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The Doldrums - What Are They?

The doldrums is a popular nautical term for the belt around the earth where sailing ships suffered windless waters. I can imagine the sailors called their melancholy and misery the ‘doldrums’ too. Being stuck in the middle of the ocean with no wind for days, even weeks was enough to drive some to despair. No wonder they enjoyed their fishing.

Photo: National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration

The Doldrums is an area near the equator and known as the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) or as the “itch”. This belt extends five degrees north and south of the equator where the southern hemisphere winds collide with the northern hemisphere winds. They call them the trade winds. The moist and warm air at the equator is forced like a hot air balloon up into the atmosphere, so there is often little wind on the surface in the ITCZ.

Sailing ships caught in the doldrums were often becalmed for weeks. Then the air cools and causes rain and storms as it moves towards the earth’s surface. Like this Nasa satellite image below you can see the band that forms to create the doldrums.

For more information on how to sail, watch below:

The Physics of Sailing

Video: KQED Quest

If I was stuck in the doldrums, I think I would have gone swimming. What would you have done on the Ashmore when it was becalmed? Please feel free to leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading and watching my BLINK.

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