Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Following Normal Sailing Patterns—The story of Andrés de Urdaneta

We have talked much about winds and currents, but it seems readers and Theorists alike seem not to grasp the full import of this, any more than they do the import of Jacob telling the Nephites they were on an island. Yet, this type of descriptive information Nephi, Jacob, Mormon and Moroni have left us is vital in understanding the geographic setting of the Book of Mormon and where the Land of Promise was located. 
    In fact, on such information hangs the truth or falsehood of Land of Promise locations and one’s entire theory and life’s work—not to mention the credibility such claims have on the general public and the scientific community as a whole.
    In this regard, we have mentioned on numerous occasions the winds and seas which, by the way, are the only accurate method to learn where Nephi’s ship sailed and where it could have and would have landed. This includes the sea currents and deep ocean winds that play a most important role—as they have throughout history from the beginning of sail down to and including the Age of Sail through the 19th century.
Left: The first sail boat, an Egyptian river boat on the Nile; Right: the last sailing ship, the Yankee Clipper, primarily bringing tea from China, and then gold from California and Australia
    The problem often lies in the fact that modern man loves to look at a map and say “This is where they must have gone” without a single understanding of the winds and currents that blow along that path across the deep oceans. In fact, ancient mariners did not fully understand such matters as winds and currents much before the square-rigged sailing ships 12th and 13th centuries, which eventually led to an understanding of the easterly winds that blew westward from the Canary Island Columbus discovered and allowed him to cross the Atlantic.
Since modern man has had technology for so long, he has a tendency to forget the problems facing ancient mariners who did not have modern ship-building technology, modern machines such as diesel engines (back-up or not), modern GPS, radios, SOS-calling, etc. Today, it seems a simple thing to point a finger and trace a path along a map and say, “This was the route!”
    In that way, of course, anyone can trace any course from the coast of southern Arabia to any place in the Western Hemisphere—however, they will not be correct. Yet, this same modern man would not consider taking early pioneers across the country through swamps, over tall mountains, up or down sheer steep cliffs on horseback, foot, or covered wagon. He understands there were trails these early pioneers took: the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, the Mormon Trail, etc. But at the same time, he will point to an ocean and see no difficulty in having an ancient vessel sail across it where he deems necessary.
As late as 1527, the Conqueror of Mexico, Hernán Cortés, thought the same way. He commissioned his cousin, Álvaro de Saavedra Cerón to sail from New Spain (Mexico) to the South Seas (South Pacific Ocean) to find new lands and open up trade routes with Mexico. Saavedra took three ships (La Florida, Espiritu Santo and Santiago) and sailed easily westward across the Pacific and arrived along the northern coast of Isla del Oro (The Golden Island, now known as New Guinea, and then to the Moluccas (Spice Islands) in Indonesia in 1528, becoming the first navigator to cross the Pacific Ocean from the Americas. But when he tried to sail back to Mexico, he was diverted by the northeast trade winds that threw him back to the Moluccas. A few days later, he tried a second time by navigating back down South. His ship shored in New Guinea, where they received food and water from the natives and then sailed again northeast where they discovered the Marshall and Admiralty Islands, but when they tried to continue northeast, they were driven back to the Moluccas for the third time. The following year, he tried again. In this fourth attempt, his ship was damaged and was killed in the attempt. 
    In fact, during the first half of the 16th century, Spanish galleons and ships could navigate from America to the Philippines, generally following the trans-Pacific course set by Ferdinand Magellan, but the return voyage proved nearly impossible because ships would face the prevailing easterly winds. Every expedition sent from New Spain (Mexico) during this period was either lost or forced to detour to the Moluccas, where they were taken as prisoners by the Portuguese. 
Even Magellan’s flagship Trinidad (left), loaded with 50 tons of cloves, tried to get back, and set sail from Tidore in the Maluku Islands of Indonesia on April, 1522, bound for Spain. After 10 days she set into one of the Marianas, then headed northeast, trying to reach the Westerlies along 42º or 43º north latitude, but did not find them. Thirty of the crew died, 3 jumped ship, leaving only 20 as she headed back for the Moluccas (an archipelago made up of 1000 islands in the Banda Sea just west of New Guinea, called the Spice Islands, but officially known as Maluku), reaching them after five months at sea in a limping, barely floating ship—only four survivors eventually got back to Europe.
Left: Andres de Urdaneta, Spanish circumnavigator; Center: A Manila (Spanish) Galleon that carried Chinese goods to Mexico; Right: The Manila-Acapulco Galleon Memorial at Plaza Mexico in Intramuros, Manila
    Which brings us to the story of Andrés de Urdaneta, a Spanish circumnavigator, explorer and Augustinian friar. His reputation of achieving the second circumnavigation of the globe (after Magellan and Elcano in 1522) brought him some distinction that eventually led to his appointment when the Spanish King Philip II directed the Viceroy of Mexico to prepare another expedition to establish direct Asian-American trade. Urdaneta was asked to help organize the initiative and guide the voyage as senior pilot-navigator. As such, his experience and knowledge were felt indispensable in finding the Tornaviaje (return sea route) and the Spanish Crown accepted his conditions. It took several months and several single voyages dispatched from Guam—a base with ample land, perennial streams, good leeward anchorages, abundant food staples and strategically located to reach Japan, the China coast, the Philippines and the Moluccas—to sail northward in looking for a change in winds and currents.
    Whatever Urdaneta might have lacked in formal training on the subject, he clearly had a good seaman's intuition, as shown by his justified disagreement with the pilots. While they insisted in going east, out into the Pacific, he stressed the importance of timing in relation to seasonal winds. After five months of arduous and dangerous effort, the San Pedro, with Urdaneta aboard, sailed north in 1565 from Cebu leaving at the most opportune time—nearly June—with a westerly monsoon and took the shortest track through the Trades and then along the Kuroshio Current past Japan (Honshu) where he was able to pick up the Westerlies at forty-two degrees north latitude. There he took the winds and currents of the North Pacific Gyre eastward to the North American coast and downward on the Gyre’s circular current past the Oregon coast and into the California Current.
The Manila Route of the Spanish Galleons after 1565. A ship “driven forth before the wind” could not have achieved a southern route from the California Current of the North Pacific Gyre until the Age of Sail and the type of rigging that allowed sailing (tacking) into the wind—it might be noted that this long and risky route was so dangerous, that more than 100 of the treasure-laden galleons were wrecked and sank in the currents and winds from 1570 to 1815.
    Along this northern route, the ship steered out of the North Pacific Gyre toward shore around southern Oregon and made landfall on the black beaches of Cape Mendocino, located on the Lost Coast entirely within today’s Humboldt County, which is the westernmost point on the coast of California. After replenishing and refitting, the ships sailed on down the California current to Acapulco. At least five of the galleons sunk off the coast, mostly around the 8-mile wide Drake’s Bay just past Point Reyes.
Cape Mendocino on the northern California coast
    This route became known as “Urdaneta’s Route” and opened up and established the trans-Pacific galleon trade and the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. The route was used by Manila galleons (called La Nao de la China because they carried Chinese goods from the Philippines to Mexico)—a route which lasted for nearly 250 years and is the only way across the Pacific eastward in the northern latitudes (along with the Southern Ocean in the southern latitudes).
    This, then, brings us to Lehi. In 600 B.C., before the sailing rigging and tacking knowledge known during the Age of Sale, and not developed for another nearly 2000 years, Nephi’s ship was completely dependent upon the winds and currents. While he had steering capability on his ship, it was not likely able to sail outside the direction the winds blew, for he tells us his ship was “driven forth before the winds” (1 Nephi 18:8). In fact, Nephi says he was “driven forth before the wind for the space of many days” (1 Nephi 18:9) and that after so sailing “for the space of many days, they did arrive at the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:22). No other form of momentum for his ship is ever described.
    However, the problem for Lehi would have been getting from the southern Arabian coast to the Philippines, an issue not to have been solved in 600 B.C.
(See the next post, “Following Normal Sailing Patterns—The Fallacy of Eastward Sailing,” to see why Urdaneta’s route would not have occurred in 600 B.C.)

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