Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Is the Chile Landing Site a Myth? – Part II

Continuing with Dan R. Hender’s article about the Lehi’s landing site at 30º south latitude and the additional information he has written about it. 
    While Hender arrived at the 30º south latitude landing site from an impossible direction, he is correct that is where Lehi did land, as we outlined in the previous post. It is also interesting that “there is a quotable statement in a book published in 1882. This book is the Compendium dealing with the doctrines of the gospel compiled by Elder Franklin D. Richards, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and James A. Little a trusted elder in the church. In a section denoted as 'Gems from the History of the Prophet Joseph Smith' the last gem reads:
    “Lehi and his company traveled from Jerusalem to the place of their destination: They traveled nearly a south, southeast direction until they came to the nineteenth degree of north latitude: then nearly east to the sea of Arabia, then sailed in a southeast direction, and landed on the continent of South America, in Chile, thirty degrees, south latitude." (Compendium, SLC, UT, p. 289).
The winds and currents are very specific in the Sea of Arabia and the Indian Ocean, taking Nephi's ship south and southeast into the fast circumpolar current called the West Wind Drift, blown quickly around the globe by the Prevailing Westerlies wind until driven northward into the Humboldt Current
    Before dealing with the authenticity factor, let us consider three things that would not have been known to anyone in North America in 1882, let alone in 1830-1840:
1) Sailing south-southeast away from Arabia would take you on a course that would reach Chile, South America—the only course possible for a sailing ship “driven forth before the wind” upon leaving the south Arabian coast;
2) That any vessel traveling up the coast of South America could land at 30º south latitude. The Chilean coast except for this area and two or three others where a break in the coastline, which makes landing even possible. The rest of the coastline is rocky with steep cliffs;
3) Seeds from Jerusalem would have grown in only a similar Mediterranean Climate—an important issue seldom discussed by Theorists and historians. But when Nephi tells us his Jerusalem seeds grew exceedingly and they were blessed with abundant crops, we need to see where similar climates to Jerusalem exist around the world and only five other locations have such  a Mediterranean Climate: southern tip of Africa and both southern tips of Australia,  central to southern California, and 30º south latitude, La Serena, Chile.
    There is no way these three critically important issues could have been known by Joseph Smith (who is said to have made the statement) or Ralph G. Williams (who wrote it down), or any other North American person of the 19th century, let alone in 1830-1840, or Franklyn D. Richards or James A. Little, in 1882.
Left: Earthrise  over the Moon, December 24, 1968, photo taken by (Right) LtoR: Lovell, Anders, and Borman
    It would be like anyone on Earth knowing what the backside (dark side) of the moon—the hemisphere of the Moon that is permanently turned away from Earth--looked like before it was photographed in 1959, by the Soviet space probe Luna 3, and the first atlas of the far side of the Moon published in 1960 by the USSR Academy of Sciences, and visually seen by Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders of the Apollo 8 mission, which orbited the Moon in 1968.
    People can argue all they want about the authenticity of that written statement on the paper in the possession of Ralph G. Williams, but the idea itself is so bizarre for someone to know about in 1830-1840, that it boggles the mind. How could Ralph G. Williams have known about the importance of 30º south latitude, Chile, to the Book of Mormon? How could he have known it would match so many important descriptions of the Land of Promise?
    What would have caused Williams to pick the 30º south latitude along a Chilean coast that extends north and south just over 2485 miles, much of it towering cliffs where no sailing ship could have landed in 600 B.C. except for a few sandy beach coves, like Coquimbo Bay at 30º south latitude. How could he have known about its singular matching climate along an American west coast of 6,736 miles (southern California to Tierra del Fuego, Chile)? A special climate that matches that of Jerusalem in the country of Chile that has ten different climates with numerous micro climatres, and only one, a very small strip along the coastal area of 30º south latitude, that matches perfectly, including soils and soil groups, with that of Jerusalem?
    How could Williams have known there were two unique animals unknown to Americans, like the llama and alpaca which perfectly match Ether’s description of the cumoms and cureloms (Ether 9:19); or the two unique grains unknown to Americans, quinoa and kiwichi that match Mormon’s neas and sheum so well (Mosiah 9:9)? And how could Williams have known that this area had natural quinine, the only cure for fever (Alma 46:40) in 1840 that came from the chinchona tree bark, unique to this area?
    Consider the lack of landing areas along this 2485 miles of coast, that even today have restricted landing areas used for commercial and even private usage.
Bottom to top: Valdivia (blue arrow), Coquimbo Bay (red arrow), Antofagasta (yellow arrow) and Arica (green arrow)
    The southern most landing place is Valdivia, which has a natural vegetation of temperate rainforests, and has a temperate rainy climate, similar to the windward side of the Olympic Mountains in the pacific Northwest region of North America. It is also very damp, within a series of wetlands and canals from the convergence of the Cruces and Calle-Calle rivers. In 1835, Charles Darwin reported that not much cleared land for agriculture existed in the area, requiring food be imported from nearby areas anciently.
    The next good landing site is Coquimbo Bay (red arrow), an area, including La Serena, with a Mediterranean Climate, warm waters and numerous natural beaches.  It is a unique area along the entire 2485 miles of coastal Chilean shoreline.
    The next is is Antofagasta, the second largest city of Chile, 700 miles north of Santiago, which has a cold desert climate, very humid, with rocky ground that is hard and tough covered with a layer of dense soil with sand and medium-sized rock fragments (clay loam soils type I and II), with a very steep shoreline, with no natural beaches.
    The fourth, is Arica (green arrow),which has a mild desert climate, and is the driest inhabited place on earth, with almost no rainfall (average precipitation 0.03 inches), with high humidity, and sunshine intensity similar to the Sahara desert regions
Examples of the west coast of South America, along the Chilean and Peruvian coast. Note the vast majority of this coast line is steep cliffs with very few natural harbors or landing sites
    It is interesting that along such a lengthy coastline, very few areas would be suitable for landing a large sailing ship like the one Nephi describes building. While there might be a half dozen areas where a ship such as his could have set into, only one area has the climatic conditions that Nephi describes, along with the drop in ocean currents and winds, that would allow a sailing ship “driven forth before the wind” to have affected a landing, especially by a crew of non-mariners.
Top: The natural bay of Coquimbo, a perfect landing site where winds and currents die to almost nothing and (Bottom) where the Mediterranean Climate of the area would be most conducive for “seeds brought from Jerusalem,” another Mediterranean Climate, to grow exceedingly well and produce abundant crops (1 Nephi 18:24) along Coquimbo and La Serena
    Thus, while Frederick G. Williams handwritten note about the directions of Lehi’s voyage, and the location of his landing site are right on to what is discussed in the scriptural record, the source of this note has been highly suspect and discounted by a number of Book of Mormon scholars. While Orson Pratt espoused this idea, the only actual source that even comes close to attributing it to Joseph Smith is this piece of paper written on by President Fredrick G. Williams which was found and given to the Church by his son after Elder Williams died.
    One cannot be surprised that this information is so strongly rejected by people who espouse with such aggressive language that Lehi landed in Mesoamerica, or that the Land of Promise was located in the Great Lakes area, or elsewhere in North America. It is also surprising that while all attention to discredit this statement is directed to whether or not this statement was a revelation, it is interesting that not one person—no, not one—has thought to ask why Williams or Joseph Smith made the statement. Yet, in looking at the statement, it is right on with the scriptural record.
(See the next post, “Is the Chile Landing Site a Myth? – Part III,” for Hender’s reasons why he says “it does seem to me that the Chilean Landing Site is not correct and more of myth than truth,” and our response and clarification as to why Chile was the site)


  1. FYI: Three times in this article you referred to Ralph G. Williams.. but did later in the article referred to Fredrick G. Williams. I am assuming here that Fredrick was to be the name used through out the article.

  2. My apologies. Old age must be taking its toll :) The name, of course, is Fredrick G. Williams.