ships update

some news about boats

One of the most underrated things about the internet is that it lets everyone know where every single airplane and boat is at any point in time. “If a vehicle has an identification number on it, it will be tracked” — which feels like some sort of Rule 34 corollary when I say it out loud. On a normal day, the movement of these vessels is a thing that only a small subset of the population cares about. But when it matters, it really matters.

For instance, plane tracking sites have been used to keep tabs on aircraft used by the CIA for… stuff the CIA does (torture). Also, Jeffrey Epstein’s planes have also been the subject of investigation and speculation. On a less serious level, train aficionados log the cars that they see. This publicly available, crowdsourced data makes it easier than you’d think to track the comings and goings of major vessels.

This week, I’ve been particularly interested in the live map on, which tells me where all the boats are. According to the map, all the boats are going around the southern tip of Africa, like it’s the 1700s, because a boat got stuck in the Suez Canal.

The story of the gigantic boat getting stuck in the canal is perfect for a few reasons. Maybe most importantly, nobody died (I have not been following super closely but I’m pretty sure this is accurate). Secondly, it’s so funny, because going through a canal mostly requires a boat to go in a straight line — and they messed that up. Thirdly, it’s an engineering problem that is somehow both astronomical in scale (boat is a quarter-mile long and very tall and full of cargo) and simple in how to resolve it (move the boat away from the part of the canal it’s stuck in, maybe by pulling it backward or digging or whatever). Fourth, the boat is messing up a huge amount of global trade? I think I saw “a tenth” somewhere. That rules. I could only wish to have that kind of impact.

A lot of the vessels backed up in the canal are nondescript (if you’re interested in some weird history, I recommend looking into the Great Bitter Lake Association) but I really would like to talk about this dude:

Over the past couple of days, Russian Warship 545 has been subject to some weirdness, for lack of a better term. Much of what I’m about to recount is cribbed from Tumblr user oopsabird, so you could save yourself some time by clicking this link instead of reading the following.

Anyway, here’s how it started:

I went back to check on my pal Russian Warship 545 (registration name KOLA), and being unable to find the red dot in the area, thought it had moved on. Curious as to when and where to, I ran a search on Vesselfinder for the name “Russian Warship 545”.

No results found.

Hmmm… to me, it’s very normal for a Russian warship to sail to a spot of international upheaval and then just kinda vanish, but I understand some may disagree. Anyway, oopsabird continues:

Here’s what the ship looked like earlier today.

As of this newsletter’s drafting, the ship appears to have reverted to “warship” status on Vessel Finder.

Things get a bit more confusing when you try to look up the ship on other tracking sites. While Vessel Finder has just one picture of a big, sturdy, grey warship, other sites show a wimipier Kola more suited to its description as an oil tanker. This can probably be attributed to the perils of crowdsourced information, which is generally pretty reliable but surely not bulletproof.

So what is the truth? We’ll never know, but, once again, oopsabird offers up a relatively plausible series of events:

After that, maybe there’s a glitch, maybe someone tries to update the automatic identification system (AIS) records. Regardless, the endless result is that a “Russian warship” watching an incredibly funny logistical catastrophe unfold in the Suez Canal has flitted in and out of existence over the past couple of days, which is almost certainly not of any significance, but is pretty curious nonetheless.

God, the boat stuff is so funny. We deserved this.


Thank you for reading BNet. I think they should just pull the boat backwards.