The Atmosphere


What are the horse latitudes?

The horse latitudes are two high pressure belts characterized by low winds about 30 degrees north and south of the equator. Dreaded by early sailors, these areas have undependable winds with periods of calm. In the Northern Hemisphere, particularly near Bermuda, sailing ships carrying horses from Spain to the New World were often becalmed. When water supplies ran low, these animals were the first to be rationed water. Dying from thirst, the animals were tossed overboard to conserve water for the men. Explorers and sailors reported that the seas were “strewn with bodies of horses,” which may be why the areas are called the horse latitudes. The term might also be rooted in complaints by sailors who were paid in advance and received no overtime when the ships slowly traversed the area. During this time, they were said to be “working off a dead horse.”


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