Friday, May 20, 2011

Inland Waterways to the Land of Promise? Part I

It is always interesting to see into the thinking of another person regarding how the Lehi Colony reached the Western Hemisphere. The problem, typically ignored by Book of Mormon scholars and theorists is the fact that in 600 B.C., when Nephi sailed his ship that was “driven forth before the wind,” he had but one choice in his direction and that was where the wind blew and the ocean currents took him.

So many scholars and theorists today, so immersed in their modern knowledge of oceans and ships, fail to understand this very simple fact—sailing ships in B.C. times, and even until the 13th century, went where winds and currents took them. During these eras, in the Mediterranean Sea, which is fairly calm, ships were able to sail in most directions because they were rowed by banks of oars, usually with furled sails unless they were heading in the direction the wind blew.

In fact, sailing ventures were fairly narrow, bringing trade goods from the western regions of the Mediterranean to the east shores where caravans took the goods inland for sale in the east, and eastern goods were loaded to be brought back to the northern and western shore villages. Mostly, these oar-driven vessels moved along in sight of land, where wind had less effect, and currents almost none.

But, like all Mesoamerican and Great Lakes, Heartland, and eastern U.S. theorists try to do, Arlin Nasbaum of H38 Virus notoriety, ignoring the facts, writes about his view of the Lehi Colony voyage: “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’."

Now, crossing the Atlantic to the Western Hemisphere is no simple fete coming around the Cape of Africa, since a ship would be constantly traveling against the winds and currents. In addition, turning west toward the Western Hemisphere would only have been possible following Columbus’ route west from the Cape Verde islands. The distance from the Cape of Africa to the Cape Verde Islands is approximately 5800 miles—all against winds and currents. A formidable task in and of itself.

However, the funniest part of Nasbaum’s statement is “and then navigate North American waterways inland until you arrive within walking distance of a freshwater ‘west sea’."

First of all, there are no known waterways to navigate very far inland, and none that a deep sea vessel could use, especially in 600 B.C. before modern canals and dredging had taken place.

More than half of the inland waterways in the eastern half of the United States (as shown above) were created by the U.S. Corps of Engineers, who built 191 active lock sites, with 237 lock chambers to reach distant inland ports, such as Minneapolis, Chicago, and Pittsburg along the Mississippi and Ohio River systems. This multi-billion dollar Inland Waterways Trust Fund is necessary to allow shipping to reach inland ports along waterways that are naturally too shallow to allow for ships, and to remove or bypass obstacles such as rapids and falls.

These locks provide the essential infrastructure that allows tows to "stair-step" their way through the system and navigate inland along the waterways. These locks can generally be categorized by three different sizes, as expressed by length. About 15% of the lock chambers are 1,000 to 1,200 feet long, 60 percent are 600-999 feet long, and 25 percent are less than 600 feet long. Lock widths are mostly 110 feet. Today, over 50 percent of the locks and dams operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are over 50 years old, making the locks system in its entirety less than 100 years old. Many of the 600-foot locks on the system were built in the 1930s or earlier, including those on the Ohio, Upper Mississippi, Illinois and Tennessee rivers. These projects are approaching the end of their design lives and are in need of modernization or major rehabilitation.

The purpose of these locks, of course, is to bypass or compensate for numerous natural obstacles where a ship could not pass along the river. Before the locks were built, not even a rowboat could pass some of these areas where rapids, falls, and limited depth occur. The idea that any natural waterway existed before the inland waterway system was developed and built in the 20th century, is ludicrous.

(See the next post, “Inland Waterways to the Land of Promise? Part II,” for more information on these locks and the cause for their creation)

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