Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Another Look at the Jaredite Barges Part I

On the Neal A. Maxwell website, which is the locatio for the FARMS group and their articles about Mesoamerica, an interesting set of comments are made regarding the Jaredite barges.
Randall P. Spackman wrote the following: “In Ether 6:10 it states that in the Jaredite travels across the great sea, “no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them.” This brief statement when combined with what is known about storms at sea, suggests that there were times when the Jaredites could remain on deck and view the sea life that surrounded them. The Jaredite record points to the most frightening meetings between men and these huge creatures, when vessels and leviathans encounter each other close up and occasionally collide.”
From this, it seems that either Spackman is writing fiction, or he has a different Book of Ether than I do, for in my scriptural account, Ether tells us “And it came to pass that they were many times, buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind” (Ether 6:6).
Now buried in the sea should suggest they were not on the surface. In fact the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, defines buried as “being placed under the earth or under the water,” and “cover with water.” Ether continues: “And it came to pass that when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them, their vessels being tight like unto a dish” (Ether 6:7). So when they were buried in the water, their vessel did not leak, which should suggest something like a vessel that was submersible, i.e., meant to go under water. To better understand this, we turn to “buried in baptism,” and since we are buried with Christ in baptism (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12), President Lorenzo Snow said, “It is plenty evident that they could not have been buried by baptism without having been entirely overwhelmed or covered in water. An object cannot said to be buried when any portion of it remains uncovered; so, also, a man is not buried in water by baptism unless his whole person is put into the watery element.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church - Lorenzo Snow, published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2012)
Similar to a modern submarine then, the Jaredite barges could move both beneath the water and on the surface. To make sure we understand that, Ether adds, “And thus they were driven forth; and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water” (Ether 6:10). Again, under the water should suggest to everyone that they were under, that is, beneath the water. In the 1828 dictionary, under is defined as “beneath, below, so as to have something over or above, as in under water.”
Now, when the vessel was beneath the water, no deep-sea creature or whale could injure them. Sperm, beaked and bottlenose whales spend about two hours underwater at a time. The Guinness Book of Records has a sperm whale on 25th of August 1969 in a record dive for one hour and 52 minutes, but whales are diving all the time in the ocean without someone around to time them. According to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Oceanus, whales spend about 95% of their time under the water.
As for monsters of the sea, the only thing in modern marine life known to be so categorized would be a giant squid (Architeuthis dux), which is the world’s largest invertebrate, average between 20 and 40 feet in length, with the largest ever recorded at 60 feet and weighing nearly a ton. These squid live in the sea between 700 and 3000 feet deep, where they are the prey of the deep-diving sperm whale. Though giant squid have washed ashore in all parts of the world, one has never been seen in its natural environment, despite many expeditions designed to do so.
Whether this is the “monster of the sea” referred to in Ether is not known, but if it is, surely its size could prove a problem for any wooden submersible of that time. There are in history recordings of whales attacking sailing ships, with Moche Dick, a large white whale that inspired the story Moby Dick, in the forefront, having supposedly destroyed some 20 ships off the Chilean coast near Moche Island, and survived 100 other whaling vessels over a 28-year span. Another huge sperm whale is claimed to have destroyed the ship Essex in 1820, two thousand miles west of South America. In addition, there have been 58 deadly collisions between whales and ships from the late 1800s onward, based on whales washed up on shores as recorded in newspaper clippings, early stranding records, and scientific publications.
The point is, the Lord was reassuring the Jaredites that despite their possible fears, He would not allow any sea creature or whale from injuring the barges, especially when they were submerged. Though it is not mentioned, it might be assumed that the Jaredites were quite concerned about such a possibility since it was worthy of note in the record. However, the imaginative writing of Spackman “The Jaredite record points to the most frightening meetings between men and these huge creatures, when vessels and leviathans encounter each other close up and occasionally collide” is unfounded based on the record of Ether, and not worthy of scholarly work. That the Jaredites encountered, or even saw, whales or sea monsters is speculation of the worst kind. In fact, we have no idea if the Jaredite barges allowed for any deck or access to the outside during their entire 344-day journey for none is mentioned. Ether tells us when the only opening, a door, was shut, it was sealed tight like unto a dish (Ether 2:17) and may not have been opened during the entire voyage, like that of Noah’s Ark, which door was not opened for a year.
It might also be suggested that if Spackman wants to write a fictitious adventure that he do so, and not couch his writing in academic terms and cite the Book of Mormon as his basis, but label it what it is, a novel.
As for the light, they had light, both when under the water and above it because of the stones the Lord touched (Ether 3:6; 6:3). And as for being under the water, Ether wrote: “Ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea” (Ether 2:24). Since whales spend about 95% of their time submerged in the ocean depths, it seems likely that the Jaredite barges spent some time beneath the surface, but the Lord promised the Brother of Jared that the barges would be brought back to the surface from time to time. As Ether said, “when they were encompassed about by many waters they did cry unto the Lord, and he did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters.” There seems little doubt that these eight Jaredite barges were like submarines, capable of moving beneath the surface and on the surface of the ocean. In fact, one of the many definitions of barge is “bark, a ship,” and another is “a pleasure boat,” or “boat of state.” But most typically defined as a “flat-bottomed vessel used for loading and unloading ships, or for transporting freight.” It can also be defined as “any vessel, especially an old, or clumsy one.” Interestingly, one of the definitions of a barge is a submarine.
(See the next post, “Another Look at the Jaredite Barges Part II,” for more understanding of what the Jaredite barges were like, and how they differ from most of the Theorists claims)

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