Monday, June 27, 2016

A Non-Stop Voyage? – Part I

We received a long critique on one of our favorite subjects, the sailing of Lehi in the Southern Ocean and the type of voyage he undertook compared to what everyone thinks. It seems to us that until an individual comes to understand this voyage that Nephi briefly describes, he in no way can come to an understanding of where he landed, and thus, where the Land of Promise is located. To best answer this it seems to us that a singular comment article dealing with each individual idea one at a time would be the best way to provide a response. 
    First of all, unlike picking out a spot where one thinks the Land of Promise was located, as Sorenson did with Mesoamerica, Phyllis Carol Olive did with the Great Lakes because of the hill Cumorah, or Rod Meldrum did with his “Heartland” theory, etc., it is imperative to understand how Nephi’s ship could have sailed to the Western Hemisphere and the course it would have been restricted to sailing.
    We will list the Reader Comments, and our own Responses:
    Reader Comment: “It seems to me that Nephi’s voyage to the promised land was not a non-stop affair as you claim. The record doesn’t say either way…”
Response: The record gives no indication that any events happened at all, which should suggest a lack of events. Surely, if Nephi was to land his ship for repairs, water or food replenishment, etc., Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael would have found some way to effect a rebellion that they had fomented many times before. The lack of any comment along this line should suggest that they did not have an opportunity, i.e., that no landing took place anywhere. 
    Reader Comment: “…reason and similar experiences seem to provide an answer. If for nothing else, stops would be necessary to replenish their water supply. Repairs, other provisions, and the scraping of barnacles are other conditions which have forced all ancient seamen to make frequent stops as they have pursued similar voyages.”
Response: The “biofouling” of ships has been a problem for seamen forever; however, pulling into an island during a voyage is not sufficient to scaping the barnacles off the hull—it literally requires a dry dock, or the practice anciently of tipping a vessel over on its side to expose the hull sufficiently to scrape it clean--a skill unknown to Lehi and his family and one requiring a great deal of skill to keep from damaging the ship and sinking it entirely as often happened in the days of tipping. But the important thing to keep in mind for the Lehi voyage is that the practice of scraping barnacles ancientl off wooden sailing vessels occurred about every two months—or stated differently, not sufficient barnacles would have built up in a short one time voyage of Nephi’s ship from Arabia to the Western Hemisphere. The build up begins and progresses in series or singular events, i.e., first, a new ship like Nephi’s would have been coated with microbes in a day—not enough to see, but the first microbes start to lie down. Then the slime begins to grow over the course of weeks, which is nothing more than a gateway community (beginning) to the barnacles and other things to follow.
    This slime is a biofilm, a thin sheet of bacteria that stick to each other and to a matrix of molecules they exude to communicate with each other and to provide a hospitable environment for themselves. Once the slime forms, the rush is on, as algae and the larvae of creatures such as barnacles attach and begin to grow. In the era of Lehi, the primary threat to wooden hulls, came not from barnacles that attached to the outside of ships, but from marine worms—actually, long, thin, soft-bodied clams—that tunneled through the wood. The Romans used lead sheeting to protect against shipworms, giving their ships an edge in commerce and in war. (It added substantial weight, but it was on the ships’ bottoms, contributing to the vessels’ stability) Lead-covered hulls still hosted barnacles that had to be scraped, but at least the wood remained strong.
In the mid 1700s, the British began sheathing ship bottoms with copper, which repelled barnacles and other organisms and warded off wood-wasting worms. This was a radical technical advance for the time, but certainly within the knowledge of the Lore in his instructing Nephi how to build his ship, which was “not after the manner of men,” and to work his timbers “not after the manner of men.” There was also another technique, one less radical for the time, and that was paint containing copper. This caused small amounts of copper to leach into the water immediately next to the ship, poisoning any small creatures that approached, but certainly usuable in a pristine environment and on such a short voyage. 
    Several other toxic ingredients were also tried, including arsenic, mercury, strychnine, cyanide, and radioactive materials. Other than the latter, all were available to Nephi to use with a little special instruction. So was a tin-based antifouling paint, which proved in wooden ships to eliminate barnacle scraping for five years.  In addition, man is just now coming up with a “fouling release” paint that keeps things from sticking to the ship’s hulland plying the fast currents of the Southern Ocean, this latter would have been ideal and obviously within the instructional realm of what the Lord was teaching Nephi in building his ship—which is much like Noah being taught to apply pitch to his ship to make it seaworthy.
Several Options were available to the Lord to instruct Nephi during the construction of his ship and its finishing coat of paint, varnish, oil, or whatever was added to make it seaworthy
    Any of these solutions would have been simple to apply for Nephi and certainly cause his ship to last the short trip to the Western Hemisphere. Remember, Lehi’s voyage would have lasted less than two months in the Southern Ocean and closer to 6 weeks or less. It was a one-way, one-time only voyage. The worse that barnacle build-up on such a short voyage would be to slow down the vessel, which would not have to have been cleared away.
    Reader Comment: “Lehi's journey would have taken them more than half way around the world. For comparison, Lehi's voyage would have traversed at least 200° compared to about 55° for Columbus's voyage to America. Of course, Lehi did not travel in a straight line. Sorenson estimates that Lehi's journey would have been about seventeen thousand miles as compared to about three thousand for Columbus.”
    Response: This is typical Sorenson rhetoric. No understanding shipwright knowing the courses available for the voyage would even concern himself with such a problem, and certainly not think in terms of such a lengthy voyage. In the first place, almost all ocean voyages in deep water are on pretty much of a straight line. Secondly, since the currents and winds would have led directly through the Sea of Arabia into the Indian Ocean and then the Southern Ocean, the actual distance traveled would have been minimal since the Southern Ocean, unlike the Pacific at the equator, is very short all the way around the globe. As an example, sailing in the latitude of the 40s in the Southern Ocean saves many thousands of miles from traveling around the equatorial area across the Pacific. Dropping into the 60s, would save another thousand miles around the globe.
The yellow arrow shows (white circle) much smaller around than the green arrows. 
As an example, were this the world (turned upside down for viewing), the movement (white circle) around the globe would be a much shorter distance than that of the equator, shown by the green arrows
    To understand what we are talking about one must think of the voyage on a globe, not a flat map. Think of it as an orange cut in half. Place the cut end flat on a table and then compare the circumference of that on the table to the rounded end sticking up. The distance is four or five times further around at the table than what is in the air.
    Reader Comment: “No, this was not a non-stop voyage.
    Response: Of course it was. Any stops would have created problems and the voyage would have been short enough around the lower latitudes of the Roaring Forties, Furious Fifties and Screaming Sixties, as to make it a short voyage.
(See the next post, “A Non-Stop Voyage? – Part II,” for more on the understanding of why the Southern Ocean route was the only course that could have taken a ship “driven forth before the wind from the Arabian Peninsula to the Western Hemisphere)


  1. I talked to several folks in BOM wars blog and they said that it was possible to sail out of Arabia and around the horn of Africa into the Atlantic. I pointed out that it might be possible but it would add 10,000 miles to the trip. And the landing site does not match in anyway what is described by Nephi. My question is - is it really possible to sail a ship into the Atlantic from Arabia without tacking? Your explanation of sailing to SA is much better of course but curious about the other route. Ira

  2. When following the trade winds (Monsoon) coming off then Arabian Peninsula and the Indian sub-continent that flows southwest into the Sea of Arabian and then into the western area of the Indian Ocean, there are two currents involved. Inshore is the Agulhas Current south of Madagascar and flows south and curves toward the west as it dips around the southern tip of Africa. This is the only possible way around the Cape and toward the Atlantic. This is the course that Meldrum and other Heartland and Great Lakes Theorists claim Lehi took; however, there is a major problem facing Lehi and his inexperienced sailing crew and that is the currents around the cape are difficult at best, and disastrous for a sailing ship at worst—it was not called during the Age of Sailing the “graveyard of ships” for nothing—nor was the cape at this point called Cabo das tormentas, i.e., the “Cape of Storms” for nothing. In fact, this graveyard of ships is the largest ship graveyard in the world.
    At this point there are two capes: The Cape of Good Hope and the Cape of Agulhas (this area combined was called the Cape of Storms in the days of sailing) because of its whipping winds and extreme storms. Ancient mariners said of this area that it was “where killer waves rolled out of huge swells” that moved northward from the Southern Ocean across the sailing lanes around the Cape, creating “enormous storms, extremely rough waters, eddies and cross-currents.”
    The problem is that this area is where two distinct ocean currents meet, with the cold Benguela Current rushing up from the Southern Ocean and forming the eastern portion of the South Atlantic Ocean gyre, and the warm Mozambique Current flows from the north and east into the Agulhas Current that slams into the Benguela. These two currents do not merge as do most such currents, but the Benguela turns away the Agulhas in a violent collision south of the African tip or cape area, and is completely turned back into the Indian Ocean by the West Wind Drift of the Southern Oean, making a passage around the Cape extremely difficult and dangerous.
    In the graveyard of ships, and according to the South African Maritime Service Centre, it is estimated that more than 3000 ships from as many as 37 countries ended up on the bottom trying to negotiate this 1864-mile course around Africa over the past 500 years. The lack of success negotiating the “mountains of water off the wild coast of the Eastern Cape,” is both legend and lengthy, which does not count the earlier ships before 1500 A.D., including the Phoenicians an Arabs who sailed these waters. This area, where “killer waves” roll out of huge merciless ocean swells moving northward from the Southern Ocean across the sailing lanes around the Cape, creating enormous storms, extremely rough waters, eddies and cross-currents, have been the scourge of the most experienced Portuguese mariners who lost more than one hundred ships before learning how to round this cape in the 1400s by swinging wide out toward South America and down to pick up the Southern Ocean. In fact, it is said that “many ships that sailed these waters simply disappeared without a trace—the most famous being the Waratah in 1909,” due to common “freak” waves, giant whirlpools, or unpredictable weather.
    There is much more than could be written about this difficult passage and its horrendous history of death and wreckage of ships who tried to make this course around Africa, but the point is Lehi had a crew that knew little about sailing, even less about maneuvering in difficult waters, such as the Benguela and Mozambique Currents slam into one another. In fact, at this exact unavoidable point, several currents and wind circulations meet, with the eastward-moving Southern Ocean currents prevailing as they pass south of the cape area toward the east and into the Indian Ocean.
    It is just another case of looking on a map and saying this ought to work. The thousands of dead mariners who tried it are still claimed to haunt the area.

  3. Excellent Del, Thanks for this information. It's simply another nail in the coffin of the NA model.

    contains the following information:

    About the Phoenician Ship Expedition

    The journey was long...
    The challenges were great...
    But the rewards proved inspiring & unforgettable.
    Our adventure started here

    Over two and a half thousand years ago one of the greatest journeys in mankind's history began on the Egyptian shores of the Red Sea. Greek Historian Herodotus tells us how, in 600 BC, Phoenician mariners achieved the first circumnavigation of Africa, a voyage into unknown waters previously considered too dangerous to attempt.

    In 2008-2010 a reconstruction of a Phoenician trading vessel, built at the ancient Phoenician port of Arwad, embarked upon a journey to re-trace the Phoenicians' route around Africa. Re-creating this historical voyage was the major objective of the Phoenician Ship Expedition and was completed by Captain Philip Beale and his crew in October 2010 after 2 years 2 months, and 20,000 miles at sea.
    contains a nice map of the above Phoenician Expedition and additional information:

    Departed Salalah, Oman Oct. 26, 2009
    Departed Cape Town, South Africa Mar. 22, 2010
    Most Westerly Point in Expedition June 12, 2010
    (approximately 4 days from the USA)

    The above days of the year would have been a near perfect fit for Nephi's voyage. And 600 BC is near Nephi's departure.

    1. Ya Mecham but that doesn't fit Lehi. The Phoenicians were great sailors. Lehi wasn't. He didn't know how to tack into the wind as indicated in the BOM. So it doesn't fit at all. Del has completely destroyed your claim that Lehi sailed to North America. Your model simply does not work at all. You would be wise though to stick around and get a little bit educated. Sounds like you need it. Ira