9/20/15

My Travel Book - The Tidal Bore at the Mont-Saint-Michel - August 31, 2015







 By the time we ended the visit of the abbey, it was around 5:30 p.m. Too early to stay up there and wait on the terrace for the 9:21 p.m. spring tide. The tidal bore was expected to get to the Mont around 7:45 p.m. (9:21 p.m. being the time when the tidal range would be at its highest, more or less 14 meters on that day.)

We wanted very much to watch its arrival from the west terrace which was the best place ever to be that night. The abbey would be opened until 10:00 p.m instead of the usual 5:30 p.m. which shows how important spring tides are now for the Mont.

We went back down to the hotel, feeling very tired but ready to climb up the mount once more less than one hour later. Which we did. We got back there at 6:30 p.m. 


The crowd was impressive but not huge. I am so tall that it was not hard at all to find a good spot where I would shoot the arrival of the tidal bore from. Popeye was more a watcher and a seaman than a photographer so he spent some time finding the best spots I would use later on to keep on shooting.

And the wait began. Many people were new at this game, newer than us. Many did not know one single thing about tides which made the long wait bearable. Someone once said that it is easy to identify stupid people because they can’t help trying to sound knowledgeable.  This thought was expressed in a much rougher way than I dare retranscribe it here. I had a lot of fun.
I heard lots of “oh dear” when people caught sight of two men walking towards the other side of the Mont, a few minutes before the tidal bore was first spotted. Actually they were firemen checking on would-be reckless tourists. There were none to be found and they walked back to safety.


There was a lot of excitement about two kayaks which were waiting for the bore and were swept along as soon as it got there. This is a very usual activity there at spring tide. You’d better be good at this sport because the current is so strong that it can throw you off balance very quickly. Those two kayakers were very good indeed!




I was seriously disadvantaged though because of my defective sight. I had a hard time detecting the very first minutes of the tidal bore because it happened very far away, like ten to fifteen miles away. I had to rely on a few people who had good eyes. (I kept listening!) So I can’t really say I witnessed the first minutes of the tide but then it rushed in towards the Mont at full gallop (and maybe at top speed even) and I followed the whole tidal bore from then on.




I am a photographer so I kept shooting. But deep down inside, I felt flabbergasted at first. Then my astonishment turned into something very close to anxiety. I kept shooting while I was actually starting to feel rather frightened.

Imagine. I was very high above the sea level, on a very secure spot from the tide - besides the fact that tides are no strangers to me. And yet while I was watching this so powerful and humongous expanse of water rushing towards us, I ended up feeling scared. Not scared like whimpering about it. But scared by the very concept of this seemingly peaceful and yet so implacable body of water. Totally smooth and deadly.

I am so used to plain tides. The first tidal wave gets in then withdraws slowly until it comes back with another one and then another one, wave after wave, further and further. And the whole process will take six hours. It may get in very fast in some places like the Ebihens but it is always the same process. Wave after wave. It is quite realistic to escape from the rising tide unless you are caught in a pincer movement.

At the Mont-Saint-Michel, there is no way you can get away from this tidal bore. It is made of one gigantic body of water. Not a real wave. More like flooding, so quiet and inexorable… A lot like some lava flow actually.



Just imagine being caught in that pincer.


From the terrace, the height of the tidal bore was very dwarfed but you have to realize that at full tide, ninety minutes later, it is already 14 meters high and still looking very smooth and calm.


I am talking about the tide that comes in from the east, from Granville in Normandy. The Mont is an island and the tide also comes from the west, from Cancale in Brittany. 


video

This tidal bore is more raging. The waters come in like a torrent of mud because their path is narrower on account of a much more uneven ground .


video

And then the two waves collide and you realize you would never escape from such a deadly trap. The waters do not blend. They make eddies. It looks like a fight for survival. Which tidal bore will get the upper hand?

The road and the bridge (at least part of it since it’s been built to let the waters flow freely underneath) were submerged less than one hour later. Almost one hour before the highest level of the tide. And then the sea lapped against the fortress. It got inside the village, flooding part of the street and the lowest unprotected buildings.




For a while I worried a lot about the incredible stupidity of bystanders on the platform facing the bridge and on the bridge itself. It was getting dark which proved to be rather deterrent. A good thing there were tons of firemen and police officers around both on the bridge and at the bottom of the Mont. 
But people can act so stupidly sometimes. 


A friend asked me if I had been afraid when the Mont turned into an island. Actually it did not bother me at all to find myself so suddenly on an island, a very small one but nevertheless an island. Maybe because I knew for a certainty that the tide would recede as fast as it had rushed in. In much less than a couple of hours, people were able to go in and out of the Mont Saint-Michel. Totally freely.

Meanwhile, Popeye and I were having a late supper at La Mère Poulard. Very nice supper with a gorgeous omelette with lobster. So good. Then we made a huge mistake. Instead of choosing a light apple tart, we went for… the omelette with apples. Gorgeous again but we wished we had not done that because too much can turn to much too much! Their omelette as a dessert is just as big as the omelette as a main course, except that they don’t warn you! (They probably were having a good laugh in the kitchen since we were the last diners.)





By the time we went to bed, the brige was functional again.








*Good Luck, and Good Night*

1 comment: