Friday, January 23, 2015

A Critique of the Jaredite Route Southeast, Then South – Part IV

Continuing with the final critique by Bret T of our suggested route for the Jaredites from the Valley of Nimrod southeast and then south toward the Great Sea. The earlier critique comments and our responses were covered in the previous three posts.
    Bret T: “[A number of things favor an eastern course. For another thing,] a terrain favorable to cattle-raising nomads and conditions to which the Asiatic rather than the European areas conform.”
    Response: First, nobody is discussing the Jaredites traveling toward Europe, though frankly, the cattle-raising aspect of your comment would have been better in that direction. However, traveling to the west would not have been an option consistent with the scriptural record. Second, driving cattle across 8,000 to 13,000 feet, snow-capped mountain passes hardly sounds like a terrain favorable to cattle-raising nomads.
Driving flocks of animals across these Atlai Mountain passes on the way down to China from the Steppes hardly seems like a terrain favorable to cattle-raising or movement. One can only wonder how any cattleman would have considered such a cattle-drive, including families with children and babies
    Third, as has been mentioned here many times, when one has a location in mind, they tend to defend it without much research into the facts involved. In this case, Bret T wants to move the Jaredites toward the east, and evidently knowing something about the Steppes, recognizes that the grazing for cattle along the way would be consistent with such travel on the grass-filled Steppes. However, there is more to moving cattle than finding grass for feed. What about the temperatures in which cattle can survive?
    While the temperature along the Steppes may seem conducive to cattle raising, according to the Strahlers (Elements of Physical Geography, Wiley and Sons, 1984), the Asian Steppes winters drop to temperatures of -40º F, far below what cattle can manage. And since there are no trees that grow on the Steppes other than by rivers, there is nothing to block the howling winds. In addition, if generally rains a lot on the Steppes, and to compensate, the ancient people of the Steppes were nomadic, moving to where the water supply was best. Today they drill deep wells and create irrigation systems, but the climate is still to harsh to support cities and industries (As a point of interest, the difference between steppes and deserts are determined by the mean annual temperatures and precipitation. With a little less rain the steppe could easily turn into a desert. More rain, and it would be classified a prairie).
The Steppes in winter. The ground is frozen and snow and ice cover the ground
    According to National Geographic, the average temperatures throughout much of the Steppes are below freezing from November to March and around the freezing point during October and April. Averages of -4°F in January and February are not uncommon. Long, snowy, subarctic winter conditions are a trying time for all, as are the short springs, which can feature significant dust storms in May and June. Precipitation is scarce and unpredictable, a climactic condition that helped to spawn both the steppes and the nomadic lifestyle they sustain. When one considers the years travel across these Steppes, one can recognize that the Jaredites would have experienced more than one of these winters while crossing because of "these many years we have been in the wilderness" (Ether 3:3).
    This area between the Caspian Sea and China, called Central Asia, across which roll the Steppes, is a landlocked area between vast deserts and high, rugged mountains, which influences its weather patterns.  Mountains block moisture-laden winds from the oceans, causing the climate to be dry as well as having extreme heat and cold because it lacks maritime air masses which would otherwise moderate the temperature. In addition, it has a large diurnal temperature range, meaning that there is a substantial difference between daytime highs and overnight lows--something that adversely affects cattle.
    This is the land over which Nibley and Bret T would have the Jaredites travel. Now, keep in mind, other than the effect of temperature and elevation extremes on babies and children, this climate also would have an effect on animals. Bret states above that “A number of things favor an eastern course. For another thing, a terrain favorable to cattle-raising nomads and conditions to which the Asiatic areas conform.”
    The Jaredites were told to “Go to and gather together thy flocks, both male and female, of every kind” (Ether 1:41). The term every kind suggest that “flocks” refers to more than just sheep. According to Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, the word “flock” at the time Joseph Smith was translating the plates also meant “larger beasts, and in the plural, flocks may include all kinds of domesticated animals.” Thus, the flocks the Jaredites gathered “of every kind” would evidently have included cattle.
Cattle on the Steppes—Mongolian (Kalmyk, Kyrgyz, Buriat and Yakut) native cattle breed descended from Asian wild cattle (Bos turano mongolicus) that lived on the Central Asian Plateau and were domesticated from wild cattle about 2000 years ago
    So let’s take a look at moving cattle along the route eastward that has been suggested.
    According to the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, cattle perform better between temperatures of 59º and 77º, and Tom Troxel, professor and associate department head for animal science said “for every one degree below the critical temperature, a cow’s energy requirement increases one percent,” which means they require a compensating energy increase—more food. However, the problem is when such change is sudden and temporary (like crossing snow-covered mountains, or extreme overnight temperature drops), a sudden increase in energy requirements to help them maintain normal body temperature is not healthy since they require gradual increases and decreases in diet, not sudden ones.
    In addition, when cattle get wet, the air insulation in their coat is lost because the hair fibers are matted down in cold rain. It is also necessary for the protection of cattle against extreme cold temperatures that they have shelter—and drinking water needs to be above 37º F. Temperatures below 20º F require special treatment for cattle, including warmer water to drink, frequent feeding (roughage far better than grain), shelter from wind, and bundling to insulate them against the ground.
    According to AGWeek, (2012), cattle do not do well in temperatures below -20º or in blizzards, even in North Dakota, and are especially susceptible to hypothermia brought on by cold wet weather. Young cattle are particularly susceptible to cold temperatures, and even older cattle when exposed for two or three days straight to such temperature and conditions, and especially require protection from winds and insulation from the ground—something that would be impossible to do on the march across high mountain passes.
    According to a New York Times article (August 1, 2011), cattle above 5,000 feet elevation experience health problems because of a shortage of oxygen, causing their lungs to constrict and fluids to leak from the bloodstream into the brisket (chest area), in what is called HMD—high mountain or altitude sickness (pulmonary hypertension and dropsy), and commonly known as brisket disease. More recent studies show that cattle at 3,000 feet are susceptible and above 6,000 feet are most at risk, and 7,500 feet the most critical elevations.
The problem is in the lack of lung capacity, where cattle have less for their body weight compared to most animals. The high altitude causes small pulmonary arteries to thicken, resulting in high pulmonary blood pressure, and congestive right heart failure. According to Tim Holt (Ft. Collins, Colorado), the consensus world expert on HMD, and the guru of PAP testing says that cattle that live at low elevations and then are taken to higher elevations of 5,000 to 6,000 feet, are particularly susceptible. And according to New Mexico State University cattle research facility, livestock taken above 7,000 feet, which is a high stress environment for cattle, are at inborn risk to this deadly disease.
Mongolian Yaks, treasured for their luxury-fiber down, which is less sustainable than chasmere, and used like cattle for milk, meet, and burden have different requirements
    As a point of interest, the wild Tibetan Yak (male gyag; female nak), a relative of cattle, from the Himalayan region cannot live below 10,000 to 12,000 feet, and is normally at home at 14,000 feet, and can withstand great temperature extremes, with a high resistance to cold; the Gobi Yak thrives between 5,000 and 6,500 feet. Mongolian Yaks of the Steppes live above 700 feet, and unlike oxen or cattle, do poorly in low elevations and warm temperatures. The Yak is quite suitable to high elevations, and will eat the grasses and vegetation at these heights no other animal will eat. This only shows that animals are subject to their habitats and require a similar climate and temperature to which they are accustomed--and when moved beyond their natural levels, do poorly.
    A several year trek over continually varying elevations and high mountain passes, with varying and extreme temperature changes, would not only be difficult on the people, especially women, children and babies, but also on the “flocks of every kind.”
    Briefly, to round out the bees and fish the Jaredites carried with them, bees are very susceptible to climate and environment. Honey bees raised at sea level in humid and warm climates (Mesopotamia) would not do well at all in high altitudes and cold temperatures. An important problem with bees at high elevations and under 45-50º F, is that they become dormant. Bees will naturally seal up their hive in winter and cold temperatures and require sufficient honey stored in them to last—at least 150 pounds per hive. Another problem is that they draw bears to their hives in winter, and traveling through mountains is bear country. Hives have to be protected against winds (a constant problem on the Steppes), snow and ice (constant problems in mountains).
    As for fish, the further they are transported, the greater the risk, and the more stressful the transport, the less tolerant are the fish. It is also imperative in fish transport to keep their water at an even temperature—the greater the variance, the less likely of survival. The idea of transporting fish through drastic temperature changes required in an eastward journey over mountains and across deserts with huge climate variances is simply not possible—it would be far better to transport them across a rather even temperature climate and in the shortest distance possible.
    All of this suggests a much shorter Jaredite line of travel than that going east across the Steppes and over three mountain ranges.


  1. Fish transport from what I know requires plastic bags and bottled oxygen, neither of which would have been available to the Jaredites. Also, the longer the trip, the more oxygen that would be needed. How did the Jaredites mange such a thing?

  2. I would love to have the original Jaredite record to read that—I think it would be a fascinating concept of how this and other such things were accomplished. I would also love to know how the stones were turned to light, etc. But that will have to wait for some time, I suppose.
    As for the fish--from what I know about fish transport, oxygen can be created naturally through several means, especially in barrels. And wood barrels, by the way, are preferable in transporting fish, even today--plastic is used only for very short time periods. By adding water to the barrel to two-thirds its capacity, and allowing some movement of the barrel during transport (today on a pickup truck or tractor on a farm, as an example), oxygen is added through agitation, aeration or oxygenation. The fish can be suspended in the barrel within (knotless) nets to protect them, and cradles made of wood can support the barrel, yet allow sufficient movement to agitate the water and create oxygen. Also a type of bellows could be used to insert oxygen, etc. I’m sure the Lord, in his vast wisdom, knows of ways to handle such a project and could have instructed the Jaredites as he did with building the barges themselves “after the manner which they had built, according to the instructions of the Lord” Ether 2:16)
    It is not that transporting of fish cannot be achieved with the proper equipment, it is done every day over very great distances, but that certain precautions are taken and care for the fish understood. How the Lord instructed the Jaredites to do this we are not told, but that He would have known how to do it is obvious.
    Personally, I think, since even temperature is critical, that a 4,000 mile trip over extreme weather conditions and severe temperature and elevation swings would have been quite detrimental and most difficult to compensate for...where the shorter distance over consistent temperatures and elevation would seem far preferable.