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Chapter 37:

  • The calm-belts, and the trade-winds
  • -- the arrival of the Alabama at the island of Martinique -- the curiosity of the islanders to see the ship -- a Quasi mutiny among the crew, and how it was quelled.


We captured the Wales, as described in the last chapter, on the 8th of November. On the 10th of the same month, we observed in latitude 25°. We were approaching the calm-belt of Cancer. There are three of these calm-belts on the surface of the earth, and the phenomena which they present to the eye of the seaman are very beautiful. A ship coming out of New York, for instance, and bound south, will first encounter the calm-belt which the Alabama is now approaching—that of Cancer. She will lose the wind which has brought her to the ‘belt,’ and meet with light airs, and calms, accompanied, frequently, by showers of rain. She will probably be several days in passing through this region of the ‘doldrums,’ as the sailors expressively call it, continually bracing her yards, to catch the ‘cats-paws’ that come, now from one, and now from another point of the compass; and making no more than twenty, or thirty miles per day. As she draws near the southern edge of the belt, she will receive the first light breathings of the north-east trade-wind. These will increase, as she proceeds farther and farther south, and she will, ere long, find herself with bellying canvas, in a settled ‘trade.’ She will now run with this wind, blowing with wonderful steadiness and regularity, until she begins to near the equator. The wind will now die away again, and the ship will enter the second of these belts—that of equatorial calms. Wending her way slowly and toilsomely through these, as she did through those

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