Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Is the Chile Landing Site a Myth? – Part III

Continuing with Dan R. Hender’s article about the Lehi’s landing site at 30º south latitude and his belief that it is not correct and more of myth than truth. Following are more of his opposing points:
    He states further, that “the logic and reasoning of this Book of Mormon landing site does hold water in respect to some of the facts of the matter, yet it does not in others.” He goes on to point out:
    1. In fact in at least one respect the Chilean landing site is the driest fact of the matter on earth as it has to negotiate the Atacama Desert to its north.”
    Response: This would be true, only if a movement north was along the coast, for the Atacama Desert covers a 600-mile strip of land on the Pacific coast, west of the Andes mountains. It covers 41,000 square miles (49,000 square miles when the barren lower slopes of the Andes are included), and most of the desert is composed of stony terrain, salt lakes, called salares, sand, and felsic lava flows. 
Left: The 251,000-square-mile Rub al’ Khali, Desert, the Empty Quarter, of southern Arabia over which Lehi led his family; Right: The 49,000-square-mile Atacama Desert in northwestern Chile 
    First, let it be remembered that Lehi and his company on their way to Bouintiful had crossed the Rub’ al Khali, the “Empty Quarter,” the largest sand desert in the world, encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula, including Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen, an area 251,000 square miles. During that time, all the women in the party gave birth to at least one child (1 Nephi 17:1), perhaps including Sariah with either Jacob or Joseph. The lord’s followers have rarely been spared extreme hardships and trials in their being honed to become His people.
Left: Skirting the Atacama Desert to the east, Nephi and his followers would have climbed to the (Right) high plains Altiplano, a lush, green valley that stretches for 600 miles (north-south) that leads a party toward Lake Titicaca and Cuzco beyond 
    Second, when Nephi left his brothers who wanted to kill him, he traveled with “those who would go with him” (2 Nephi 5:6), in a manner to both make it difficult to be followed by Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael, and certainly not in a straight line along the coast where their original camp was located, i.e., “the place of their fathers’ first inheritance” (Alma 22:28), for such would be a simple trail to follow.
    Since Nephi had the Liahona, it stands to reason that he would have been guided through an area conducive to the needs of the group, i.e., drinking water, animals for food, tolerable temperatures, and pleasant passage. There is no place anywhere more beautiful, easy to travel, with plenty of game and water than what is found along the altiplano (high plain) of the Andes, an area of an inland and internal drainage system (endorheism), running from central Chile, western Bolivia, and southern Peru. 
The Altiplano that stretches south of Lake Titicaca, through western Bolivia, and down into Chile to the east of the Atacama Desert is lushly green with lots of animals running wild and a climate conducive to easy travel—the perfect route for Nephi and those who went with him 
    And at the northern end of the endorheic Altiplano basin along the Bolivia-Peru border lies Lake Titicaca (Titiqaqa), the largest lake in South America, and lying at 12,507 feet, the highest navigable lake in the world. At least two-dozen bodies of water around the world are at higher elevations, but all are much smaller and shallower.
The 3,232-square-mile Lake Titicaca around which the ancient culture called Tiahuanaco (Tiwanaku) flourished for hundreds of years 
    Most archaeologists agree that in the distant past Tiahuanaco was a flourishing port at the edge of the lake, which means that the water has receded almost 12 miles and has dropped about 800 feet since then. All concur that the lake is shrinking, due mainly to evaporation, since five major river systems flow into it along with another 20 or so lesser rivers emptying into the lake, and no rivers flow from it. However, there is another reason for this, which modern science could never accept, and that is, as many older historians explain, that Titicaca was once at sea level and was driven up at the time the Andes rose. 
    According to Clark L. Erickson, of Expedition (Vol 30 No 3), when the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, they were amazed at the ancient terraces and irrigation canals surrounding the area, but did not notice the fields of raised platforms for planting, which had been abandoned long before they came (and only recently discovered in 1981)—one of the largest fields, Huatta, is 53,000 hectares, with overall prehistoric raised fields covering some 82,000 hectares—about 320 square miles (by comparison, Salt Lake Valley is 500 square miles)
Top: A panorama of ancient raised field remains of the Viscachani Pampa belonging to the residents of Collana Segunda, Huatta, Peru, shows only a small portion of the 82,000 hectares of ancient raised fields in the Lake Titicaca Basin dating back long before the Spanish, long before the Inca, to a prehistoric time showing “Prehistoric Andean Technology." The lighter surfaces are water-filled canals and the darker surfaces are raised fields or drier pampa. The project’s reconstructed raised fields are located in the left center of the photograph (May 1986); Center: Canals were dug in straight lines across the plain in this Suka kollus (camellones) system, which covered such vast areas that they increased the temperatures and prevented the crops from dying off due to frosts, which also increased yields, including two crops per year; Bottom: Platforms and canals each are 30 feet wide, with the canals 3 to 5 feet deep, which collect and store solar energy to prevent frosts, conserve water for use during periodic droughts, and also used for raising fish 
    The ruins around Lake Titicaca of the Tiahuanaco (Tiwanaku) civilization are among the most amazing in the Andean area, and when coupled with those of Puno on the west of the lake, showing ancient stone docks where thousands of ships once set in, shows conclusively that Lake Titicaca was once at sea level before it was raised upward with the lift of the Andes, during the time of man.
Huge toppled blocks of stone that at one time formed several docks along the lake’s edge, showing anciently the lake covered much more distance; however, the docks are large enough to have serviced thousands of ships loading and off-loading, suggesting that this was actually once a seaport, and that the area was uplifted thousands of feet during a cataclysmic event, such as the raising of the Andes, which watermarks along the surrounding stone cliffs suggest a prior sea level existence 
    At the area called Puma Punku, which is about 1 mile distant from the principal part of the ruins, the gigantic stones are bluish-gray in color and appear to have been "machined," and they have a metallic ring when tapped by a rock. There is also a reddish "rust" or oxidation covering many of the stones. Many of these enormous stone blocks probably have not been moved since they fell thousands of years ago. Archaeologists however
speculate that the stones were dressed, but never erected that the construction for which they were intended was interrupted. It is equally valid, however, to assume that the buildings were completed and then toppled by some natural catastrophe, such as the eruption of the Andes mountain chain or a world-wide deluge. 

    Still another important factor along this line is the ancient cities found beneath the lake. Legends, of course, have persisted over the centuries that there are stone structures beneath the waters of Lake Titicaca, much the same kind as can be found on the lake's shore. 
Top Left: Indians living around Lake Titicaca claim there are lost cities beneath the lake; Top Center: Photo of a man-made structure beneath the surface; Top Right: Jacques Cousteau aboard his boat the Calypso; Bottom: International archaeologists find ancient temple under Lake Titicaca 
    The Indians of this region have frequently recounted this tradition, but until recently there has been no proof of such structures. In 1968 Jacques Cousteau, the French underwater explorer, took his crew and equipment there to explore the lake and search for evidence of underwater construction, that was found and recorded by a team of international archaeologists two years earlier. Although severely hampered in their activities by the extreme altitude, the divers spent many days searching the lake bottom, in the vicinity of the islands of the Sun and Moon, but found nothing man-made. Cousteau concluded the legends were a myth. 
However, in November 1980, the well known Bolivian author and scholar of pre-Columbian cultures, Hugo Boero Rojo, announced the finding of archaeological ruins beneath Lake Titicaca about 15 to 20 meters below the surface off the coast of Puerto Acosta, a Bolivian port village near the Peruvian frontier on the northeast edge of the lake. Based upon information furnished by Elias Mamani. a native of the region who is over 100 years old, Boero Rojo and two Puerto Ricans cinematographers, Ivan and Alex Irrizarry, were able to locate the ruins after extensive exploration of the lake bottom in the area, while filming a documentary on the nearby Indians. 
    This is merely another example of the lake rising with the Andes during the time of man, and the deep valley between the peaks rising with the ocean waters that rushed in during the cataclysmic actions that took place (see 3 Nephi).
(See the next post, “Is the Chile Landing Site a Myth? – Part IV,” 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)

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