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Why are horse latitudes called horse latitudes?

Daniel King

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Rodney Fox on March 14, 2019

The "horse latitudes" are two high-pressure belts characterized by low winds, at about 30 degrees north and south of the equator. Feared by sailors, these areas have been unreliable winds with long periods of calm. In the Northern Hemisphere, particularly near Bermuda, ships sailing to the New World (the Americas) were often stalled. There are 2 competing theories for the etymology: 1) When Spanish conquistadors were caught in the horse latitudes (or doldrums) where there is almost no wind, they became very desperate as supplies grew short. Because they could not afford the luxury of drinking to their horses, they threw overboard. 2) When sailing from Europe, these latitudes were reached at the same time that the team had worked off their "dead horse" time -- a duty period for which they had been paid in advance of the sailing. In the horse latitudes, they would be working towards the future pay.


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