Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Monsoons and Wind and Ocean Currents – Part IV

Continuing with a reader’s submission about our being wrong regarding the winds and currents in the Indian Ocean and not being able to sail from Arabia to Indonesia, specifically the Malay Peninsula, in 600 B.C. Having shown some of the errors in the article submitted in the previous post, we return to the main point of showing Lehi’s course forced by these monsoon winds.
Air over land heats and rises drawing moist air in from tropical oceans creating the monsoons, which is a seasonal shift in the prevailing wind direction

    First of all, a monsoon is a large-scale sea breeze, that is a cool breeze blowing from the sea toward the land and is a seasonal shift in the prevailing kind direction, that usually brings with it a different kind of weather. In Physical Geography, a wind blowing from the sea to the land, especially during the day when the land surface is warmer. It is a thermally produced wind blowing from a cool ocean surface onto adjoining warm land, which is caused by a convection current during the day.
    In the area of the India-Indian Ocean monsoons, that breeze can escalate into not only very strong winds, but quite destructive weather fronts over the land mass of India, and adjoining regions. During the northeast (wind out of the northeast) monsoon, a persistent and large high pressure zone over Asia drives cool, dry air southward toward the tropics. This provides the monsoon region with its dry season. Then, during the southwest (wind out of the southwest) the summer monsoon arrives with persistent southerly wind flow driven by a warm air mass with low pressure at the surface that forms over southern Asia as it is warmed by the sun. Air from the relatively higher pressure air mass over the Indian and tropical western Pacific Ocean flows northward toward the low pressure over land, bring with it torrential rains. A late arrival of the monsoon can be bad for agriculture, as the monsoon rains are necessary for summer crops
    When the air mass over land heats up it rises drawing in the cooler air overlying the sea, creating a breeze, which occurs when the temperature on land is significantly warmer or cooler than the temperature of the ocean. These Southwest monsoon winds are called 'Nairutya Maarut' in India, which is the reversal of winds that start taking place over the India sub-continent during the summer season, when cold and dry continental northeasterly winds are replaced by warm and moist southwesterly winds (Forecast Update for Monsoon 2015 in India,” Skymet Weather Services, India). These are extremely wet or dry events within the monsoon period (Stephanie Paige Ogburn, “Indian Monsoons Are Becoming More Extreme,” Scientific American, 2014), that based on a new study, have increased since 1980 (Quirin Schiermeier, “Extreme Monsoons on the Rise in India,” Nature International Journal, 30 November 2006).
The India Monsoon Current refers to the seasonally varying ocean current regime found in the tropical regions of the northern Indian Ocean. During winter, the flow of the upper ocean is directed westward from the Bay of Bengal near the Indonesian Archipelago to the Arabian Sea, which by the way precludes any sailing vessel “driven by the wind” from moving toward Indonesia from Arabia.
During the summer, the direction reverses, with eastward flow extending from Somalia into the Bay of Bengal—not into Indonesia. The seasonally reversing open ocean currents that pass south of India are referred to as the Winter Monsoon Current and the Summer Monsoon Current, or the Northeast Monsoon Current and the Southwest Monsoon Current.
    With this in mind, it is important to know that in the northern hemisphere (that includes the northern half of Sumatra, all of the Malay Peninsula, all of the South China Sea, the Sunda Shelf, Strait of Malacca, all of India, Bay of Bengal and Sri Lanka, all of Arabian Peninsula, and all of Somalia) tropical regions of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, surface winds blow predominantly from the northeast year round, with westward-flowing ocean currents underneath.
Everything north of the Equator is in the Northern Hemisphere and the winds and currents are predominantly from the northeast year round, with westward-flowing ocean currents underneath

    Once we understand all of this, then it makes sense to recognize that sailing from Arabia to the east will not reach Indonesia and the Pacific Ocean, which half that distance would lie south of the Equator, but end up in the Bay of Bengal, not the Malay Peninsula.
Top: Uninformed historians and scholars would have Lehi sailing as shown by the red arrow against the predominant winds and currents out of the northeast; Bottom: In reality, any ship “driven forth before the wind” would be turned by those predominant northeast winds and currents to sail toward the south, where they would pick up the eastward curving South Indian Ocean Gyre

    Now, when Lehi left the area of Khor Rori along the Salalah Plain, his ship would have been blown southwest along the winds coming off the mainland as has been shown. The Winter Monsoon Current extends from the Bay of Bengal, around India and Sri Lanka, and across the Arabian Sea at a latitude of approximately 8 degrees North.
    Currents flow to the southwest along the coast of Somalia to the equator (Stefan Hastenrath and Lawrence Greischar, 1991: “The Monsoonal Current Regimes of the Tropical Indian Ocean: Observed Surface Flow Fields and Their Geostrophic and Wind-Driven Components,” Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 96, No. C7, 1991, pp12,619–12,633;).
 Lehi’s Course, began under the Monsoon Winds coming off the coast and blowing him southwest, then picked up the South Equatorial Counter Current below the Equator (the Indian Ocean Gyre) that turned him southeast, and then into the Southern Ocean east bound current south of Australia and New Zealand and across toward South America

    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 (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, pp63–120). The World Ocean Circulation Experiment of the mid 1990s permitted detailed measurement of these currents through an extensive field campaign (Friedrich A. Schott and Julian P. McCreary, Jr., "The monsoon circulation of the Indian Ocean," Progress In Oceanography, Volume 51, Issue 1, 2001, pp1–123).
    The point is, and we cannot overemphasize this enough, the movement of ocean currents and the monsoon winds do not blow from the west into Indonesia, but into the Bay of Bengal when the southwest winds are blowing. In trying to move into Indonesia, a vessel “sailing forth before the wind” as did Nephi’s ship, would not have been able to withstand the Pacific Ocean currents blowing across Indonesia and into the Indian Ocean, through the Indonesian through flow (ocean currents coming off the Pacific and through Indonesia and into the Indian Ocean), which would have caused a headwind for any such vessel trying to move past India and Beyond the Bay of Bengal toward Indonesia. Today, that is not a problem with diesel engines and modern sailing techniques and ships designed to sail in that manner, with very experienced crews able to maneuver such vessels extremely well. Lehi’s crew simply would not have been able to do that even if they had a ship that could manage it, which Nephi tells us they did not.


  1. "...the movement of ocean currents and the monsoon winds do not blow from the west into Indonesia, but into the Bay of Bengal when the southwest winds are blowing."

    But the Malay Peninsula is in the Bay of Bengal. Ships have been sailing this route, both with and against the currents and the winds, for millennia. There is all kinds of unmistakable evidence for it.

    Are you suggesting that a ship leaving Oman in 600 BC would have been more likely to land in Chile than Malaysia?

    1. Yes he is. Chile is in the land of promise not Malaysia. And that is were FG Williams wrote that he landed. No question in my mind that Chile is the place.

    2. I don't know who FG Williams is. But Orson Pratt said this:

      "Here let me say again, according to the Book of Mormon, many of those great islands that are found in the Indian Ocean, also in the great Pacific Sea, have been planted with colonies of Israelites. Do they not resemble each other? Go to the Sandwich Islands, to the South Sea Islands, to Japan—go to the various islands of the Pacific Ocean, and you find a general resemblance in the characters and countenances of the people. Who are they? According to the Book of Mormon, Israelites were scattered forth from time to time, and colonies planted on these islands of the ocean. In that day the isles will sing with joy; in that day the isles of the sea will wait for the Lord's law; in that day the isles of the sea will rejoice, for they will give up their inhabitants, and they will be wafted in ships to their promised land, and God will show forth his power and gather millions of people from these numerous isles of the ocean, and he will bring them back to the land of their fathers."

      Malaysia is just as much a promised land as Chile is. At least according to the opinions of early church leaders. So if such opinions are accepted, than we're both right.

    3. Malaysia may very well be "a" promised land. It is just not the Promised Land that is the land of the Nephites, Jaredites, and Lamanites. No one here is stating that the only Israelite colony was on the coast of South America. What is being stated here is that the family of Lehi, and those traveling with them, traveled to their "Promised Land" in the Americas. No one here is saying that no Israelite group ever colonized Malaysia. What is being said here is that the Lehite group definitely did not travel to Malaysia. Even if the winds and currents allowed for such, the Americas have been identified as the Promised Land of the Book of Mormon peoples. Looking for it elsewhere is simply a waste of time. Please note that I am not saying that studying the history of Malaysia would be a waste of time. I am saying that trying to shoehorn that fascinating land into a BoM narrative would be.

    4. FG Williams was 2nd counciler to Joseph Smith in the 1830's. He wrote in his journal during that time that Lehi sailed from Arabia and landed at 30 degrees South latitude in Chile. So for me that is good evidence this is the place.

    5. I salute all of you (especially Del) for the fascinating research on this blog and in the comment sections. I have been a reader for some time and am always learning things that, for me, make much more sense than other models. I don't endorse one particular model at the expense of another. I believe these were all parallel civilizations that took root at the same time. I believe there was a relationship between Ecuador and Southeast Asia, and that is supported by archaeological and genetic evidence dating back to 2000-3000 BC. Although I am a supporter of the Malay model (I call it the Isles of the the Sea model) it is never my intention to slam other models. I think all have something to offer in understanding the isles beyond the known world (including the Americas) where the Jaredites, Lehites, Mulekites and other Biblical clans settled. I have no doubt that we have much to learn, and more will be revealed, as we study it out. David Whitmer said: "After the plates had been translated, which process required about six months, the same heavenly visitant appeared and reclaimed the gold tablets of the ancient people informing Smith that he would replace them with other records of the lost tribes that had been brought with them during their wanderings from Asia, which would be forthcoming when the world was ready to receive them."

      My field of inquiry is not the same as yours, but I believe them to be related. Thanks for your insights. - Jay

  2. Jay: I suppose we could debate this until the cows come home, however, as far as the winds and currents are concerned, the Malay Peninsula is not in the Bayh of Bengal, but is flanked by the Andaman Sea to the west (as well as the Gulf of Martaban) and the Gulf of Thailand to the East. In fact, the Bay is officially considered to “form the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean, roughly triangular, it is bordered mostly by India and Sri Lanka to the west, Bangladesh to the north, and Myanmar (Burma) and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (India) to the east.” Note, it doesn’t extend to the Malay Peninsula!
    In addition, the official border if the Bay of Bengal is stated as: “On the east: A line running from Cape Negrais 16°03'N) in Burma through the larger islands of the Andaman group, in such a way that all the narrow waters between the islands lie to the eastward of the line and are excluded from the Bay of Bengal, as far as a point in Little Andaman Island in latitude 10°48'N, longitude 92°24'E and thence along the southwest limit of the Burma Sea [A line running from Oedjong Raja (5°32′N 95°12′E) in Sumatra to Poeloe Bras (Breuëh) and on through the Western Islands of the Nicobar Group to Sandy Point in Little Andaman Island, in such a way that all the narrow waters appertain to the Burma Sea].”
    While this may be a ticky-tack point to you, the winds blowing into the Bay of Bengal continue northeast into and across the land of what used to be Burma and now is Myanmar and would blow a ship like Nephi’s into the shore. In addition the Ayeyarwady Region delta (a projection or small peninsula) in what is called Lower Burma, and the shelf around it, which is connected to the shelf of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, prevents currents from flowing into the Andaman Sea from the Bay of Bengal, creating a so-called closed ecosystem in that area—which means “drift voyages” such as Nephi’s ship, would not have sailed into the Andaman Sea from the Bay of Bengal without some additional motive power (tacking, coastal sailing or engine power).
    In addition, the winds blowing off the Pacific Ocean in what is called the Indonesia Sea Through blow Northwest in the Malacca Strait, or in opposition to sailing down the strait toward Malaysia at the lower half of the peninsula. Not a big deal for small, coastal trading vessels, but a very big deal for a “drift voyage” of a deep ocean ship.
    (continued below)

  3. (continued from above)
    As an example, Cyclone Nargis in 2008, that evidently killed at least 138,000 people (many still missing), formed in the center of the Bay of Bengal, and moved directly toward Ayeyarwady and came ashore, i.e., it was driven from the bay into the shore! While this was the worst disaster to hit Maymar in death toll and cost ($10 billion), it was typical of the weather of the area that blows into the land from the bay.
    Now please keep in mind we in this blog are dealing with Nephi’s ship, not some other vessel built for some other reason or purpose to accomplish some other objective, such as trade or fishing. Nephi’s ship, as he told us twice, was “driven forth before the wind” which means, once again, that his ship went where the winds blew it—not where any other ship might have gone that was configured differently, such as coastal vessels with dhow configuration or with lateen sails, or with small, movable sails like fishing vessels of the period.
    Large, ocean going vessels like that of Nephi, according to his own description, were subject to the wind and if the wind blew against you, you could not make headway, even if the current was going in the direction you wanted, since wind power is always stronger than sea current. Normally, of course, they move in the same direction, but since other topographical factors come into play, there are times when they don’t and the wind, driving a ship (not pulling it like in tacking, or in zig-zagging upwind) takes the vessel where it is blowing and nowhere else.
    Think of it as driving a car without a steering wheel. The car is going to go wherever the wheels point it and you have no ability to make any change in that direction—the same is true with a ship “that is driven forth before the wind.”
    To keep insisting that things are different than they really are is not helpful in this or any other discussion.

    1. I think we could debate it endlessly with no resolution. But there's no point in that. My position is that half the year it would have been possible for a vessel to go east and half the year south. Both routes have been used for millennia so there is no point in our back and forth when the evidence shows both routes are possible. There is an archaeological site in northern Malaysia that dates back to the 6th century BC. There's no indication who the settlers were, but they most certainly were foreign as they brought iron and brick/mortar technologies with them. All local accounts point to the Middle East or the Indus Valley region. So somehow it was possible. But again that doesn't mean it wouldn't have also been possible for Lehi to go south. I'm not arguing against that possibility. In fact, I believe that Austronesians were making the voyage you propose during the same time frame. We find evidence of this in Madagascar, Ecuador and Brazil. If they could do it, so could Lehi.

  4. Jay, you can say they could go east, but the winds blow to the northeast, which makes your argument fruitless!

  5. Jay, regarding your earlier comment above, thank you for your remarks. When all is said and done, we are going to find the Lord's hand in numerous situations and places and among people we now have no record of at all in connection of the Lord’s involvement. There is no question that the islands of the South Pacific, especially in what is called Polynesia, are within the scope of those original people of Lehi's party through one of Hagoth' ships that “did sail forth and whither she did go we know not.” Where those people finally ended up, or their descendants, are not known to us today, but we do know they were not the people of Micronesia or Melanesia, which means they could well have settled some areas of Indonesia, but at this time it is only speculation. We do have to keep in mind that Chines records (which are considered highly accurate) show a different settlement of Indonesia than that, but again, we have no verification other than the old Chinese chronicles. On the other hand, settlement of Indonesia and the Malay Peninsula from the east is highly probable and consistent with winds and currents.
    Of course, our stance in this blog is strictly the Book of Mormon and that period of time covered, and the Land of Promise outlined. What else happened and where is not within the scope of our work or our interest in this blog.