Tuesday, May 3, 2016

More Difficult Traveling Through Indonesia – Part I

Recently a reader sent us this comment that hasn’t been addressed here for a while, though much has been written about it in the past and especially in the book Lehi Never Saw Mesoamerica. However, it is good to remind readers from time to time what has been covered since there are always new readers and resurrected beliefs that crop up that should be addressed from time to time: 
   Reader: “It would be a little more difficult of a path for Lehi through Indonesia. However, another thing to consider is that the Lord controls the wind and the waves and could certainly guide them wherever He wanted them to go. Even Nephi said they were driven back for four straight days, meaning the wind and/or ocean currents were going against them. Thanks for the thoughtful discussion!”
    Response: First of all, a ship “driven forth before the wind” (1 Nephi 18:8) means that it is not tackable, i.e., cannot steer into the wind in any way (tacking means it is being pulled forward, in the same sense a wing is being pulled up because of the lift on the flat surface and the pull upward on the curved surface (and in a ship requires one steer the ship to the left and then to the right, zig-zagging into the wind, first on one side, then on the other, thus steering across the wind to port and then to starboard).
    This is not the same thing as being “driven forth before the wind,” meaning the wind is behind the ship (sail) and pushing it forward. In such circumstances steering is extremely limited to within the current flow. Get out of the current flow and the current pushes the ship back, i.e., drags the ship around and sends it in the opposite direction (in the flow of the current).
There are basically three entrances into the Indonesia archipelago and that is the most common (red arrow) down through the Strait of Malacca; or less likely (left blue arrow) Strait of Sunda, or (right blue arrow) between Bali and Pulau Lombok islands and into the Bali Sea
    Now for the idea of moving through Indonesia with its 18,307 islands involving enormous steering problems and course changes, plus it involves numerous separate and cross currents, that would not just be “more difficult,” it would be almost impossible in the method Nephi describes his ship was motivated. Steering a sailing ship like that is not like driving a car—you can only make small adjustments and only within the flow of the current and the flow of the wind. If you were to trace a course through Indonesia, making right and left turns, you would see how impossible it would be for a vessel dependent upon being driven before the wind.
    The problem arises when people of today, who feel one can go anywhere one wants since ships and technology of today pretty much allows that, have no idea what it means to sail in a vessel you cannot turn to right or left to avoid shoals, reefs, small islands, channels, cross-currents, etc. In addition, the wind blowing in the Malacca Strait between Sumatra and Malaysia blow against an attempt to sail down the channel from the Andaman Sea toward the South China Sea, negotiate the numerous islands at the end of that Strait, either making a sharp left turn through the Singapore Strait, or heading straight between numerous islands blocking the path out into the South China Sea.
    The entrances (shown with arrows above) would mean bucking directly the winds and currents passing out of Indonesian waters and into the Indian Ocean, i.e., sailing into the wind—an impossible feat for Nephi’s ship that is “driven forth before the wind.”
In the Indonesian Throughflow, the winds and currents come off of and out of the Pacific Ocean, moving from east to west, against any wind-driven vessel trying to go from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific through Indonesia
    Not only are these winds treacherous coming off the Pacific Ocean around the Philippines and Malaysia/Indonesia islands and through the Sulu Sea, South China Sea, Java Sea, Celebes Sea, Banda Sea, Arafura Sea, Molucca Sea, Flores Sea, Halmahera Sea, Ceram Sea, and Timor Sea as well as through the Makassar Strait and across several Gulfs, as they force their way into what is called “The Indonesian Throughflow,” transporting warm water through cool and into warm waters again of the Indian Ocean Dipole, and out into the Indian Ocean in a negative IOD SST pattern that has been shown to be associated with an increase in rainfall and adjoining storms, as well as divergent winds and currents, between the different pressure gradients of these two oceans, they create havoc for sailing vessels even today with all the modern technologies at their disposal.
    The undeniable part of this is that all these elements have always made it difficult to sail these waters, and especially for deep ocean sailing vessels and almost impossible for such before the Age of Discovery, during which time sailing into the wind, i.e., where “head to wind” as much as 45º was possible with the movement and angling of sails to allow for “close hauling.”
    Of course, the Lord has always known that when the sail is angled from the centerline of the hull, the more the force points forward rather than to the side, and that combining that slight adjustment in forward force with the opposition of water to air, and you have a boat shooting windward because it is now the course of least resistance. And just as easy as it is to write that, the Lord could have told Nephi of it; however, knowing that and being able to execute it are two entirely different things. Nephi and his crew were not only inexperienced in sailing from all that we can learn from the scriptural record, they had no experience at all in the sailing and usage of knowledge more than a thousands years before their time.
When one starts tracing lines on a map, one is bound to ignore all the hardships that any vessel would have to master; but when that vessel is dependent upon wind and current and nothing else for steerage, then such tight maneuvering would be almost impossible for the best of mariners, impossible beyond a shadow of a doubt for the inexperienced Lehi and his family.
    Now that brings us to the Lord changing the currents and winds. While the Lord, who designed it all and has no limit to his power and ability, He simply does not operate that way. After all, he knew from the beginning that Lehi would be traveling from the Arabian Peninsula to the Western Hemisphere. The winds and currents, which depend upon such stable areas as gravity, earth rotation, upper and lower direction of gravity (which causes the direction of winds and currents), etc., could far more easily have designed a world to accommodate his later purposes. In practice, He has seldom interfered with natural laws of the type we are dealing with here, and one would think there would be simpler methods for Him to achieve His goals with Lehi’s sailing than changing directions of winds and currents since they are inter-connected to the entire Global Ocean Circulation System that effects every part of the sea that has contact with any other part (i.e., the entire ocean).  
The Great Ocean Conveyor Belt is a constantly moving system of deep-ocean circulation driven by temperature and salinity, and constantly moves water around the globe--a necessary factor in the well being of the planet and all that live upon it
    In fact, the circulation of the world ocean is often compared to a conveyor belt. In the North Atlantic, cold, salty surface water sinks and spreads southward through the Atlantic Ocean as North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW). That NADW is then carried by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and deep western boundary currents to the Pacific and Indian Oceans. In order for this transport to occur, there must be a return flow of comparatively warm water balancing the mass transport. This exchange evidently must happen in the oceans’ thermocline, the layer of seawater between the surface mixed layer and the cooler deepwater in which the water temperature changes rapidly with depth. This occurs via the ITF and the subsequent export of those waters from the Indian Ocean into the South Atlantic through the Agulhas Leakage. This concept, now well accepted in principle, requires that the ITF balance the transport of mass, heat, and salt from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean, which is achieved through the constant movement of its current flow pattern which, according to oceanographers has always been the same since the Continents have been in their relatively same positions as we find today.
    Since the Lord designed the entire system originally, why not simply design it for how it will be used in the future, then lead Lehi to use the system in place, rather than send him off in another direction requiring all the changes needed to allow that to happen?
(See the next post, “More Difficult Traveling Through Indonesia – Part II,” for more on then impossibility of a vessel “driven forth before the wind” moving through Indonesia)


  1. Del -

    I have been sending your articles to a friend of mine from church he has objected to some of your pieces with the following statements / speculations.

    (1) Nephi could've built an electric motor which is similar to a wind turbine & it appears the Liahona, seer stones, Nephi's ability to shock his brethren, smelting of the rocks / iron ores etc. are "proof of electricity" in the Book of Mormon

    (2) "God could change the wind & ocean currents if he wanted to, it was not necessary for Nephi to sail because the Jaredites used barges & we do not know what type of boat Noah used"

    I know you have responded generally to some of these things in the past could you address them again please.

    Adam D. Willson

    1. Adam, I run into the same absurd arguments from others from time to time when I mention the South America model. Recently someone told me that Nephi sailed out the Mediterranean Sea across the Atlantic, up the Saint Lawrence river and into the Great Lakes. When I told him that was absurd for the simple fact alone that you cannot sail up the St L river without getting snagged he got all defensive and said what your friend said -"well, God can do anything". God could have transported Nephi and Lehi to the promised land in a second if He wanted to also. There is no bases in fact and the arguments are absurd. Anyway, that's my take on it. Ira