Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Could the Great Lakes be the Narrow Neck? Part IV

Continuing from the last posts regarding the proposal that the narrow neck of land crossed ancient Lake Tonawanda between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, and the Batavia Moraine was the narrow pass spoken of by Mormon. The following takes Vincent Coon’s comments about this area to which we comment in a response: 
    Coons: “It was relatively easy for Teancum to head Morianton’s men off at the narrow pass mentioned in Alma 50:34, for it was small enough that all he had to do was position his men across the neck at any given point, for seas barred the way to both the east and the west, just as described in the scriptures.”
    Response: First of all, the word pass, as known in Joseph Smith’s time, when used as a noun, is defined as: “A narrow passage, entrance or avenue; a narrow or difficult place of entrance and exit; as a pass between mountains,” and today is defined as: “A route over or through mountains; a narrow passage or opening, especially between mountains; a gap or defile; A way, such as a narrow gap between mountains, that affords passage around, over, or through a barrier.” Thus it would be inadvisable to call a raised path across a waterway a "pass." Secondly, the Batavia moraine was not a pass between two restrictions, but simply a narrow path across Lake Tonawanda, and only about fifty feet wide. Thirdly, it was not much higher than the surrounding water, which was only four feet deep on either side, with numerous islands in its midst. It would have been a simple matter for attacking Lamanites or others to get past any defense on the moraine itself.
Top: A distant drawing of the Batavia Moraine where it crossed Lake Tonawanda; Bottom: A close-up of the moraine showing how narrow it is (white images represent people). Also, note all the islands strewn within the lake area, making crossing the four-foot-deep lake a simple matter for anyone wanting to bypass the moraine
    For clarification, a moraine is any glacially formed accumulation of unconsolidated glacial debris of soil and rock, which occurs in currently or formerly glaciated regions. They are often subangular to rounded in shape, often peaked with comparatively steep sides that over millennia can fill with dirt and in some areas sprout growth. The widest known moraine is 0.6 miles (3280 feet). The widest part of Lake Tonawanda was five miles at the western end (58 miles long), and at this point, toward the eastern end, the lake was much narrower, about 2 miles wide.
The narrow neck, or Batavia moraine (yellow arrow) is located at the eastern end of ancient Lake Tonawanda where the lake is much narrower
    Now when Mormon says the narrow neck could be crossed by a Nephite in a day-and-a-half (Alma 22:32), we find that the Batavia Moraine simply does not qualify as the narrow neck. The moraine is a relatively flat narrow link far less than a mile wide and no more than 3 miles long, and simply does not fit Mormon’s description in any way, and is no more than wishful thinking on the part of Coon and others, beginning with Phyllis Olive, to claim it is the narrow neck of land. One can only wonder why, in light of Mormon’s very simple descriptive words, anyone would even consider the Batavia Moraine as the narrow neck of land—it certainly is not good scholarship, and seems downright fallacious and disingenuous.
    In addition, Mormon tells us that “the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east.” (Alma 50:34), clerarly telling us that the water to the east and west of the narrow neck were seas—a synonymous term for ocean. We need to keep in mind that Lake Tonawanda and all the surrounding waters drained northward (as they still do today) into the area now known as Lake Ontario. It is also important to keep in mind that seas do not drain—they are completely open to one another and not contained by land as are lakes.
    Coon also tells us that “the Great Lakes experienced a number of changes during their long history [and] during such changes, a small inland sea called Lake Tonawanda was left ponded in the flat plains of western New York between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.” The problem with this is simply that Tonawanda was not a sea at any time, nor can it be said it was part of a sea or ocean—it was the residue of a glacier, a body of water created by glacial melt, and was never connected to any sea, and basically drained continually, first in the east into the Iroquois River, later called Lake Iroquois and now called Lake Ontario, and later in the west, into the Niagara River and into Lake Ontario.
Top Left: A large fossil water (paleowater) lake forming as the glacier recedes; Right: The Qori Kallis Glacier in the Peruvian Andes—in the 26 years between the two pictures on the right, the glacier receded 3908 feet, leaving a lake more than half a mile long. Today, that lake is one mile long; Middle: Glacier Bay Ice Field in Alaska over a 63-year period has almost disappeared, forming a large lake
    Most glacier lakes are in the northern hemisphere above 45º north latitude. These lakes were initially formed from glacier melting and receding, in the beginning called river melt as they formed rivulets that grew over time as the glacier melted. They are not seas, were not formed by seas, nor oceans, but glacier melt. Coon can call them seas, but that does not make it a sea, and only confuses the issue, for Mormon talked about a West Sea and an East Sea on numerous occasions having existed over a very large area. The West Sea extended at least from the southern end of the Land Southward (Alma 22:28) to the narrow neck of land leading into the Land Northward (Alma 63:5), passed along the Land of Nephi (Alma 22:28) and the Land of Zarahemla (Alma 22:28) and the Land of Bountiful (Alma 22:33); and the East Sea covered the same distance (Alma 22:28, 50:8), thus, as Mormon wrote, the Land Southward was surrounded by water except for a narrow neck of land.
    None of this matches Coon and Olive’s Great Lakes land of promise.
Now, fourthly, as to Teancum heading Morianton, the reason he could do this was because there was only one place where someone could gain access to the Land Northward from the Land Southward, and that was through the narrow pass that ran within the narrow neck of land. Teancum knew exactly where that pass was, of course, and marched his army directly toward it and in so doing, caught up to or “headed” (to move on ahead) of Morianton. That is “that they did not head them (catch up or move ahead) until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them (catch up or move ahead), by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward” (Alma 50:34)—and there they “did meet the people of Morianton” (Alma 50:35). 
    If Morianton and his people had been running away in the Great Lakes scenario, they could have cut across the eastern area of Lake Tonawanda by wading into the four-foot-deep water (island-hopping most of the way) across the two miles. Certainly there would have been reason to avoid confronting Moroni’s army (at this point led by Teancum) since we already know that Morianton was “exceedingly fearful lest the army of Moroni should come upon them and destroy them” (Alma 50:28), and also that Morianton “put it into their hearts that they should flee to the land which was northward” (Alma 50:29). That is, Morianton and his people were running for their lives, fearful that Moroni would catch up to them, with the desire to reach the Land Northward where they thought they would be safe.
    There is simply nothing about this ancient Lake Tonawanda in the Great Lakes area that matches the simple descriptions and scenarios that Mormon gives us of the flight of Morianton, or with the purpose of the small or narrow neck and narrow pass or passage.

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