Friday, October 24, 2014

Mormon’s Abridgement Part V – “Arise and Go Down Into the Ship”

Continuing from the last post regarding the many descriptions found in the Book of Mormon concerning the Land of Promise. In this post, let us look at Nephi’s comments about building his ship and the Lord directing Lehi when to commence the voyage.
    It was the Lord who told Nephi to build a ship (1 Nephi 17:8) and how it should be constructed (1 Nephi 18:1) and that it was not to be built after the manner of men (1 Nephi 18:2).
Ancient Ship hoisted and braced above the slipway so construction on the hull could he accomplished 
    In building his ship along the seashore at Bountiful, we might understand that it was built on some type of slipways (called “ways”) in order to move the finished ship from where it was constructed into the water. Normally, ways are arranged perpendicular to the shoreline (or as nearly so as the water and maximum length of vessel allows) and the ship is built with its stern facing the water.
    Anciently, these slipways were made of stone or wood, but modern slipways are built of steel or a reinforced concrete, and extend well below the water level (taking into account tidal variations). The vessel is built upon temporary cribbing that is arranged to give access to the hull's outer bottom, and to allow the launch ways to be erected under the completed hull. When it is time to prepare for launching a pair of standing ways are erected under the hull and out onto the barricades. The surface of these ways are greased (Tallow and whale oil were used as grease anciently during the time of sailing ships, which allowed it to “slip off the ways”). 
Top Left: Remains of an ancient rock slipway; Top Right: Remains of an ancient wood slipway; Bottom: Slipways in Tel Dor in Israel that date from the time of Abraham 
    How the Lord instructed Nephi to build his slipways to launch or move the ship into the water is not recorded, but there are signs of ancient ways along the Wadi Dharbat at Khor Rori, about 15 miles east of Salallah, the area Lehi likely called Bountiful
The area of Khor Rori where Nephi likely built his ship. Yellow Arrow: the ancient city of Samhuram, which was built about 300 years after Lehi left; Red Arrows: the present sand bar which did not exist in 600 B.C. and the Wadi Dharbat had access to the Arabian Sea; Blue Arrow: The likely cliff where Nephi’s brothers threatened to throw him into the sea; and Green Arrow: The location of the slipways Nephi probably built, their remains can still be seen today 
Ancient slipways along the Wadi Dharbat at Khor Rori, where a ship was built in B.C. times 
One of the mountains overlooking Khor Rori and the area of Lehi’s Bountiful. Perhaps it was here Nephi received instruction on building his ship (1 Nephi 17:7) 
    When the ship was completed, they packed it with their provisions and boarded (1 Nephi 18:6) and “put forth into the sea,” no doubt sliding it down the ways by brute force. It is also obvious that when they put the ship into the water, there were favorable winds that moved them down the wadi and into the sea. At this point, the current from the Wadi Dharbat carried beyond the breakers and directly into the sea, making it easy for the ship to gain momentum from the winds. Today this sea is called the Sea of Arabia, in Roman times it was called Mare Erythraeum (Erythraeum Sea), and it was named the Irreantum Sea (Many Waters) by Lehi upon first seeing it. And indeed it was “many waters,” for the Sea of Arabia is part of the Indian Ocean, which is part of the Southern Ocean, which to the west is part of the Atlantic Ocean and to the east is part of the Pacific Ocean—these oceans are free-flowing seas open to one another and encompasses the largest continuous flow of seas in the world, connecting almost all of the major bodies of water on the planet.
    Sailing from the Wadi into the Sea of Arabia would have been without incident since the continental shelf is narrow along the coast, with no coral reefs and land deposits cover the major part of the continental slope to a depth of about 9,000 feet.
    The winds are also favorable for such sailing six months out of the year, with the Northeast Monsoon blowing from the northeast and flow out from land into the sea from October through May—a time with little rain.
Graphs showing that (top left) the monsoon winds blow inland during six months of the year and (top right) out toward the sea the other six months (yellow arrows show where Lehi's Bountiful and their embarkation point was located). Obviously, when “the voice of the Lord came unto my father, that we should arise and go down into the ship.” (1 Nephi 18:5), it was no doubt after October, when the winds shifted and blew out to sea, and even later when the Somalia Current shifted to blow southward 
    Once into the Sea of Arabia, Nephi’s ship would have picked up the monsoon winds, which are some of the strongest winds on the planet, blowing at a constant 30 miles per hour, and beginning in October moving southward toward the Indian Ocean.
    While the Monsoon Winds shift to blow toward the southwest in October, the Somalia Current (which is driven principally by the 30 mph monsoon winds) and the 186 to 343 mile-wide anticyclone known since 1876 as the Great Whirl transport of the Socotra Gyre massive vortex  (which, according to the Journal of Geophysical Research of Oceans, has intense surface currents, which are even more intense because of two or three flanking cyclones that accompany the Whirl at least seventy percent of the time—which begin a month before and lasts for a month after the monsoon) are still moving northward in the Arabian Sea. It might be noted, that during some years, the Great Whirl has been noted to increase in size from 200 miles to over 1000 miles between June and September.
    However, in December the Somali Current reverses its direction and flows southward and increases in velocity, while the Great Whirl (actually two eddies) begins a slow migration to the north as a result of advective effects (advection of vorticity or vortex stretching), eventually combining, then dissipating and eventually disappearing altogether after its 166-day existence from May to November each year (though sometimes longer); however, there is still some movement of outside currents to the northwest and a little conflict of currents where the Indian Ocean meets the Arabian Sea; consequently, it is most likely that Lehi did not embark from Bountiful until January, if he was to miss these northward moving currents altogether. For it is in January when all currents are flowing into the Indian Ocean Gyre and moving in a southwest, then south, then southeast circular direction.
According to COADS (Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set) of the RSMAS Technical Report [2004], the Samolia Current, despite the change in monsoon winds off the southern Arabian coast beginning in October, does not fully flow southward until December; Blue Arrow: October flow of the Somalia Current is still moving northeast; Brown Arrow: November flow of the Somalia is mostly reversing, but the southern portion is still moving northward; Red Arrow: December flow has the Somalia Current all flowing southward, but beyond that the Indian Ocean flow is still northward; and Green Arrow: January flow shows all currents of Somalia, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean flowing southward 
    One of the points of all this is that these winds and resulting currents off the Arabian coast where Lehi’s ship would have traveled limited direction of sail of a deep sea sailing vessel dependent upon the wind, only to the southward, and also to show the folly in Lehi’s time to trying to sail when the winds were not just right. Hence, once again, Lehi was told by the Lord when to embark—“and the voice of the Lord came unto my father, that we should arise and go down to the ship” (1 Nephi 18:5)—which they did the following day (1 Nephi 18:6).
    Another point is that these monsoon winds, which do not move eastward around India, would by necessity blow—or drive—a sailing ship dependent solely upon the wind, toward the Socotra archipelago of four islands to the south, 240 miles from the Arabian coast (and 150 miles east of the Horn of Africa). It is around this point that a recorded incident occurred--but first, Nephi and his brothers and the others would have had to get their "sea legs" and learn how to handle a large sailing ship.
(See the next post for another of these Land of Promise factors described by Mormon that should help on to understand where the Land of Promise was located)

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