Knot (unit)

The knot (/nɒt/) is a unit of speed equal to one nautical mile per hour, exactly 1.852 km/h (approximately 1.15078 mph). The ISO standard symbol for the knot is kn. The same symbol is preferred by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE); kt is also common. The knot is a non-SI unit. Worldwide, the knot is used in meteorology, and in maritime and air navigation—for example, a vessel travelling at 1 knot along a meridian travels approximately one minute of geographic latitude in one hour.

Etymologically, the term derives from counting the number of knots in the line that unspooled from the reel of a chip log in a specific time.

1852 m is the length of the internationally agreed nautical mile. The US adopted the international definition in 1954, having previously used the US nautical mile (1853.248 m). The UK adopted the international nautical mile definition in 1970, having previously used the UK Admiralty nautical mile (6080 ft or 1853.184 m).

(Values in bold face are exact.)

The speeds of vessels relative to the fluids in which they travel (boat speeds and air speeds) are measured in knots. For consistency, the speeds of navigational fluids (tidal streams, river currents and wind speeds) are also measured in knots. Thus, speed over the ground (SOG) (ground speed (GS) in aircraft) and rate of progress towards a distant point ("velocity made good", VMG) are also given in knots.

Until the mid-19th century, vessel speed at sea was measured using a chip log. This consisted of a wooden panel, attached by line to a reel, and weighted on one edge to float perpendicularly to the water surface and thus present substantial resistance to the water moving around it. The chip log was cast over the stern of the moving vessel and the line allowed to pay out. Knots placed at a distance of 47 feetinches (14.4018 m) from each other, passed through a sailor's fingers, while another sailor used a 30-second sand-glass (28-second sand-glass is the currently accepted timing) to time the operation. The knot count would be reported and used in the sailing master's dead reckoning and navigation. This method gives a value for the knot of 20.25 in/s, or 1.85166 km/h. The difference from the modern definition is less than 0.02%.

This page was last edited on 16 May 2018, at 13:00.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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