Friday, May 23, 2014

“They Turned Eastward” – Part I

A reader sent in this quote and asked what we thought of it: 
    “We learn of the direction Lehi and his family journeyed once they left Jerusalem in 1 Nephi 16:13 where we read they traveled in a south, southeast direction. Continuing in that direction would have taken them to 19 degrees north latitude. In chapter 17:1 we learn they "did travel eastward from that time forth." Thus, eastward to the Sea of Arabia. Apparently early theorists assumed the directions given in 1 Nephi were not just the direction they maintained while they were traveling on foot but may have been intended to include the general direction they traveled even after they set sail. Therefore, in their efforts to follow the journey to a reasonable conclusion, simply followed the sailing party eastward across the pacific to a likely landing site.”
Example of  “simply followed the sailing party eastward across the pacific to a likely landing site.” However, such would not be very likely because of what lay between Arabia and the Pacific Ocean
    This statement is found on the “Book of Mormon Lands” website, under the page heading: “The Evolution of Book of Mormon Geography,” with excerpts from Phyllis Carol Olive’s book, The Lost Lands of the Book of Mormon. This statement was half of the second paragraph, however, the reader failed to send in the second half of that paragraph, which reads:
    “The final piece of information given in the Williams’ statement indicates that Lehi and his people sailed in a southeast direction and landed in Chile along the western borders of South America. Now, since traveling southeastward, as described in the comment by Williams, would have taken them in a direct course toward the continent of Australia, and beyond toward the Antarctic, they would, of necessity, have had to turn due east at some point to reach the west coast of Chile at thirty degrees south latitude.”
    So while the reader asked for an opinion on the first statement, we will endeavor to respond to both statements since they are inseparably connected.

As for our answer, consider the following three points:
Lehi had been traveling south-southeast along the Red Sea, then turned nearly eastward (blue arrow) after that
1. People assumed, though there is no comment or suggestion for it, that the term “did travel eastward from that time forth” (1 Nephi 17:1), had reference to more than the next location (Bountiful). Assumptions are never a wise basis for an opinion on such slim information and such an obvious single subject, i.e., traveled eastward from that time forth…until they “did come to the land which we called Bountiful” (1 Nephi 17:6).
2. Continuing east from Bountiful “in their efforts to follow the journey to a reasonable conclusion, simply followed the sailing party eastward across the pacific to a likely landing site,” is not the simple idea made to seem here. Between Arabia and the Pacific are 17,000 islands comprising 699,548 square miles in a total area (including seas) of 741,096 square miles, in the closely compacted area of the Indonesian archipelago. Besides the islands, the East Indian Archipelago (Indonesia) encompasses twelve seas, two gulfs and one straight, each with its own difficulties of negotiating currents, shoals, and daily squalls and torrential rain—even today with engines, GPS, and radar, the area “has a notorious reputation for being navigationally difficult.”
Map showing the larger of the 17,000 islands of Indonesia through which Lehi would have had to negotiate. Note the continual course changes that would be needed by inexperienced people who had never before been to sea--an in a sailing boat "driven forth before the wind." It should also be noted that this is considered the most difficult and dangerous sailing course on the planet
    Far too often, uninformed comments like that are made by individuals who are unfamiliar with the Sea. When it comes to sailing, two terms are important to keep in mind:  1) Pilotage or Cabotage, which is the art of sailing along the coast using known landmarks; and 2) Navigation, which is the art of sailing long distances out of sight of land. The former is the use of fixed visual reference of the shore, such as cliffs, rock, capes and points, to guide a ship to its destination, and is dependent on the pilot being able to recognize the visual references in order to make use of them, or capable of discovering them from a map. Obviously, such travel in 600 B.C. had to be done in the daytime, and with enough visibility, where the natural features could be seen from the ship.
    Cabotage, an original shipping term, meant “trade or transport in coastal waters,” from the French, Caboter, meaning “to sail along the coast.” It was the term later applied to the early traders before the Age of Sail, who plied the coastal waters.
Top: The early trade routes established by Cabotage vessels sailing by day and putting in at night, keeping in view of known landmarks along the coast; Bottom: The reason they put in at night—this is shot off the starboard bow, with the wheel in bottom left and rigging to right. Note that except for the moon trail across the water, nothing else can be seen though the boat is less than a mile from shore
    The latter is Navigation, and prior to the instruments known in the Age of Sailing, was often little more than “dead reckoning.” Sometimes called ded, for “deduced” reckoning (DR), where the navigator finds his position by measuring the course and distance he has sailed from some known point. Even though Columbus had a magnetic compass (they had been known in Europe since at least 1183), in his first voyage, he returned mostly by dead reckoning and was off two hundred miles when nearing the Azores. On rare occasions, an early sea captain might chance a dead reckoning voyage between two very well known points, with the advanced point one that if missed, a location could still be determined when reached from the known landmarks.
Consequently, for all those theorists who like to claim man was sailing the deep ocean, running between Arabia and Indonesia, before a magnetic compass was invented (left), might want to rethink their view. Without a compass, in open sea where there are no landmarks, is like sailing blindfolded--you have no idea where you are, or where you are going. As an example, as late as the 8th or 9th century A.D., Viking merchants navigated their “knarr”—a ship that was wider, deeper, and shorter than the Viking longship and used for long sea voyages—on regular journeys over the North Atlantic connecting their settlements in Norway, Iceland and Greenland. Although they had no magnetic compass, they were able to sail due West or due East courses by using the Sun at daytime and the stars at night to verify their course. From their port of departure, they would sail along the Norwegian coast North or South until they had reached the Latitude of their destination and then sailed on a constant course West to their port of destination. The prominent ice-covered mountain peaks of Iceland and Greenland were used as landmarks to approach these coasts. By experience, they knew approximately how long their voyages would take so that they also applied a kind of Dead Reckoning combined with an elaborate celestial knowledge of which they took advantage for their constant-latitude navigation.
Left: the shorter, stubbier and deeper Viking Knarr; Right: The more familiar narrower, shallower Viking Long Ship
    While that worked for the Vikings at their latitude, moving straight as an arrow so to speak, sailing in the Indian Ocean or through Indonesia could not have been done this way. Nor could the unique sailing of the Polynesians who moved basically due north and due south with a wide ocean around them, have been used by these early traders, or up to or even during the Age of Discovery.
    That leaves us only one explanation for Lehi’s deep sea voyage to the Land of Promise and it can be summed up in one word—Liahona. However, knowing changes of direction during the type of island-hopping voyage one would have taken through Indonesia in 600 B.C., would not have helped people who had never been to sea before, let alone who were not experienced mariners.
(See the next post, “They Turned Eastward” – Part II,” for the third point and more information on the article about sailing directly eastward and the complications of such an attempt)

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