Saturday, July 1, 2017

Humboldt Current –Answer to the Lehi Colony Landing

While we have written much about the winds and currents off the southern Arabian coast and, therefore, the path Nephi’s ship, “driven forth before the wind” would have taken to the Western Hemisphere, we may not have discussed sufficiently the current that took them to the obvious landing site along the Chilean coast which, as the Lord’s Plan would have it, matches everything Nephi wrote about his landing site, including what he found and did there as we have written about elsewhere.
The Indian Ocean (foreground) moves southward and eastward along the southern extreme of the Indian Ocean where it meets and mingles with the Southern Ocean, running from right to left above

Along the Southern Ocean, that sea to the far south of the globe which circumnavigates the world in a short, swift, and direct manner, there are two interesting feeds, one into and the other out of, that current—the only current that moves around the planet without interruption because of the lack of land mass intrusion.
    In the southern portion of the Indian Ocean, where the South Indian Ocean Gyre flows counter-clockwise, therefore its southern portion flows alongside and mingles with the Southern Ocean, a vessel, steered to the southern portion of that band of flow moving in the Gyre could transfer into the Southern ocean band moving beside it with a slight steerage change while still flowing with both the currents and the winds. In fact, once past the most south westerly tip of Australia, signaled by the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse on the southwestern tip of Australia, the vessel passes from the Indian Ocean into the Southern Ocean where the rugged, powerful oceans, during the winter, crash against one another along the Cape.
Cape Leeuwin where the (yellow arrow) Southern Ocean and (white arrow) Indian Ocean meet

Moving eastward across the Southern Ocean provides a quick, short journey from Australia to South America. According to Ralph Stockman Tarr and Frank M. McMurry, New Geographies, “That the winds blow very steadily over the ocean is most clearly shown in the southern hemisphere, where there is little land. There in the belt of Prevailing Westerlies, the wind is almost all the time from the west. Indeed, it is said that vessels choosing a course south of Africa and South American can sail around the world with fair winds almost all the way if they go toward the east, but if they sail in the opposite direct, the winds are against them” (Macmillan Co., New York, 1918, p209).
    Once across the expanse between Australia/New Zealand and South America, the Southern Ocean meets the Humboldt (Peruvian) Current as the former passes through the Drake Passage between the southern tip of Chile and the Antarctic peninsula on its uninterrupted course around the globe.
    For those unfamiliar with South America's geography, Chile must rank as one of the most peculiarly shaped countries in the world, with its long, narrow north-south stretching sliver of spectacular landscapes, guarded by the magnificent Andes Mountain Range to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Between the central valleys and the ocean lies a smaller, coastal mountain range. The key climatic influence throughout is the icy Pacific, cooled by what's referred to as “The Humboldt Current,” which brings cold water from the southern oceans. Where there are breaks in the coastal range, cool air makes its way into the central valleys, moderating temperatures.
    An all-important viti- or vinicultural region is concentrated in the center of Chile between 27º and 38º South Latitude, a series of valleys spanning around 750 miles. There are a variety of micro climates, some more suited to premium grape production than others, with that area toward the north of this zone described as a Mediterranean Climate, centering on Coquimbo Bay and the city and area of La Serena, Chile.
An exaggerated breakdown of the ocean currents through the Drake Passage and up the coast of Chile. “B” is the current from the West Wind Drift and Prevailing Westerlies wind, which actually blows across the width (red arrow) between “B” and “D” of the Southern Ocean. At the point where “A,” “B,” and “C” meet, the current separates as it collides beneath the surface with the South American shelf. At this point, the Humboldt (Peruvian) Current upwells from the cold Antarctic Current and moves northward “A” along the Chilean coast. Any vessel on the “D” side of the West Wind Drift would pass through the Drake Passage and continue on around the globe; a vessel sailing toward the northern reaches of the current “B” would be turned northward and captured by the Humboldt Current and travel north along the Chilean coast. The area shown (yellow arrow) as the Viticultural Zone is the all-important 30º South Latitude area of Lehi’s landing

This “Mediterranean Climate” is much like coastal California, South Africa and southwestern Australia with warm summers tempered by sea breezes, unbroken sunshine, little rain except perhaps towards the very end of harvest, and low atmospheric humidity, present ideal conditions for disease free, premium production of most all grains and fruits, and particularly grapes. A criss-cross of river systems carry melted snow during the growing season from the Andes to the Pacific, guaranteeing irrigation for the next summer's vintage. Thus, unlike Australia, the core of the Chilean agricultural industry is more-or-less drought proof.
Along the Chilean coast, the winds and currents move northward (red arrow) northward, and the (blue arrow) upwelling from the cold northward moving current moves to the surface, equalizing the tropical equatorial weather and climate

This northern moving current, named after the Prussian geographer, naturalist, explorer and influential proponent of Andean South America, Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt, separates around Peru, into the Peruvian oceanic Current, which then joins the south equatorial Current and flows outward or westward across the Pacific, and the Peruvian coastal current, which flows up toward Ecuador to where it eventually ends into the South Equatorial Current north of the Bay of Guayaquil (to where the Carnegie Ridge is located along the sea floor, and bends the current out toward the Galapagos Island Chain).
    These two currents, Peru Oceanic and Peru Coastal are known collectively as the Humboldt Current, which upwelling of the cold Peruvian oceanic and the Peruvian coastal currents, cool the coast of South America from Chile to Ecuador, even though the northern reaches pass through the equatorial region.
The Current, which sweeps northwards from the Antarctic, is pushed by the Southeast trade winds. In fact, at this point, along the southern Chilean coast, the prevailing winds blow from the south, that is parallel to the coast. The Humboldt current has a mean temperature of 59ºF. Upon reaching the Galapagos platform, the cold nutrient rich waters surface from a depth of 330-feet. The cold waters cool the air above them, producing a temperature inversion. That is, instead of the air gradually cooling with increased elevation, as is the norm, the air at, and above the ocean surface is cooler than that above, thus a temperature inversion occurs.
    When the Southeast trade winds slacken, usually around December the Humboldt current looses its driving power. The northeast trade winds become dominant sweeping the warm, but nutrient poor, waters of the Panama current south. The waters around the Galapagos are warmed to about 80ºF and as a result the inversion layer breaks-up, allowing the tropical weather pattern to reassert itself.  Cumulus clouds build up during the morning and a downpour occurs most afternoons, this is known as the rainy or warm season and lasts from December to May.
    Along this Chilean coast, the Coquimbo Bay area, the point of Lehi’s landing, separates the Northern Upwelling Region from the Central/South Upwelling Region of the Humboldt Current, thus creating a division or separation at this point. Besides being an extensive subsurface oxygen minimum zone off northern and central-south Chile, associated with the Peru–Chile undercurrent, which has important effects on the metabolism of the organisms inhabiting these waters, the separation of surface waters, currents and winds is also remarkable at this point. This is the famed Tropic of Capricorn, which is not only the zone of the southern solstice where the Sun can be directly overhead, it is the point where winds cease moving outward (southward) from the equator encounter the winds blowing northward from the poles, thus creating an updraft or vertical movement, leaving the surface without wind movement in the process of transferring momentum.
    At this point, the winds move upward, creating a “doldrum” or calm weather effect in what is loosely called the “horse latitudes,” where winds and ocean currents drop of a minimum, making headway for a wind-driven ship more difficult, but movement toward shore in the eastward flowing upwelling of the Humboldt Current quite simple.
Top: A diagram of the wind convergence; Bottom: a Photo of its appearance, the mist is the result of the ocean below

At this point along the swift northward movement of the Humboldt Current, the winds and current dies down to a minimum, allow the steerage of Nephi’s ship from the outer edge of the current toward land, out of the current entirely, and into Coquimbo Bay at 30º South Latitude.

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