Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Uniqueness of 30º South Latitude – Chilean Coast

It is hard to imagine how someone in 1830s Ohio could have possibly even considered, let alone come up with, the idea that the Lehi Colony landed along the Chilean coast at 30º South Latitude. The western coast of South America was relatively unknown to Americans in the 1830s, with the several countries being embroiled in internal civil wars and wars of independence from European rule throughout the first half of the 19th century. Severe political instability made it a place not to visit. In Peru alone, there were 26 different regime changes from 1821 to 1845. A couple of decades later, Chile and Peru were embroiled in the War of the Pacific, and after the war, the political and environment dissolved into a period of intense civil strife. Chile’s war for independence covered the years from 1810 to 1826, when the last Spanish troops surrendered. Presidents and constitutions rose and fell quickly in the 1820s amid chaos and bloodshed, and national control was seized in 1830, with a war against Peru-Bolivia in the 1830s.

The western regions of South America were simply not a place for American visits, stories of romance, or educational treatise. What the average individual in the United States knew of the Andean area of South America in the 1830s was extremely minimal, if anything at all.

As for 30º South Latitude, the port of Coquimbo was not even known to Americans or Europeans until the copper industry led to the the area’s notice around 1840, and wasn’t even a town until 1867 when many Europeans and Britishers settled there. The city of La Serena, just inland from Coquimbo a few miles and the site of Chile’s main agriculture, was an area of instability throughout the first half of the 19th century, capped by the Revolution of 1859, engineered by forces from Santiago.

An 1804 Chart of the Coasts of South America from the Equator to Cape Horn, engraved for Malham’s Naval Gazetteer, Boston, from Malham’s 1795 London edition. Note the blowup, showing (red) Santiago, (green) Valpraiso, and (blue) Coquimbo. Note the top blowup which shows nothing unusual or of interest in the Coquimbo area. It is doubtful Williams would have had such a fine chart of South America, but even if he did, there is nothing to draw attention to Coquimbo or the 30º South Latitude

As for the route to get to the 30º South Latitude, first of all, a southern ocean was only first considered to exist in 1937, but remained unrecognized by the world’s 68 oceanic countries even as late as 1953, and not named until 2000 by the IHO in its Limits of Oceans and Seas—even then, it could not be agreed as to its northern boundary with half of the countries considering 60º South Latitude, 14 countries wanting 50º, but others claiming as far north as 35º.

Secondly, it was not known until well into the 20th century that the ocean-area from about latitude 40º south to the Antarctic Circle had the strongest average winds found anywhere on Earth, and perfect for driving sailing vessels at high speeds across this ocean. Nor was it known until the latter half of the 20th century that this Antarctic Circumpolar Current, with an average depth of 2,600 feet (compared to a global mean of 436 feet), moves perpetually eastward—chasing and joining itself along its 13,000-mile length.

Third, not until reports came in from Australian sailors in the last decades of the 20th century was it known that despite its southern latitudes, that at certain times of the year sailing in the Southern Ocean was described as “T-shirt weather in February.” Nor was it known until David Lewis accomplished it in 1973, that sailing in the southern ocean without compass, chronometer or sextant, and moving solely by the stars was easily possible.

Fourth, not until the southern ocean was conquered in the last half of the 20th century by small sailing vessels was it known that constant passage of rain clouds, windholes, and storms provide more than adequate amounts of capturable drinking water, though at sea for weeks on end.

It is not only interesting, but has to be considered one of the most fascinating predictions of all time, that three men in Kirtland, Ohio, in the 1830s, considered even the possibility of Lehi’s ship, driving forth before the wind in 600 B.C., would have taken this Southern Ocean south of Australia half way around the world to land at the 30º South Latitude in Chile.

The Book of Mormon was first published in March of 1830. Surely Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams would have read the entire book by 1832, the earliest possible time these men would have met and such a statement could have been made or written down in a meeting. Surely, with all the knowledge of the Hill Cumorah and the finding of the plates there—and most likely, this meeting was after Zions Camp, which took placein July 1834, had already taken place, in which the story of Zelph, the white Lamanite who had lived in the Illinois area and about the great prophet Onandagus, who was known from the Hill Cumorah, or eastern sea to the Rocky Mountains.

With such information and experiences at their disposal, why would they even have thought of South America? What could have prompted them to even consider such a remote possibility? After all, it wasn’t until late in 1841 that Joseph Smith was given the book Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan, by John L. Stephens, in which he first knew about ancient ruins in Central America, and likely never did know in  his lifetime about the ruins in South America since most were not even discovered until the 20th century, though Kuelap was first discovered in 1843 by Juan Crisotomo Nieto, but  not photographed and written about until the 1930s; and Tiwanaku not discovered until the 1850s, with the first drawings and descriptions written in 1860 by Ephraim George Squier, and the first map drawn in 1876 by Alphons Stuhbel; and a book containing the first major account of the ruins along with major photographic documentation not published until 1892 by B. von Grumbkow.

Again, the question has to be asked, why 30º South Latitude along the Chilean coast?

Today, of course, we know (besides the major natural indigenous items mentioned in the last post) that the 30º South Latitude along the Chilean coast is the southern most point of one of the most advanced and unique civilizations that existed anywhere in the world, and both the oldest and most advanced civilization in the Americas (Western Hemisphere).
So where did the idea in the 1830s of a 30º South Latitude landing site along the Chilean coast come from?

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