Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Finding Lehi’s Isle of Promise – Part III

Continuing from the last post about finding Lehi’s Isle of Promise and the third point regarding where Nephi landed and what they found there. 
    Obviously, in addition to finding a Mediterranean Climate where their seeds would have grown exceedingly, they would have needed water, partially for drinking and a large
enough source, such as a full flowing year-round river, to divert for planting.
    We should keep in mind that their numbers would have been somewhere around 80 people, one can imagine the amount of food, crops, clothing, drinking water, and other such necessities would have been required. In the beginning there would not have been a lot of time for exploring, the planting of crops would have been paramount, no doubt hunting for immediate food and even some fishing.
    It also would have been important to pitch their large tents, something typically relegated to the women in the Hebrew culture. These tents were not like those we know today, but large, multi-room Bedouin tents that took three donkeys or camels to carry. The men would have rounded up some of the beasts of burden found in the forest while others tilled and planted seeds. The location of their settlement would have been within what is now La Serena, a fertile area adjacent to the shores of Coquimbo Bay.

    In this area, the modern city of La Serena, a village that dates from a much earlier age than the Spanish, in which the Elqui River flows down from the mountains, through the Elqui Valley and La Serena and into the bay. 

Top: Yellow Arrow: River was diverted anciently to flow into the valley for agriculture; Red Arrow: Main part of river flows toward Coquimbo Bay; Bottom Left: White Arrow: main channel flows into the Bay; Bottom Right: Anciently, the agricultural branch was looped in areas to provide more coverage for planting of crops 

    This river empties into the Bay about six or seven miles to the north of what is now the town of Coquimbo (which is around the south rim), and about four miles short of the far point or northern headland called Poroto Point, a low, rocky jut of land that builds to the north into Punta Teatinos al norte, meaning “Point Teatinos to the north,” which is the northern extreme of Coquimbo Bay. Note the rocky headland that blocks any winds from the north and provides the tranquility of the bay and its calm waters and surrounding area of La Serena.
Top: Looking north toward the northern end of Coquimbo Bay and the rocky headland called Point Teatinos; Bottom: From the top of Point Teatinos looking south along the distinctive curvature of Coquimbo Bay. La Serena is to the left

    La Serena, like California (the northern Mediterranean Climate in the Western Hemisphere), is where at least 85% of the precipitation falls in the winter half of the year. The Mediterranean Climate of La Serena actually stretches from there to Conceptión along the Chilean coast. As in California, the areas with the heaviest winter rains also have the shortest summer dry seasons, with fewer than four dry months in the year, with summer coastal fog common along the pacific coast of Chile as also in California, providing some moisture and moderating the temperature during the summer dry season. 
    In the Andes, winter precipitation accumulates as snow, as it does in California’s Sierra Nevada, and as a result, rivers and streams have their highest average flow in the spring and early summer and are lowest in late summer and early autumn.  Temperature along the coast is mild, with almost frost-free winters. From La Serena to Concepción, the seasonal differences in temperature along the coast are also modest. Chile’s Central Valley is less hot in the summer than California’s Central Valley because the distance from the cold currents of the Pacific Ocean to the Andean slopes is much less. There are also many breaks in the coast ranges created by numerous rivers that run swiftly and along fairly straight courses from the Andes to the ocean.
Topo similarities between Central Chile and California show the two Mediterranean Climates of the Western Hemisphere, which match that of Jerusalem

    This area of La Serena today, a settlement area on the northeastern edge of Coquimbo Bay, is an area of modern crop production that is the highest producing area of all Chile, and ships winter fruits and crops to North America, especially avocados, lemons, oranges, nuts and citrus fruits, as well as shipping to Argentina, Europe and Asia.
    After tilling the ground and planting the seeds brought from Jerusalem, Nephi tells us that “We did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men” (1 Nephi 18:25),
    Stated differently, adjacent to the landing site of the Lehi Colony along the coast of their Sea West, was a forest large enough to have “beasts of every kind,” that is, both farm type animals and wild, carnivorous beasts. Obviously, this forest would have to be extensive and cover a very large area along the coast and moving inland.
    This typical Valdivian evergreen rain forest adjacent to Lehi’s landing site is today called the Fray Jorge National Park and is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, and is situated in a coastal desert area. It has existed since the Atacama Desert period of the last glaciation when the forest reached very low latitudes, covering about 10,000 hectares of trees and plant life, which was far larger covering much  f the northern and central part of the country before the onset of events that shaped the Mediterranean-type climate. Timber from the nearby forest was used in 1627 by the Franciscan priests to build part of the bell tower of the Church of San Francisco in La Serena.
The coast range of the forest: T forest runs from the Pacific Ocean in the west, and from La Serena in the north, through the Coquimbo Region to the Limari River in the south near Ovalle. Today its entrance is reached south of La Serena, Bottom: but the forest itself runs around the south, east and a little to the north of La Serena. Within the forest rainfall fluctuates between 31 and 39-inches per year, temps run from 73ºF in January to 44ºF in July

    While the rainfall surrounding the forest is limited, it flourishes because of the camanchaca, a dense fog that rises from the sea and becomes trapped in this high mountain area, its accumulation allowing for the survival of the last of the forest that dominated the area for thousands of years, as far back as just after the last ice age.
    Olivillo forests are found scattered across the coastal ocean-facing slopes and mountaintops and are full of numerous animals with 103 out of the 148 mammal species, such as the Taruca and the Huemul Andean deer, guanacos, minks, monkeys, and pudú, along with some endangered species today, including many small animals such as the degu, chinchilla, foxes, armadillos, opossums, and culpeo, with some 700 plant varieties.
    When Nephi mentioned the forest and the animals, he also mentioned, as they were journeying around, no doubt hunting for food for the community in those first weeks and maybe months before the crops came in, as well as investigating their new land and what dangers, if any, might confront them there, that they found precious ore.
(See the next post, “Finding Lehi’s Isle of Promise – Part IV,” as to the type of ore Nephi found and why it is so important to understand the significance of this ore)

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