5 lesser-known distances
Before the more modern metre, people used a range of other measurements
This is an old English unit created to measure a standard length of ploughed furrow that could be cultivated by an ox without rest. The furlong is still used today to measure the distances run by racehorses.
1 furlong = 201.168 metres
Also known as a ‘perch’ or ‘pole’, the rod derives from the old English word ‘rodd’. Originally used for measuring out agricultural distances, it is still used today in horticulture, particularly to measure the size of allotments.
1 rod = 5.029 metres
The league has been used in many regions of the world, including ancient Rome, France and Spain. Introduced to England by the Normans, it was suggested to be the distance that could be walked in one hour.
1 league = approx 4.82km
4. Nautical mile
This measurement is used by seafarers. Imagine if the Earth was cut in half at the equator, revealing a 360-degree circle. Each degree can be split into 60 ‘minutes’, or arcs. Travelling on water for one minute of latitude covers a distance of one nautical mile.
1 nautical mile = 1,852 metres
A klick isn’t actually an unusual measurement – it’s just military slang for kilometre. It is said that the term derives from a form of measurement conducted during military treks, in which designated soldiers would count the paces of the troops, moving the gas regulator on their rifles back by one mark every 100 metres. After ten marks they would reset the regulator – indicating 1,000 metres – which would make a ‘click’ sound.
1 klick = 1 kilometre
This article was originally published in How It Works issue 117
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