Opening the Suez Canal by the Moon’s Gravity

Opening the Suez Canal by the Moon’s Gravity
Photo of the Suez Canal blocked by the giant ship taken from the International Space Station.
Credit: Roscosmos/NASA

The Moon does many things that affect life on Earth. Sometimes its power can help in ways we never considered, such as opening the Suez Canal.

For a week, we saw news reports about a giant ship blocking that canal which carries much of the world’s shipping. The offending vessel is one of the world’s largest container ships, and it got stuck on the sand and turned sideways to block the entire channel. Tugboats and dredging vessels worked to dislodge it, but they were toy boats by comparison. You could think of a child with a toy shovel and sand bucket trying to free a beached whale and push it back into the ocean. I saw a news report with an “expert” saying it could take weeks to free the vessel.

Then, the Moon stepped in. The March full-moon arrived over the weekend and helped to free the ship. We have said before that the Moon does many things to support life on Earth. Its light helps nocturnal animals, and sometimes humans, to find their way. The Moon’s gravity stabilizes the Earth’s tilt which causes the seasons. The gravity also causes the tides that clean the ocean’s shores and estuaries. The tides and the moonlight play an essential role in the reproduction of sea turtles and many crustaceans. The tides even help to free stuck ships.

On March 29, the container ship Ever Given became dislodged, opening the Suez Canal. The 1,300 foot-long ((400 m) vessel would still be stuck if the Moon’s gravity had not raised the water level to lift it enough that the tug boats could move it. Tides are highest during the full-moon. At that time, the Sun and the Moon are on opposite sides of the Earth. Their gravity pulls on the water raising the tides. In this case, that force was enough to free a ship the size of the Empire State Building from being stuck in the mud and thus to open the Suez Canal.

One more thing about the Moon is that it has just the right size to allow us to have total solar eclipses, which benefit scientists in their study of the Sun. We never stop marveling at the powerful forces in God’s creation.

— Roland Earnst © 2021