Thursday, November 17, 2016

One More Time With Nephi

For seven years (next month) we have hammered away in this blog, a lengthy book, numerous direct articles and several answers to comments, that Nephi’s ship was put into the Sea of Arabia at Khor Rori, just east of Salalah during the Winter Monsoon winds and current that flow from inland in the northeast outward toward the ocean and across toward the southwest. This is not an opinion, belief, or hope—it is simply a fact of weather that has thousands of years history behind it and can be seen each year as the monsoons blow either inland in the summer (April to September) from the southwest toward the northeast, or reverse themselves and blow outward (toward and across the Sea of Arabia and toward the Indian Ocean) during the winter (October to March) months from the northeast toward the southwest.  
According to scientists specializing in this area, its winds and currents, no theory, belief, or hope for anything else with these monsoon winds is possible, never has been changed, altered or abrogated since measurement and memory have existed.
    Although Mariners have been aware of the existence of the Monsoon current for nearly a thousand years, a detailed understanding did not emerge until after the International Indian Ocean Expedition of the 1960s, and especially when the World Ocean Circulation Experiment of the mid 1990s permitted detailed measurement of these currents through an extensive field campaign (D.  Shankar, P. N. Vinayachandran and A. S. Unnikrishnan, “The monsoon current in the north Indian Ocean,” Progress In Oceanography, Volume 52, Issue 1, 2002, p 63-120; and Friedrich A. Schott and Julian P. McCreary, Jr., “The monsoon circulation of the Indian Ocean,” Progress In Oceanography, Volume 51, Issue 1, 2001, p1-123).
    As stated, there are two seasonal periods, the Summer Monsoon and the Winter Monsoon. They do not overlap, as one fades the other picks up, the Summer Monsoon winds, blowing inland, ends in the end of September, and the first of October, like clockwork, the Winter Monsoon winds begin to blow in the opposite direction.
    The Summer season structure (summer monsoon), is located between 10º and 15º north latitude in the Arabian Sea. During the summer monsoon, this current bends around India and Sri Lanka, and enters the Bay of Bengal as the entire current flows northward toward the mainland across the width of the Sea of Arabia.
During the summer when the current flows toward the northeast, Ekman transport (to the right of the flow in the Northern Hemisphere) is offshore, transporting warmer waters deeper into the Arabian sea, and permitting upwelling of cooler waters along the coast. This sea surface temperature pattern (cooler waters west of warmer waters) reinforces the northward current through geostrophic flow. The Southwest Monsoon Current is eastward from April through September, and reaches a peak intensity of 30 cm s during the summer months (Stephen Marshak, Earth: Portrait of a Planet, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001)
    The Winter Season structure (Winter Monsoon), is located in this same general latitudinal area and extends from the Bay of Bengal, around India and Sri Lanka, and across the Arabian Sea at a latitude of approximately 8º north. Measurements of the strengths of these currents have been obtained from ship drift records. The Northeast Monsoon Current is westward only during the months of January through March, and is strongest in February when it reaches 50 cm s. Estimates of westward volume transport range from 7 to 14 Sverdrups.
    The Somali Current, describes the flow along the Horn of Africa from the equator to around 9º north, also shifts direction seasonally with the monsoon winds. It eventually separates from the coastline, turning to the right as it enters the Arabian Sea ( W. Munk and C. Wunsch, 1998: “Abyssal recipes II: energetics of tidal and wind mixing,” Deep-Sea Research Part I, 1998, No 45, pp1977-2010). As part or adjacent to this current, off the coast of Somalia, is the Great Whirl, a gyre located around 10 N and 55 E, and is only present during the summer season. During a 1995 field campaign, the Somali current was measured to transport 37 +/- 5 Sv during mid-September (Lynn E. Talley, "Reading-Advection, transports, budgets,".SIO 210: Introduction to Physical Oceanography. [Fall 2013]. San Diego: Scripps Institute of Oceanography, University of California San Diego).
There are several currents in the Indian Ocean Sea of Arabia that are important to understand. First of all, (Green Arrow) Bountiful where Lehi launched his ship; Currents by color: Purple: Monsoon Drift; Brown: Somali Current; Lt. Blue: Mozambique through Madagascar Strait; Red: South Indian Current; Yellow: Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which is part of the (Dk. Blue) Southern Ocean, which travels unencumbered around the globe, cutting the distance across the equator by about 2/3rd. The two circles and line in maroon are the direction of the monsoon winds, from (top) northeast to (bottom) southwest

    The very important Indian Monsoon Current, refers to the seasonally varying ocean current regime found in the tropical regional of the northern Indian Ocean. During winter, the flow of the upper ocean is directed westward from near the Indonesian Archipelago to the Arabian Sea. During the summer, the direction reverses, with eastward flow extending from Somalia into the Bay of Bengal. These variations are due to changes in the wind stress associated with the Indian Monsoon. The seasonally reversing open ocean currents that pass south of India are referred to as the Winter Monsoon Current and the Summer Monsoon Current (alternately, the Northeast Monsoon Current and the Southwest Monsoon Current).
    The Somali Current, is strongly linked to the Indian monsoon, and during the summer monsoon, the current flows eastward into the Bay of Bengal, which would be a dead end, because the winds coming off the South Pacific Gyre and through the Indonesia Archipelago flows from east to west, keeping any sailing ship like Nephi’s “driven forth before the wind” from passing into the massive island chain.
During the winter monsoon, the Somali Current, flows westward, at a reduced speed, bringing ships from Arabia toward the southwest and allowing them to breach the current, Great Whirl and Socotra gyre current on their path toward the Agulhas/Mozambique current and through the Madagascar Strait or to the east of the island where (see map for both courses, blue arrow in the straight and red arrow to the east of the island), in either case, the ship would be picked up by the South Indian Current and swung toward the southeast and the Southern Ocean.
    The Agulhas current (like the Gulf Stream and the Kuroshio) is a very narrow current and despite its fast speed, would not likely capture any vessel sailing toward the southeast, which has its own very fasts speeds of the Southern Ocean and the high winds of the Prevailing Westerlies.
    Thus, Nephi’s ship and Lehi’s course would have taken them into the Southern Ocean and headed across the Pacific in the highwinds and swift currents
As shown earlier, the course of Nephi’s ship would have had to sail at certain times to avoid changing wind and currents in the Sea of Arabia and the Indian Ocean, in order to reach the Western Hemisphere
    The idea of sailing westward around the Cape of Africa is a foolish idea for a sailing ship “driven forth by the winds” for those very winds push the Agulhas current back upon itself and into the South Indian Current which is the current Lehi would have been on past Madagascar as it bent toward the southeast anyway. In the Age of Sailing, experienced sailors look toward sailing around the Cape with a fearful eye for this Cape of Storms, the Graveyard of Ships, has taken many a good ship captained by an experienced navigator/pilot, and manned by experienced crews, to the bottom for several centuries. It is both foolish and unconscionable for a man of the 21st century to suggest that Lehi, with a crew never having gone to sea before, would be sent around that Cape, for many a good sailor lost his life in such an attempt. The course being laid out by the map above is a simple, easy sailing direct course, with high winds and swift currents all the way and no obstructions or converse currents, and about only 1/3 the distance of crossing either the Atlantic or the Pacific around the equator.


  1. If Philip Beale could sail his 600 BC vintage ship named the Phoenicia westward around the Cape of Africa in 2010 AD, so could Nephi about 600 BC. Your assumption of long term predictability of winds and ocean currents supports that conclusion.

    The Phoenicia was incapable of tacking so the only sailing expertise required of her crew was that they could turn the rudder to steer her. The only sailing expertise required of Nephi's crew was that they could turn the rudder and steer. Both were "driven forth before the wind”.

    No matter how many times you repeat words like "foolish", "difficult", "impossible", "inexperienced crew", "many died", "fearful eye", "Graveyard of Ships", "unconscionable", etc., all of your data and arguments support the conclusion that if Beale could do it so could Nephi.

  2. When you say that the Phoenicia was incapable of tacking, you evidently misunderstand the concept. When sailing close to the wind (the name of Philip Beale’s book of the Phoenicia voyage, by the way) you are sailing with a fixed sail as much as 10% to maybe 20% into the wind, as much as possible so long as the wind is only hitting one side of the sail. With a lot of training, you can learn to do this in a vessel where the sail is not adjustable, however, it takes a lot of experience. If you head too much into the wind, the sail luffs from hitting both sides of the sail. First, you have to understand this to the point that you can recognize it in a large sail, and then have to know what to do about it, which is to make a course correction to the point where the wind is hitting only one side of the sail.
    In the day of sail with very experienced mariners and sea captains, this was still a problem before wind currents were better understood. Sometimes ships were forestalled for days, where the ship slows down, then stops, and finally begins to drift backward on the current. It is not a matter of steering in and out of current changes, etc., but of fine tuning your course so that you keep that 10% to 20% angle on the wind—miss it just a smidge and you have to correct, something an experienced seaman can do, but an inexperienced person might struggle with for some time and not ever get it right. The problem is, unless a person understands the weight and tilt factor, they miss the point entirely.
    As one seaman has described it, “This is a very exciting way to sail for a number of reasons.  It's fast, your boat tends to want to tip so you must get as much weight over the windward side, sometimes called "leaning out."  You would hook your feet under the lip of the cockpit in a sunfish so while you lean out you don't fall out!” The Phoenicia was still small enough of a vessel to be able to do that—the ship by the way was never designed for deep water sailing—the voyage around Africa was a coastal voyage, setting in from time to time (the reason it took 8 months sailing). Plus, the Phoenica had not only sails, but also oars, which makes coastal sailing in adverse winds not a problem.

  3. (continuing)
    You also fail to mention that Philip Beale was a very experienced seaman, as well as ship builder, who oversaw the ship design of not only the Phoenicia, but the Borobudar ship expedition before that, which also sailed around the Cape of Africa (in the opposite direction) earlier, giving him considerable experience that no first time captain in maritime history had of sailing around the Cape ever had. Plus his crew were anywhere from professional to hobby seamen, sailing yachts and other small sailing boats, mostly from private yachting clubs. In addition, the Phoenicia set in to land at night, for rests, and for repairs. Even so, when you read his book, and all the preparation reports of the crew, you find they were all very concerned about the danger of sailing around the Cape.
    By the way, I don’t know if you have ever noticed, by Beale’s voyage in the Phoenicia was only around Africa—it did not involve crossing the Atlantic Ocean as Lehi’s course would have had to have been if he went around Africa. And then, I might add, where did he go to land within the interior the the Americas? First of all, Alma 22:28 tells us he landed on the West coast or seashore, not the east.
    Also, the Borobudar was an outrigger which depends entirely on moveable ballest while sailing, something that taught Beale considerable when moving around Africa and the importance of movable ballest. In addition, both the Borobudar and the Phoenicia had crews of 25-30, much smaller in design then than the ship Nephi would have built—these are factors, by the way, that benefit a ship in the stormy weather found around the Cape, as well as the experienced crew and very experienced captain.
    As for the idea that Beale did it so then Lehi could have done it, is a little naïve. It is like saying that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, therefore anyone else could do that, or reach the moon, or whatever. In addition, both the Phoenicia and Borobudar had sea trails as well as the Europa, but nothing of the kind is mentioned in Nephi’s account about such.
    As for using words like “foolish” etc., I think anyone who tempts ther fates to do what so many others had failed at doing and lost their lives to be foolish. That is not to suggest that some may succeed, but that such a loss of life is foolish to attempt.

  4. Beale's Phoenicia had no oars and had to be tugged into port on some scheduled stops. Beale planned to make stops all the way around Africa, but failed to make any on the west coast. After rounding the Cape of Africa, winds and currents forced him far out into the Atlantic. He came within 400 miles (about 4 sailing days) of the US. He then had to sail far into the North Atlantic in order to make it back to the Mediterranean. This unplanned excursion greatly lengthened the distance and time (12 months) of his planned trip around Africa. Except for a few island stops in the Atlantic, I think the route can be described as a non coastal deep water sailing experience forced upon him by being "driven forth before the wind”

    Here is a good picture of his route:

    1. A failure that proved the possibility of an Atlantic crossing for Nephi

    2. Wouldn't it be fun to get Beale to retrace the FGW route and give us a modern confirmation there too.

  5. DeVon, you miss the point. Beale was an experienced seaman, he had already rounded the Cape in the opposite direction with the currents in his favor on an earlier voyage on the Borobudar and knew what to expect, and all his crew were experienced sailors from yacht clubs, as mentioned earlier. Just because the U.S. put a man on the moon does not mean that Bangledesh could launch a rocket and put a man on the moon.

    1. My point is that Beale proved that favorable winds and currents are available to support an Atlantic crossing. He also demonstrated that his "experienced" crew was incapable of fighting against those winds and currents that favored an Atlantic crossing in a ship incapable of tacking and steerable only with a rudder. As a result he was forced to cross the Atlantic from east to west and then voluntarily crossed the North Atlantic from west to east to get back on course. Nephi could have stopped anywhere from South America to Canada.