What Is a Nautical Mile Called?

Whether you’re an experienced sailor, or have never stepped foot on a boat, you may have heard the term ‘nautical mile’ and wondered what it means – what is a nautical mile called? A nautical mile is an important part of navigation, used by sailors and navigators to measure distances, and also by pilots to measure altitude.

In this article, we will examine the definition, history, uses, calculations, differences and benefits of using the nautical mile as well as common misconceptions about it and give examples of how to use it while sailing.

Definition of a Nautical Mile

A nautical mile (NM) is defined as the distance that one minute of latitude is equal to at any given point on Earth’s surface – roughly 1,852 meters or 6,076 feet (1NM = 1 minute latitude).

It is commonly used for measuring distances between two points at sea and for measuring altitude when flying in airspace above the sea or landmass. In international law it is defined as exactly 1,852 meters or 6,076 feet (1NM = 1 minute latitude). It is also known as an air mile or knot (a nautical unit used for speed).

Historical Meaning of a Nautical Mile

Historically speaking, the nautical mile was first adopted in 15th century Europe by mariners who used it to measure their progress from port to port along their voyage routes – calculating the number of miles they had covered while at sea in order to make sure they arrived safely back at home port.

This allowed them to calculate how much more time they would need before reaching their destination based on how many miles they had left to go in their journey – something that was especially important during long voyages that could take weeks or even months to complete!

What is a Nautical Mile Used For?

The primary use for the nautical mile today is in navigation and cartography – specifically for measuring distances between two points at sea (or in the air above landmass), plotting routes on maps or charts and calculating speed over water/air when sailing/flying respectively.

It can also be used for estimating distances on land when converting between metric units (e.g., kilometers/meters) and nautical miles as well as calculating fuel consumption over long journeys where multiple fuel stops may be needed along the way due to limited range capabilities at sea or in the air!

How To Calculate A Nautical Mile

Initially, sailors would calculate the number of miles between two points by taking into account wind direction and speed, waves height and periodicity as well as other factors such as current flow in order to arrive at an estimated distance traveled – however today this can be done much more accurately using GPS technology which allows sailors/pilots to calculate exact distances traveled within seconds!

Additionally, many modern navigational systems are capable of automatically converting distances into nautical miles without any manual effort required from the user – making it even easier to accurately measure distances while out on the open waters or high up in the skies!

The Difference Between A Nautical Mile And A Statute Mile

A statute mile is defined by statute law in many countries around the world and usually equates to 5,280 feet (1SM = 5,280 feet).

It differs from a nautical mile because it does not take into account wind direction/speed nor does it take into account wave height/periodicity which are both important factors when trying to measure distances accurately from port-to-port while out at sea – hence why most navigational systems use nautical miles instead when plotting routes on maps/charts etc…

Additionally, one statute mile is equal to 1.15 times one nautical mile meaning that 100 statute miles equate 115 nauticals miles (100SM = 115NM).

Benefits Of Using A Nautical Miles

One major benefit of using nauticals miles instead of statute miles when navigating at sea/in airspace above landmass is accuracy, due to its consideration for wind direction/speed & wave heights etc…

navigators can be sure that they are within range when travelling from one location another without having worry about miscalculations due to inaccurate estimations based on factors such as current flow etc… Additionally having access to exact measurements allows navigators/pilots plan out their journey with greater precision providing peace-of-mind knowing that they will reach their desired destination safely & efficiently!

Common Misconceptions About A Nauticals Miles

There are some common misconceptions about what exactly constitutes one NM – with some believing that it equates directly with one kilometer which isn’t true, one NM equates 1 minute latitude which works out roughly 1 kilometer but varies depending on location due its consideration for wind direction/speed & wave heights etc…

Additionally some believe that there isn’t much difference between using NM & SM however this isn’t true either since SM don’t take these factors into account which can result in miscalculations if not accounted for properly leading potentially dangerous situations such as running out fuel mid-voyage due estimations being off!

Examples Of How To Use A Nauticals Miles

By taking into account all these factors & considering your current location & destination you can easily work out how far you have left until reaching your desired destination – if your current location has coordinates 50°N 30°W then your destination has coordinates 45°N 20°W then you simply have calculate the difference between them: 50°-45°=5° & 30°-20°=10° giving you total distance 5×10=50 NM – meaning you have 50 NM left until reaching your destination! Similarly if you’re flying then you can use NM altitude calculator convert SM altitude measurements into NM ones allowing accurate assessment your altitude relative airspace above landmass ensuring efficient & safe flight paths!


In conclusion we’ve seen that understanding what exactly constitutes one NM & how best utilise it within navigation contexts whether sailing or flying can greatly improve accuracy & safety levels making sure our journeys are successful ones!

We’ve looked at its definition history uses calculations differences benefits examples & misconceptions allowing greater insight into this useful tool making sure our journeys go smoothly without any hiccups along way!

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