Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Jaredite Direction of Travel – Part XII – The Remarkable Baobab Trees

Above the Salalah coast and the Khor Rori inlet is the hanging valley of Wadi Dirbat overlooking the Garbeeb, which is uniquely impressive in full flood of the khareef. A little beyond, about halfway between Khor Rori and the Jabal Samhan plateau, is the hidden Baobab Valley, a small valley in the Wadi Hinna below the plateau of Tawi Atayr and the Well of Birds, where a forest of Baobab trees grow, the only such trees in all of Arabia. 
The exotic Baobab tree, also called the Upsidedown tree, can stand over one hundred feet in height and be as much as fifty feet in diameter, and several thousands of years old
    These huge, bulbous trees grow to great heights, sometimes topping one hundred feet, and as large as thirty to fifty feet in diameter at its base, and more than 150-feet around in circumference. This small Dhofer wood forest with a stream running through it in Oman is a remnant of a once much larger and widespread population of these remarkable trees that exist nowhere else but in Africa, Madagascar and Australia.
    As mentioned in the last post, the unique aspects of the Baobab tree make it a suitable vessel, since it can be hollowed out for insider living, yet sealed up in its water-tight natural state where it floats and will rise back to the surface, like logs do, when forcefully submerged. In addition, it has several important factors for the endurance of the Jaredite voyage.
    First, the fruit is so rich in Vitamins, including ascorbic acid (“C”), that can be dried out and naturally dehydrates for long-term storage and use. This fruit is found in a velvety shell about the size of a coconut, weighing just over three pounds.
Baobab fruit. When ripe, it automatically dries into a dehydrated stage of cubes and even powder which can be stored for a very long time without losing its natural vitamins and minerals, taste, or nutrients
    For centuries local populations have used all parts of the multi-purpose Baobab tree as a source of daily food, as well as traditional remedies for skin, respiratory digestive, fever and other ailments. The leaves are eaten as a leaf vegetable and the seeds are a source of vegetable oil, with the twigs cut and fed to livestock. The Baobab superfruit is only now becoming known, with the dried fruit powder containing about 12% water and levels of various nutrients, including Carbohydrates, riboflavin, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and phytosterols, with low levels of protein and fats. Its contents of dietary fiber  (approximately 50% by weight), ascorbic acid and thiamin are especially high and is an excellent source of Vitamin “C” which would particularly be needed on a long ocean voyage. 
    The dried fruit can also be pulverized into a powder and mixed with any liquid (water, milk, etc.) to create a refreshing drink that is popular with pregnant woman to boost health in backward countries where normal medicines are not readily available. Consider such a value during a year-long voyage.
    With the fruit drying or hardening into natural dehydrating powder and oil for easy edible and storage use, its powder is so vitamin-and-mineral-packed, it has incredibly high levels of antioxidants and fibers, with a unique tangy taste described from a “caramel pear with subtle tones like sherbert” to an acidic, tart flavor "somewhere between grapefruit, pear, and vanilla." Its color is light yellow and it has a sleazy nutty smell, and easily processed into jam, cake, juice and organoleptic foods, as well as traditional food preparations which include "eating the fruit fresh or crushed crumbly pulp to stir into porridge and drinks.”
    In fact, the root fibers can be made into string, and an excellent source of dye and fuel, with the oil a nearly perfect balance of palmitic acid, oleic and linoleic fatty acid, making it ideal for cosmetics, as well. In addition, the powdery white interior may be used as a "thickener in jams and gravies, a sweetener for fruit drinks, or a tangy flavor addition to hot sauces." The fruit pulp and seeds are not only eaten fresh, the dry pulp is added to sugar cane to aid fermentation in beer making and the flavor of limited-release Japanese soda Pepsi Baobab was described as "liberating" by PepsiCo. The dry fruit is usually boiled and the broth is used for juices or as the base for a type of cream known as gelado de múcua.
    The point of all of this is simply that such a tree and its fruit would have had significant value to the Jaredites in their ocean-voyage of nearly a year at sea without being able to stop anywhere along the line to embark from their sealed vessels.
    Not only that, but the tree itself would have had significant properties, such as its ability to store water in the trunk up to 30,000 gallons or more (to endure the harsh drought conditions particular to the desert regions of its growth), making it the only tree known that would, itself, be “tight like unto a dish.”
    In fact, Baobab trees have been known to hollow out after certain periods of growth as they mature, and are used in certain areas from domiciles, jails, pubs or bars, bathrooms, garage, bus stations, and numerous other small building purposes.
Hollowed-out Baobab trees that are used for various living or public purposes, bars being a favorite, where the tree continues to grow, imbedding items within its walls. Note the bottom image and the size of the bar with serving counter, benches and large table in foreground and an entrance some distance away--showing the hollowing out is not just a round tube, but in many cases, a many-roomed area in trees with larger girths
    Now the Lord told the Brother of Jared that the barges would be “built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish” (Ether 2:17)—note the language: “they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish.” He even described the sides and bottom, and the door, when shut, were tight like unto a dish. This language uniquely fits the Baobab tree that actually holds water (not just moisture) within its trunk without leakage for liquid storage through drought periods. He also included in the midst of this tightness that could hold water as being the length of a tree. An interesting way to describe a vessel that, at the time and for thousands of years afterward, could not have been built by man to be tight like unto a dish. Of course, trees are not built by man—they are grown by the Lord.
Baobab trees can grow straight and tall, creating a hollowed out sphere, somewhat like a submarine, that is 100-feet long, and as much as 30 or more feet high (equivalent to a three story building in height. With no branches along the trunk, it would make an ideal spherical vessel, needing only ballast, rudder and breathable openings, which the Lord called “holes”
    The Brother of Jared was told to cut "these holes"--two in number--in the vessel: “thou shalt make a hole in the top, and also in the bottom; and when thou shalt suffer for air thou shalt unstop the hole and receive air. And if it be so that the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall stop the hole, that ye may not perish in the flood” (Ether 2:20). Much has been made about this by unknowing critics, and completely ignored by Theorists, but as mentioned before, if you cut a hole in the top and bottom of a vessel, it has to roll so one or the other hole is on top and open to the air when not shut—which would play havoc and cause enormous injury over a 344-day voyage as the vessel rolled first one way, then another--consider the broken limbs of man and beast and the utter mess of waste and cargo being thrown about as the vessel rolled first one way and then another.
    However, in a tree, the "top" and the "bottom" have different meanings. That is, holes in the top of the tree and in the bottom of the tree could be cut so that both holes would be on the upward part of the exposed tree, i.e., they would both be above the water line.  
With a hole in the “top” of the tree, and a hole in the “bottom” of the tree, air would flow in and out in a perfect ventilation system that would reach all of the insides of the vessel. Each hole could be stopped up if water flowed into it from either high waves, or being submerged beneath the water “in the depths of the sea”
    In addition, these holes in the top and bottom of the tree, which would be in the fore and aft of the vessel, were probably large enough for a man to pass through if needed, but certainly to look through to see what was about if that became necessary or desirable, and useable for the jettisoning of waste and other discards.
(See the next post, “Jaredite Direction of Travel – Part XIII – A Last Look at the Jaredite Vessels and Their Connection to Scripture)


  1. How would they cut them down? Now that's a heckuva job!

  2. I think they would actually have to dig them up rather than "cut" them down. Cutting the tree at surface level would likely cut across the hollow interior.

  3. Correct. They would have dug them up, i.e., dug all around them until they toppled--no doubt part of the instruction. On the other hand, not knowing how the trees were forested at the time, Baobab are known to topple on their own for various reasons and in most forests of these trees, there are those that lay on the ground--some still growing. They are a very unusual tree.. There is more about them in the book "Who Really Settled Mesoamerica"