Friday, November 13, 2015

What Did Nephi Mean “It was Good and Exceedingly Fine-Part II

Continuing with how theorists often overlook the clear and meaningful understanding of the scriptural record, skipping right over important passages of explanation, we covered in the last post, as Nephi tells us, after all the doubt and rebellious attitudes toward his ability to build a ship, “And it came to pass that after I had finished the ship, according to the word of the Lord, my brethren beheld that it was good, and that the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine” (1 Nephi 18:4), what does that tell us? 
• Third: Little expertise would be needed, except for holding to a single course, at least initially—the main thing would be to hold on, keep the rudder level (“amidships”) and enjoy the ride out into deep water, something Nephi, Sam and Zoram could have handled during those initial “many days”;
    What must have bothered the mutinous and rebellious brothers, other than not wanting to work, they felt caught in a family circumstance where their younger brother was lording the right of decision making over them, announcing he was going to build a ship that he would take them across the ocean before them. They knew Nephi had never built a ship before, and probably nothing at all as significant as that, so here they were being forced to trust their lives to a large ship Nephi was going to build that might sink the minute they get it into the water, or somewhere out to sea, taking them and their families with them down to a watery grave. As they said, “Our brother is a fool, for he thinketh that he can build a ship; yea, and he also thinketh that he can cross these great waters” (1 Nephi 17:17). How frightening it must have been to think they would set sail on a ship built by Nephi, who knew nothing of building a ship, and attempt to cross a vast distance across the great deep. Nor did they believe Nephi was instructed of the Lord (1 Nephi 17:18).
    Without sea trials, the words "good ship" would have been as meaningless as saying a "good airplane" before seeing if it could fly.
    Yet, after the ship was built, the brothers called it “good” and “exceedingly fine,” obviously suggesting they had been on it and seen that it floated, steered, moved about and performed as it should.
    This, then, brings us to:
2. Getting the Ship out of a Bay or Lagoon and into the Open Sea: There would be no impact of the ocean currents or waves on the ship as it entered the sea at Khor Rori because of the twin promontories at the entrance to the inlet.
Top: NASA satellite view of Khor Rori inlet, which flows toward the sea, and the twin promontories on either side of the entrancethe sandbar shown did not exist in Lehi's time or for many centuries after that; Bottom: Khor Rori looking out to sea—the two promontories are shown on either side of the inlet
    Normally, the major difficulty in handling the ship would have been moving from the minimal current from the inlet (khor) into the ocean current. Part of the problem is the timing of the current and the tides, which are not always associated with one another. The current flow of a coastline is usually the result of a complex set of forces. Contributing factors include tidal current, wind-driven current, prevailing offshore ocean circulation, river runoff, water depth, and local currents running parallel and perpendicular to the shoreline caused by the surf. This coastal flow is also strongly affected by the shape of the coastline, as well as the region that lies between the surf zone and the shelf.
    It is easy to say that you simply sail a vessel out of the river, inlet, stream or khor, and into the sea; however, the variable forces involved can be quite dynamic, beginning with needing the tide in your favor as it recedes past or through these forces enabling a ship to breach them to gain deep or blue water. As an example, in some cases, it could be next to impossible to get out of a harbor against an incoming tide, consequently, most mariners set sail with the tide, especially in ports with significant tidal currents. So departures would be planned with the outgoing tide in order to get to the open sea without fighting adverse currents and using the currents to get out if there was little wind or headwinds.
    And here Khor Rori has a unique feature that creates a breakwater arrangement to offset the inflowing breakers and make a smooth transition, which is especially true when the wind is blowing together with the Tide, causing a calm condition and enabling just about anyone to manage by simply letting the current of the river flowing into the sea carry them through.
Flanked on either side by a sweet-water creek, Khor Rori, that ripples like turquoise silk, it enters the sea between craggy cliffs; at low tide a bar of yellow sand closes off the mouth. About three centuries after Lehi left here, Omani sailing dhows fashioned from Malabar hardwood brought ivory from the African coast, cotton from Egypt and spices from India. They still make such boats north along the coast at Sur, where Indian workmen chisel the spars by hand and the air is rich with the scent of freshly planed timber. Omani navigators became as proficient at plotting a course on the water as they already were in the desert, with one of the greatest of them, Ahmad Ibn Majid, reputedly provided Vasco da Gama with an Arab navigational aid in the 15th century, the astrolabe, and then piloted the Portuguese explorer during his first voyage to Kolkota
    This unique feature, the two promontory cliff faces on either side of the inlet mouth, block out or screens the winds and currents at this one critical junction where the Khor enters the Sea.
    Called the Iqita’at Mirbat and the Inqita’at Taqah, these 60-feet to 90-feet high cliffs provide a breakwater at the mouth of the current or inlet and, like any modern breakwater, void the effect of incoming waves, tide, and currents, making for a smooth movement of a sailing vessel from the khor or inlet out into the sea.
     It should be noted that before Nephi's family entered his ship for the voyage to the New World, they knew that the finished ship was "good," and the "workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine" (1 Nephi 18:4). The wordage here implies that they must have already been on the ship, like in conducting successful sea trials. Otherwise, how could they have judged the ship's workmanship unless they saw that the hull was sound and watertight, that the ship rested properly and equally balanced in the water, and that the ship handled well in various seas. How extensive this might have been is unknown, and likely it would not have taken much to conduct since the Lord was the teacher and Nephi the “captain” who gave the orders.
Anyone who has ever steered or handled the tiller of a sailing ship where maneuvering and tacking was not involved can tell you it is rather boring after a short time. All you do is keep the “wheel” (rudder) in a particular position and the wind and sea currents do all the work.
In fact, probably the first real test of their sailing ability was not seen for “many days” until the brothers rebelled, mutinied and tied the “captain” up (left) and took over the ship. At this point, because the Liahona stopped working (suggesting it had been working right along and telling Nephi what to do and what direction to steer the ship, i.e., where to hold the tiller) and the mutineers panicked (1 Nephi 18:13).
At this point the ship was driven back, the storm increased, the waters engulfed the vessel and they “were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea” (1 Nephi 18:13).
     Between these two points in time, boarding the ship and the mutiny, there was plenty of time in which everyone could have become fully acquainted with the ship, cooking, eating, furling sails, handling rigging, and steering according to the Liahona’s directions and the words as they appeared from time to time telling them what to do (1 Nephi 16:29).
     Going by way of the Southern Ocean, and following the currents we have discussed numerous times in previous articles, the activity of the crew would have been minimal. The ship was “driven forth before the wind,” the occupants had the Liahona to tell them what to do, and the rest was pretty much a quick trip at the narrowest point of the globe, covering the least distance possible. Another reason why island-hopping across the Pacific simply would have been out of the question for the Lehi party to have managed, especially manipulating the many problems the Malacca Strait and heading through Indonesia would have caused.

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