fathom of fuelwood

Ian Staples ianst at qdpii.ind.dpi.qld.gov.au
Sun Aug 7 03:23:54 EST 1994

swm5 at bonjour.cc.columbia.edu (Shawn W Miller) writes:

>had the luck (or misfortune) of running into a reference from a 17th century
> English source which stated that a Brazilian sugar mill consumed in 24 hours
> 40 fathoms of firewood.  Is anyone familiar with this measurement.  Could 

It's possible, but to my mind unlikely, that it refers to the amount you
can carry - an archaic meaning of "fathom" is "to circle with your arms".
That doesn't seem enough for a "sugar mill", but it would probably be
enough to evaporate at least one vat of juice as I saw being done in
Colombia some years ago.  (In this case the crushing power was supplied
by animals, not steam.)

Perhaps it is a translation problem?  In english we have a "cord"
of wood (128 cubic feet, or a bit over 3.6 m3, commonly a 4' x 4' pile
of 8' logs).  On the other hand, you may well be right in assuming a
"fathom" of wood is a cube 6' x 6' x 6' - about 6.1 m3 - but what would
be the equivalent old Portuguese word I wonder?  Did Portuguese sailors
use fathoms before metres became popular in Europe?

Cheers,  Ian S.


Ian Staples                        E-mail : ianst at dpi.qld.gov.au
c/- P.O. Box 1054 MAREEBA          Phone  : +61 (0)70 921 555 Home 924 847
Queensland Australia 4880            Fax  : +61 (0)70 923 593   "   "   "

More information about the Ag-forst mailing list