Friday, April 25, 2014

Is the Chile Landing Site a Myth? – Part V

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: 
    Hender: “Domestic animals were wiped out by Noah's flood and only brought back to the land north of the narrow neck of land by the Jaredites. Chile would be too far south of the land north for any such domestic animals to have traveled to be available for Lehi's party. So there is no logical source of those domestic animals of the Jaredites to be south of the Atacama Desert around La Serena, Chile at the date of Lehi's landing.”
Annual migration of a million and a half wildebeest covering over a thousand miles in the African Serengeti and Masai Mara. They are accompanied by 400,000 zebra and 200,000 gazelles, making a total of 2 million migration animals each year
    Response: Hender should spend some time learning about animal migratory habits, travels and distances. As an example, the annual Wildebeest migration of the Serengeti covers many hundreds of miles and includes millions of animals; Zebras migrate 1,000 miles annually, as do the gazelles across the Savannah, all of these crossing crocodile-infested rivers, lions prowling among the tall grass, and other predators following behind. In addition, elephants travels great distances, caribou migrate 3,000 miles annually in herds of half a million or more. What is interesting about this is that all animals around this migratory movement are swept along with it, or trampled beneath the horde. Domestic anmimals, as well as wild animals, would have become part of the movement south, fleeing from the poisonous snakes, and would have continued with one another in any further movement south as even events today show us.
Caribou are always on the move; a typical caribou will travel between 2,000 and 3,000 miles a year across spongy muskeg, flooding rivers, and snowy mountains
    The Porcupine caribou has a migration range of over 155,000 square miles, and will cover over 800 miles in a single year
    American Bison migrated 400 miles each year, with elk, mule deer, and Dall sheep covering long distances each year. Springbok (Springbuck) antelope anciently migrated great distances over their vast range in South Africa, as did the mammoth, saber-toothed tiger, etc. In fact, scientists claim that animals migrated from Siberia across a land bridge into North America and all the way south to South America—distances of more than ten thousand miles.
The second largest migration in Africa is that of approximately 15,000 Zebra make their annual pilgrimage to the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans in search of water and good grazing
    The distances between the Land Northward and the Land Southward, over which the animals frightened by the poisonous snakes would have traveled less than 2000 miles to La Serena, Chile. And this would have been over at least a thousand year period (from the days of Com to Lehi’s landing)--not in just one year; nor do we know that animals had not already migrated into the Land Southward over the 1600 year existence of the Jaredites. In a thousand years, foraging animals can travel a great distance when uninterrupted by man. And certainly, the Lord would have had a hand in their movement to where Lehi landed since they were to be the Nephite’s source of food for some time.
    Hender: Occasionally in an El Nino year there will be a down pour of rain in some part of the desert, but for the most part, year in and year out, it just does not rain there at all. There is no life there. NASA has used it to test its NOMAD moon and planet exploration vehicle, as the land surface of the Atacama Desert is more like the surface of Mars than it is of any living surface here on earth.”
The Desierto florido (Flowering of the desert) in Barranquilla, Atacama Region, which occurred in 2010 during an El Nino event
    Response: First, most of the El Nino effects that hit South America do so in Ecuador and Northern Peru with extremely heavy rains, or also in Central Chile—pretty much bypassing the Atacama Desert. What rainfall does strike the desert results in the phenomenon of the blossoming of a wide variety of flowers (see above) between the months of September and November in the southern desert area around 28º south latitude, a little north of Huasco, Vallenar, and La Serena.
    Second, it is interesting that Hender wants to spend so much time talking about this 600-mile-long stretch of desert as though that was where Lehi landed, or where he lived, or where he and/or Nephi traveled. None of these things occurred there and, to my knowledge, no one I have heard or read about relating to a South American west coast landing has ever suggested such a thing.
    Hender: Yet the Book of Mormon states that the land at the site of Lehi's landing was a bounteous land. When Lehi's party first landed they planted well needed crops and the land brought forth such abundantly. Logically this is not the arid Chilean site.”
Response: The problem lies in people trying to write about areas they seem to know very little about. The Atacama Desert’s northern point is 18.48º south latitude, and southern point is about 28º south latitude, with its mean center, or the driest area, about 24.5º south latitude. On the other hand, Lehi’s landing site was written down at 30º south latitude (where Coquimbo and LaSerena are now located). That difference is about the distance from the center of Salt Lake City to the city of Nephi in the south, or from SLC to just north of downtown Logan, Utah. And in the case of Chile, the difference is between a very dry desert climate to a Mediterranean Climate—a very big difference!
In 2007 (the last agricultural census), Chile had 324,293 ha of fruit orchards. The most important were table grapes (20%), avocados (13%) and apples (12%). Some 22% of the fruit crops growing area were prunes (42%) and blueberries (56%). According to Revista Brasileira de Fruticultura and Chilena de Fruticultura, 70% of the orchards are located between latitude 27º18` S (Copiapó) and 36º50´S (Conceptión), with most of those (16,000 growers) from Coquimbo/LaSerena to Parral, and supplied North America, Europe and Asia
    The La Serena Mediterranean Climate in 600 B.C. would have been immeasurably important since seeds (without modern techniques) will not grow in different climates from where they originated. Even today, when you purchase seeds, the packet states what climate zone they will grow in. The Mediterranean Climate of 30º south latitude in Chile, matching the Mediterranean Climate of Jerusalem, allowed Lehi's seeds to grow “exceedingly and bring forth an abundant crop,” just as the scriptural record tells us.
    Hender: “The Book of Mormon also states that as Lehi's party began to journey in the wilderness from the site of landing to the Land of First Inheritance, they found in the forests beasts of every kind wild and domestic. The 1000 mile desert north of the Chilean site was no forested land filled with beasts of every kind.”
    Response: While there are a few animals in the Atacama, there are definitely no forests. However, in La Serena, as mentioned in the previous post, there are and were huge forests of at least five tree species indigenous to that area. As an example, the Valdivian forest of Chile is a multiple ecosystems in the immense Fray Jorge National Park along Route 5 in La Serena, Chile, and includes Valdivian forests overflowing with ferns and cinnamon trees, and is home to the majestic Alerce tree, which can reach heights of 377 feet, and live for more than 3000 years, along with a variety of species including eagles, pumas and guanacos (wild parent of the llama).
Top: The rainforest at La Serena, Chile in the Coquimbo Region; Bottom: The famous and mighty Alerce trees of La Serena, Chile
    This temperate rainforest, which begins today only about 1.5 miles inland from the bay at Coquimbo (though the entrance to the park is further), covers approximately 103,301 square miles (of which 70% lies within Chile), and is the second largest of five temperate rainforests in the world and the only one in South America—which only shows how exact La Serena matches the scriptural record of Lehi’s landing site. Incidentally, of the estimated 87,687 square miles of original forest existing at the time of European contact, only about 40% remains today, suggesting it might have been even larger in 600 B.C.
(Image F – Top: At 30º south latitude, the western edge of the forest looking westward at the Pacific Ocean; Bottom: Looking over the forest eastward toward the distant Andes
    Remember what Nephi said: “…we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind…” (1 Nephi 18:25). Well, La Serena has a very large forest, unbelievable dense with 350-foot tall trees, and animals of every kind. An interesting parallel to the scriptural record, wouldn’t you say? Too bad Hender had not seen this remarkable area that astounds everyone who visits it, before he wrote about no forests in Chile at 30º south latitude.
And let’s not forget what Hender said in his opening statement, ““truth and reason,” that while truth is reason, reason is not always truth, and that “just because something seems logical and reasonable given the known facts, and our reasoning and logic assures our limited academic mentalities of such as truth; when given all the facts of which we are total y unaware, we may be actually dead wrong as to the real truth of the matter.” 
    Perhaps we might add to Hender’s opening statement that one probably should not consider he knows the truth when he has not studied, visited, and researched the area about which he writes and, in this case, discounts out of hand.
(See the next post, “Is the Chile Landing Site a Myth? – Part VI,” 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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