Sunday, May 25, 2014

They Turned Eastward” – Part III

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. 
    In the last two posts, we have covered much of the problems such a voyage would have encountered, and the real world of trade voyages in the area of India and Indonesia in the late B.C. to early A.D. era. Here we continue with the problems a deep-ocean ship would encounter entering the Straits of Malacca, the only northern entrance into Indonesian waters.
Sea entrances into Indonesia Waters. Red Arrow: Malacca Strait between Malaysia and Sumatra islands; Yellow Arrow: Sundra Strait between Java and Sumatra islands; Green Arrow: Timor Sea between Timor and Australia; Blue Arrow: Also through the islands between Java and Timor, though this would not be recommended
    While entering Indonesia from the south coming up with the eastern arm of the South Indian Ocean Gyre—the direction the Portuguese found possible in the 1200s—is not the same as entering from the north, as Mesoamericanists claim Lehi sailed, and would not have been possible coming from Arabia. The northern entrance, the Malacca Strait, is quite another matter. According to the Institute of Oceanography and Environment, University of Malaysia Terengganu, the water currents at the northern entrance to the Strait (between Sumatra and Maylasia) from where it meets the Andaman Sea are extremely strong.
    And according to the Sailing Directions for Malacca Strait, by Staff Commander, John Cummins Richardson of the Royal Navy in 1876 (Oxford University), Malacca Strait, which is 550 miles long, narrows from 210 miles in the north to 8 miles in the south where it is congested with a range of low islands. Numerous large rivers empty into the Strait, and mud banks of both shores extend up to 18 miles into the Strait, and numerous detached groups of islands affect navigation. Winds within the Strait blow out of the southeast and southwest, making sailing headway down the Strait difficult at best. These winds are accompanied by heavy, sudden and severe Squalls during the nights, sometimes blowing for six to eight hours as a moderate gale, along with sudden, severe winds in the northwestern part, but sometimes blow all the way to Singapore in the south. While current generally runs with the winds, in the Strait at times, it runs obliquely and even contrary to the wind, with the rise and fall of the tides as high as fifteen feet.
The Malacca Strait between Malaysia and Sumatra. Red Arrow: Northern (or West) entrance to the Strait; Blue Arrow: the Southern (or East) entrance to the Strait
    In the south, the Strait of Malacca receives contrary currents from the South China Sea and the straits around Singapore at the southern tip of Malaysia where the Pacific Ocean (east) and the Indian Ocean meet. The movement of currents in the southern part of the Straits of Malacca is unstable compared to the northern segment of the waterway as the southern end of the straits is narrower and more confined with several small islands clogging the strait. The currents here form large sand waves, sand banks and shallow shoals along the waterway.
    These characteristics can impact adversely on smooth navigation. During squalls, visibility can decrease considerably and these conditions can make it difficult for mariners to navigate their vessels through the straits. However, while experienced seamen will find the Strait navigable, there are no objects from which bearings can be given to clear the numerous dangers, especially of the encroaching South Sands, at some points there is 29 to 60 fathoms of mud.
    Cummins’ book suggests several twists and turns to avoid shallow shoal waters, mud banks, and in some areas, a specific distance from land, such as between three and ten miles is necessary, with soundings near the sands extremely irregular according to the quickness of depth changes. “Vessels, therefore should approach with care.” In fact, his 64-page book is dedicated solely to sailing in the Malacca Strait, which should suggest the extreme difficulty such an endeavor would be for for a novice sailor, not to mention a family who had never been to sea before and knew nothing of operating a sailing ship in 600 B.C.
    The first two posts and this one up to this point covered two of the three points brought up by the article sent to us. This third point is a response to their statement: ““The final piece of information given in the Williams’ statement indicates that Lehi and his people sailed in a south east 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.”
First outriggers, then outriggers with sails, and finally large enough to carry trade goods. These early Indonesian traders were seamen from early childhood and knew the sea, and their small craft were very maneuverable in coastal waters
    The point often neglected by those who take Lehi through this congested archipelago is that these early seamen who plied these waters trading among the islands, were born and raised near and on the water. First migrations, then trade, were a way of life. They used canoes, then outriggers, then added sails, which are highly maneuverable in coastal waters and enabled these earlier seamen to fish far offshore, and eventually move among the islands. As Peter Bellwood put it in his article "Ancient Seafarers" in Archaeology Archive, these early seamen were "able to cross open sea, in this case the 15-mile-wide Strait of Lombok between Bali and Lombok." A fifteen-mile-wide strait is not the same as sailing in deep water across an ocean. In addition, these seamen, living on and around the sea all their lives, gaining their livelihood and even existence from the sea, were very comfortable and adept in their small outriggers and these early trade routes were developed by such men. Lehi and his family and those with them were not seamen, did not grow up on the sea, and, in fact, had never been to sea at any time prior to setting out in the ship Nephi built. To compare them with these early Indonesian traders, as Sorenson and others do, is simply out of the question.  
    3. Lehi sailed southeast. If Lehi had been flying a plane, the comment is correct. However, when sailing a ship “driven forth before the wind” (1 Nephi 18:8, 9), one has to take into account where the winds and currents would take a “drift voyage,” that is, a ship driven by winds and ocean currents in a southeast heading—which is never a straight line. On a map, of course, a strait south-southeast line would lead directly to Perth, Australia from Arabia; however, when taking into account the winds and currents any sailing ship of the period would have had to rely on would take the vessel southward away from Arabia, first into the Sea of Arabia with currents and winds blowing toward the south (and slightly west—south by southwest) until entering the Indian Ocean (South Indian Ocean Gyre), which is a circular wind and current, blowing south then south-east. The southeast direction would take the vessel into the West Wind Drift, a very fast circumpolar current that circles uninterrupted around the globe, which is carried along by the Prevailing Westerlies, a very strong wind blowing out of the west and toward the east around the globe.
Left: Lehi’s course through the Sea of Arabia. On a smaller scale, the course looks to be south; Right: Lehi’s Course through the Indian Ocean and into the Southern Ocean’s West Wind Drift and Prevailing Westerlies. On a larger scale, the course is southeast
    When drawing this on a map, the ship would have traveled mostly in a southeast direction until entering the West Wind Drift, which then moves eastward around the planet--it is not that one finally turns east, it is the current that takes one through this curve to a final heading of east.
    The article went on to say: “Many might reasonably question why the Williams statement was given such importance when numerous theories were being introduced at the time. The answer to that question becomes more apparent when we realize that Williams was the Prophet’s scribe during the years between 1833 and 1837, and because the proposed landing site of Lehi was found on the same sheet of paper with a known revelation regarding John the Beloved. Thus, many Saints believed the proposed Chilean landing site must have been a revelation as well. One thing cannot be overlooked, however - the revelation regarding John the Beloved was received in 1829 before Williams even joined the Church. Therefore, the paper with the heading "A Revelation Concerning John the Beloved" appears to be nothing more than a note penned by Mr. Williams in reference to the earlier revelation - possibly during his hours spent in the school of the prophets. Nonetheless, Williams’ proposed landing site of Lehi eventually found its way into print.”
    I apologize for returning to this subject, but it amazes me that so much has been said and written to disclaim this statement as a revelation that no one seems to ever ask why was it written at all?
    As has been pointed out in earlier and recent posts, the area of Coquimbo Bay at the 30º south latitude on the Chilean coast, and the area of La Serena adjoining it and the Elqui Valley adjoining La Serena would not have been known to Williams or the prophet under normal circumstances. If not a revelation, if not inspiration, then one must confess that this wild guess or scribbled notation is one of the luckiest and most accurate statements that could have been made in the 1830s. The details as to how it came to be on the paper is of little consequence when compared with how this area is such a total match to the scriptural record, that one has to be awe-struck when looking into it. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Theorists, with their own personal reasons, have ignored it from Day One.
    The end result, however, is it matches the course a Drift Voyage would have taken from the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula (Nephi’s “driven forth before the wind”), and the landing site would have been located there because of winds and currents. And at that exact location are the precise items mentioned by Nephi that he found on the land; i.e., wilderness, forest, climate to match his seeds brought from Jerusalem, and the singular ore of gold, silver and copper, including all manner of ore. All of this in the exact place Nephi’s ship would have set in being "driven forth before the wind"—30º south latitude, along the Chilean coast, and everything within walking distance of the shore. How could Williams or the prophet have known this in the backwoods of where they lived in the 1830s? Much of it was not even known until the 20th century! And further north, where Nephi would have gone after separating from his murderous brothers, is found the matches to all the other items described by Mormon found in the Land of Promise. What more could one ask for?

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