said to rise at the pace of a horse's gallop, turned the Mont briefly into an island Saturday, while the day's low tide allowed people to walk on the expansive flat seabed.

Among those at the abbey on Saturday was Wilfred James, who drove six hours from central France in time for the morning tide.

"It's been a long time since we've seen Mont Saint-Michel surrounded by the sea. I was born in this region and I never saw it like this," he said.

Image: Sebastien Daligault, a guide at the Bay Saint-Michel, stands knee-deep in water during a walking tour around the Mont Saint-Michel off France's Normandy coast
Sebastien 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 on Saturday. PASCAL ROSSIGNOL / Reuters

Tidal specialist Nicolas Pouvreau told France 24 the morning surge was a few centimeters (inches) short of expectations.

An even higher tide was predicted for Saturday night and the abbey was staying open until 10 p.m. to accommodate visitors.

In France's Landes region, a fisherman who was out on the flats lost his footing and was swept away to his death just as the tide started rising again on Saturday, local officials said.

Image: An aerial view of Mont-Saint-Michel on May 5, 2014
An aerial view of Mont-Saint-Michel during low tide on May 5, 2014. JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD / AFP - Getty Images, file

— The Associated Press