Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wood Ship and West Sea Landing – Part II

As stated in the last post, a recent writing by a Great Lakes theorist made some rather indefensible comments. Two of them were answered in the last post. In this post, let’s deal with the next paragraph of his writing in which he wrote:

“Arguably, the wisest way to bring your family from Arabia to America in a seaworthy wooden vessel is to keep close to shoreline most of the trip. You bravely round the Cape of Good Hope and divinely guided, cross the Atlantic at the shortest distance between the Old World and the New, with enough fresh water stored on board for the crossing. After crossing over to the western hemisphere, you sail along coastal waters and northward, near chains of islands; and then navigate North American waterways inland until you arrive within walking distance of a freshwater "west sea". If you are a devout Israelite, you trust that the LORD has led you to a land with all four seasons, goats (e.g. mountain goats), sheep (e.g. bighorn sheep) and various cattle (e.g. bison) - a place where you can plant barley and grapes with no impediment to keeping all of the seasonal ordinances of the Law of Moses. (2 Nephi 5:10).”

First, let’s take the initial statement: “the wisest way to bring your family from Arabia to America in a seaworthy wooden vessel is to keep close to shoreline most of the trip.”

The fact that the term “wooden vessel” is never used regarding Nephi’s ship was mentioned in the last post. But for “keeping close to the shoreline most of the trip” is an indefensible point to make and obviously made by someone who knows little or nothing about sailing ships in ancient times.

First, a ship capable of crossing deep water (an ocean) has to be constructed in such a manner, and of such size, as to weather the winds, waves, and weather of such a journey. Such a ship is inoperable close to shore. Also, being “close to shore” in any vessel is far more dangerous than sailing out away from land, for shores have currents, cross currents, shoals, reefs, etc., that play havoc with any sailing venture.
Second, hugging the east African coast from the Arabian Peninsula to Cape Agulhas is fraught with two very difficult situations. First is the currents between Madagascar and Africa, which constantly flow northward, thus defeating any sailing ship “driven forth before the wind” passage at this point. To go southward, any vessel must be out to sea and out of sight of land coming down the western edge of the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Secondly, once arriving at the Cape of Agulhas, where the Indian and the Atlantic oceans meet, where the warm water of the Agulhas current meets the cold water of the Benguela current, and turns back on itself, a point that fluctuates between Cape Agulhas and Gape Point, about 90 miles east of the Cape of Good Hope.

At this point, the going near shore, or within sight of shore, is very treacherous for such a sailing ship. This is one of the reasons why the Portuguese, sailing around Africa, stayed far out to sea. In fact, de Gama swung so wide out to sea he saw the Brazilian coast of South America before swinging eastward and picking up the Southern Ocean current, which flows always eastward around the globe.

Now, once around the Cape, a sailing ship hugging the coast would be constantly moving against the wind and currents—the self-same wind and currents that brought the early Portuguese and later Spanish mariners, southward. These waters do not flow northward. To “be driven forth before the wind” northward, a sailing ship would have to swing far out to sea, away from the sight of land, to make headway. This is because in the South-East Atlantic Ocean the current retroflects (turns back on itself) in the Agulhas Retroflection due to shear interactions with the strong Atlantic Circumpolar current. This water becomes the Agulhas Return Current rejoining the Indian Ocean Gyre, which takes a sailing ship eastward across the Indian Ocean toward southern Australia before turning northward and bending back toward the Arabian Peninsula.

(See the next post, “Wood Ship and West Sea Landing – Part III,” regarding the sailing across the Atlantic)

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