Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Non-Stop Voyage? – Part II

Continuing from the previous post, which discusses theorists views of a difficult and lengthy sailing route for Lehi across the mid-latitudes of the world, where the distance is the longest, the winds less predictable, and the currents move in counter directions to such a course. It was also suggested that a southern course through the Southern Ocean would dispel all the problems a mid-latitude sailing would have encountered—especially in time.     Continuing here with the Reader Comments and our Responses:
    Reader Comment: “For how long it took, Dr. Sorenson suggests that we can get some feel for this time from the voyage of a Polynesian canoe named Hokule'a. This vessel, sailing about eight thousand miles in comparable waters, averaged about ninety-eight miles per day. While this represented eighty-two days at sea, stops for repairs, rest, and supplies, extended their voyage over more than a year. Unlike Lehi's experience, the Hokule'a encountered nothing but good winds for their entire journey. If all other factors were comparable, this would suggest a time of two to three years for Lehi's voyage.”
The Holulea voyages were understaken in the heavily concentrated area of islands, some 74 in Polynesia alone stretching over 200 miles from New Zealand to Hawaii. These islands and their currents allowed north south sailing, but the vast distances where there were no islands where the winds blew against east west movement  through the middle of the Pacific remained a barrier for other type of sailing
    Response: The Hokule'a sailed south to north and back from New Zealand to Hawaii and back, at the widest part of the globe and his voyage in no way would have mirrored that of Lehi’s crossing. Besides two to three years at sea is beyond anything anyone experienced before except for those that tried to circumnavigate the globe, lost ships and spent much time in ports.
    For Lehi, coming out of the Indian Ocean and into the Southern Ocean would have been a unique experience from sailing in relative smooth waters for perhaps a month to suddenly flow into a fast moving current with high winds that took his vessel along a rapid ride requiring very little knowledge and effort, other than holding on.
Where the Indian Ocean and Southern Ocean meet. Note the different in ocean color, a distinct line that is crossed when sailing southeast into the Southern Ocean, like stepping from a slow moving walkway onto a fast moving walkway in at a carnival
    The fact of the matter is that the Southern Ocean currents and winds blow at such high speeds, and the circumpolar route shortens the voyage distance to such a degree that the sailing time through that part of the voyage and up the coast of Chile would have taken no more than about six weeks which is the route taken today by sailing races, which typically set off in 15 knot winds and then move along what they call “the Sleigh Ride” in 40 knot wind, because of the speed of the wind and current along the 40º latitude, which reaches 70 knot winds along this 4,750 mile, 26-day run between Australia and Africa in some of the most extreme and exhilarating sailing in the world. As one race performer of today put it, “Expect 80 foot swells, boat speeds of well over 30 knots and wind speeds that can reach up to 70mph. A downwind run you’ll never forget.”
    Obviously, not being in a race and trying to outdo another vessel, all Nephi and his brothers had to do was hunker down, hold on, and enjoy the ride “driven forth before the wind” that eternally circulates round the bottom of the world.
From past experience we can envision that exhileration in Nephi, but doubtful in the others, who would probably have been so scared out of their wits as to give no thought to rebellion and mutiny, but merely to survival. In addition, sailing would be day and night since there is nothing to interfere with the straight circumpolar course across the Southern Ocean—even in pitch blackness of moonless and starless nights. It would have strengthened the testimonies of those who accepted and relied on the Lord’s power and protection while the others, cowed into silence, would have died a thousand deaths hoping for their survival. It must have been a thrilling moment of reprieve for Nephi from his brother’s heavy-handed actions and insults, and of pure delight to see them cower in fear before the Lord.
     Here in this sea, vessels attain such speeds because of the speed of transmission of the ocean currents, that they outrun the low pressure systems that can bring gale force storms. To better understand this, as a low-pressure system begins its pass, a warmer high-pressure air mass can crowd down from say the north, squeezing the two systems together. The cold air of the low slides in under the warmer air of the high and pushes it up. The air already blowing into the center of the low increases in velocity, shooting up and spiraling out higher in the atmosphere. As more air is displaced from the sea's surface, the air pressure there drops even further (Wind is the flow of air from areas of high to low pressure down the pressure slope, or gradient, much like water flowing from higher to lower elevations). The steeper the slope, the faster, the air moves, and the stronger the wind. As the low approaches, its pressure gradient grow ominously steeper. While there are reporting systems today to warn mariners of such, none would have existed in 600 B.C., except for the Liahona in which the Lord communicated with Lehi.
    In this way, Nephi would have avoided the type of weather that can hinder passage across the Southern Ocean. For the ball, compass, or Liahona, not ony pointed the way with one of its spindles (1 Nephi 16:10), it had writing on it from time to time (1 Nephi 16:29)—and thus by these small means the Lord can bring about great things (1 Nephi 16:30).
Left: Yellow Arrows show the flow of the northern current of the Southern Ocean where it hits the Patagonia Shelf and curves upward in the Humboldt Current; Right: Yellow Arrow shows the Humbolt Current flowing northward along the western coast of Chile toward Coquimbo Bay where the fast-moving current slows to almost a standstill around 30º south latitude
    In addition, when sailing the Southern Ocean, there is nowhere to stop, especially once past Australia, New Zealand and Auckland and the Campbell Islands, and out into the southern Pacific where the Southern Ocean continues to run free of any obstruction for the 4160 miles beyond Campbell Island. There the northern current encounters the Patagonia Shelf of South America and curves upward in what is called the Humboldt Current.
    Continuing with 50-knot winds for days on end that has its way of wringing out the last dregs of energy, holding on and ducking relentless waves day and night in a non-stop deluge for weeks on end that drench everyone, no doubt leaving Laman, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael and everyone else, not only nauseous, but incapable of mustering the energy or even staying awake to foment any counter action.
    Also here the long fetch and huge swells where conflicting wave trains or the heaped, breaking crests of a conjoined swell can hit from different directions, rocking the vessel from one side to the other, while below the surface, a vast never-ending conveyor belt of cold water travels eastwards. At the latitude of the Forties and Fifties it is mainly wind-driven current, but further south the powerful Antarctic Circumpolar Current transports around 450 million cubic feet of water a second, three times more than all the rivers of the world combined.
    In the past, it made sense to mariners to head deep in these waters (south) into the Screaming 60s since they were after big winds and the speeds achievable from surfing the big Southern Ocean rollers, where as little as a 10-20º change in swell angle relative to the wind direction being much less comfortable and slowing progress. Obviously, the Lord knew where the best route would be and used the Liahona to communicate that to Nephi as to where to steer the shipas he did earlier in passing through the most fertile parts of the route along the Red Sea (1 Nephi 16:14). Obviously, while we are just learning today how to go faster, harness energy on the periphery of weather systems skirting storms to provide less wind, flatter seas, and faster speeds to minimize the number of weather systems encountered and the time spent in rough waters, the Lord has always known such things and wrote on the Liahona that which Nephi needed to know in steering the vessel along this raceway.
What a remarkable way to strengthen and prepare a future prophet that would end up guiding an entire nation, building a prosperous system of living that would see his people through a thousand years of dominance in the Land of Promise. One can wonder what made Nephi the man he was, but when taking his overall experiences as a whole, it is easy to see how the Lord developed the man to become the great leader he did. It is no different than the training and experiences Joseph Smith went through to forge him into the great prophet he became. It seems that sometimes we read the scriptural record and don’t really pay attention to what is going on, we just read words and think we understand, but there is an entire depth of knowledge to be gleaned—especially when we don’t have our minds made up before hand, and spend our reading time searching for the actual meanings of the writing.

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