Tuesday, August 28, 2012

More Interesting Facts About 30º South Latitude – The Chilean Coast

In addition to all that has so far been said in the previous posts regarding the uniqueness of 30º South Latitude along the Chilean Coast, there is another most important fact that could not have been known to Frederick G. Williams in the 1830s.

First of all, the 30º South Latitude is the Tropic of Capricorn, the southern most latitude at which the Sun can be directly overhead, which occurs at the December solstice, when the southern hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun to its maximum extent. This Tropic area usually has an arid or semi-arid climate, and both westerlies and trade winds blow away from the 30º latitude belt. Over large areas centered at 30° latitude, surface winds are light, and air slowly descends to replace the air that blows away, according to Arthur N. Strahler Elements of Physical Geography, Wiley and Sons 1984.

Approaching Coquimbo Bay from the south. It is about 205 Nautical Miles from Valparaíso. Except for Valparaíso, Coquimbo is the only natural harbor along the entire coast of Chile until you near the Peru border

Coquimbo Bay, a few degrees south of the Tropic of Capricorn at the 30º South Latitude where the winds and currents die down and provide a perfect chance for landing a sailing ship "driven forth before the wind"

Secondly, and more importantly, the winds that die down effect the current, which also dies down, making it difficult to make headway further up the coast, and providing a near-perfect location at such a point for a weather ship “driven forth before the wind” to easily make landfall. Combine that with a large bay, and you have the ideal landing site for many miles along the Chilean coast.

So, how would Frederick G. Williams have known all this?

Now, some might say that things were different in 600 B.C. However, the Latitude of Coquimbo Bay is 29º 56’, only six degrees south of the Tropic of Capricorn, which was one-third of a degree closer to Coquimbo in 600 B.C. Figuring the latitude of the Tropic is 23º 26’ today, and is traveling northward at the rate of about 15 meters per year, it would have been about 23º 46’ when Lehi landed. Thus, the circumstances then would not be basically different than today.

And today, the currents and winds that blow northward from the southern isles of South America, as the northern track of the Southern Ocean is bent north along the continental shelf (the lower track passes through the Drake Passage), slows from their swift movement of some 25-30 mph, incrementally until they reach the 30º South Latitude, where they are nearly becalmed (0-5 mph) and, aided by the upwelling currents, turn toward the coast. The perfect scenario for a deep sea vessel to land along a coast where there are no docks, buoys, or tie ups.

So, how would Frederick G. Williams have known all this?

As for weather while sailing up the coast, the cold, northerly flowing Humboldt Current and southerly trade winds “give most pleasant conditions over the open decks right up to the Equator.” Coastal temperatures ashore become increasingly hot and humid, but drop at high inland elevations. Along this west coast, there are few ports, even today with modern dredging, dock building, modern shipping, and importance of tourism. Most passenger vessels make stops at Valpariso (whose port was frozen in the early 19th century) or Coquimbo, then Arica in northern Chile, Calleo (Lima) in Peru, Guayaquil in Ecuador, and Balboa in Panama (which is the cargo hub for South America and the Caribbean).

Even today, the west coast of South America is not especially an easy place to make port calls, and cargo ships are scarcely ever unladed at docks anywhere on the west coast from Mexico to Chile. In addition, the harbors on the west coast are not so good as on the east—for example, at Mollendo, it is practically unlading at sea (not at docks) which is far costlier, but also far safer because of the poor coastal bays, inlets, ports. Shipyards are seldom found in South America, with those in Venezuela on the north coast (Caribbean Sea), or those on the east coast along the Rio del la Plata in Uruguay and Argentina. There are no shipyards on the west coast south of the Bay of Guayaquil. All of this makes Coquimbo and Valparaiso in Chile the best natural docking and harbor south of Guayaquil in Ecuador.

So, how would Frederick G. Williams have known all this?

Valparaíso harbor around 1820, where only ships from Spain and Spanish colonies in South and Central America were allowed to enter, before Chile’s wars for independence opened up trade from Europe coming around the Horn

As for knowing Valpra
íso harbor, it was a small village with only a few houses and a church. It was undeveloped and unknown until after 1820, when the harbor became setting for the nascent Chilean navy. By 1830, it was just beginning to receive shipping coming around the Horn from the Atlantic with European visitors. It was not until the last half of the 19th century, that Valparaiso became a major stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by crossing the Straits of Magellan. Always a magnet for European immigrants, Valparaíso mushroomed during its golden age, when the city was known by international sailors as “Little San Francisco" and “The Jewel of the Pacific.” Few Americans visited Valparaiso in the last half of he 19th century, when it was mostly a stopover for Europeans from Britain, Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy, with German, French, Italian and English the spoken tongue who settled there.

So, how would Frederick G. Williams have known all this in the 1830s?

The coincidence of his choosing that spot for Lehi’s landing is both remarkable and against all odds. We don’t need to argue whether it was a revelation or not, or whether Joseph Smith came up with it, or whether Frederick G. Williams suggested it—the fact that it was written down by these men is so unbelievable, that had we not a record of its taking place, it would have to be rejected out of hand.

Frederick G. Williams could not have come up with such an outlandish idea in the 1830s on  his own. So where did it come from? Who suggested it to them? Might it have been the spirit?

1 comment:

  1. My great great great grandmother was on a ship in 1820 which was restocked at Valparaiso. it was an American ship.