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How to Convert 1 Nautical Mile to Meters

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

How do you convert 1 nautical mile to meters? The conversion is actually quite simple, as this lesson will explain. The lesson also goes over what a nautical mile is, who uses it, and how its definition has changed since it was created.

Steps to Solving the Problem

How many meters are in 1 nautical mile?

This process turns out to be surprisingly simple, as you will see below. So first we are going to talk about what a nautical mile is, how it was created, what it is used for, and how its definition has changed. After that we are also going to go about converting a larger number of nautical miles to meters.

The nautical mile is a unit of distance measurement originally defined relative to the circumference of the earth at the equator. If you take that circumference and divide it into 360 equal parts, each of those parts is called an arc degree. If you then further divide an arc degree into 60 more equal parts, you will end up with something called an arc minute. The nautical mile was originally defined as one arc minute.

What are nautical miles used for? Nautical miles were originally designed a very long time ago to be used by seafaring nations to enable them to create accurate maps for their navies and trading ships. Today nautical miles are still used by ships and airplanes for navigation purposes.

The old definition of a nautical mile had a lot of leeway in it, because it was quite hard to get an accurate measurement of the entire surface of the earth before satellites and other modern equipment existed. Measurements on land would be inaccurate because you couldn't get to sea level, and measurements in the ocean would be inaccurate because tides, storms, and waves all raised and lowered the sea level. Way back then, this slight ambiguity didn't bother the sailing ships too much. They were moving at very slow speeds and also used visual landmarks for navigation.

However, as transportation by sea became more modernized, and especially as air travel became more common and faster, this ambiguity became more and more problematic. Eventually, it became necessary to increase the accuracy of the nautical mile.

In 1929, the precise definition of the nautical mile was agreed upon at the First International Extraordinary Hydrographic Conference in Monaco.

Solution

The conference attendees agreed to define one nautical mile as exactly 1852 meters. So, the answer to our original question is, '1852 meters are in one nautical mile.'

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