An astronaut onboard the International Space Station (ISS) shot this photograph of the northwestern portion of Noirmoutier, a small tidal island about 20 kilometers (12 miles) long on the western coast of France. Taken at approximately 1:00 p.m. local time, the image highlights exposed mudflats, salt marshes, and sand dunes visible at low tide, as well as the small communities and farms of the island.
Access to Noirmoutier historically required well-timed traversing of the Passage du Gois (out of the frame to the southeast), a causeway linking the island to the mainland. A bridge was constructed in 1971 to permit travel during high tide, which still floods the lowland passage twice a day. Meanwhile, several boats leave white wakes off the north and west side of the island as they travel to and from the deep-water fishing port at L’Herbaudiere.
The exposed mudflats surrounding the island are teeming with shellfish. Oyster aquaculture is widespread in the bay, and several of the associated fish-farming structures stand out along the coast during low tide.
Locals also reap another sort of harvest from the salt marshes. Salt, or “white gold,” is collected from a series of channels and pools as the water evaporates in the summer months.