Saturday, May 24, 2014

They Turned Eastward” – Part II

Continuing with the last post about a reader’s quote sent in and wanted us to comment upon it. The quote had to do with Lehi traveling at one point nearly eastward (as they crossed the great sand desert of Arabia), and if that didn’t also mean it was the direction they traveled once in their ship and sailing to the Land of Promise. 
    The problem and answer lie in the need to know about the conditions, features and oceans eastward from Arabia. And why early trade routes would not have been workable for Nephi’s deep sea ship.
    The early traders in Indonesia and India were considered low-caste merchants and sailors, and until recently, believed to have not traded across the sea in West Java and Kalimantanand earlier than the fourth or fifth centuries A.D; however, it is now understood that the very first evidence of trade in this region was between India and the small island of Bali, off the eastern coast of Java in Indonesia, and dated to 2000 years ago by Lansing, Redd, Karafet, et all, in a 1991 study by the Anthropology Department of the University of Arizona, Tucson. Still, this is hundreds of years after Lehi went to sea.
Left: More than a thousand years after Lehi, in 500 A.D., Srivijaya began to develop in Sumatra, and in the 7th century A.D., Srivijayan trade routes in the South China Sea were just becoming well established between the major islands and the mainland of Southeast Asia (today: Thailand, Cambodia and Vitenam); Right: A replica of an 8th Century A.D. Indonesian ship
    In the pre-history of Indonesia, not until the middle of the 2nd century A.D., (850 years after Lehi), did the first Indonesia kingdom, Kutai (Dayak Kutai) rise into existence on Borneo, followed by Tanumanagara (Taruma), beginning in 358 A.D., and by 397 controlled 48 small kingdoms on the island of Java, and Kalingga in the 500s, also on Java, which opened trade routes with two India emperors.
Red Arrow: Sumatra; Yellow Arrow: Borneo; Blue Arrow: Java; Green Arrow: South Sulawesi
    A century later, Srivijaya (Sri Vijaya) on Sumatra rose to power to control the trade of the Indonesia region and was a formidable sea power until the thirteenth century. Around 600 A.D., Arab traders stopped at Indonesian ports along the way to Guangzhou and other southern Chinese ports. By the 11th century A.D., the courts of Borneo were exporting dammar resin, hornbill ivory, camphor to China and India, and Buginese in Southern Sulawesi (Celebes) traded iron resourced with Java, while the North Moluccan ports traded their legendary clove and nutmeg with other Indonesian islands. All of which gave rise to pirate fleets based near Palembang, on the north coast of Sumatra.
The voyages of Zheng He in 1405-1433 A.D. Note his course close to the coasts
    In 1292, Marco Polo landed in northern Sumatra on his way back to Europe from China. And in the 12th century, an emperor of the Ming Dynasty commissioned Grand Eunuch Zheng He to make seven naval expeditions, each comprising hundreds of ships and crews numbering more than 20,000 to the coasts of China to Southeast Asia, Arabia and East Africa, using Java and Sumatra as waystops. By the fifteenth century Melaka was a rich port city that dominated the Strait of Malacca and controlled much of the archipelago's trade.
    In all of this, it should be kept in mind that these sea trades were within Indonesian waters and did not move outward into the Indian Ocean or Sea of Arabia until as late as the eighth and ninth centuries A.D.—1500 years after Lehi sailed.
    In fact, mariners, both ancient and in the days of the Age of Sail, had to consider the space on board for food, and often ship masters could not fill their ship with enough food for any lengthy coastal voyage, especially one involving trade which required space for goods, and had to find sheltered beaches where drinking water could be found, and hopefully river estuaries where both food and water could be found.
    As Arthur de Graauw pointed out in his Ancient Ports and Harbours, ships carried "Pilots," one in charge of setting the course from one anchorage to another. They used “periples,” a record of earlier treks or voyages (often such secrets were committed to memory). It was the ship pilot’s responsibility to find sheltered areas to set in for the night where food and water could be obtained and a safe haven from the extreme risk of sailing coastal waters at night.
    Seafarers, especially ancient ones, preferred shelters with clear landmarks on shore (such as a typical mountain) and many shelters were needed, as seafarers followed the coast, using safe shelters to spend the night and to escape bad weather. These early cabotage voyages began in the east (China) and sailed westward, with the winds all the way through Indonesia ports and to Arabia and East Africa. Returning was a different matter, for moving against the winds and currents required a much slower voyage with constant evening stops. In fact, as late as the twelfth century, Portuguese sailors trying to sail to the Spice Islands (Indonesia) across the Indian Ocean (west to east), took them three and four times as long as sailing back (east to west) along the same route. They finally found that sailing down along the Southern Ocean in the swift current toward Australia, then swinging north along the eastern curve of the South Indian Ocean Gyre,  took them directly to Indonesia, sailing from south to north.
The basic winds through the Sea of Arabia, Indian Ocean, and Indonesia. Note that through Indonesia, all winds flow basically from east to west, blocking any movement of a ship “driven forth before then wind” from traveling from east to west through the archipelago and into the Pacific 
    Still, sailing in these early days, especially among islands, was very different than one might expect living in our day and age. The Captain simply did not just grab the spoked wheel and holler out to haul in the lines and sail away—he had the help of several people, including an expert who was usually third in command under the Captain (Captain-General) and the Master (usually the owner or his representative), called a Pilot.
    As an example, when Vasco da Gama sailed around Africa on his wide swing out into the Atlantic, he had a Gujarati Pilot named Ahmad ibn Majid aboard to direct the course, however the famous Arab pilot mistook the town of Capna for the rich Hindu port of Calicut, the principle market of trade for precious stones, pearls, and spices, and the ship anchored six miles down the coast from their destination. Portuguese Pedro Álvares Cabral sailed to Brazil with a fleet of thirteen ships, then down around the tip of Africa in 1500 following de Gama’s route, he had a Pilot named Alfonso Lopes guiding his lead ship.
Captain Cabral (white arrow) standing on the Main Deck among the crew, pointing to the Brazilian coast; the ship’s Pilot, Alfonso Lopes (white arrow), stands on the Quarter Deck calling out the sight of land
    Each of Columbus’ three ships had a pilot. The Santa Maria, Columbus’ flagship, had Sancho Ruiz (Cristobal Garcia Xalmiento was Pilot of the Pinta, and Pedro Alonso Niño, Pilot, and Bartolome Roldan, apprentice pilot, of the Niña).
Top: The Captain and Pilot (Red Arrow) stood on the Quarter Deck (Green Arrow), open to the sky and ocean about them; the Helm or Steerage (Blue Arrow) was at the rear of the Main Deck (because that was where the tiller was located), with no view of the ocean or sky, blocked out by the Quarter Deck above and the masts and Forecastle forward—however, the experienced sailor steering could see out the back of the ship at the wake, and if it was straight, he was steering a straight course. The Captain oversaw the entire ship while the Pilot was in charge of the ship’s steerage, with lookouts above on the maintop (crow’s nest) and Forecastle to shout out directions when the ship neared land, shoals, reefs, etc.; Bottom Left: Columbus’ ship, the “Santa Maria”; Bottom Right: Close-up of the ship’s stern with the experienced seaman at the tiller, with the Captain in his cabin writing in his log, and the ship’s Pilot looking out to sea
(See the next post, “They Turned Eastward” – Part III,” for more information on the article about sailing directly eastward and the very real complications of such an attempt)

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