Saturday, August 3, 2013

Crossing the Great Deep

Every so often we receive inquiries about the Jaredite barges, from what they looked like to a belief in their having sails, to questions about the “Great Deep” over which they traveled. Some have even questioned, as does one Great Lakes/Heartland Theorist, that the great deep was not adjacent to the Land of Promise.
Most of these questions stem from the fact that people are either not reading the scriptural record, or taking no time to understand what they read, for the writing of both Nephi and especially Ether are quite clear about the great deep, and Ether about the type of vessels in which the Jaredites crossed to the Land of Promise.
One of the problems surrounds the meaning of the phrase “great deep.” First of all, the words “sea” and “ocean” are synonymous terms, both meaning the world’s vast body of salt water that covers almost three-fourths of the earth’s surface, and have been divided geographically into the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Southern Ocean, Arctic Ocean, Antarctic Ocean, Arabian Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Caribbean Sea, South China Sea, Bering Sea, Gulf of Mexico, Sea of Okhotsk, Sea of Japan, Hudson Bay, East China Sea, Andaman Sea, Black Sea and Red Sea.
These are all one contiguous body of water, which is often referred to as the “deep,” “great deep,” “vasty deep,” “briny deep,” “mighty deep,” “the deep sea,” “the deep,” “great waters,” “great seas,” “high seas,” “open sea,” etc.
Consequently, when Jacob says “for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20), he is telling us two things: 1) the Lord brought Nephi’s ship across this vast body of water (in 600 B.C., the seas had very few names, and even those were not consistent), and 2) that they landed on an island in that body of water. Similarly, when the Lord refers to this vast body of water as the “great deep,” he also calls it “the sea” (Ether 2:25), and the Brother of Jared called it “this great water” (Ether 2:22) and “raging deep” (Ether 3:3), while Ether referred to it as “depths of the sea” (Ether 6:6), “the deep” (Ether 6:7), and “the waters” (Ether 6:88), with Nephi calling it “the waters of the great deep” (2 Nephi 4:20).
Note the blue area, or the oceans of the world, are connected and form one continuous saltwater body, called the Great Deep by both Ether and Nephi
The point is, it is all the same body of water—that is the great saltwater body that covers 3/4th of the world’s surface. Therefore, the term “great deep” carries the same meaning as “ocean” and “sea,” and in Ether, there are several references to crossing the great oceans that separated the Near East from the Western Hemisphere. The greatest area of ocean, of course, is the Pacific Ocean, which is about 64-million square miles, with the Atlantic Ocean 41-million square miles. In crossing the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, Southern Ocean and Pacific, we are dealing with about 102-million square miles of uninterrupted ocean—indeed, the Great Deep.
In addition, as stated earlier, when Jacob says “for the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20); and later, Nephi tells us “he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep” (2 Nephi 4:20). Thus Nephi verifies two things: 1) They crossed the great deep to get to the Land of Promise, and 2) That Land of Promise was an island in the midst of the great deep.
And when the Jaredites completed their ocean crossing, “they did land upon the shore of the promised land. And when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land” (Ether 6:12), which is obviously statements to show that the ocean they crossed, i.e, the “great deep” they crossed, took them directly to the shores of the Land of Promise, where they landed. Thus, it cannot be said, as some Theorists claim, that the Great Deep did not border the Land of Promise, for both the Jaredites and the Nephites tell us it did.
Left: The ketch Leader, under full sail; Right: Leader after encountering force seven westerly winds and twelve-foot swells which dismasted the vessel, losing her main mast, boom, sails and associated rigging, snapping the masts like matchsticks. Consider what would happen to a sailing ship that became submerged
As for the type of vessels the Jaredites built and used to cross the great deep, we are told that they were the length of a tree (Either 2:17), and were not only tight like a dish (Ether 6:7), meaning that they would not take on water if they were submerged, but also that they would hold water like a dish (Ether 2:17), meaning what was inside would not leak out. They were also sturdy for they were “tossed upon the waves of the sea” (Ether 6:5), and were submersible, for they were “swallowed up in the depths of the sea” (Ether 2:25) and were “as a whale in the midst of the sea” (Ether 2:24), and were “buried in the deep” (Ether 6:7), and that they would not remain submerged, for the Lord told them “I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea” (Ether 2:24). Obviously, they were “many times buried in the depths of the sea (Ether 6:6), and when they were buried in the deep there was no water that could hurt them” (Ether 6:7). Consequently, we can see that the Jaredite vessels were both “above the water or under the water” (Ether 6:10), and when they were beneath the surface, the Lord “did bring them forth again upon the top of the waters” (Ether 6:7).
Thus, we can conclude that the Jaredite barges were submersible, something like today’s submarine, for they could travel, or at least survive, when beneath the surface of the ocean. And just as obviously, they would not have had sails, a mast, or anything else resembling a sailing ship for such structures would not have survived when “buried beneath the sea.”
Of course, some have claimed their vessels were sailing ships based upon the statements in Ether that they were “driven forth before the wind” (Ether 6:8), which is the same terminology Nephi used to describe his sailing to the Land of Promise (1 Nephi 18:9). However, Nephi never mentions that his ship was ever “buried in the sea,” “under the water,” “or had to be brought up again on top of the waters.” Nephi only described his ship as sailing on the surface. But the Jaraedite barges were definitely buried in the seas from time to time and “had to be brought up again on top of the waters.”
Thus we must conclude that the difference in the winds blowing for the Jaredites had to do with the interaction between the wind and the waves, or stated differently, the wind blowing across the water’s surface drags the water along as a current, and it was the strength of the current that pushed the barges along, like a child’s stick or little boat placed in a water-filled irrigation ditch is pushed along by the small drainage current.
Certainly, no submersible vessel could have any type of masts or sails that would survive beneath the surface of the water, since the currents and waves would tear them apart. Thus, it can only be concluded that the barges were propelled by the currents, which, in turn, were propelled by the fierce winds “that 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).

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