Saturday, September 27, 2014

Changing Land of Promise—The Effect of Rising Mountains - Part III

Continuing with the past two posts and our understanding of how the changes described in 3 Nephi affected the landscape of the Land of Promise and what that means to us today.
As for the sudden rise of the Andes, modern geologists have recently concluded that the Andes rose quiet rapidly (in geologic terms), as portions of the dense lower crust and upper mantle that act like an anchor on the base of the crust are periodically detached and sink through the mantle as the thickened continental plate heats up. Detachment of this dense anchor allows Earth's low-density upper crust to rebound and rise rapidly.
This was the conclusion of Carmala Garzione (left), professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Rochester and colleagues after several years of studying the Andes range (“Clumped isotope evidence for diachronous surface cooling of the Altiplano and pulsed surface uplift of the Central Andes,” Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2014.) She and her team concluded that as the oceanic plate slipped under the continental plate, the latter shortened and thickened, increasing the pressure on the lower crust. The basaltic composition of the lower crust converted to a very high-density rock called eclogite, which served as an anchor to the low-density upper crust. As this root was forced deeper into the hotter part of the mantle, it heated to a temperature where it could be rapidly removed, resulting in the sudden rise of the mountain range. This is called a “rapid growth spurt,” which Garzione claims characterized the rise of the Andes. In fact this “swift rise” theory has been validated by other geologists.
    Not only that, but The work of one of Garzione's post-doctoral research fellows, Gregory D. Hoke, corroborates the sudden rise of the Andes and shows that not just the mountains, but a broad region more than 350 miles wide rose to some degree with the Andes. In research soon to be published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Hoke describes his findings on how rivers carved deep canyons into the flanks of the Andes as the mountain range rose. By dating the incisions and mapping the depth and extent of the canyons, Hoke shows that the surface uplift that occurred in the sedimentary basin where Garzione took her measurements must have happened across the entire width of the Andes Mountain range.
Suddenly, in the space of three hours, very tell mountains rose up where none had existed before  (Helaman 14:23; 3 Nephi 8:19)
    So what was the impact of this sudden rise on the Nephite lands? As an example, we actually know little about the topography of the Land of Promise after 34 A.D. For instance, we know that the hill Shim existed after the destruction outlined in 3 Nephi (Mormon 1:3; 4:23), and the hill Cumorah (Mormon 6:2), which was called Ramah by the Jaredites (Ether 15:11), though it is not mentioned by Moroni as such in his description (Ether 9:3). We also know that the land of many waters, rivers and fountains existed afterward as well (Mormon 6:4), though when mentioned earlier (Mosiah 8:8) no rivers and fountains are revealed; and the waters of Sidon (though no river is mentioned) still existed along the borders of Zarahemla (Mormon 1:10).
    We also know that the West Seashore existed (Mormon 2:6), and the Sea that Divides the Land near the City of Desolation, which was near the narrow neck of land (Mormon 2:6; 3:8; 4:3). Yet, the narrow neck of land is not mentioned, though the narrow passage is—perhaps in some way the division between the Land Southward and the Land Northward was no longer a neck of land between seas, though the same egress was there—the narrow passage. This may be the result of the Sea East disappearing, perhaps, since it is never mentioned after 3 Nephi. Perhaps those mountains, which rose to a great height blocked off the Sea East in some way.
In one of the more enlightening statements regarding the geography of the Land of Promise, Samuel the Lamanite makes a few simple statements, but ones that have a very significant impact on the land. He tells us:
    1. Existing mountains disappeared, falling to become valleys.
    2. Valleys rose significantly into mountains, “whose height is great.”
    3. The solid rock base of the ground, both above and beneath the earth, was broken up.
    4. Hills formed, burying existing cities beneath them.
    Now, if we take a look at these events, which by the way, “covered all the face of the land,” and “changed the whole face of the land,” with “exceeding damage,” (even the Lord himself said, "And many great destructions have I caused to come upon this land" (3 Nephi 9:12), we should see that what was known before would be changed considerably, no doubt being quite different afterward than it had been before.
    How can mountains disappear and not have an effect on the topography of the land? And how can new, very high mountains appear, without it creating new rivers and having a considerable effect on the climate and the layout of the land?
    When we also see that the sea was changed to ingress inland and sink great cities into its depth, and mountains rose up high over existing cities, why would we not think of the tremendous impact such changes would create?
    Also, when mountains rise to great heights suddenly like these described, they would take with their rise whatever had been at the lower level before, such as waters that would create alpine lakes, cities that would be elevated to considerable heights, planted fields that would be transformed into Cliffside plots, and no doubt, the disruption of coastlines and seacoasts. Sea-level, salt-water fish would be in alpine salt-water lakes, entire drainage basins would be eliminated and new ones formed. New weather patterns would emerge, snow where it might not have been before would occur, especially among these mountains “whose height is great.” Lower elevation crops would be destroyed, and new ones engineered for higher level ground.
The fact that none of these results of the destruction are recorded in the scriptural record does not change the fact that most, if not all of these changes would occur out of necessity when valleys ceased to exist and rise into very tall mountains. The fact that Nephi the disciple chose to write about the significant appearance of Christ and his message suggests its far greater importance than the temporal changes that occurred, but we ought to recognize that those changes would most certainly have followed the events described and in so doing, changed the “face of the entire land,” as pointed out by Nephi.
    One of those changes would have been the effects of rising mountains on the seacoast and what lie to the east of the Land of Promise. Originally, of course, there was the Sea East, which was a coastal area covering the entire eastern coast of the entire Land of Promise, including both the Land Southward (Alma 22:32) and the Land Northward (Ether 9:3) and the narrow neck of land in between (Alma 50:34). One can only wonder what happened to this Sea East at the time of all this destruction that “changed the entire face of the whole earth,” since it is never mentioned again.
    As has been pointed out here, it seems significant that the term “Sea East” or “East Sea” does not appear in the scriptural record after 3 Nephi, neither in the Land Southward nor in the Land Northward, nor in conjunction with the narrow passage. Keep in mind that in the description of the narrow passage before this destruction, it is mentioned in connection with the sea: ”by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east” (Alma 50:34), but not afterward.
    Does this mean the Sea East no longer existed after 3 Nephi? Obviously, we do not know that from the scriptural record, though much points to that possibility. Jacob, after all, tells us the Nephites were on an island (2 Nephi 10:20). That island no longer exists, which means that either Jacob didn’t know what he was talking about, nor did Nephi who recorded it, or something happened somewhere along the line to change the Land of Promise from an island to its present configuration.
    Such a change, as an example, took place in South America. Along the western shores of the present Andes existed in 600 B.C. (see a later post for a full explanation of these dates) a long and narrow island, matching the lengthwise Andean uplift. To the west was the Pacific Ocean, and to the east was the epicontinental seas, named the Pebesian, Amazon and Paranense. There is some discussion among geologists today as to whether these three seas were interconnected (forming just one actual sea) or if there was some division between one, two or all three, however, “the fact remains that most of the Amazon basin and the Paranáa River basin and the Pampas were under the sea.” Even parts of Patagonia were submerged, though the Somuncuráa Plateau and the Deseado shield were emerged land.
    In the north, beyond where present day Colombia is now located according to Anthony Coares, a staff scientists emeritus at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, tells us that “when the area that is now Panama was still a peninsula, ocean currents moving north along the north coast of South America spilled over to the Pacific Ocean through the wide Central American Seaway, also called the Atrato Seaway. As tectonic plate movement joined the peninsula with South America to form the present-day Isthmus of Panama, equatorial ocean currents between the Atlantic and Pacific were cut off, forcing water northward into the Gulf Stream current.” 
    This seaway covered what is now Panama, connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific, and a narrow waterway broke into the Pebesian Sea from the north (what is now the Caribbean Sea), covering much of what is now Colombia as it merged with the Pebesian.
(See the next post, “Changing Land of Promise—The Effect of Rising Mountains - Part IV,” for more information on the changes wrought by the events described in 3 Nephi, and their effect on the Land of Promise before and after 34 A.D. and how the Lord intervened to change this landscape in three hours)

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