Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sailing a River to the Land of Promise – Part I

When Nephi had completed his ship (1 Nephi 18:4), the Lord told Lehi when to board and set sail (1 Nephi 18:5), and Nephi states: “And it came to pass after we had all gone down into the ship, and had taken with us our provisions and things which had been commanded us, we did put forth into the sea” (1 Nephi 18:8). 
Lehi sailed into the Arabian Sea from the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula
    Now this sea, which Lehi named Irreantum, meaning “many waters” (1 Nephi 17:5), is understood to be the Sea of Arabia and the Indian Ocean, and it is also understood that Lehi set sail off the coast of the southern Arabian Peninsula (Oman or Yemen). Nephi further tells us that they “were driven forth before the wind towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:8).
    After the episode of the storm and the rebellion of Laman, Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael, and Nephi is released and regains control of the ship, he tells us: “I, Nephi, did guide the ship, that we sailed again towards the promised land. And…after we had sailed for the space of many days we did arrive at the promised land; and we went forth upon the land, and did pitch our tents; and we did call it the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:22-23).
The Lehi colony came ashore, gave thanks to the Lord for their safe passage, and pitched their tents
    The point of issue here is that: 1) they landed, 2) they went ashore, and 3) they pitched their tents. It should be inarguable that the Lehi colony pitched their tents and made their camp in the immediate vicinity of their landing. Later, they traveled around the area as anyone would have done to see what they could find in the area surrounding their new home. It should be emphatically noted that there is no mention of sailing up rivers, encountering rapids or other obstacles to their travel, or trekking overland once leaving their ship to a place of settlement. Nor is there a single word about moving their camp, resettling or traveling to any location where they made camp or finally settled down.
    In Nephi’s Plain and simple language (2 Nephi 31:3), which he said he loved—“My soul delighteth in plainness unto my people”—they landed, went ashore, and pitched their tents. It should be kept in mind that both Lehi and Sariah, and undoubtedly Ishmael’s wife, were quite old. As Nephi put it: “my parents being stricken in years, and having suffered much grief because of their children, they were brought down, yea, even upon their sick-beds. Because of their grief and much sorrow, and the iniquity of my brethren, they were brought near even to be carried out of this time to meet their God; yea, their grey hairs were about to be brought down to lie low in the dust” (1 Nephi 18:17-18).
    It is very doubtful that they would have traveled far from any landing site to make camp and settle down. Not until Nephi leaves to escape his older brothers (2 Nephi 5:6-7) is there any mention of a movement of their settlement Mormon refers to as “in the place of their fathers' first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore” (Alma 22:28).
   Yet many members claim Lehi landed in the Great Lakes area, making Lake Erie their Sea West and Lehi's landing site along that shore (Alma 22:28). But to do so, they would have had to sail up a river to as close to the area as possible, then walk the rest of the distance. This would mean, with his parents “stricken in years” and “near even to death,” Nephi would have walked at least 200 miles from where their ship could go no closer to the area Mormon says they settled.
    Yet, despite all this, the Great Lakes theorists claim Lehi sailed up a river from the Atlantic toward the Great Lakes as far as they could go, then trekked the rest of the distance. This means, that despite their age, Lehi, Sariah and Ishmael’s widowed wife, were required to walk another 200 miles or more to reach the area these theorists claim Lehi camped and made his settlement. So let’s take a look at that:
There are only two rivers that could even be considered to move a ship toward the Great Lakes from the Ocean: (Yellow Arrows) up the St. Lawrence River, or (White Arrow) up the Mississippi River
    As an example, you cannot land in the Great Lakes region by ship sailing 1) from the Arabian Peninsula, and 2) driven forth before the wind. Oh, sure, you can look at a map and say, well, you could sail up the Mississippi River from the Gulf, or you could sail up the St. Lawrence River from the Atlantic—but as has been pointed out in these pages before, neither river had access to the Lake Erie area or western New York in 600 B.C., where the Great Lakes Theory places the Land of Promise.
    This is because b oth rivers were blocked by impassable rapids.
    First, let's look at the St. Lawrence approach. Before the Lachine Canal was dug in 1825 around the rapids near Montreal, the St. Lawrence River had been virtually impassable for all boating, blocking maritime traffic further upriver past Montreal--200 miles from Lake Ontario, and 360 miles from Lake Erie. Before then, any supplies coming up river from the Atlantic Ocean had to be portaged overland, around the rapids, then  back onto another boat. Nor are these rapids simply a small blockage, but extended over a distance of three miles, caused by a series of uneven levels, rocks, and shallow waters between the present day island of Montreal and the south shore, near the former city of Lachine that cause large, standing waves.
Lachine Rapids at Montreal, 200 miles from Lake Ontario. They were impassable until the 19th century when channels were dug around them so shipping could continue upriver
    The rapids contain large standing waves because the water volume and current do not change with respect to the permanent features in the riverbed, namely its shelf-like drops. Seasonal variation in the water flow does not change the position of the waves, although it does change their size and shape. Even for boats designed in the early days specifically to try and pass these rapids, it was impossible, many sinking in the attempt.
    Simply put, it would have been impossible in 600 B.C. for Lehi to have reached Lake Erie or the Great Lakes area in this manner.
The St. Lawrence, from the Atlantic through the Gulf and into the river, was easily navigable until a boat reached the area of present-day Montreal in Canada (red arrow). There, the very dangerous and impassable Lachine Rapids stopped all boating and shipping, 200 miles from the Great Lakes
    As for the Mississippi River, the Rock Island and Moline, Illinois rapids were both considered virtually impassable. In 1837, the rapids were excavated sufficiently to allow shipping past; however, by 1866, it was considered impractical to do the same with the Des Moines Rapids and in 1877 a canal was built around the rapids, yet the Rock Island rapids remained an obstacle until 1907 when a series of channels, dredging and altering locks successfully opened the river past that spot. In 1920, a nine-foot deep channel project was dug to allow for deep ocean vessels to use the river. And rock ledges along the Mississippi south of the Missouri River confluence were not removed until 1953.
Looking east-northeast over the Columbia Bottoms at the confluence of the Missouri River (left foreground) and the Mississippi River (upper left). Note the strong current of the muddy Missouri entering the Mississippi (lighter water).
(See the next post, "Sailing a River to the Land of Promise - Part II, for more about the Mississippi River approach to the Great Lakes)

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