On March 23, the 220,000-ton ship Ever Given got stuck in the Suez Canal, blocking its passage. Supposed strong winds, human and technical errors might have played a role in the accident. Almost a week later on March 29, the ship was freed and people on social media immediately found the scenario perfect for jokes and memes as a form of relief on the news cycle.
According to The Guardian, the hashtag #putitback started trending on Twitter “as people, with varying degrees of sincerity, immediately became nostalgic for the time when the whole world’s attention was fixed on a huge oaf of a boat gunking up 200km of canal.”
Forbes senior contributor Dani Di Placido wrote there was a somewhat melancholic feeling to the event.
“The news cycle is a disorienting blur of senseless tragedy and systemic injustice, while social media platforms are bubbling with unchanneled rage (even more so than usual),” Di Placido said. “But the big, dumb boat stuck in the Suez Canal, reportedly blocking 12% of global trade, is just silly enough to unify us all in bemusement and laughter (at least, those of us who aren’t tasked with trying to fix it).”
Ben Jenkins, a reporter for The Guardian, said, “it’s just novel for there to be a big news event that is affecting several global markets concurrently which I can explain to my two-year-old son without a lot of difficulty: Big Boat Stuck.”
Di Placido said the situation makes a perfect meme format.
“The boat representing the crushing weight of pandemic blues, procrastination, or whatever political point one wants to push, wedged maddeningly tight in the canal, like a coin stuck in a vending machine,” Di Placido said.
Jenkins said despite this simplicity, the combined efforts of the entire planet could not free the ship at first.
“There’s something strangely calming about a huge, global problem, the essentials of which you grasp immediately and instinctively,” Jenkins said.
Di Placido said while the event was a serious disaster that could impact global trades for weeks, the story represents a lot from the past few years.
“It is also exactly the kind of absurd story that has defined the last couple of years – a global catastrophe, sparked by something as trivial as a strong gust of wind, highlighting just how alarmingly fragile the world’s trading network really is, sparking an abundance of laughter at the surreal stupidity of the situation,” Di Placido said.
The Suez Canal Authority said it took 14 tugboats pulling maneuvers from three directions to free the ship. Dredgers dislodged the stranded vessels, shifting sand to a depth of 60 feet. The Ever Given was refloated as high tide levels peaked.
According to Trade Winds, the firm Boskalis sent out a team to assist the vessel. Boskalis CEO Peter Berdowski said the operation was a success.
“We pulled it off,” Berdowski said in a later statement. “I am excited to announce that our team of experts, working in close collaboration with the Suez Canal Authority, successfully refloated the Ever Given … thereby making free passage through the Suez Canal possible again.”
Some of the memes inspired by the situation: