To get the giant container ship blocking the Suez Canal unstuck, engineers needed the stars to align. Actually, the sun, Earth and moon.
Ever Given partially re-floated after running aground last Tuesday in the crucial global shipping waterway.
The salvage team pinned their hopes on this week’s full moon, when, beginning Sunday, water levels were set to rise a foot-and-a-half higher than normal high tides.
Tides are higher whenever there is a full or new moon, which occurs when the moon is in direct alignment with the sun, with either the Earth or moon in the middle of the three. This causes a greater gravitational pull on the Earth. As a result, high tides are higher, and low tides are lower. They are known as spring tides and occur twice a month.
This time the effect was amplified by the first supermoon of the year, when a full moon coincides with the closest point to Earth in its elliptical orbit. Supermoons occur several times a year, and this one is known as the worm moon, for the earthworms that begin to appear in the soil in the Northern Hemisphere at this time of year.
When it became clear that tugboats alone wouldn’t be able to dislodge the Ever Given, the rescue effort began looking to the supermoon’s pull on the tides and how it might help free the stranded vessel.
A mass of rock underneath the ship’s bow made freeing the ship difficult. Dredgers shifted more than 950,000 cubic feet of sand and dug down nearly 60 feet.
The blockage caused delays to at least 369 boats, which lined up in a massive traffic jam waiting to pass through the canal, which handles up to 15 percent of world trade.
The nearly week-long blockage of the busy waterway has caused about USD 9.6 billion in commercial losses per day, according to Bloomberg.
The unprecedented shutdown had threatened to disrupt oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East and raised fears of extended delays, good shortages and rising costs for consumers.