Sunday, November 30, 2014

While We’re on the Subject

We have often been accused of beating a dead horse in relationship to the ships, sea currents, and winds that existed and were involved in bringing Lehi to the Land of Promise. However, we do this from time to time because of the lack of knowledge and understanding regarding sailing vessels in 600 B.C., and the description of the ship Nephi built that he gives us and how it was propelled. 
    All of which tells us where, when, and how he sailed, and in so doing, where he would have landed.
    Despite this information Nephi discloses, and the impact it should have on understanding where he sailed and that course would have taken him, we are frequently confronted with comments from readers, especially those who support the Mesoamerican theory, or the Heartland and Great Lakes theories, that Lehi just “sailed across the Pacific” or Atlantic, as though it was an open highway like I-15 that takes one from southern California through Las Vegas and on to Salt Lake City.
    However, as discussed in the last two posts, the ship that the Lord showed Nephi how to build, would have been built to accomplish a certain purpose (taking Lehi’s family across the ocean to the Land of Promise), and would have been designed to accomplish that task based upon the course the Lord had in mind for Lehi to travel (open ocean or island-hopping, free sailing or maneuvering through changing currents and winds).
    Thus, a ship’s design would have to be sufficient to accomplish that particular purpose and course (sailing conditions). This means, Nephi’s ship would have been designed to sail the deep ocean waters (strong, fast, and durable in order to withstand the constant pounding of deep ocean waves, currents, wind and overall weather), and since Nephi tells us it was “driven forth before the wind,” it would have been designed to sail freely in deep water and not be encumbered by maneuvering through islands, archipelagos, through narrow channels, and having to avoid shoals, reefs, and shallow waters.
    Leaving the southern Arabian coastline and sailing out into the Sea of Arabia and Indian Ocean, two things become apparent: 1) the only course available because of existing winds and currents, and 2) a ship designed to sail that particular course the winds and currents allowed.
The world’s oceans are a mass of constantly traveling flows moved by trade, monsoon, and Coriolis currents and winds, and any ship “driven forth before the wind,” as Nephi’s ship is described, could only sail where the winds blew it
    So many Theorists seem to think that Lehi just got into the open ocean and sailed across the Pacific without a concern for these wind patterns. However, as we have tried to explain many times in these posts, open seas are a mass of currents and winds that are both constant and powerful. Before the Age of Sail that brought the design of moveable yards, stacked masts, lateen and square-rigged sails, and the type of ship’s overall rigging that allowed sailing into the wind, tacking and maneuverability of ships at sea, sailing the open oceans was difficult and fraught with danger and failure. This is because it simply was not possible to sail just anywhere in a ship requiring a following wind (like Nephi describes his ship to have been)—the direction of sail was in the direction of the wind, so if you wanted to end up in a specific location, you had to find a wind that would take you there or not sail.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center “Perpetual Ocean Graphic” of the mass of constantly moving currents and winds across the Indonesian waters and the Pacific. Every white line indicates moving water paths—the bolder the line the stronger the current. Note there is no place where the water is stagnant—its movement in constantly diverging directions is indeed perpetual
    As simple an understanding as this is, far too many Theorists ignore it completely and just move Lehi across the ocean as though it were a super highway. However the knowledge of winds and currents was known as early as the Portuguese sailors who knew all about Volta do mar (“turn of the sea”), which refers to winds and currents in the ocean—which was many years before Columbus.
    Before he sailed and discovered the New World, mariners knew of the brisk trade winds from the east, commonly called “easterlies,” that took Columbus west from the Canary Islands across the Pacific to the Caribbean. The problem at the time was not in getting westward into the Pacific, but in getting back—to return to Spain against this prevailing wind would have required several months of an arduous sailing technique called beating (zigzagging to port or starboard), during which time food and drinkable water would obviously have been exhausted. Even today it is virtually impossible to sail directly into the wind or even on a course that is too close to the direction from which the wind is blowing (called the “no-go zone”) which, depending on the design of the boat, its rig, and its sails, as well as on the wind strength and the sea state (currents), this zone can vary from 30- to 50-degrees to either side of the wind. Square-rigged sailing vessels were never able to “point” anywhere near that close to the wind, though it is still considered the most efficient running rig (that is, running before the wind, or having a “tail-wind”—what Nephi called “driven forth before the wind”).
First steam engine ships late 1800s to the early 20th century when they were replaced by reciprocating (piston) engines
    Not until the age of steam engines and later diesels, was it possible to run (point) directly into the wind, or on any course desired, with the understanding that the speed of the current, if flowing against you, diminished the progress of the forward speed of the vessel. As an example, a ship making 10 knots into a current that is traveling at 5 knots, means the vessel is making 5 knots headway—with a 5 knot following current, the vessel is making 15 knots headway.
    The same is true with a “tacking” sailing vessel, making 10 knots into the wind, sailing against a 5 knot sea current, is still making 5 knots headway, but losing distance because of the zigzagging. On the other hand, a sailing vessel “driven forth before the wind” would make no headway sailing into the wind, but be driven backward, which is why some ancient mariners wrote of passing the same point of land several times in an attempt to make headway into the wind.
    However, a sailing vessel being driven forth before the wind that is making 10 knots, but in a 5 knot following current, is making 15 knots headway, or, as in the Southern Ocean, with the wind blowing at thirty knots or higher, and the current moving at five to ten knots, a sailing ship “driven forth before the wind” would actually be making 35 to 40 knots headway, or about 40 to 46 miles per hour. This is why the Southern Ocean is today used for numerous sailing vessel regatta races, such as the single-man "Vendée Globe" and the two-man crew "Barcelona World Regatta"—both non-stop around the world races in the Southern Ocean along the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties.
    This Southern Ocean distance around the world is approximately 10,000 miles—the shortest of any distance measured around the globe—of which Lehi’s course would have taken him only about 7,000 miles through the Southern Ocean, where the Prevailing Westerlies wind runs at 25 to 35 knots, the faster winds around 50 knots with highs reaching 70 knots (80.5 miles per hour). When you add the speed of the West Wind Drift (Antarctic Circumpolar Current) and the drift of the ocean current, modern regatta vessels can achieve 500+ miles in a single day.
    This West Wind Drift (ACC) current is circumpolar due to the lack of any landmass connecting with Antarctica, which keeps warm ocean waters away from Antarctica, enabling that continent to maintain its huge ice sheet.
The convergence (meeting) of the Pacific and Southern Oceans, usually heralded by dense fog, increasing numbers and varieties of sea birds, and an abrupt drop in the sea temperature. The convergence area is rich in wildlife, drawn by the churning up of nutrients as the Antarctic waters are pushed deeper by the warmer, northern currents
    At the same time, in the northern edges of this current, the waters are warmer due to the inflow of southward flowing Equatorial Current that merges into it. In addition, this current greatly speeds up any voyages from west to east around the globe as it transports 125 Sverdrups per second in its flow, which is a measure of the volumetric rate of transport of ocean currents, and equivalent to one Sverdrup or 264,000,000 U.S. gallons of water, moving per second (33 billion gallons per second), making the Southern Ocean the largest ocean current in the world.
Water temperature of the Southern Ocean ranges between 60º (light green) and 50º (dark green), with the western winds causing air temperature around 60º (light green area) dropping to 32º in the (dark blue area)
    One can only wonder why anyone might think that Lehi sailed to the Land of Promise along any other route—especially where island-hopping, extreme maneuvering conditions, dangerous side-currents, shoals, reefs, sand bars and narrow channels existed as they do through Indonesia. Consider the advantages of this course through the Southern Ocean:
    1. Shortest route to the Western Hemisphere;
    2. Fastest route to the Western Hemisphere;
    3. Straight sailing with extremely strong following winds all the way to the Western Hemisphere;
    4. Non-stop currents flowing directly to the Western Hemisphere;
    5. With the Liahona’s tutelage, the simplest sailing to the Western Hemisphere, requiring the least amount of knowledge;
    6. No difficult maneuvering through narrow channels, shoals, or side currents;
    7. No need for stops for replenishment of supplies;
    8. No tempting islands to cause further mutiny;
    9. No possibility of anyone knowing where Lehi went or arouse any curiosity as they passed;
    10. Whether, conditions, and speed would have created a distinct fearful reliance of the wayward sons on both Nephi and the Lord.
    11. Would have led to a simple entry into the record as Nephi made: “I, Nephi, did guide the ship, that we sailed again towards the promised land. And it came to pass that after we had sailed for the space of many days we did arrive at the promised land; and we went forth upon the land, and did pitch our tents; and we did call it the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:22-23).


  1. You can't speak of a subject too often when people aren't listening to what you have to say. If critics keep coming back asking the same questions.. that tells you they haven't read the proof which you have provided. Maybe one day they will open their eyes and see.

  2. It's cliché, but people see what they want to see.