Saturday, November 29, 2014

How Seaworthy was Nephi’s Ship? Part II

Continuing from the last post regarding the building of Nephi’s ship and what would have been involved and why it is important to understand what was written about it. 
   The Lord told Nephi to build a ship once they reached the area Lehi called Bountiful (1 Nephi 17:7-8) along the coast of the Sea of Arabia, which Lehi called the Irreantum Sea. Nephi’s brothers and the sons of Ishmael laughed at such a task and called him a fool (1 Nephi 17:17) for none had ever been to sea and knew nothing about ship building. But the Lord showed Nephi how to build the vessel (1 Nephi 18:1-2) and, unfortunately, most readers of the scriptural record let it go at that, without bothering to learn the importance of this information.
    “Thou shalt construct a ship, after the manner which I shall show thee” conveys some interesting and vital information for those interested in learning where Lehi sailed and where he landed.
    At the same time, though, being shown how something is to be done is not the same as being capable of doing it. Consider what is involved in building a ship large enough to carry Lehi and Ishmael’s families across the deep ocean.
    This would have been no small fete.
    As stated in the last post, ship design is based on several factors, and in realizing what those factors, or requirements, were, is to better understand what Nephi’s ship was like and what it was meant to do.
Note the design of early sailing ships in the Mediterranean abut the time of Lehi—the curvature of the centerline (red arrows) shows the instability of the vessel in high seas; not only the rocking fore and aft, but the inability to ride through high waves, into a trough, and survive the next wave. Mediterranean sailing did not require deep ocean type designs, and except for the addition of ramming requirements of warships, this design lasted for several millennia
Note the design of early ocean sailing vessels nearly two millennia after Lehi sailed. The bow (blue arrows) was straightened with only a slight curve to force water down and away, which added forward stability; (red arrows) the centerline was straightened and reinforced with a keel, in some cases extending a blade downward to increase side-to-side stability; (green arrows) the stern was vertical, adding an inboard rudder and bringing the keel straight back
    As stated in the previous post, building a ship to hug the coasts of Arabia, India, and Sumatra/Malaysia is one thing; to build a ship that would be capable of crossing the deep ocean is quite another. To build a vessel meant to drift with the current (a raft) is different than building a ship to be blown or driven by the wind (sails). To build a ship capable of negotiating narrow channels (Malucca Strait), set in at various islands along the way (Indonesia), and maneuver through shallow waters, shoals, reefs, etc. is very different than building a ship meant to sail from one place to another across the deep open seas.
Left: A cog, used for trading and coastal waters because of its flat bottom and high sides; Right: The Caravela Latina that discovered and sailed the coasts of Africa
    As an example, during the first half of the 15th century, the Caravel was the ship chosen by Portuguese mariners to sail the coast of Africa. Before that time, most used cogs of about 25 tons, which had a single mast, and were replaced by the Caravels which had greater speed and an ability to tightly maneuver in coastal waters. However, according to Richard W. Unger (The Ship in the Medieval Economy, 600-1600, 1980, Montreal, McGill-Queen’s University Press), when these small, maneuverable ships of discovery (running coastal waters around Africa) became impractical for deep ocean exploring, the caravela latina was transformed into the caravela redonda, a three-masted vessel wielding square sail, and lateen sails were generally converted to square-rigged sailers. Before crossing the Atlantic, Columbus stopped in the Canary Islands and converted the lateen sails on two of his ships to square-rigged canvas. 
The Caravela Redonda. This is like La Niña (Little Girl), Columbus’ favorite ship in which he logged over 25,000 miles. At 50-60 tons, she was originally built to travel the Mediterranean Sea, and not designed for open water as ships over 100 foot in length and upwards of 1000 ton
    To speak of courses taken by early traders in comparison with that needed by a far more heavily-laden vessel designed for deep ocean sailing is to show an obvious lack of knowledge of such matters and ignore the different requirements needed and fulfilled by those seamen. So is to speak of the simple and easy voyages of Vikings, Columbus, Magellan, Drake, and others, without knowing anything more about them than what they probably learned in school or read about in simple history. However, each of these voyages were neither simple nor easy.
Viking ships sailed close to land and in the calm waters of the far north, along the coasts of the Shetlands, Faeroe, Iceland, Greenland to New Foundland
    Despite what may have heard or earlier learned, the Vikings did not sail out to sea—they hugged the coasts of known lands, or sailed short distances to nearby lands they believed to have existed just over the horizon, often first discovered and reported by survivors of coastal vessels that had been blown off course.
    As an example, the Vikings first went to sea sailing from Norway 160 miles across the Norwegian Sea to the Shetland archipelago, which consists of 116 islands with an land area of 567 miles and 1,679 mile coastline, that lie 50 miles northeast of Orkney (Scotland), between the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean. From there they sailed 170 miles to the Faeroe (Færøerne—”the islands of sheep”) archipelago, a group of 18 islands covering an area 70 miles long and 50 miles wide, about 540 square miles roughly in the shape of an arrowhead, lying between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic, 200 miles north-northwest of Scotland.
    From there they sailed to Iceland, 300 miles to the West, and then about 185 miles to Greenland, and from there likely took a short route across the Davis Strait to Baffin Island and down the coast to New Foundland. The point is, they pretty much were moving along the southern coasts of islands all the way to their eventual destination in New Foundland, where they attempted a short-lived settlement.
As ship designs became more stable, the width and length of the ship in the water was increased; Left: White arrows show the beam of the ship sitting in the water; Yellow arrow shows the length of the ship in the water; Light green arrow shows the inboard rudder on a vertical plane, giving the vessel much greater steerage; Right: Even the Chinese junks were increased in size and strength during the Age of Sail, with the stern (red arrow) still curved, but not as much, and the (light blue arrow) showing a straighter center line resulting in more of the vessel from bow to stern in the water for increased stability
    It should also be kept in mind that these early voyages were accomplished by:
    1. Ships designed to sail the blue waters (deep oceans) and were strong enough to withstand constant wave pounding;
    2. They had captains who had been to sea for many years (Columbus went to sea at the age of 10; sailed the Mediterranean, had been to England, Ireland, and Iceland; traded along the coasts of West Africa; had extensively read and studied astronomy, geography, and history, including Ptlomy, Imago Mundi, travels of Marco Polo, Mandeville, Pliny, and Pope Pius II’s Historia Rerum Ubique Gestarum; he also knew celestial navigation, which used the position of the sun and the stars in the sky that had long been in use by astronomers and implemented by mariners;
    3. They had experienced pilots (navigators) who knew the waters through which they sailed or had the knowledge passed on from other navigators;
    4. They had crews of experienced mariners to handle the rigorous jobs of taking in canvas, changing sails, tightening or loosening rigging, etc., and
    5. They had sufficient numbers of men to handle the day-to-day jobs of running a ship at sea.
    Toward the end of the Age of Sail, large, heavy ships were designed, adding multiple masts and stacked sails (topgallants and royals; with upper topgallants, skysails, and moonsails later added for increased canvas, giving the heavier ships more speed; and even later (side) studding sails stacked three or four high were added both port and starboard for even more canvas (speed) to compensate for the added weight of construction, crew and cargo.
Despite all the canvas possible, including the studding sails, ships were often becalmed in the seas, requiring manned longboats (barge), attached with long ropes, to pull the ship through the water in search of a following wind that would fill the sails and move the ship forward
    It is obviously apparent that not only was Nephi’s ship seaworthy, that it was designed by the Lord and built under direct and specific tutelage of Nephi’s continual visits with the Lord where he learned many “great things” (1 Nephi 18:3), but that it was designed for Lehi’s specific voyage where the wind and currents took the vessel. Obviously, the Lord was involved in all aspects of leading Lehi from Jerusalem to the Land of Promise, including the specific and detailed design and construction of Nephi’s ship.
    With this understanding, then, all that is needed is to know where the winds blew and the currents flowed from the southern coast of Arabia to the Western Hemisphere. Once that path is followed, one can find the location of the Land of Promise. And once located, see if it matched allof the descriptions given by Nephi and Mormon regarding its location.

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