Friday, February 26, 2016

Clarification for Another Reader – The Isle of Promise – Part V

Continuing from the previous post on why the Nephites knew they were on an island, and our responses to the several comments sent to us on this by a reader. In the last post, the comment the reader made was:The Mediterranean climate you mention would have been very different when they first landed under your theory with the absence of the Andes mountains,” which led to a response in regard to understanding of earthquakes: 
    Reader: “Plus, Nephi points out that their crops grew "exceedingly" and "in abundance" which sounds like they grew even better than in Jerusalem.”
Left: Exceedingly Abundant corn crop in Jerusalem, Israel; Right: Exceedingly Abundant corn crop in La Serena, Chile; both Mediterranean Climates
    Response: Jerusalem crop production is considered, especially in Old Testament times, as a highly productive growing area. Another way to interpret what he wrote is: 1) The Lord blessed them with abundant crops that were essential for their survival for there were no other ways to secure food; 2) Nephi knew that planting seeds in other areas might not always allow for good yields, but that he was surprised they did so well in a transplanted period.
    Reader: “If the Nephites had fled 1500 miles the Lamanites would have found them. But Nephi made swords, knowing the Lamanites would come back, which they did. Even though they traveled "many days" to separate themselves, they still must not have been all that far away.”
    Response. First of all, I’m not sure of your point here. Nephi would have known the Lamanites would follow and eventually find them for he had visions of the wars between his people and those of his brethren, as did Lehi before him.
I doubt it was a matter of hiding, but of: 1) Going where the Lord told him through the Liahona, and 2) hoping the greater distance might discourage immediate following and give them time to get settled, build fortifications and weapons, which is what seems to have happened. As Nephi stated: “And I, Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us; for I knew their hatred towards me and my children and those who were called my people” (2 Nephi 4:14).
    Secondly, the distance from La Serena to Cuzco is 1526 miles, which is about the distance from Jerusalem to where Lehi turned east, away from the Red Sea. It would seem that Nephi might have entertained the hope that the Lamanites might not follow, at least for a time, for they had been safe from pursuit that far south along the Red Sea from those in Jerusalem who wanted to kill Lehi.
    Reader: “Coquimbo is about 1,500 miles from Cusco, which is another almost 1,500 miles from your narrow neck.”
    Response: 1526 from La Serena (Coquimbo Bay) to Cuzco, and about 1496 miles from Cuzco to the Narrow Neck. However, at no time once Nephi got that far north, to Cuzco, was a trip undertaken from there to the narrow neck—almost all travel as pointed out earlier in this series was done in much closer or shorter distances. Only Limhi’s 43-man expedition made that length of a trip and that was because they were lost for some time and had no idea where they were, but kept hunting until they found what they thought was Zarahemla (the destroyed buildings of the Jaredite people).
    Reader: “It took about 20 days to get from Nephi to Zarahemla. With families and animals going through the wilderness you could only cover 10-15 miles per day at the most (probably 200-300 miles). Bountiful was probably a similar distance or less from Zarahemla so at the very most it would have been 500 miles or so from the land of Nephi to the narrow neck.”
Response: First of all, you have your distances mixed up. The distance from the City of Nephi to the City of Zarahemla is unknown, but whatever it was, the distance from Nephi to Bountiful is in no way suggested so it cannot be determined to be 500 miles or any other figure based on the scriptural record. Secondly, we do not know the distance from the City of Nephi to the City of Zarahemla—that is never given. We know that it took 21 days for Alma and his people to get from the Waters of Mormon to the Land of Zarahemla, but not how long to get to the City of Zarahemla for that destination is not mentioned. Third, as for the 21 days of travel, this travel was under extreme conditions of fleeing and we cannot know how far they traveled under such fearful conditions—it is likely they milked every minute of possible travel time, knowing they were running ahead of Noah’s armed guards initially, then from the Lamanites. Again, they would have traveled as fast and as far as they could each day under those circumstances.
They also made that trip in three increments and would have been well rested before each of the three legs traveled. All we can definitely say is that it would have taken about 21 days to travel the distance from the Waters of Mormon to the Land of Zarahemla.
    Knowing  how many miles they traveled would be an assumption, but we can come up with a fairly close figure. Because of the stress of the danger involved, they would, as said earlier, traveled every daylight and twilight hour available to them.
    Based on the summer solstice (December) in the area, which is 12 hours 50 minutes of sunlight, but 13 hours and 37 minutes of civil twilight, which provides sufficient light when the sun drops down below the horizon (and rises above it) where sufficient light is available for travel; or 14 hours 8 minutes of astronomical twilight, when the sun drops down (and rises) to a level between total darkness and sufficient twilight where travel is possible but difficult.
    Under the circumstances of their flight from danger of capture and probably death, it is likely that Alma and his people traveled well into astronomical twilight, giving them about 14 hours of travel, which could have been more based on the available moonlight. However, taking 14 hours, moving at 3 miles an hour (one mile every 20 minutes under high adrenalin conditions, in three incremental movement periods, beginning each one well rested), would amount to 42 miles per day for a possible 882 miles covered.
    Since the distance from Cuzco (City of Nephi) to Pachacamac (City of Zarahemla) is about 685 miles, it is possible they could have made this in the 21 days under the conditions cited. In fact, they would have been able to do it averaging 2.4 miles per hour during those 21 days (that is about 32 miles per day). Remember, this was not a regular, routing journey as Mormon describes in Alma 22:32 in crossing the narrow neck of land,but a condition where Alma and his people are fleeing from those who at best would enslave them and at worse, kill them.


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  2. Two points: an average man can walk one mile in 20 minutes at an easy pace, that is 3 miles per hour—if they are in shape (not sedentary) they can maintain this for several hours. I would think that the Nephites were probably in better shape, being an agrarian society used to hard work in the fields, etc., rather than our people of today who are more sedentary and far less active. In the military, we marched "route step" 3 to 3.5 miles in 50 minutes, rested 10 minutes, then alternating to 3 miles, and back to 3.5 again, etc., for hours on end. I agree that 2.4 mph for 12 to 13 straight hours without rest would be extremely difficult, but resting 10 minutes per hour has been proven to increase distance ten fold (the average speed of troop movement is 2.5 mph for extended foot movement—and that is with a 90 pound backback, carrying a 9.5 pound rifle). Perhaps you have heard of General Lucian Truscott (founder of the U.S. Rangers) of the 3rd Infantry Division during the Allied invasion of Sicily called Operation Husky. He trained the 3rd Infantry Division to a very high standard before leading in the assault on Sicily in July 1943. His training paid off when the division covered great distances in the mountainous terrain at high speed. The famous 'Truscott Trot' was a 4 mph marching pace that always began at five miles per hour over the first mile, thereafter four miles per hour, much faster than the usual standard of 2.5 miles per hour (actor Audie Murphy, and politicians Daniel Inouye and Bob Dole served under him). His famous coverage of 100 miles in 72 hours to arrive in Palermo saved numerous lives; as did General Patton’s movement of up to 125 miles in two days, moving his forces, 2/3 of which were infantry (on foot) to save the 101st Airborne troops at Bastogne, were both magnificent examples of moving large numbers of people with heavy equipment (not wheeled) over great distances covering very difficult terrain.
    For whatever it is worth, a friend of mine was filming movies in Peru some years ago and caught a Peruvian woman on film using a sort of shuffling trot as she walked along one of the old roads. He said most of the women and men out in the country walked that way—a fast paced, but leisurely stroll that must have been around 4 to 5 mph.
    Also, for whatever it is worth, we have written in these pages numerous times about the distance one can cover in normal walking—mostly in connection with the day and a half journey, which was meant by Mormon to illustrate a distance and, therefore, most likely using a normal person’s ability. However, the example of distance covered by Alma’s band, when the Lord told Alma: “Haste thee and get thou and this people out of this land, for the Lamanites have awakened and do pursue thee; therefore get thee out of this land, and I will stop the Lamanites in this valley that they come no further in pursuit of this people” (Mosiah 24:23), I think the term “haste thee” might suggest that Alma and his people were under some suggestion to hurry along the way, and though the Lord would stop this group from following, Alma had been chased twice before by surprise groups that sought his life, and probably did not dally around during the following 12 days in the wilderness until they reached what they thought was safety (land of Zarahemla).

  3. As for needle in haystack, we have tried to show that ancient travel in the Land of Promise, especially when considering Chile and Peru (and also Ecuador), followed available landfall and terrain. One would have to be there to really get a clear view of this, but travel routes are very limited, i.e., you go where the land allows you to go, even pretty much today. When Nephi’s brothers followed, other than perhaps seeing tracks or residue of Nephi and his people where they earlier passed, were still limited in their choices of possible paths Nephi could have taken. Though it might have involved a few blind turns, the path would have been much easier to find than one might think. In a future series of articles we are showing the routes and limited paths available to Nephi through the wilderness from their Landing Site northward into Peru or what they called the Land of Nephi. Hopefully, we can convey the singularity of that movement and its choices.