Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Is the Chile Landing Site a Myth? – Part X

Continuing with this, the final post, on 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. Hender, after concluding his final arguments about why Chile could not have been the landing site, which were covered and answered in the last nine posts on this, he then switches to an interesting view of how Lehi got to Central America. 
    Hender: “Nature supports this site [a little south of the Isthmus of Darien] as we now understand that in years of El Niño, the trade winds and currents could bring a ship in at this site quite easily.”
    Response: First of all, as we now understand, no deep sea sailing ship dependent upon wind direction “driven forth before the wind” (1 Nephi 18:8-9) could have sailed eastward toward Indonesia from the south coast of Arabia, nor negotiated the 18,307 archipelago of Indonesia into the Pacific Ocean, in order to pick up the current El Niño, the Pacific Equatorial Countercurrent.
    This current runs between 3º and 10º north latitude, with about 2400 miles of Indonesian islands blocking an eastward movement from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean by ship, including Sumatra, Malaysia, Borneo, and the Philippines from Palawan to Mindanao. There are also the diverging currents of seas to deal with including the Andaman Sea, South China Sea, Sulu Sea, and the Celebes Sea, or, the Andaman, Java, Banda, Molucca, and Ceram seas, including the negotiation of the very dangerous Strait of Malacca, the Balabac Strait, the Straits thru the Sulu Archipelgo, and the Celebes Sea corridor, or down through the Karimata Strait and Makasar Strait, or, thru the Pulaus or the Flores Sea, and up through the Moluccas—all directions around, between, and through an enormous number of island chains.
This map shows the congestion of islands (there are thousands more than shown  here) through the route Lehi’s ship would have had to take to reach the countercurrent and an El Niño
    We need to keep in mind that the geographical configuration of any of these routes required constant maneuvering, negotiating narrow, shallow, and twisting channels, that kept trade ships on their toes through the entire voyage to keep from running aground or wrecked on unseen shoals. The problem was so severe that anciently this area was known as the Graveyard of Ships. Even today ships run aground or collide trying to negotiate the narrow passages, sometimes less than a mile wide between shores of massive rocks.
A small example of the crowded sea through Indonesia
    Consider then, the difficulty Lehi would have had sailing in a wind-driven ship with a crew that had never before been to sea, with at least half inclining toward mutiny. While the liahona could show them the way, the men still had to steer, take in sails, adjust cordage, run lines, tighten rigging and shrouds, jury rig solutions, bail water from swamping, man the prow (or a crow’s nest) to look out for shoals, rocks, and changing waters—the normal things any crew would have to do to keep the ship running.
    In addition, since these islands were such a hazard to sailing vessels during the Age of Discovery, and Lehi’s ship was propelled by wind, there is no way they could have sailed after dark, and would have had to put in to land until dawn. With such a mutinous crew, this seems highly improbable.
    Perhaps to illustrate the fact that these are not open waters, but have numerous islands, hidden coasts, and deep channels that create escape routes, unknown areas, and well protected sanctuaries, pirates for centuries have been rampant here, and even today, causing the three main countries, Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia to create Coast Watch South Project stations, and Coastal Guard Special Operations Groups, and Combat Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships forces that constantly patrol these waters
Left: A Philippine-Malaysia Border Patrol Coordinating Group conducts joint patrols as part of the JSRCA to keep these waters free from piracy—a job that so far has proven futile; Right: NASA satellite view of some of the Indonesian islands showing how crowded they are and how difficult it would be to sail through them
    Secondly, even if Lehi could have negotiated all this to reach the Pacific (sailing against all the winds and currents all the way), there is the question of the El Niño. This is not merely a current reversal as Hender would have us believe, but is a very destructive current that nearly levels everything in its path. As the U.S. Geological Survey states: “El Niño is a natural but largely unpredictable condition that results from complex interplay among clouds and storms, regional winds, oceanic temperatures, and ocean currents along the equatorial Pacific.” During this time, the Trade Winds weaken, and as the waters of the central and eastern Pacific warm, “the powerful tropical Pacific storms begin to form farther east than usual, and the effects are widespread, and the impacts are devastating.”
    Michael H. Glantz, who was provided funds from the U.N. Foundation to undertake a 16-country study on lessons learned from the 1997-1998 El Niño event, reported: “Inland, drought (sometimes with associated wildfires) in many nations of the western and southwestern Pacific Rim, southern Africa, southern India and Sri Lanka, Spain, Portugal, northern Africa, and parts of South and Central America; severe cyclones that damaged island communities in the Pacific; flooding over wide areas of South America, in western Europe, as well as in the Gulf Coastal states and some Caribbean islands; and severe storms in the western and northeastern United States.”
Clouds build, seas rise and churn, tides hit the coasts, and destroy just about everything in sight, from Australia to the Americas
    The point of all this is to show that the El Niño events are devastating, causing widespread damage, sometimes far inland; however, the major effect in damage is across the Pacific and along the coasts—exactly where Hender would have Lehi traveling. El Niño certainly would not “bring a ship in at this site quite easily.” In fact, during an El Niño event, all along the west coast of North, Central and South America, ships are warned to put to sea to avoid being caught along the coast or in harbors when the devastating currents and winds of El Niño reach them.
    Hender: “[My] Third and Fourth [reasons], as portrayed in the Book of Mormon, this is a bounteous forested land and it could well have been filled with the hungry domestic beast of the Jaredites as it is just south of the narrow neck of the Isthmus of Darien from the land where the Jaredites perceivably occupied.”
    Response: The Isthmus of Panama was earlier called the Isthmus of Darien, and is a narrow area of land that connects Central and South America. Anciently, the Central American Seaway separated the continents of North and South America, allowing the waters of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans to mix freely. This connecting bridge between two vast land masses that was once submerged but arose through sediment filling, is filled with overlapping fauna and flora from both North and South America.
    978 species of birds are in the isthmus area, and the tropical climate also encourages a myriad of large and brightly colored species such as insects, snakes, birds, fish and reptiles. This rising created what is called the Great American Interchange, with opossum, armadillo and porcupine from the south, and bears, cats, dogs, horses, llamas and raccoons from the north. There are also jaguars and wild pigs.
Yellow Arrow is the Isthmus of Darien (Isthmus of Panama), White Arrow is the Darien Gap, just south of the Isthmus, which is a “no man’s land” that  few enter and fewer still come out
    If Lehi landed just south of the Isthmus, then he landed in what is called the Darien Gap, considered the most dangerous jungle in the world, and one in which few have ever successfully crossed. There is no way in the world that Lehi, Sariah, and children could have managed this area, nor could Nephi and those who went with him have been able to cross it northward to escape his brothers. People talk about this area from looking at a map; however, its existence is far from habitual and certainly not favorable to any type of family settlement.
    This 10,000-square-mile Darién Gap stretches from the sandy shores of the Caribbean south to the rocky cliffs of the Pacific. It begins just beyond the suburbs of Panama City and sprawls east, thickening as it goes, until it has erased all roads, all telephone lines, all signs of civilization, turning the landscape into one solid band of unruly vegetation filled with jaguars, deadly bushmasters, and other exotic wildlife.
The formidable Darien Gap, just south of the Isthmus of Panama. It has a long and dangerous history and few have ever braved its interior
    Hender: “And Fifth, Indian history/legend supports the Isthmus of Darien landing as told by the Indian leader ‘Big Warrior’ in Alabama in the year 1822, prior to the coming forth of the Golden Plates and the printing of the Book of Mormon in 1830.”
    Response: Frankly, the legends surrounding Andean Peru in South America so closely follow the scriptural record it is uncanny. As for legends of indigenuous people, two lady missionaries came across a man in Venezuela named Neffi (Nephi) and told a long history of his family name all the way back into antiquity and that after reading the Book of Mormon, told of those stories that had been told around campfires in his youth by parents and grandparents. My son, as the District Leader, was well familiar with these events and involved in the subsequent leadership interactions. Oh, by the way, the man said his family originated many generations earlier in Peru.

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