Polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen was the first to make a scientific analysis of conditions in which ships make little or no progress

Mariners encounter all sorts of unusual winds and currents, but polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen was baffled in August 1893 when an invisible force seemed to hold back his ship Fram. Four hours steaming though the “dead water” produced less progress than Nansen would expect from just half an hour’s rowing.

“We could hardly get on at all for the dead water,” wrote Nansen. “We made loops in our course… tried all sorts of antics to get clear of it, but to very little purpose.”

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