Thousands of people gathered at northern France's Mont Saint-Michel on Friday to witness what is dubbed the high tide of the century.

On Saturday, March 21, France's North Atlantic coast experienced the first giant tide in nearly two decades as a solar eclipse and a full moon combined to create an ocean surge not seen since March 10, 1997.

The biggest tides in the world occur at the picturesque Mont Saint Michel and the extraordinary tide has prompted visitors to flock to the site. The next peak tide is expected to occur on March 3, 2033.

Due to the solar eclipse on Friday, the tide was expected to reach heights of nearly 14 meters, or about five meters higher than the average tidal surge in the area, which measure 8.7 meters.

Authorities had difficulty holding back the spectators who wanted to take pictures of the scene before the surge on Friday night. Tourists and locals alike positioned themselves as they anticipate a wall of water comparable to the height of a four-story building.

Before dawn, tourists from all over the world, including Germany, Japan and Belgium flocked on the bridge that leads up to Mont Saint Michel, an ancient abbey and a UNESCO heritage site visited by about three million tourists per year, for the so-called first giant tide of the millennium.

Authorities warned about the dangers of being caught in the water's current and a 70-year-old man was swept away and killed. Some tourists likewise expressed disappointment because the relatively calm weather did not make the event as spectacular as some people hoped it would be.

"For the 'tide of the century', I am a bit disappointed," said tourist Jean-Bernard Delamarche. "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."

The phenomenon also happens in other parts of the globe such as in Canada's Bay of Fundy on the Atlantic Coast, where the tidal surge is expected to reach 16 meters. Those who are based in Tierra del Fuego, an archipelago off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland, Britain's Bristol Channel and Australia's northern coast will also witness the supertide.

Photo: Edouard Hue | Flickr

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