The Maritime and Coastguard Agency confirmed that a large tidal range caused by the close proximity of the moon could well have been a factor in the vessels grounding. The Paula-C, a 295ft-long cargo vessel, became grounded in sandbanks near the Needles on Sunday, during the lowest tide seen in years. The crew had to pump out water from its ballast to make the vessel lighter and wait until high tide set them free. No one was injured.
The sandbanks are not normally exposed in the narrow shipping lane forming the Solent, between the Isle of Wight and the Hampshire coast. On Saturday night, the moon came 31,000 miles
(49,889 kilometres) closer to the earth and produced a spectacle for moon-observers 14 percent larger and approximately 30 percent brighter at its peak.
In a report in the BBC
, a survey on the Paula-C, found no serious damage had been sustained and all nine crew members were lifted to safety. Five ships ran aground on shingle banks on the western side of the Isle of Wight, according to coastguards
based at the Needles.
The lunar perigee was to blame according to one coastguard who said, "We checked them all and there were no injuries, just some surprise at being caught out like this. Blame it on the Moon".
The Daily Mail
explains that supermoons usually lower tides by just around an inch or more but some seas and waterways can lose more than six inches in depth. In the Solent this becomes a particular problem as there are several sand and shingle banks strewn just off the island.