Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Great Southern Ocean – Part II

Continuing with the subject of Lehi’s voyage across the Great Deep, and some of the events that occurred on that voyage. In fact, there is an interesting series of events in Nephi’s record that is usually ignored by Theorists who are so interested in proving their own model that they pay little attention to clues Nephi gave us that help us understand where he went and where he landed. Take, as an example the event of the storm not long after they set out in Nephi’s ship.
Once Nephi was tied up, Lehi demanded his sons, Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael stop their foolishness, but the renegades “breathed out much threatenings against anyone that should speak for Nephi” (1 Nephi 18:17). Also Nephi’s wife and children prayed for his release
    “And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel did take me and bind me with cords, and they did treat me with much harshness; nevertheless, the Lord did suffer it that he might show forth his power, unto the fulfilling of his word which he had spoken concerning the wicked. And it came to pass that after they had bound me insomuch that I could not move, the compass, which had been prepared of the Lord, did cease to work” (1 Nephi 18:11, emphasis mine).
    Now at this precise time, two more events occur: 1) A great storm arose, “yea, a great and terrible tempest,” and 2) Laman and Lemuel, because of the Liahona ceasing to work, “they knew not whither they should steer the ship” (1 Nephi 18:13).
The South-West Indian Ocean cyclone season tracks; the colors other than blue/green represent category 3 to 5 tropical storms (winds from 111 to 156 mph)
    Now there is an interesting area in the Indian Ocean that occurs exactly where the Indian Ocean Gyre would have begun to swing their ship further out into the current on its swing to the southeast to where it would eventually pick up the Southern Ocean. However, if that swing was too tight, that is, to far to the east, then the ship would be claimed entirely by the gyre and swung east and then back to the north again—“back the way it had come.” Or, as Nephi worded it, “…and we were driven back upon the waters for the space of three days” (1 Nephi 18:13).
    In addition, in this area, there is a convergence of mass and a resulting high-pressure system that forms within the subtropical gyre, which results in many storms of great magnitude. The Coriolis acceleration sets up a counter-clockwise gyre circulation around the high pressure, and the gyre flow pattern, based on Henry Stommel's original wind-driven ocean circulation theory—which showed that the Coriolis force was responsible for the observed fact that western boundary currents in the circulating gyre are much narrower and faster than eastern boundary currents—which causes the western-intensification of this Indian Ocean current.
    That is, the western side of the gyre (where Nephi’s ship would have been sailing) is a fast moving current, according to the hydrographic measurements by Worthington, and would have skirted this inbound counter-clockwise curvature of the gyre on the outside, or furthest west streamline, with the speed inversely proportional to the spacing between these streamlines (the flow is fastest where the streamlines are closest together).
    The Liahona, at this point, would have been directing a far west course around the gyre, where the ship could be turned to the southeast, but not be caught up in the powerful flow eastward. However, with the Liahona non-functioning, and Laman and Lemuel unaware of where to steer the ship (along the western edge), the ship became caught in the full gyre swing to the east, and eventually, over the next three days, swung entirely back in the direction from which it had come, right into the heart of the cyclonic tropical storm—where these summer seasonal storms can be quite lengthy and very severe.
Nephi’s ship, as sturdy built as she was from the Lord’s design, was tossed about in the rough cyclonic storm waters, so much so that the renegades Laman and Lemuel feared for their lives
    At this point, Nephi said, “And on the fourth day, which we had been driven back, the tempest began to be exceedingly sore” (1 Nephi 18:14), and so severe was the storm, that he added, “and it came to pass that we were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea” (1 Nephi 18:15).
    These storms are so severe they register on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale for cyclones between (Category One) 74-95 mph, which is 64-82 knots to (Category Five) 157 mph and over, which is 137 knots or more; with two lesser classifications--Tropical Storm and Tropical Depression. By way of comparison, when a tropical depression reaches 40 mph, it is given a name and classified as a tropical storm, at 74 mph, the storm becomes a hurricane, and then falls into the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. At 110 mph, it becomes a tropical cyclone and classified as a Category 3 hurricane.
    So when Nephi said the storm became “exceedingly sore,” we can only guess at the speed of the winds, but can rest assured it fell somewhere on this scale.
Yellow Line: Lehi’s course; Red Line: Ship gets pulled into the swirling cyclonic storm (moving counter-clockwise south of the equator); Green Line: Ship pulled into and around the storm vortex for three days and back the way it had come, and on the fourth day Nephi regains control, and the Liahona starts working again, guiding him to the outside of the storm track (White Arrow) and back on course; Blue Arrow: Nephi guides the ship onto its original course and toward the Southern Ocean
    Their only salvation would be to steer the ship out of this vortex and back onto the streamlines at the western edges of the gyre. After four days, the ship would have made that complete circle around the cyclonic center and with aid of the Liahona, Nephi would have known where to steer the ship--back onto its original course. As he said, “And it came to pass after they had loosed me, behold, I took the compass, and it did work whither I desired it. And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord; and after I had prayed the winds did cease, and the storm did cease, and there was a great calm. And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did guide the ship, that we sailed again towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:21-22).
The zigzagging line between 48º and 61º south latitude separates the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean, and is called the Antarctic Convergence, an oceanic boundary 20 to 30 miles wide, where the warm, subtropical waters of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic converge with the cold, polar waters off Antarctica. This area was recognized as a fifth ocean by the International Hydrographic Organization in 2000
    From this point onward, the voyage is so uneventful, that Nephi provides not a single word about it, concluding his earlier statement with, “And it came to pass that 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 Nephbi 18:23).
Nothing to see but sky, waves, ocean and fish. As one ancient mariner said of it, “It is the same day after day, day after day.” Nothing at all for Nephi to write about
    The spin, or rotation, of the storm (as well as winds and ocean currents) is due to the Coriolis effect, which is a deflection—to the left in a clockwise rotation north of the equator, and to the right in a counter-clockwise rotation to the south of the equator. This effect, or force, is caused by the rotation of the Earth and the inertia of the mass experiencing the effect. Because the Earth completes only one rotation per day, the Coriolis force is quite small, and its effects generally become noticeable only for motions occurring over large distances and long periods of time, such as large-scale movement of air in the atmosphere or water in the ocean. Thus the effect is zero at the equator, and builds toward the poles.
A typical cyclonic tropical storm in the Arabian Sea. Top Left: Note how it starts out to sea, then (top right) moves toward land; and (bottom left) gets closer to the shore, and finally (bottom right) crosses the coast and moves inland
    As can be seen in the four-image sequence above, if Lehi was following the trade routes eastward from Arabia, as ancient traders did in this area, they would have stayed in sight of land most of the way, as the ancients did, who had to pull in to land for the evening where they camped every night until dawn the next day before going back out to sea. Any storm in that area would be blowing into land as the above photos show, not parallel with the coast; consequently, Nephi's ship, in such an area as these ancient trade routes, would have been blown into the coast and wrecked.
    The only way Nephi’s statements (1 Nephi 18:12-15, 21-23) can be verified is if they were sailing out to deep water, far away from shore, and if they were sailing south into the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. In that case, a four-day storm driving them back the way they had come could fit in with the events described and the location they were in. It would also suggest, that their ship would have to have been south of the equator, for the counter-clockwise spin of the cyclonic storm to take them around into open ocean and back the way they had come, otherwise, north of the equator, the spin would have been clockwise, driving their vessel to the west, away from storm area and into land (Madagascar or the east African coast).
Top: Map of cyclonic storm locations. Note the Indian Ocean, north of the equator, the spin is clockwise and upward (northward) and below the equator, the spin is counter-clockwise and downward (southward); Bottom Left: A clockwise rotating cyclonic storm; Bottom Right: A counter-clockwise cyclonic storm
    For those who like to say that Lehi just sailed this way or that from Arabia to the Land of Promise, simply do not understand the ocean and its currents, and the winds that drive them. When Nephi said his ship was “driven forth before the wind,” we need to understand what that means. When he tells us there was a severe storm that lasted four days and drove them back the way they had come, we need to understand where that could have occurred, and what history of oceanography and meteorology can tell us about the path for his ship we consider. The oceans have been around since the planet was first organized, gravity never changes, winds and currents are the same, driven by the same forces, day after day, year after year, century after century.
    Nephi gave us all the clues we need to understand where he sailed, where the winds and currents took him, and where he landed. We just have to pay attention to what he wrote and not jump the gun thinking we know where he ended up before we can find the path he took to get there.
(See the next a post on “The Great Southern Ocean-Part III,” for more about Lehi’s voyage across the ocean to his eventual landing site)

No comments:

Post a Comment