|Volunteer Marine Rescue Gladstone|
VMR 446. VHF Ch. 82.
|Insights and Esoterica |
for the Nautically Obsessed.
Did You Know.
FATHOM . This term comes from the Anglo-Saxon term "faetm" and was originally a land term meaning "embrace". As with many of the measurements from those old days, this one was adapted from the proportions of the human body. A "hand" (still used to measure horses) was about four inches, and a "foot" about 12 inches. The "faetm" or "fathom" was the distance between the fingertips of the outstretched hands, (an embrace), which is about six feet. This was perfect for measuring rope, so the term was adopted by seamen. Since the leadline is marked with a tag every six feet, the depth of the water was described in fathoms too. The symbolic meaning of the term, to discover or understand, comes from this use of the leadline to find the bottom.