Friday, August 5, 2016

Is the Narrow Neck the Key? – Part III

Continuing from the previous post on the importance of landmarks, and how to find the location of the Land of Promise and understand the events that took place there.
    First of all, of course, is getting there. We simply just cannot pick up Lehi in Bountiful (Arabia) and place him down in the Land of Promise. The Lord had Nephi build a ship to take the colony to the Land of Promise, so we need to trace that path across the deep ocean that Nephi’s ship sailed, for those paths are like avenues on the oceans of the world and do not change.
It was John L. Sorenson who suggested Lehi’s ship sailed up along the Kuroshio Current past Japan and then across the North Pacific and down the coast of North America to Central America. However, there are two serious problems with that being ignored: 1) as shown in the last post, Nephi’s ship never could have gotten into the Pacific from Arabia in order to pick up the Kuroshio Current because of the currents flowing from east to west through Indonesia, and 2) Coming down the west coast of North America, the sea is pushed out and into the North Pacific Gyre at Point Concepcion just north of Santa Barbara California, and "being driven forth before the wind" would not have been able to avoid being sent back out to see into the Pacific and back toward Japan since they were driven before the wind. Unlike in the South Pacific Gyre, there is no lessening of the currents in the north to affect moving out of the winds and ocean current as there is in the South Pacific around 30º south latitude along the coast of Chile.
The California Current is a broad flow (white arrow on map) moving southward along the coast for nearly 1500 miles past Oregon, California and Baja California and is a transition zone between colder subarctic waters of the Gulf of Alaska and subtropical waters off Baja California. However, the current itself as it flows toward Santa Barbara hits the Point Concepcion headland where the Santa Barbara Channel meets the Pacific Ocean and as the corner between the mostly north-south trending portion of coast to the north and the east-west trending part of the coast near Santa Barbara, it makes a natural division between Southern and Central California, where the southern (red arrow on map) flow of the California Current is pushed out into the Pacific and forms the clockwise eastern curvature of the North Pacific Gyre.
    Today, of course, it is no difficult task to sail further south along the coast with powerboats and sailing vessels, but in 600 B.C., in a ship “driven forth before the wind,” Nephi’s vessel would have been pushed back out into the Pacific by the currents off this headland, and back out to sea in the westward moving bottom leg of the gyre toward Japan. In fact, these currents are so strong at this point that Juan Rodriguezx Cabrillo, who sailed along the California coast in search for glory and gold in 1542, encountered heavy seas upon rounding the Point and was forced to turn back to San Miguel Island where he died. Second-in-command Bartolome Ferrer took charge and again tried to round the Point but he was also unsuccessful. This treacherous passage required the frantic work of seamen to guide their ship through the tempest in one piece while wild swells swept the deck and sails and rigging were ripped to shreds and the gale force wind threatened to snap the mast in two. Its extreme difficuilty was illustrated by the real life experiences of Richard Henry Dana, Jr., in his work Two Years Before the Mast (1840).
As he wrote of this passing: “The force of the wind had never been greater than at this moment. In going up the rigging, it seemed absolutely to pin us down to the shrouds; and, on the yard, there was no such thing as turning a face to windward. The gale was now at its height, `blowing like scissors and thumb-screws’; the captain was on deck; the ship, which was light, rolling and pitching as though she would shake the long sticks out of her, and the sails were gaping open and splitting in every direction. For three days and three nights the gale continued with unabated fury, and with singular regularity. There were no lulls, and very little variation in its fierceness. … All this time the sea was rolling in immense surges, white with foam, as far as the eye could reach, on every side, for we were now leagues and leagues from shore.”
    “During these seventy-two hours we had nothing to do but to turn in and out, four hours on deck, and four below, eat, sleep, and keep watch…and we had many days’ sailing to get back to the longitude we were in when the storm took us.”
    “Day after day Captain Faucon went up to the hill [overlooking Monterey Bay] to look out for us, and at last gave us up, thinking we must have gone down in the gale which we experienced off Point Conception…”
    The author’s dramatic description of the sea and weather surrounding Point Conception is lent greater weight having come from a mariner well experienced in sailing open ocean through some of the world’s most deadly waters, including a frightful trip around Cape Horn during an Antarctic winter, and having to work the icy decks and rigging of a pitching and rolling ship under howling winds in the midst of “driving sleet, and darkness, and wet, and cold.” The 1835 experience of the sailing ship Pilgrim, which was damaged and nearly capsized in a sudden change of weather here, is typical of boaters even today trying to broach this point that constantly has heavy gales.
    Compared by Dana with Cape Horn along the southern tip of South America, the Point is called “the Cape Horn of the Pacific” by the United States Coast Guard. In fact, as Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick (1851) wrote of Dana: “Knowing well the nastiness of Cape Horn, Dana still saw fit to compare Point Conception to it, which surely is some proof of the Central Coast headland’s formidable nature. [So accurate were} his chapters describing Cape Horn [they] must have been written with an icicle.”
The treacherous seas off Point Conception result in part from the confluence of cold and warm water oceanic currents. Typically it is a region of unsettled, foggy and blustery weather and rough and turbulent chilly water that has long played havoc on passing vessels. In fact, a short distance up the coast from Point Conception, at Honda (Pedernales) Point, one of the largest peacetime disasters in United States naval history occurred, when on September 8, 1923, a navigational error in foggy or misty weather led seven destroyers aground on the jagged seashore killing 23 sailors.
    The point is, this is the area Sorenson would have had the inexperienced crew bring Nephi’s ship out of the currents and in for a landing, for this would have been the only place where Nephi’s ship could have left the California Current and sailed further south toward Southern California or Baja. As can be seen, it was no small task to accomplish even in the more maneuverable ships of the 19th century, let alone in the Ship Nephi built in 600 B.C. that had little ability to maneuver, subject to be pushed forward by the winds.
    As we have written many times on these pages, it is one thing to look at a map and point your finger along a path that appears to make sense, but another thing entirely to actually have accomplished such a route. The 1835 experience of the sailing ship Pilgrim, which was damaged and nearly capsized in a sudden change of weather there, is typical of boaters even today. Even if Nephi could have gotten his ship through Indonesia and into the Pacific for a voyage up the Kuroship Current, getting out of that fast-moving current along the California coast before being sent back out to sea in the gyre would have been next to impossible.
(See the next post, “Is the Narrow Neck the Key? – Part II,” for more on the importance of landmarks, and how to find the location of the Land of Promise and understand the events that took place there)

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