AN AMAZING FACT: Nothing was so feared by seamen in the days when ocean vessels were driven by wind and sail than the doldrums. The doldrums is a part of the ocean near the equator, abounding with prolonged calms and light, baffling winds. The old sailing vessels, when caught in doldrums, would sometimes lie helpless for days and weeks, waiting for the wind to begin to blow. There the weather is hot, humid, and extremely dispiriting, sometimes driving the irritable sailors to violence or insanity.
The doldrums in the Pacific Ocean were famously described in the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge:
All in a hot and copper sky,
The blood Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
The low-pressure area around the equator, where the winds are often calm, is called the Intertropical Convergence Zone. With the winds absent, the sea has no swells, so on a clear day the sky is reflected in the water. The same happens at night so that sailors feel as if they are floating in space. The word actually comes from the word dold (which means “stupid”) and rums (a noun suffix found in words like “tantrum”), which seems to describe how people caught in them might go crazy.
The children of Israel, when they turned away from conquering Canaan the first time, wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. It was like being in the doldrums. David describes their experience: “They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses” (Psalm 107:4-6). Someday soon the winds that have been held back from blowing on this Earth will be loosened and the final events of Earth’s history will be rapidly fulfilled. Will you be on board God’s ship moving quickly toward the Promised Land?
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. Revelation 7:1