Thursday, July 18, 2013

Another Look at the Jaredite Barges Part II

Continuing from the last post on the Jaredite barges, Hugh Nibley stated his opinion that the Jaredites "apparently did not use sails: the almost perpetual hurricane conditions would have made sails impossible even if they had them." (The World of the Jaredites, p. 176). John L. Sorenson seems to have assumed from the length of time the crossing took that the barges merely drifted and were "sailless." (An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, p. 111). On the other hand, according to Randall P. Spackman (see last post), the Book of Mormon does not support the idea of a completely sail-less barge.
He claims, that “because the Lord commanded that the barges be built in the manner ‘hitherto built’ (Ether 2:16), that it may be assumed that the Jaredites, at a minimum, attempted to make use of common propulsion technology in the new barges—such as sails, since the barges were ‘driven forth before the wind,’ which has a textual connection to Nephi’s ship, undoubtedly with sails, being ‘driven forth before the wind,’ and could not simply be referring to the Jaredites just drifting with the wind.”
First of all, you don’t drift with the wind in a sailless vessel—you drift with the current, which is not a ticky-tack statement, but one that should suggest the importance of understanding how winds and currents work. Secondly, Spackman, and all the rest of us, have no idea what the first barges the Jaredites built were like, though we can, with a little understanding figure out to some degree.
A barge is a flat-bottomed boat, built mainly for river and canal transport of heavy goods.  Barges are not self-propelled and generally need to be towed or pushed
The word "barge," by definition, does not have sails, and is meant to be pulled or pushed by some other force. However, the main problem with Spackman’s reasoning is that Nephi, himself, wrote about his ship and its propulsion, while Ether and Moroni wrote about the Jaredite barges. This should suggest that the matching terminology is not important since it was separated by 1000 years, two different cultures, and the fact that we have no record of Moroni ever having the small plates or reading Nephi’s words, since Mormon buried all the Nephite records (Mormon 8:4) except for those few plates he gave to his son (Mormon 6:6), which were probably just his final writings. In any event, what Mormon gave Moroni certainly would not have included the small plates of Nephi, which Mormon did not even know about until after he had abridged the entire Nephite record from the Large Plates (WofM 1:3). So it might be concluded that these two phrases were unknown to Nephi, Mormon, or Moroni, each having one or the other account, but not both.
The other part of his questionable reasoning regarding sails, mast and spars of some type on a barge that is going to spend some of its time buried in the depths the sea, beneath the water, and sometimes on the surface (see last post), as Ether’s record so clearly states, is also fallacious. It would not be possible for any type of mast not to be broken from the force of the water when moving beneath the sea. Nor would a sail or mast of any type withstand the ferocious winds whipping about the barges, with the mountainous waves crashing on the barges, and rains and floods (Ether 2:34), no sail or any kind of superstructure (upper extension) on the barge made of wood could possibly have survived the force of these winds and waves.
Left: An artist's idea of the Jaredite barges; Right: An early submarine with a peaked (pointed) nose or front. Somewhere between these two designs, no doubt, the Jaredite barges found their way across the ocean (Great Deep)
Thus, these barges were far from what most writers envision and try to describe, with a deck and some time of entrance onto that deck. To learn how the barges were designed and made out of and what they looked like, see the book Who Really Settled Mesoamerica, particularly the first half about the Jaredites.
In addition, it might be mentioned that the Jaredite barges were not just drifting with the wind, as Sorenson claims. A vessel drifting with the wind implies a leisurely, slow movement across the water. However, the Jaredite barges were faced with being “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; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth” (Ether 2:24). Nor was their course leisurely, “a furious wind blew upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind” (Ether 6:5), and “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). And this tumultuous wind “never ceased to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters, thus they were driven forth before the wind” (Ether 6:8).
It should also be understood that the oceans do not move on their own. The currents we see and those that drove shipping in the early days of sail as well as later, are the result of winds blowing along the surface. In fact, the fluid dynamics of wind waves or, more precisely, wind-generated waves, are surface waves that occur on the free surface of oceans, seas, lakes, etc. They result from the wind blowing over a vast enough stretch of fluid surface, with waves in the oceans traveling thousands of miles before reaching land. These waves range in size from small ripples to huge waves 100 feet high. Technically, the circulation of ocean currents are governed by the equation of motion, one of Sir Isaac Newton’s fundamental laws of mechanics applied to a continuous volume of water. The equation states that the produce of mass and current acceleration equals the vector sum of all forces that act on the mass.
Stated simply, the wind is the main driving force of surface currents, and the friction between the atmosphere and the water, as the wind moves across the ocean, is sufficient for the wind to pull the water along in the same basic direction. Another driving force behind wind systems is temperature, from the sun warming the surface of the planet irregularly. In addition, the Coriolis force is also a factor, which is caused by the rotation of the earth that deflects currents to the right (clockwise) in the northern hemisphere and to the left (counter-clockwise) in the southern hemisphere, and is greatest at the poles and non-existent at the equator, which leads to the circular movement of currents, called gyres, in all oceans.
The five major gyres of the world’s oceans. Note the upper two (northern hemisphere) rotate clockwise, and the three in southern hemisphere rotate counter-clockwise. Also note that in the Indian Ocean (far left) the gyre would bring a sailing ship from the west to the east, as in the lower Pacific Ocean, and the Atlantic, not west to east across the middle area of the Pacific as Hearland and Great Lakes Theorists claim
The surface of the world's oceans is not flat. In fact it bulges enough at the equator that gravity can pull water downhill. Another source of gravity comes from outside the Earth. The sun, and to a lesser extent the moon, influence tidal currents. These bodies exert enough of a gravitational pull to draw water slightly towards them, causing tides. These are strongest when the sun and moon are aligned relative to the Earth, and pulling the same way. Thus, the movement of water, called currents, are predictable and constant, and move in precise directions. Some of these winds and currents, such as the five major ones shown above, are almost impossible to breach (go against) by a weather ship dependent on these winds and currents, as Nephi’s ship in 600 B.C. To claim he went in a direction of opposition to winds and currents is simply not possible in his day.
The same is true with the Jaredite barges. They were subject to the currents that the winds pulled across the ocean, and “the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind” (Ether 6:5), that is, pulled across the ocean, and that “the wind did never cease to blow towards the promised land while they were upon the waters; and thus they were driven forth before the wind” (Ether 6:8).
(See the next post, “Another Look at the Jaredite Barges Part III – What Kind of Barges Were They?” for a better understanding of the word barge, and what it meant in 1830)


  1. "The sun, and to a lesser extent the moon, influence tidal currents."

    I believe you have these reversed.

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