Thursday, January 8, 2015

Jaredite Direction of Travel – Part XIII – A Last Look at the Jaredite Vessels and Their Connection to Scripture

Perhaps another look at the scriptural record might be of help in taking a further view of the Jaredite vessels and the amazing Baobab tree discussed in the last two posts and in greater detail in the book Who Really Settled Mesoamerica. 
    1. “built barges…according to the instructions of the Lord. And they were small, and they were light upon the water, even like unto the lightness of a fowl upon the water” (Ether 2:16)
Fowls upon the water float because of a natural buoyancy, making them lighter than the water they displace. Two important factors enable this: 1) They have a very light, hollow bone structure, and 2) They (such as ducks) have oil glands which can be used to spread oil on feathers and waterproof them.
    The Baobab tree is light, compared to its size, hollow (when hollowed-out) and floats with ease because of its water-tight structure. In addition, the Baobab bark is hard and thick and water does not penetrate it, nor are there any cracks, joints, or other breaks like a vessel would have, with the tree naturally sealing any openings in its bark. The thickness of the bark is a "design" feature that contributes significantly to overall structural stabilitry of the stem, and while this adds to the strength of its tall height, it would also add to the strength of its withstanding the water pressure of being submerged as well as the weight of crashing waves.
Top: A log will float in a body of water because the weight of the log is balanced by the upthrust from the water. This is true no matter how large the log is, especially if the log is hollowed-out and enclosed; Bottom: Even full houses can be constructed and floated on a few logs, their weight compensated for by this upthrust
    2. “And they were built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish…” (Ether 2:17).
    It is interesting that a boat, barge or vessel meant to carry people or cargo is described as being “exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish.” That it can hold water it was so tight, not just keep it out. The word “tight” being described as “close; compact; not loose or open; having the joints so close that no fluid can enter or escape,” again suggesting a vessel that cannot leak in either direction (leak in or leak out). Since ships, boats, barges and all floating vessels are built to keep water out, it once again is interesting that the phrase “hold water like unto a dish” is used. Yet, this wordage might be in describing a unique property of the Baobab, unlike any other tree, it is a tree that actually holds thousands of gallons of water within its interior. It is so “tight” in construction, with such a thick bark, none of this water leaks outward, and can survive within for nearly a year as the tree consumes the water for its sustenance and growth. 
    At the same time, the water stored within the inner parrenchy-like tissue of the bark can be tapped from inside or outside. Thus, the mucilageneous pulp can be hollowed-out by hand through setting fire inside to dry the sapwood up and in a short time, instead of shrinking and folding the bark grows and stretches, and as it were lines the whole inside." (in Esquisses Sénégalaises - 1853), which, of course, includes its storage of water. When emptied the tree suffers no damage and continues to live. In fact, a broken branch that has fallen down and has utterly dried out, will still bear flowers and fruit.
    3. “…and the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish…” (Ether 2:17).
    This description suggests a singular body, with top, sides and bottom all having the same tightness, or singular cover; otherwise, the ability to build an object with a connected bottom, top and sides that were all “tight like unto a dish” would have been far beyond any ability of the Jaredites and for man in general for thousands of years afterward until solid molding was invented, such as used in fiberglass boats.
4. “…and the ends thereof were peaked…” (Ether 2:17).
    Many Theorists have considered “peaked” as meaning curved and pointed upright. However, the term peak literally means “ending in a point,” “the end of anything that terminates in a point.” Thus, an object can end in a point without curving or changing direction, like the point of a pencil. In this sense, a submarine has “peaked” ends (bow and stern).
Top: A submarine with a “peaked” or pointed nose (bow); Bottom: Each of these Baobab trees are around 50 feet tall, each has a diameter of at least 20 feet, and each has a trunk that is “peaked” or pointed at the top
    In addition, certain Baobab trees have a “peaked” or pointed crown to the trunk that is even more pronounced when the top branches (which many describe look like roots) are removed.
    5. “…and the length thereof was the length of a tree…” (Ether 2:17).
    Again, it is an odd statement to include in the midst of a description about the tightness of the vessel. And why the length of a tree? Why include the length of the barge when talking about how tight it was—or how no water could get in or out? So what did its length have to do with the tightness of the barge? Perhaps it was because the barge itself was a tree, and its entire length was obviously that of a tree, and as such, the entire tree was tight, like unto a dish, meaning like a dish, it could hold water, something for which the Baobab, different from all other trees, is noted.
    Therefore, Moroni is describing what, to him, was an oddity, i.e., a barge or vessel that was itself a tree, hollowed out, that could both float and hold water—not the kind of vessel or tree to which he would have been acquainted in his lifetime. Also, it was likely stressed in the original record he was translating, no doubt, because of its enormous importance to the Jaredites who were entrusting their lives inside these barges for nearly a year as they traveled across the Great Deep to the land of promise. It is also likely, that the record itself which Moroni translated, was written originally at this time by the Brother of Jared, who had been assured by the Lord that these trees would be the perfect barges to cross the ocean. It may also be that he might have had a difficult time convincing his friends, and the friends of Jared, and perhaps Jared himself, the leader of the group, that such a vessel was what they were to make and be completely enclosed within--after all, they had been living in an ideal area for some four years before the event of the tree-barges came up.
    Perhaps that is why the word “tree” is mentioned in this part of the writing, because the Brother of Jared was having a time assuring those whose lives were used to open spaces, to enter these trees and commit themselves to the ocean depths. After all, being cooped up inside a tree might not have appealed to them at the time--it certainly wouldn't to me--and his constant reference to being "tight like unto a dish," and that it would keep them dry and safe inside, would seem needed for this convincing. How interesting that discussion among the Jaredites must have been, certainly there were those who questioned such an idea as hollowing out a tree to use as a boat.
    6. “…and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish” (Ether 2:17).
    It is doubtful that in the Jaredites’ experience they had ever witnessed anything built so tightly that it would completely keep out water when subject to both being in the sea and also subject to being completely buried in the sea as the Lord said in describing their voyage. That the bark of a felled tree would grow and seal off such injury (cutting and resealing of a door) would have been far beyond their experience--as it would seem to most of us today.
(See the next post, “Jaredite Direction of Travel – Part XIV – A Last Look at the Jaredite Vessels and Their Connection to Scripture – Part II,” for the rest of the comparison with the scriptural record and the Jaredite Baobab tree barges)


  1. how would this barge you are proposing keep from rolling in the heavy seas without some sort of keel and steering mechanism?

  2. In his 2nd book, he describes it in more detail.

    Essentially, build a level floor about even with where the outer water line will be. Load sand below this floor level, which he states would also be of use in absorbing spilled water and other wastes.

    This sand ballast would keep the barge from rolling.

  3. As an additional question, how do you envision how the "holes" were to be stopped up?

    Your previous post stated that they would at least be big enough to look through and were likely large enough for people to climb in an out.
    I agree that the hole would need to be large-ish, mostly just to allow proper airflow.
    However, wouldn't such a hole compromise the "dish-tight" integrity of the hull?
    Wouldn't a large opening be difficult-to-impossible for them to make water tight against the water pressure when submerged?

  4. That is a good question that, unfortunately, cannot be answered by the scriptural record. However, one answer would be for the hole’s “stopper,” to be made of the interior pulp (bark) of the tree, to work on the principal of a cork in a wine bottle, which keeps it airtight for years. The spongy interior bark could also have worked like a felt or rubber gasket to seal off the closure when stopped up.
    The interesting thing about the Baobab tree, is that, like the Bumble bee, it defies logic in its construction and performance. As an example, the low-density wood normally would not be sufficiently strong to support the tree’s tremendous height and the strength needed to support such growth and size—but it does! To compensate, the tree’s bark is very thick, a design feature that leads significantly to overall structural stability of the stem (trunk); it is also quite pliable (bendable) under stress, something other trees are not once achieving early growth, and this also contributes to its odd type of strength, allowing it to actually achieve greater strength for its given energy investment than other trees, and the possibility that the maintenance of a large quantity of living parenchyma cells is in some way advantageous for storage and recovery from traumatic injury.
    In addition, this thick bark is composed of tough long fibers that are used to make ropes on such a scale as to be a complete industry, leaving many trees now standing scared at the base where the bark is stripped to about seven feet in height—a factor that doesn’t affect the tree in the slightest, but shows another uniqueness of the bark. The bark is also stripped for the spongy wood in sheets of fiber that are collected and sold, again not injuring the tree. If you were to strip the bark of nearly any other tree, it would expose the interior to bugs (tree beetles, etc) which creates disease, weakens the trunk and eventually fells the tree—but the Baobab survives all such damage.
    I have been studying the continuing research and scientific evaluations and studies of these trees since I first learned they existed several years ago. It is amazing how much more is known about them today than there was then. I suspect a lot more will eventually be learned. While its structural engineering baffles many researchers today, perhaps more will be known in the future to answer additional questions. It does seem apparent that this tree defies all logic at the present time. Yet, each additional research “discovery” I have seen seems to strengthen the view presented here of it being the perfect choice for the Jaredite barges.