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THANKFULLY, IT’S NOT every day that a giant container ship gets wedged in the Suez Canal, thus crippling world trade to the tune of billions of dollars. But we can leap for joy with news that Ever Given is now afloat. Here are tidbits about this craft and how natural events combined with technology to free her. The aerial photo of the Ever Given wedged across the Suez Canal is striking.

Image from Reuters Graphics.

On March 23, 2021, Ever Given had just entered the canal at 5:10 a.m. At 5:45 a.m., she wedged ends in opposite sides of the canal (her length the same as the Empire State Building’s height). Among the plans to refloat her, off-loading fuel was considered. This idea was discarded, though, for fear that the Ever Given’s stacks of cargo would upset her balance, making matters even worse. Given the relative remoteness of the locale, off-loading the stacks of containers wasn’t feasible either. 

Flight Sim Takes You There. In fact, as shared by a SimanaitisSays reader, the incident inspired a fellow Microsoft Flight Simulator enthusiast to incorporate the giant container ship into the sim.

Image by Corona Borealis Studio/ShutterStock.Com from IFLS.

IFLS reports, “The Ever Given is a Golden-class container ship, making it one of the largest vessels in the world, that is operated by Evergreen Marine. Whilst running a standard route towards Rotterdam, NL, the 220,000-metric ton ship was blown sideways by a severe dust storm, spinning it and firmly wedging both ends into the narrow banks of the Suez Canal.”

A Six-day Traffic Jam. “Ship is Freed After a Costly Lesson in the Vulnerabilities of Sea Trade,” Vivian Yee reports in The New York Times, March 29, 2021: “For six days, billions of dollars’ worth of international commerce sat paralyzed at either end of the Suez Canal, stalled thanks to a single giant container ship apparently knocked sideways by a powerful southerly wind.”

“The ship’s insurers and the canal authorities,” Yee writes, “summoned the largest tugboats in the canal, then two even larger ones from further afield. They deployed diggers, front-end loaders and specialized dredgers to guzzle sand and mud from where the ship was lodged at both ends. They called in eight of the world’s most respected salvage experts from the Netherlands.”

Mother Nature Springs to the Rescue. Finally, all of this high technology was aided by a most natural occurence, a spring tide aka a leap tide. As described by, “Tides are long-period waves that roll around the planet as the ocean is ‘pulled’ back and forth by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun as these bodies interact with the Earth in their monthly and yearly orbits.”

A spring tide is when the Sun enhances the Moon’s predominant rotational tug on the Earth’s seas. The term has nothing to do with the spring season; the word derives from Anglo-Saxon springan, “to leap.” Leap tides occur twice a month, when the Moon is full (i.e., when Earth is between the Moon and the Sun) or when it’s new (dark; i.e., when the Moon is directly between the Earth and the Sun).

Spring and Neap Tides. Image from NOAA.

Neap Tides. When the Sun and Moon are at right angles to each other relative to Earth, the Sun partly cancels out the Moon’s tug. NOAA notes, “This produces moderate tides known as neap tides, meaning that high tides are a little lower and low tides are a little higher than average. Neap tides occur during the first and third quarter moon, when the moon appears ‘half full.’ ” 

The word “neap” comes from  Old English nēp, used to describe this condition of the sky.

The Moon’s Errant Orbit. What’s more, the Moon’s orbit around Earth is not precisely circular. During each monthly trip, the Moon’s closest distance to Earth is call its perigee; its farthest, its apogee.

The Moon at perigee, December 3, 2017, and at apogee, June 9, 2017. The variation in apparent size is akin to that of a U.S. quarter versus a U.S. nickel. Image by Muzamir Mazlan at Telok Kemang Observatory, Port Dickson, Malaysia from EarthSky.

EarthSky notes that March 30, 2021, was a perigee, meaning that this also contributed to tidal conditions beneficial for dislodging the Ever Given

Tugs and experts were useful. But Mother Nature helped. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2021  

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