Last week, much of the world’s trade ground to a halt for a reason that harks back to simpler times: A big boat got stuck in a canal, and blocked the other ships from passing through it. The Ever Given, one of the world’s largest container ships, was beached in Egypt while crossing through the Suez Canal. For six days, no other ships were able to navigate the vital waterway until, on Monday morning, the Ever Given finally began floating once more.
If you didn’t follow the story closely, the question “Why didn’t they just get the boat off the beach?” might seem reasonable. But a ship like the Ever Given is massive in a way that most of us landlubbers can’t really comprehend. You might think you’ve seen a big boat before, but a quarter-mile-long, 220,000-ton cargo ship is enormous in ways that it takes a real sense of scale to fully appreciate.
Fortunately, scale is something Texas does well. Using a tool created by Boston Public Library map curator Garrett Dash Nelson, we plopped the Ever Given inside various Texas landmarks, just to get a sense of how grand in size the big boat really is.
The Big Boat at the Texas Capitol
The Texas State Capitol is, famously, very big! It’s taller than the United States Capitol, and the grounds stretch across more than four blocks of downtown Austin. However, if you wanted to ship the Capitol somewhere else, you could just about fit it onto the Ever Given, which would have plenty of space for the building lengthwise—it’s almost exactly the same length as the grounds on which the dome sits—though it would come up perhaps a smidge short on the width. If you’ve ever walked from one end of the Capitol grounds to the other, you’ve more or less paced the length of the Ever Given.
The Big Boat Goes to San Antonio
Visitors to the Alamo are often struck that, despite the outsized legend surrounding the famed mission, it’s not actually that big of a building. (There’s an entire category of online reviews of the landmark that use the phrase “smaller than you think.”) When you put the Ever Given alongsidee the Alamo, the entire plaza at which Bowie, Crockett, and Travis made their famous last stand is dwarfed by a ship that could easily stop global trade by wedging itself onto an Egyptian beach. For more perspective, check out the second image, in which San Antonio’s famed River Walk is not visible, because we plopped a giant container ship right on top of it, and the ship was bigger than the River Walk itself. There would be no trip to Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant if that happened.
The Big Boat Goes to a Cowboys Game
Jerry Jones’s massive, $1.2 billion monument to the Dallas Cowboys opened its doors in 2009 as one of the largest football stadiums in the U.S. And truly, AT&T Stadium in Arlington is a monstrous beast, capable of holding more than 100,000 fans on game day (at least when there’s not a global pandemic). However! Even the sky-high stadium is made to look short when you slap the Ever Given right on top of it. The ship can’t match the stadium in terms of girth, but Cowboys fans could tailgate at the bow of the boat, while Eagles fans could do whatever Eagles fans do on the stern, and the two groups would remain on entirely opposite sides of the stadium’s parking lot.
The Big Boat Visits the Silos
Chip and Joanna Gaines have built a mini empire in downtown Waco at the famed Magnolia Market at the Silos. And when you put the Ever Given there, “mini” is the right word, as the entire tourist destination could comfortably be stuffed along the starboard side of the vessel.
The Big Boat on the Border
El Paso and Juárez are almost a single city, separated only by an international border and a handful of highway lanes. If one were to place the stern of the Ever Given near the University of Texas–El Paso campus on the Texas side of the border, the bow would be well within El Paso’s Mexican twin—a fact that’s apparent in the close-up view, and made even more abundantly clear when you zoom out a bit.
The Big Boat Meets a Descendant at the NASA Johnson Space Center
When mankind began its seafaring ways, it may have seemed that there would eventually be nothing left to explore. Mastery of the oceans didn’t end our species’ exploratory drive, however—eventually, a new frontier was found, and the intrepid voyagers to the stars communicated to their counterparts in Southeast Houston. Surprisingly, perhaps, the vessel NASA formerly used to travel to the moon is a whole lot smaller than the one used to haul a bunch of trailers’ worth of products around the globe. A space shuttle, as is evident from the above image, would have a much harder time blocking the Suez Canal than the Ever Given did.
The Big Boat at Big Bend
Lo, though the Ever Given truly is a marvel of engineering and of mankind’s ability to dream big—bigger—no, even bigger—it is nonetheless outsized by the majesty of nature. If you look closely at the image above, you can just barely make out the wee shape of the ship, lost somewhere in the mountains near Big Bend National Park’s Pine Canyon Trail. The ship, she art big, but she’s got nothing on Big Bend.