Friday, October 30, 2015

Khor Kharfot is Not Where Nephi Launched His Ship

In all reality, the difference between Khor Rori and Khor Kharfot as an embarkation point for Nephi’s ship is rather minute in regard to one another. That is, the distance between them and their relationship to one another, would have had no bearing on the currents that took a ship from either location into the Sea of Arabia and then on to the Indian Ocean. While there are important differences, to be sure, the point is, neither location alters the end result in any way of Nephi’s ship embarking on the currents and with the winds that took them south and eventually southeast and finally east down and into the Southern Ocean and to their landing location in the Western Hemisphere.
    Were it not for questions asked of us from time to time regarding our opinion of these two areas, we probably would not address the question at all. However, there are, as stated above, differences, and if at some point those differences become an issue, it might be well to understand them and recognize that one site is definitely more aligned to the actual event than the other.
    So let’s take a look at an important issue separating the two locations.
Looking down on Khor Kharfot, the (Yellow Arrow) green wadi is really not a harbour, but merely a khor, an inlet
1) Khor Kharfot has no protected harbor:  In 1993 specialists from BYU visited Khor Kharfot and considered it to have been a sheltered sea inlet until it was closed off in the last few hundred years. While the opening of Khor Kharfot is wide and filled with shallow water, the wadi narrows rapidly and is considerably narrower than Khor Rori and contains many large rocks. It has been claimed that Khor Kharfot could have been a harbor anciently. This conjecture is based on the assumption that inland from the sandbar the wadi is significantly below sea level; Theorists tell us that 1 mile inland Wadi Sayq is “up to 50 feet below sea level.”
    While it can be debated it is a shallow inlet, it could also be debated it was ever a harbor capable of taking large ships and protecting them from the monsoon waves—there is simply no record of this connected with the area; on the other hand, Roman and Arabic records show that Khor Rori was indeed used as a protected harbor for several hundred years between 300 or 200 B.C. onward until around 300 to 500 A.D.
    We would suggest that rather than being up to 50 feet below sea level up to a mile inland, the wadi floor starts to rise almost immediately as one moves inland.
2) Gravity. A freshwater spring is located about a quarter of a mile up the Wadi. Water from this spring will obviously flow down hill and collect at the lowest point in the wadi. If the Wadi were below sea level to more than 1 mile inland the water would flow inland to the deepest area and pool there, but instead, the water flows towards the sea and collects there, showing that the area behind the sand bar must be the lowest point in the Wadi. The water here is 6-8 feet deep and, according to Google Earth, the Wadi floor is about 11 feet above sea level here; so the bottom of the spring water is probably still above sea level.
3) Observation. The photograph below shows the view towards the sea from about ½ mile inland. The sea in the background can plainly be seen to be below the height of the Wadi floor in the foreground.
Khor Kharfot: Blue Arrow: Sea Level of harbor; Yellow Arrow: Wadi Level rising upward from the shore inland for more than ¾ of a mile
    It should also be suggested that Khor Kharfot is too narrow to have ever been a harbor for a large ship. Quite frankly, anyone standing on the Wadi floor at either of these points can see that they are looking down to the sea from a considerable altitude and would be amazed, of the claim that they are standing below sea level by such a huge amount.
4) Breakwater. Perhaps most importantly, is the absence of some type of breakwater arrangement, which the promontories at Khor Rori provide (see last post). Without some way to break the water moving in and out between the Sea and the inlet, breaching the ocean would have been quite difficult for Nephi’s inexperienced crew, including the possibility of broaching into the swell and driven backward into the inlet, or even capsizing.
The inlet of Khor Khrafot has no breakwater arrangement as does that of Khor Rori. The Yellow Arrows shows that the sides of the inlet simply run out into the sea, the White Arrow shows the flow of the current (before the entrance was sealed with sand washing down into the sea
    Based on studies of Wadi Sayq at Khor Kharfot, the general inclination of the slope beyond the khor’s entrance is not deepening, but rising, showing that Ashton’s claim is inaccurate, and based on Goodle Earth Digital Terrain Elevation Data (DTED) Level, “there are no significant pockets (if any at all) showing the wadi thread being below sea level.”
    Thus, we can say that Khor Kharfot’s wadi floor does not lie below sea level for more than a one-mile distance inland from the shore, and while the wadi may have provided shelter for a small boat, it could not have been a harbor for a large ship, and this probably explains why Jana Owen of UCLA, who made a study in 1995 of the ancient ports of Dhofar as part of the ‘Transarabia Expedition,’ did not include Khor Kharfot.
    Other issues:
Timbered land runs along the Wadi Dirbat above Khor Rori with various species and types
5) No available long straight hardwoods: Nephi built his ship in a fertile area (much fruit) and where there was ample wood for constructing a sailing ship. Khor Kharfot lacks both of these attributes.  Dr. Phillips’ notes that the only cultivated fruit orchards today are at Salalah (65 miles east of Khor Kharfot); however, large fruit plantations are found only 2 miles from Khor Rori at Taqah,  and this was likely so in the past as this is the only place where the soil is fertile enough.
    While it is claimed that timber appropriate for building a conventional, ocean-going ship does not grow anywhere along the Omani coast and probably did not in the past, this is not true. See the last posts and the numerous photos of timbered land along the Wadi Dirbat above Khor Rori.
    Of course, in not knowing what it was about Nephi’s ship that made it “not built after the manner of men,” or that the “timbers were not worked after the manner of men,” it cannot even be suggested what type of wood Nephi’s ship was built of and, therefore, what type of wood needed to be found along the Omani coast.
6) No Fabric for Sails: Being roughly 85 miles west of the port at Khor Rori, and isolated by mountains, it is hard to image how Nephi could have had access at Khor Kharfot to cloth fabric for making the sails for his ship. To date no documented evidence has been found showing that fabric was available in antiquity at Khor Kharfot. Nor, again, do we know what type of fabric was needed for Nephi to build sails. Throughout history, sails have been made of various fabric, and certainly one would think his sails would have been from very heavy or strong fabric to withstand the tremendous winds and wind action in the middle of the ocean. The fact that around 200 B.C. Khor Rori became a ship building center, one might suspect that the materials needed were found there.
7) No iron ore: Geologists have surveyed southern Oman and cities where iron ore deposits are to be found on the Mirbat plain (including the deposits discovered 6 miles east of Khor Rori), and a small wadi between Raykut just east of Mughsayl (40 miles to the east). Again, this essential element for Bountiful is absent at Khor Kharfot.
8) No Seamenship Skills. Without a protected harbor it is little wonder that no evidence exists at Khor Kharfot that the necessary intellectual resources Nephi would have needed to build a ship and sail it to the promised land ever existed there.
9) No safe access to the sea. A huge unsupported assumption is often made about Khor Kharfot—that it was open to the sea in Nephi’s time. It is presently closed by a sandbar, and we are not aware of any evidence that it was open to the sea in the 6th century B.C. Khor Rori also has a sandbar presently blocking the entrance, but we do know that in the past this sandbar did not exist since the Romans and others used Khor Rori as a harbor and had entrance for large ships into it through this present sandbar.


  1. This was very helpful information and although Khor Kharfot could have been Bountiful, it is logically that Nephi was guided to build his ship in Khor Rori where he could get the assistance and expertise necessary to construct a ship of this size. I would conclude that over the time span that the ship was built the Lehites and the Zoramites initially dwelling in Khor Kharfot moved to be closer to the harbor where they ultimately sailed toward the promised land.

  2. No evidence that it was open to the sea in the 6th Century B.C. Like a photo perhaps, or a google satellite photo? Really.

  3. It is my understanding that sea levels anciently were lower than today. See, for example, under-sea ruins off the coast of Egypt and Central America. Assuming that is true, what difference might this have made in the Khor Rori/Khor Kharfot discussion?

  4. I was just wondering if anyone has seen the movie "Lehi's Travels in Arabia?

    If not... take a gander and then let me know what you think.