The Paramore had been making good progress since leaving St Iago in the Cape Verde Islands on 6 January 1699. In her first full day’s sailing to noon on January 7, she covered 171 miles and 142 were covered the following day, January 8, with Halley reporting “A Stout Gale of the Trade Wind” in his log. On the 9th, she sailed 132 miles and on the 10th, 128 miles – but on January 11, the number of miles covered drops to 87 and on the 12th to 62½, then 12½, 9½, and on January 15 Halley records no miles covered at all. At latitude roughly 5°00 north of the equator, the Paramore has entered what later seamen will call ‘the doldrums’.
The doldrums refer to a band, on or near the equator, where the trade winds from the northern and southern hemisphere meet and which, warmed by the equatorial heat, rise vertically leaving little or no wind at the ocean surface; and where the weather is hot, muggy and erratic, with severe thunderstorms and squalls.
For a ship reliant on wind for movement, this area of calm is a great danger: water-supplies will run low and a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables will increase the risk of scurvy. It is not a place I want to see Halley trapped for too long.
But I suspect a dwindling water-supply may not be Halley’s only preoccupation at present: a stationary ship must mean less work for the crew – and so more time for Lieutenant Edward Harrison to nurse his secret grudge against Captain Halley…