Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Problems With Malay Theory Part VIII

Continuing with Ralph Olsen’s general comments about his Malay Peninsula Theory, the first five points were covered in the last post. Following are the last ones:

6. “The oceanic travel makes more sense.”

The ocean travel proposed by Olsen is one any vessel of the time could have made without any difficulty at all. The coastal route to India and Indonesia was well traveled long before 600 B.C. The “Silk Road” or trade routes were being plied by coastal vessels for centuries before Lehi. Even King Solomon with his fleet of ships sailed these routes more than 300 years before Lehi left Jerusalem. In addition, if this was the way Lehi traveled to his Land of Promise, then why build a ship different from those capable of making such a simple voyage along the coast? After all, any shallow bottom, weak hulled, single-sail oar-driven boat of the time would have been all that was needed. But that was not what the Lord directed Nephi to do. “I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men.” (1 Nephi 18:2).

Such a different vessel was totally unnecessary for a simple coastal voyage where “ships pulled in to shore each night” as Olsen wrote. No, the simple truth is, the Lehi Colony was to take a much different type of voyage, out into deep water, where a strong-hulled, deep bottomed ship was needed to withstand the constant pounding of ocean waves and currents, and where the oar-driven vessels of the day would be broken up and sunk.

7. ”Traditional Mormon scholars seem to support the idea that Hagoth traveled eastward and populated the Pacific Islands (such as Hawaii, Tonga, etc). Alma 63: 5: And it came to pass that Hagoth, he being an exceedingly curious man, therefore he went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward.”

First of all, Hagoth never traveled anywhere according to the record. He stayed in his shipyard building ships. Secondly, Olsen should have quoted the following two verses which state: “And behold, there were many of the Nephites who did enter therein and did sail forth with much provisions, and also many women and children; and they took their course northward” (Alma 63:6), and “the first ship did also return, and many more people did enter into it; and they also took much provisions, and set out again to the land northward” (Alma 63:7). The point is, these ships went NORTHWARD, not EASTWARD. In fact, no ship could have sailed eastward from the narrow neck of land along the WEST sea! If you sail westward from South America, you sail to Polynesia. If you sail westward from Malay, you sail to Sumatra, or the Andaman Islands, or to India (or back to Arabia). One simply has to admit that such a statement is absolutely ridiculous and totally in error from the scriptural record. In addition, the verse that covers Olsen’s point about populating the Pacific Islands is “And it came to pass that one other ship also did sail forth; and whither she did go we know not” (Alma 63:8).

In addition, it is not possible from the West Sea of Malay to sail eastward. But to get from there to the Pacific Islands, one would have to sail south down the Strait of Mallaca, which narrows to about 3 miles across with shoals, islets, cross-currents and winds bucking the ship all the way past Singapore and through Kapulauan Riau, then northeast into the South China Sea, to find a way through the Balabac, Palawan and Calaman island chains into the Sulu Sea, then through the Tawi-Tawi, Jolo and Basilan island chains to the Celebes Sea, past Mindanao and the Kapulauan Talaud and into the Pacific Ocean. These areas have always been filled with pirates and dangerous currents and winds and require, even today, a very experienced seaman to maneuver through them. Obviously, for Malay, it would have saved thousands of miles to set sail from the East Sea through the Gulf of Thailand and into the South China Sea and north through the Luzon Strait.

The fact is, that sailing to the Pacific from the west coast of Malay in a sailing ship dependent on currents and winds, the only route open would be south into the Java Sea and through thousands of islands of Indonesia. One would wonder why they went as far as the Pacific Islands when they had thousands of islands all around them, not to mention the very large islands of Borneo, Sulawesi, and New Guinea.

No, and simply put, Olsen’s argument for the Malay Peninsula as the Land of Promise is not consistent with the scriptural record. He may look on a map and say this is shorter or easier route, but if you know anything about winds and currents, ancient history of the area, and the scriptural record, there is no match whatsoever. What looks simple on a map is typically very difficult in the real world.


  1. As if to highlight the problems in the Malacca Strait, another oil tanker was struck by a commercial liner this week, causing much damage in the narrow seas there. Evidently, there are strong winds that are often fickle and strongly affected by the local land masses of the Malay peninsula and Sumatra. Too, there are small, sometimes quite strong, squalls called “Sumatras” that are frequent. Thunderstorms are also very common and lightning strikes cause much damage to shipping. It is not an area for anyone but the professional seaman and very experienced sailor.

  2. When Olsen talks about Hagoth island hopping across the Pacific, does he not realize that Hagoth's ships "took their course northward" from their port on the West Sea, near the line between Bountiful and the land Desolation? Taking a course northward from Malay would send his ships into the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Martaban and Burma, or possibly into the Bay of Bengal and to India. The question then arises, why did they travel to those well populated areas?

  3. This is my first comment on your blog, though I have been following it for some time. Just wanted to thank you for the fabulous information you provide and such a wonderful insight into the BOM which I have read several times, but never gleaned all the great detail that you have. Your posts about Baja California were quite informative, and these on Malay are downright enlightening. You must be a history professor, historian, writer, professor, researcher, etc., all rolled into one. Thank you again. And to Pearl the Man, an excellent point.