Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Jaredite Direction of Travel – Part XI – Building Barges to Cross the Great Deep – Part II

I read recently that a Threorist described Jaredite barges as having  anchors, sails and steering devices. After a lengthy discussion about how Mormon described all vessels in the Book of Mormon, he concludes: “The limited account that we have gives almost no infor­mation from which to determine how the barges were powered or steered, but it can certainly be read in a manner that accommodates the presence and use of anchors, sails, and steering devices.” 
    He goes on to write:The account of the voyage of the Jaredites to the promised land likewise doesn’t specifically mention anchors, sails, or steering devices. Neither, however, does it use the word ship. It uses the word barges to refer to the eight sea-going vessels built by the Jaredites. As it turns out, the English word barge has been applied to several types of watercraft—some without sails, but others with sails (together with anchors and steering devices).”
    Describing the newly opened Erie Canal and the boats used on it, he adds, “In current usage, the word barge usually refers to flat-bottomed freight boats. At the time of Joseph Smith, in upstate New York, the word barge usually referred, not to a sea-going vessel, but to a canal boat.“
A barge (grain boat) on the Erie Canal in Joseph Smith’s time
    Later, he makes a comparison between the term “barge” and the ship “baroque,” as though they were the same thing. However, the term “barge,” while its original usage can be traced back very anciently to the term “b’arge” meaning “a ship,” that inference was lost long ago, with the term “barque” becoming the term used in the 17th century to indicate a “small ship; but appropriately, a ship which carries three masts without a mizzen top sail. The English mariners, in the coal trade, apply this name to a broadsterned ship without a figure-head.” Also, in Holland in that period, the term “water-barks” meaning a “small vessels, for conveying fresh water from place to place, the hold of which is filled with water.”
    Somewhere before the time of Joseph Smith, the terms “barge” and “baroque” or “barq” (later “barc” then “bark”) were used to describe two entirely different vessels. One, a ship of the line in maritime navies (baroque or barq), with masts and sails; and the other, a barge, “a pleasure boat; a vessel or boat of state, furnished with elegant apartments, canopies and cushions, equipped with a band of rowers, and decorated with flags and streamers; used by officers and magistrates.” In a more isolated and narrow meaning, a barge was “a flat-bottomed vessel of burthen, for loading and unloading ships.”
Left: A three-masted baroque or barq ship; Right: Barges that plied the Erie Canal in Joseph Smith’s time
    At that time, the term “bark” really meant any small ship in the early 15th century, from the Latin “barca,” a term dating back to 400 B.C., and was known as a three-masted ship by the 17th century, and spelled “barque.”
    In the 18th century, the British Royal Navy used the term bark for a nondescript vessel that did not fit any of its usual categories. Thus, when the British Admiralty purchased a collier for use by James Cook in his journey of exploration, she was registered as “HM Bark Endeavor,” to distinguish her from another Endeavour, a sloop already in service at the time. William Falconer’s Dictionary of the Marine defined "bark", as "a general name given to small ships: it is however peculiarly appropriated by seamen to those which carry three masts without a mizzen topsail.
    By Joseph Smith’s time, the term barque (particularly in the U.S. spelled bark) came to refer to any vessel with a particular type of sail-plan, which “comprises three or more masts, fore-and-aft sails on the aftermost mast and square sails on all other masts.”
    Barge is actually a term dating back to the time of Chaucer (14th century) taken from the Latin “bargea, bargia, barga,” originally from “bari-ca,” which is from “baris,” a flat Egyptian row-boat (Propertius).
    The point being that a “barge” and a “bark or baroque” are not of the same meaning, at least for many hundreds of years before Joseph Smith’s time. Thus, when we come to the Jaredite barges, a term Joseph Smith used, we need to take the literal meaning of the term, and not its very ancient origin, since in 1829 when the Book of Ether was translated into English, the meaning of barge had a singular meaning, albeit one describing several vessels.
    Today, the word barge is usually interpreted as “a flat-bottomed boat for carrying freight, typically on canal and rivers, either under its own power or towed by another,” but it also has other meanings: “a long ornamental boat used for pleasure or ceremony,” and “a boat used by the chief officers of a warship,” and “a tug capable of operating on the high seas, coastwise and further inland,” as well as “drilling barge,” “dredge barge,” “flat top barge,” “line-burying barge,” “tow barge,” “barge carriers,” and numerous other terms (log barge, sand barge, Hopper barge,  hotel barge, Jackup barge, Paddle barge, Row barge, trow, lighter, Spitz, etc.) It is interesting that the modern word “submarine” is also classified as a “barge,” modern submarine barges were built by the Soviet Union (Sevastopol), and the U.S. built cargo submarine barges (TTE & Project 607). Overall, the word “barge” has an origin found in “a small seagoing vessel.”
A modern-day replica of the German U-boats of World War II, shown here sailing in an English canal beside an English canal barge. Submarines are also classified as a "barge"
    The point is that using the term “barge” is not likely going to solve the question as to the type of vessels the Jaredites used to reach the land of promise. So let’s turn back to the scriptural reference regarding this mentioned briefly in the last post. Ether, in describing the vessels, said, “they were built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish; and the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish; and the ends thereof were peaked; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the length thereof was the length of a tree; and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish” (Ether 2:17).
    Why would Ether mention the length when describing the quality of its construction? Both before and after mentioning its length, the “tightness” or “water resistance” quality of the vessels was introduced, yet in the middle he inserted "the length of a tree." Now since trees have various lengths, running from a few feet to as much as 350 feet in height like the California redwood, what can be understood by that term—the length of a tree? In fact, Douglas fir trees, considered to be one of the world’s tallest trees, has a believed maximum height of 453 feet, since a tree can only pull water so far up its trunk (called the tracheid cap), which, by the way, would limit the Sequoias to about 400 to 426 feet.
Left: Douglas Fir trees have the highest theoretical height, but (right) the Sequoia Redwoods are the world’s tallest trees
    Perhaps one explanation of why Ether included that comment buried within his explanation of the water integrity of the vessels was because the word “tree” was actually the kind of vessel that was tight, like unto a dish. Now, as a rule, trees do not hold water, but move it up the trunk from root to the highest limbs via the pitted dead cells, called tracheids, which move the water from one cell to the next. However, there is one tree that does hold water “tight like unto a dish,” that is called the Baobab tree. Considered indigenous to Africa and Madagascar, the Baobab is also indigenous to Oman in southern Arabia—in fact, in none other place than the wood Baobab forest above Khor Rori do they exist in all of Arabia.
White Arrow: The wood Baobab Forest where the trees were gathered to build the barges ; Yellow Arrow: Khor Rori inlet where the barges were launched into the sea
(See the next post, “Jaredite Direction of Travel – Part XII – The Remarkable Baobab Trees,” for more information about the barges the Lord had the Jaredites build, and why that tree alone would meet all the scriptural references to the Jaredite  barges--also for further reading, see the book Who Really Settled Mesoamerica)

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