Thursday, September 8, 2016

Lehi did not Land South of Isthmus of Darien

A reader wrote in saying, “Have you read the statement of the Big Warrior of Alabama about his ancestors that came across the ocean in a ship and landed just south of the Isthmus of Darien? It seems to parallel Joseph Smith’s statement that “Lehi went down by the Red Sea to the Southern Ocean, and crossed over to this land, and landed a little south of the Isthmus of Darien.    Response: There are some things you might want to know about this information. First, it comes from Don R. Hender, whose approach to this being from a Prophet of God is a little convoluted at best.
Second, “The Big Warrior,” or Tustanagee Thlucco (left) was a principal chief of the Creek Nation, the Upper Creeks known specifically as the Tukabahchi, until his death in December 1825, over two years before Joseph Smith translated the plates, and over three years before the Book of Mormon appeared in print. For most of his career the Big Warrior (who married the widow of Mad Dog and raised his children who later took the surname of Cornells) collaborated with the United States government (he signed the Treaty of Indian Springs) and became wealthy. He was accused of enriching himself by mishandling annuities paid to the Creeks by the United States, and though he welcomed Tecumseh and agreed with him, who later led the Red Sticks in the Creek War against the U.S., Big Warrior remained on the U.S. side.
Secondly, the term “Southern Ocean” would not have been known in Joseph Smith’s time. 50 years before then Captain James Cook, knew these waters only by the term “southern Latitudes,” and its existence as an “ocean” has been debated for the past 100 years, not having officially settled on the name “Southern Ocean” until the year 2000.
    Up until then, it was basically known as the Antarctic Ocean, especially in Joseph Smith’s time, and loosely called the “South Seas,” “South Polar Ocean,” or the “South Pacific.” The French called it Grand Océan Austral in reference to its position below the Pacific, and refer to it today as the "Grand Océan." To the east of the Drake Passage, the sea is referred to as the “South Atlantic Ocean.”
    In 1835, the Family Magazine used the term “Antarctic Ocean” along the Antarctic Circle, however, the United Kingdom’s South Australia Act 1834 described the waters forming the southern limit of the new colony of South Australia as the Southern Ocean, though this was not approved by any other country at the time. In 1881 Australia defined the division of Bairnsdale as “along the New South wales boundary to the southern ocean” (Australasian Legal Information Institute. 28 November 1881. p. 87).
    Of course, Australia has always had a different view of the oceans around them than the rest of the marintime nations.
    Its first official appearance was in 1919, and again in 1928 in the IHO definition of the world’s oceans and seas, but in 1953, the term was disregarded entirely until 2000. The National Geographic does not even recognize the ocean as of 2014, and when using it, places it in a different typeface to show it is different than all the other oceans. Thus, it would be unrealistic that Joseph Smith in the 1830s would have used the term “Great Southern Ocean” since it was not in use anywhere at the time; more than likely it is a paraphrasing of Joseph Fielding Smith who brings us the statement from Joseph.

Yellow Arrow is the Isthmus of Darien (Isthmus of Panama), White Arrow is the Darien Gap, just south of the Isthmus, which is a “no man’s land” that few enter and fewer still come out 

Thirdly, the “Big Warrior” in 1822 would not have known the term Isthmus of Darien, which was known in America as the Isthmus of Panama. The term “Darien” is a term from Scotland in connection with the 1690s “Darien Scheme” where the Scotland Darien Company went broke trying to buy the area, a debacle that concluded with the 1707 Act of Union. This area in Panama has remained uninhabited, though part of Spain’s New Granada.
    The Colony that settled in Darien called the settlement New Edinburg and called their new home there Caledonia. The term Darien would not have been known in America, and certainly not to an Indian in Alabama, since maps and information in America was referred to and named Panama, including the Bay of Panama, which the Scotts called the Bay of Darien.
    The term Panama was first used in 1519 when the first European settlement on the coast of the Pacific was founded, Nuestra Señora de la Asunción de Panamá (now Panama City). In 1538, the Audiencia Real de Panama, Royal audiencia of Panama, was established.
When Henry Morgan sacked the city in 1673 and burned it to the ground, the city was moved 5 miles away and the original, destroyed city became known as “Old Panama.”
    Fourth, No matter where anyone landed a little south of the Darien Gap or isthmus, no one could have traveled through that Gap to the north, so there would be no Land Northward. All one has to do is briefly study this Gap and they would quickly see it has never been crossed with all modern technologies without outside help and then only in 1960, but not before. In 1960 a group managed to cross it in four-wheeled vehicles—a Land Rover dubbed “The Affectionate Cockroach” and a Jeep. However, when the axels exploded like shells, spare parts had to be parachuted in, and custom-built inflatable rafts had to be provided to float the vehicles across the problem area of the vast Atrato swamp—the entire journey took five months. Nobody on foot has ever crossed the entire Gap from north to south or south to north, let alone thousands of Nephites, who would have had to migrate into the Land Northward.
The Darien Gap: First Trans Darien Expedition 1959-1960 by a small team of adventurers from England, Australia, and Panama in a Land Rover that took over 136 days to compete the 100-mile journey. In the following years, more expeditions took on the Gap—a pair of Range Rovers driven by Brits and with support from the British Army. a globe-circling cyclist by the name of Ian Hibell, whose 1984 book “Into the Remote Places” is a bike-touring classic; and motorcyclist Robert L. Webb in 1975. There have been crossings by foot, including another Brit by the name Sebastian Snow, whose problem-plagued trip was documented in his 1976 book, The Rucksack Man

The problem with so many Theorists is that they do not bother to learn much about what they write. It looks good on a map so they say it happened. In Joseph Smith’s time man would not have known anything about the difficulty of crossing this Gap—now known as the most dangerous place in the Western Hemisphere. But when they started to build the 30,000 mile long Pan-American Highway through there, they eventually gave up and this 100 mile virtually impenetrable Darien Gap, of which there is no way around except by sea, is still not connected and nothing gets through this expanse of wild tropical forest. Here are just a few reasons:
• Treacherous jungle
• Virtually impassable mountains
• Untraversable forests
• Impenetrable swamps
• Laborious terrain
• Exhausting, overgrown, often unmarked trails
• Almost totally uninhabited—no help is available
• Unfriendly wildlife, such as snakes as big as your arm, man-eating cats bigger than the snakes, crocodiles and caimans in the rivers, biting ants and spiders that can drop down your shirt, 17 varieties of poisonous frogs, etc.
• Countless mosquitoes, carrying diseases like malaria and dengue fever
• Highly questionable water quality
• Limited food availability (eat local plants or carry your own)
• Clothes rot while wearing them in the jungle
 If Lehi landed anywhere around this area, their movement through this area where so much of the Book of Mormon takes place would have been impossible 

    During the 1960 planned Trans-Darien Expedition vehicle trip, sixteen explorers started out, with parts of the expedition daily progress scarcely five kilometers. The team crossed 180 rivers and streams and were forced to improvise bridges over 125 of them built mainly form the trunks of palm trees that were hard and flexible. Three serious automotive upsets occurred, with no personal injury involved. The use of the winch for the vehicles was constant and sometimes very dangerous due to the potential breakage of the cable. Among the support team some were accidentally cut and bruised although there was never any need for an evacuation. Difficult mechanical, logistical and topographical problems were present constantly throughout the journey calling for quick decision making by means of their ability and ingenuity. The team set off from Chepo, Panama on 2 February 1960 and reached Quibdo, Colombia on 17 June 1960, Over the entire 136 day journey they averaged about two football fields (600 feet) per hour of which a great deal was traveled up the Atrato River. 
    Geologists claim this Darien Gap area was always like this and before that, it was underwater and no land appeared above the surface in the Panama Throughfare. So the idea of Lehi landing “a little South of the Panama Isthmus”—which is in this area of the Darien Gap, is not a compatible scenario with the descriptions given us in the scriptural record.

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