Tuesday, May 17, 2016

What is Opinion and What is Not? – Part IV

Continuing from the previous posts regarding what is actually “fact” when dealing with the Land of Promise location: 
   Of course, there is no question that Nephi built a ship and he built it after the manner which the Lord told him. Nor is there any serious question as to where Nephi was when he built the ship, i.e., along the south coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Nor is there any question that Lehi and his family and that of Ishmael’s family boarded the vessel and set sail into the Sea of Arabia.
The questions begin, and the opinions rise, when we go beyond those few points. So how do you separate fact from fiction, or at least from opinions? There are two steps:
1.Begin with an open mind without a pre-conceived opinion about where Lehi sailed and where he landed;
2. Follow the scriptural record, word for word, without trying to add, subtract, or change what is written;
3. When checking against history and facts of the events and locations you encounter, look up facts on the matter and don’t just try to use your own knowledge; and
4. Do not allow 21st century opinions, sensibilities and beliefs to cloud our judgment of the past.
    As an example, when trying to figure out the configuration of the ship the Lord designed and Nephi built, don’t just go by the ships (dhows) then in existence in the area—think beyond that present to the type of ship the Lord would need to design, i.e., strong enough for deep water, steerable to some degree, a sail for the wind to drive forth, deck on which the brothers and their wives danced, etc. Also, don’t rely on what you think would be a good direction to take, but study the winds and currents of the locationsdo they flow in the direction you think?
Trade Winds and Monsoon Winds in the Sea of Arabia and Indian Ocean are very well documented—they do not flow by opinion, only by fact. As an example, it is a well-known fact that ocean surface currents are determined by wind, Coriolis forces from the Earth's rotation, and the position of landforms that interact with the currentsas can be seen, these are not changeable factors but are set with the design of the earth. It is also a well known fact that wind is simply the flow of a huge amounts of air, usually from a high-pressure-area to a low-pressure area, and combined with the sun's radiation as it responds to cloud cover, mountains, valleys, water bodies, vegetation and desert lands determine where the winds move and when
    Following then, are the facts,  that taken in order, will guide you toward the Land of Promise:
1. Lehi and his party boarded the ship: “we had prepared all things, much fruits and meat from the wilderness, and honey in abundance, and provisions according to that which the Lord had commanded us, we did go down into the ship, with all our loading and our seeds, and whatsoever thing we had brought with us, every one according to his age; wherefore, we did all go down into the ship, with our wives and our children.”
    One of the greatest threats to health on long sea voyages of the 14th through 19th centuries was scurvy, a potentially fatal disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), normally sourced from fresh fruit and vegetables. Since Hippocrates did not first describe scurvy until around 460 B.C., it is likely Lehi and his crew knew nothing about it, but the Lord certainly did and the “fruit, honey, meat and other provisions” he had Lehi bring aboard certainly would have contained sufficient citrus fruits, vegetables greens, and berries to last the voyage, especially lemons, for a balanced diet. After all, he knew where the winds were and the ocean currents, knew how long the voyage would be, and what provisions would be needed and how long they would last. He also knew that Nephi and his crew would not have been able to handle their vessel in any type of serious maneuvering such as landing his craft except at the end of the voyage when it would not need to sail further.
    Since this inexperience of the crew in ship handling, it would have been necessary to avoid any landing on the way, so the provisions brought aboard would have been sufficient to avoid replenishing supplies during the voyage. In fact, during the later Age of Sail, the typical foods brought on long sea voyages consisted of water, vinegar, wine, olive oil, molasses, honey, cheese, rice, almonds, salted flour, sea biscuits, dry legumes, salted and barreled sardines, anchovies, dry salt cod and pickled or salted meats (beef and pork). Fresh livestock included pigs and chickens were part of the ships provisions, and fish was readily available.
Magellen’s fleet of ships were caught in the equatorial (red arrow) duldrums that becalmed their vessels for 38 days before drifting into a current and only 18 members of his original crew made it back to Spain
    As for the length of time, the Mayflower was at sea for 64 days, carrying enough food and water for 132 people and crew; Columbus was at sea 36 days with enough food for a crew of 52. Caught in the duldrums (no air currents), Magellan lost more than 80% of his crew to scurvy, called at the time “the plague of the Sea, and the spoyle of Mariners.” Commodore George Anson lost 1300 out of 2000 in his squadron in 1740s, and Pedro de Quiros lost nearly all his crews in the century before.
2. “and had taken with us our provisions and things which had been commanded us, we did put forth into the sea and were driven forth before the wind towards the promised land” (1 Nephi 18:8).
    Obviously, the course of Nephi’s ship would have been the direction of the winds and ocean currents, since his ship was “driven forth before the wind.” Even to the sailor of today, this statement is not as important as it would have been 1000 years ago when tacking (sailing into the wind) was first becoming understood—before that time, the direction of the wind determined the direction of travel. That is, in tacking a sail is like an airfoil, with the curved end (the side away from the wind) pulling the sail forward, thus one can sail into or toward the wind. However, when “driven forth before the wind,” the wind is behind the sail, or behind the boat, pushing the ship forward. In such cases, you are a prisoner to the wind, i.e., you can only move in the direction the wind is blowing, and steerage is of minimal value, meaning you could not steer the vessel in any other direction than along the line the wind was blowing. It is like being a kid and placing a piece of wood into gutter drain currentthe wood went where the current took it, nowhere else.
This is also true of the course the water is moving, or the direction of the current. And since the wind drags the water across the ocean, forming currents, the direction of winds and currents, which have been known for thousands of years and mapped for several hundred, can be observed and understood.
3. “After we had been driven forth before the wind for the space of many days…” (1 Nephi 18:9).
    The period of time mentioned as “many days” in the scriptural record is typically several days and could mean up to two or three months or more; however in this case, it is likely meant as a week to ten days, suggesting the brothers and their wives became familiar with the daily routine of sailing, got used to the winds, noises, etc., and realized they were going to live after all and not drown in the ship Nephi built. For those who have never been to sea and then enter into a small ship of which they might not have a lot of faith, would take about that time to become used to it and gain confidence.
    This should suggest that for about a week or maybe even two, the ship sailed well, those on board became used to sailing, and gained confidence in their prospects. It also should suggest that they would have likely been well out of the sight of land, moving out into the ocean with no way of rescue around them, thus the time of “many days” before they felt like celebrating.
4. “I, Nephi, began to speak to them with much soberness; but behold they were angry with me, saying: We will not that our younger brother shall be a ruler over us. And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel did take me and bind me with cords, and they did treat me with much harshness…” (1 Nephi 18:10-11).
    Everything must have been going well for Laman and Lemuel, who knew nothing about the ocean, felt confident they could handle whatever had been going on to take Nephi, who had been guiding the ship via the Liahona and tie him up. Even when the compass stopped working, the brothers were immune to the complaints of at least half the crew, no doubt thinking they could handle thes hip without Nephi.
When Laman and Lemuel tied up Nephi, the compass stopped working and a great storm  arose 
5. “Wherefore, they knew not whither they should steer the ship, insomuch that there arose a great storm, yea, a great and terrible tempest, and we were driven back upon the waters for the space of three days; and they began to be frightened exceedingly lest they should be drowned in the sea; nevertheless they did not loose me” (1 Nephi 18:13).
    When a ship is driven back upon the water, it does not mean it is sailing backward. It means the vessel has been turned as the current becomes temporarily reversed by the swirling waters of a storm. It should also be understood that a storm close to shore causes the waves and currents to turn and curve shoreward, typically resulting in wrecking the vessel along the rocks of the shore. This, then, tells us that the vessel was out to sea far enough for the storm as it played out over a four day period, not to have sent Nephi’s ship into the coastal currents and certain destruction. Thus, the “many days” mentioned earlier would have h ad to be at least 6 or 7 days to provide enough sea room between shore and the storm. 
An area called the Mascarene High off the coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean and is considered the powerhouse of monsoon winds. Here the winds blow from the southwest causing a curvature of the southeast flowing winds around the high-pressure area and if caught in it, a vessel can be turned back in the circular wind and curent pattern and head back the way it had come with the Coriolis Force driving it inward toward Somalia along the coast of Africa
    In addition, Nephi's comment that Laman and Lemuel knew not where to steer the ship referred to the Liahona no longer showing or telling them where to keep the rudder so that the ship stayed in the outer (western) part of the current and out of the natural location of a high-pressure area and the storm it builds up in this particular part of the Indian Ocean as the southwest monsson blow into this area. Thus, the ship moved into, was turned back on itself and sailed back the way it had come in the circular storm.
6. “And on the fourth day, which we had been driven back, the tempest began to be exceedingly sore” (1 Nephi 18:14).
    As the storm increased in its violence, not only was the vessel severely threatened to capsize, lose its mast, or be torn apart, but that they would be moving shoreward rapidly, making the “many days” probably somewhat more than a week. It should also be noted, especially for those who have not been in a severe storm at sea in a wooden, plank vessel (not fiberglass), how dangerous the situation would be—thus suggesting the extreme stubbornness of Laman, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael to keep Nephi bound despite the tremendously growing situation that threatened their lives.
(See the next post, “What is Opinion and What is Not? – Part V,” for more regarding what is fact about the Land of Promise and the scriptural record)

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