spaceSpace and Physics

The Crew That Freed The Suez Canal Freighter Got Some Crucial Help From Space


Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockApr 1 2021, 10:42 UTC
3D illustration of Ever given being freed in Suez Canal by tug boats and dredger ship

A winning combination: Human hard work with the help of a cosmic alignment. Image Credit: Corona Borealis Studio/

Over the last 10 days, the attention of the world has been captured by the fate of the Ever Given. On March 23, due to high winds and a dust storm, the ship lost the ability to steer and run aground in the Suez Canal.

The waterway is located in Egypt and connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. About 10 percent of all global trade flows through here, so you can imagine the effect on the economy and the people depending on it – including the many sailors that were left waiting in their vessels for the Ever Given to be moved. Observations from space highlighted how many ships were waiting to continue on their journey.


Egyptian authorities and international partners worked hard over the course of six days to free the vessel and get the canal up and running again. This was an enormous task, since the Ever Given is one of the largest container ships in the world. The work required a lot of physics and precise calculations on how to move the 400-meter (1,312-foot) boat off the ground and back into the water.

Dredgers removed 850 cubic meters (30,000 cubic feet) of sand from around the ship. Tugs were used to pull the ship’s bow (the front) and push the stern to straighten it up – but the ship also needed to be moved on the vertical axis. The stern needed to be pushed down and the bow lifted up and freed from the ground. And that where a celestial hand came in to help: The Moon.

The Moon and the Sun are responsible for the tides. Water levels around the planet change due to the combined gravitational pull of our star and our natural satellite. Tides are highest when the Moon is aligned with the Sun, so either a full or new moon. The Moon also doesn’t stay the same distance from the Earth, so tides are higher when the Moon is closer.

March 28 was the full Moon, and our satellite was near its closest point to the Earth. This led to a strong tide on Monday 29, when the most powerful tugboats arrived. This was the winning combination: Human hard work with the help of a cosmic alignment.


“We were helped enormously by the strong falling tide we had this afternoon. In effect, you have the forces of nature pushing hard with you and they pushed harder than the two sea tugs could pull,” said Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, the salvage firm hired to extract the Ever Given, as reported by the Associated Press.

Between memes and even a mod in Microsoft Flight Simulator, the Ever Given and its unfortunate grounding will certainly be remembered.

[h/t: Associated Press.]

spaceSpace and Physics
  • tag
  • full moon,

  • tides,

  • Ever Given