Monday, July 15, 2013

The Need for Deep Hulls in Ocean Sailing Part II

Continuing from the last post where both Nephi’s ship and the ships of 600 B.C., were introduced. Following is further information and the reason we know the path of Nephi’s ship to the Land of Promise.
Today in ship-building and, no doubt, for many centuries, the intended use of the ship determines both its weight and its hull shape. Thus, racing boats are generally as light weight as possible, and include a deep-V hull in an attempt to reduce pounding. On the other hand, patrol boats and other ships, which are subject to slamming on rough seas, are built with relatively thick protective walls and are, therefore, much heavier, and are traditionally made with a flatter semi- displacement hull which is very fast in quiet waters but which tends to slam in rough seas.
Top Left: Flat bottom, narrow hull; Center: Flat bottom, rounded hull; Right: Deep V hull, peaked bottom. The first two would be good for coastal waters, the deep-V hull would be better for deep water; Bottom Left: Built for speed; Center: Built for coastal waters; Right: Built for cargo
Of course what we know today was not known in 600 B.C., or for upwards of 2,000 years. That is, not known to man, but certainly known to the Lord, who designed Nephi’s ship. In that case, the boat’s speed was not the important factor, though being able to move easily in strong currents was a plus, but the important factor was durability. Two other points were extremely important, and that was that their bows lifted to on-coming waves, and their high sterns prevented them being swamped from behind.
In fact, all early ships were clinker-built, i.e., their hulls were made of over-lapping planks hand cut with adzes. The smooth-fitted carvel-built style required sawing, and was not known before the Carrack and Caravel ships of the fourteenth century, which led to the ship-building Age of Exploration.
As late as the 18th century, English seamen were still “stemming” the currents (making headway against tidal currents) along the eastern coast of the American colonies. They refused the advice of the American seamen and fishermen who had advised them to avoid the powerful Gulf Stream or to cross it and get out of it as opposed to "stemming" (sailing against) it. Even whalers knew that the whales avoided the stream, and swam only along its outer edges. For those who have never sailed in weather ships, dependent upon the currents and winds, it might seem unimportant where one sailed in the days of Lehi, however, experienced seamen early on learned to move across the seas with the currents. This is the knowledge that allowed Columbus to sail westward into the Atlantic, something no other mariner had been able to accomplish since the first days of sailing.
Benjamin Franklin was the first to develop a chart of the Gulf Stream current and its surrounding navigational aids. Franklin’s great-grandson, Alexander Dallas Bache, followed in Benjamin’s footsteps, focusing the efforts of the U.S. Coast Survey, of which he was the superintendent, on the Gulf Stream. Survey ships, using devices and techniques developed by scientists and sailors over the past century crisscrossed the Gulf Stream taking soundings, bottom samplings and temperature, speed and direction measurements of the current itself. The Survey became the first governmental agency to undertake a sustained oceanographic study of the Gulf Stream.
The point is, such survey work, or knowledge of currents and winds, was crucial to the early sailor. Such knowledge allowed American seamen to sail to foreign ports faster than other seamen, making their trading efforts far more profitable. It also aided early naval efforts, allowing American seamen to outperform the navies of other countries.
Now, knowing winds and currents was knowledge that God possessed from the beginning, long before man became aware of such things, it was a simple matter for the Lord to 1) know what winds and currents would take a sailing vessel from one point on earth to another, 2) plan out Lehi’s course before his ship was ever built, and 3) show Nephi how to build a ship that would weather that course, and take advantage of the winds and currents for a swift, simple, and safe journey. So simple, swift and safe was the journey, that Nephi was prompted only to say of it, “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did guide the ship, that we sailed again towards the promised land. And it came to pass that after we had sailed for the space of many days we did arrive at the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:22-23).
So then we need to understand what course it was that took the Lehi colony from the shores of Arabia, across the seas, to the land the Lord promised Lehi and his posterity. And not to belabor the point of his travel in the wilderness to Bountiful, which has been written of by numerous authors, let us just start at Bountiful along the southern Arabian coast, where the Irreantum Sea could be no other than the Arabian Sea.
From that point, Lehi had three directions that he could sail: 1) east along the coast, 2) southeast toward Australia, or 3) south toward the Indian Ocean. So let us take these directions one at a time:
1) East along the coast toward India. This course, which was used by traders in small, shallow-draft boats for centuries, would ultimately lead to Malaysia and Indonesia, after crossing south of Sri Lanka and the Bay of Bengal to the Andaman Sea. Once within the Andaman Sea, then south through the 500-mile stretch of the Malacca Strait between Malaysia and Sumatra. This is such a dangerous route, that even modern ships, with diesel engines, GPS and radar, continually run aground or are wrecked in the narrow confines of the southern end of the Strait—it is such a difficult area to navigate, that Thailand has proposed several times to cut a canal through the isthmus of Kra, saving 600 miles on the journey through the Straits, even offering to cover the costs, with Indonesia and Burma suggesting other methods to bypass the Strait.
In addition, this strait has always been one of the busiest shipping channels in the world, and in 600 B.C. would have been the route of hundreds of trading ships constantly moving east and west from the Spice Islands and other trading ports to India, Arabia and Africa. Hardly a place Lehi would have wanted people to know of his passage. After all, this area has been populated since 2000 B.C., and the important and strategic sea-lane position through this area has placed the large populace in a position to know all about everyone who traversed this area.
In addition, Laman, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael had just spent 8 years in the wilderness, several of those years on the largest sand desert in the world. Why would they not be tempted to land in these gorgeous islands in a climate that was beyond anything they had ever experienced? After all, they had already shown several times they were willing to rebel and take over, even threatening to kill those who opposed them
Another important point, is if Lehi was to sail where other ships were constantly sailing, along the coastal waters to Indonesia, why build a special boat like no other boat of the day? Any boat would have sufficed to travel in that direction, and been more suited for coastal waters and navigation within narrow straits and through island chains (Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 17,508 islands and today is the fourth most populous country in the world—surely it would have been very well populated in Lehi’s time).
And lastly on this course, storms along the Arabian sea coast always blow inland. The storm Nephi describes in 1 Nephi 18:13-21 would have blown Nephi’s ship into the seacoast and wrecked it on the rocks and shore had they been sailing to the east along the coastal waters as so many Theorists have suggested. Even if they were sailing in deeper water, a four day storm would have driven them toward the coast, and not possibly “back the way they had come,” that is, westward. For that storm not to have wrecked them, it would have had to occur further out to sea, to the south of the Arabian coast, and far enough south that four days of being driven back the way they had come did not drive them back into the land.
(See the next post, “The Need for Deep Hulls in Ocean Sailing Part III,” to continue with the other two points regarding the three directions Lehi had as a course away from Bountiful to the Land of Promise, and which he chose)

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