Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Finding Point Nemo – Where Nephi’s Ship Sailed

From time to time we receive rather definitive comment from critics who take exception to something we have written. In this case, it was about the Southern Ocean route Lehi took to sail across the Pacific Ocean. 
   He states: “If they sailed across the Pacific low down like you said they would have (1) froze and if they sailed higher they would have sailed across the (2) Pacific Desert/Point Nemo. Both 1. or 2. is very difficult. Why people making videos to try and push this path across the S. Pacific so it fits their S. America theories is beyond me, makes no sense at all. Again non-sailors, landlubbers trying to discuss what they have no clue about. One day Mormons will wise up and align with what makes sense and is in line with what would have really happened” Miles M.
So let’s discuss his earlier points, namely, the so-called Pacific Desert and the interesting area referred to as Point Nemo. First of all, the middle of the South Pacific Ocean—a remote point equidistance from three different coastlines—has been given the name of Point Nemo, which is located at 48°52.6′ south, 123°23.6′ west—in the center of the South Pacific Gyre—and is the farthest place from land in the ocean. This area, officially known to space agencies as the "South Pacific Ocean Uninhabited Area" and to earth science as the "oceanic pole of inaccessibility." It is an uninhabited area that stretches 1850 miles from north to south, by about 3100 miles from west to east. It is essentially one massive, oceanic desert that one oceanographer has described as “the deadest spot in the ocean.”
    Point Nemo, named after author Jules Verne's famous seafaring anti-hero in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, named Captain Nemo, which is Latin for "no-one," is a fitting name since the area is so rarely visited, located 1,670 miles equidistant from the coasts of three far-flung islands:
To the north is Ducie Island, a non-inhabited, C-shaped strip of land with a diameter stretching less than two miles, a barren and incredibly remote atoll belonging to the Pitcairn Island chain. To the northeast is the rocky Easter Island of Mota Nui; and Maher Island (near the larger Siple Island off the coast of Marie Byrd Land, Antarctica) in the south, so small and remote it wasn’t even discovered until the 1940s. Point Nemo, as the most distant point from the coastline, it has a maximum degree of continentality (difference in marine and continental climates), and being in the center of the Gyre, has limited wind flow. Few fish live deep within its waters, with temperatures that hover between 35º and 39º F., these depths are home to sponges, sea stars, squid, octopi, whales, and viperfish.
    Of course there is no point or island or any land of any kind in this area and is merely a geographic construct, not a physical phenomenon. As such, it is of interest mostly to explorers and adventurers, and provides no obstruction in any way to a ship that might chance through the area—such as Nephi’s ship shortly after 600 B.C.
The MIR space station flying over the area of Point Nemo, making these astronauts closer to the sea at this point than natives on any island

In fact, Point Nemo is so far from land, the nearest humans are often astronauts. The International Space Station orbits the Earth at a maximum of 258 miles, a mere fraction of the 1670 miles distance land is from the point. It is so remote, that the Russian, European and Japanese space agencies have long used it as a dumping ground of “space junk” reentry, because it is the point on the planet with the fewest human inhabitants and the quietest shipping routes.
    The oceanic Gyre, a massive rotating ocean current that is bound on the east and west by the continents of South America and Australia, on the north by the equator, and on the south by the strong Antarctic Circumpolar Current or Southern Ocean. Apart from the occasional round-the-world yacht race, there are hardly any visitors since it is far off the normal commercial shipping lanes.
    The waters within the gyre are stable, with a surface temperature of 42º F. at Point Nemo according to NASA satellite data, which blocks colder, nutrient-rich water from entering; nor does the light wind carry much organic matter.
The tranquil area of Point Nemo and the so-called Pacific Desert. Hardly an area of difficult sailing

As a result, there is little to feed anything. With no material falling from above as "marine snow," the seafloor is also lifeless. Oceanographer Steven D'Hondt describes this area as "the least biologically active region of the world ocean." After graduating from Stanford and obtaining his doctorate in Geological and Geophysical Sciences at Princeton, D’Hondt joined the US. Geological Survey in California studying ocean history and has spent a lot of time observing the area of Point Nemo, of which he says, “On a calm day, the sea surface in the heart of the South Pacific Gyre is simply beautiful—clear cornflower blue, with a violet tone—because it contains so little particulate matter and so little living material."
    The point is near the southern end of the East Pacific Rise, a submarine line of volcanic activity that stretches up to the Gulf of California. It marks the boundary of the Pacific and Nazca tectonic plates, which are gradually moving apart. Magma wells up in the gap between the plates, creating hydrothermal vents that blast out hot water and minerals.
Remains of the Nimbus weather satellite fuel capsule launched in 1964 rests on the floor of the Pacific Ocean around Point Nemo

It is interesting to note that in this remote stretch of the Pacific Ocean southeast of New Zealand, the broken remains of space stations and robotic freighters litter the ocean floor, two-and-a-half miles below the waves. It is referred to as the "Spacecraft Cemetery," because hundreds of decommissioned satellites, space stations, and other spacecraft have been deposited there upon re-entering the atmosphere to lessen the risk of hitting any inhabited locations since this is an area where there are no islands and shipping traffic is relatively light. It’s an ideal place for spacecraft to plunge back to Earth and die, far from any humans that might be injured by falling debris.
    The point is, there is nothing about the physical makeup of this so-called Pacific Desert or Point Nemo that would have inhibited Lehi from sailing there, though he was probably some miles south of that point in the Southern Ocean. Also, the Southern Ocean, as we have reported time and again, is made up of two competing currents, from the north is the warm water moving down from the equator, and from the south is the cold water moving up from the Arctic. If Lehi would have sailed along the northern edge of the Southern Ocean where the temperature is around 50º F. (the same temperature as off the Oregon and Washington, Massachusetts and Main coasts as well as most off the British Isles and Norway), and as much as 62.5º F., compared to along the southern edge, where it is 28º F. Consequently, where Lehi sailed would have been sufficiently warm for them to have managed without freezing—after all, where Columbus sailed in the Atlantic, the water temperature is 55º to 59º F., and where the Vikings sailed to eventually settle in New Foundland, North America, ranges from 41º down to 32º F., according to the Atlantic Ocean temperature guide and the Global Sea Temperature charts of the World Sea Temperature.
Left: A 32-foot, 9.5-foot beam (wide), 4.5-ton ketch with 1-6 man crew that has sailed the Southern Ocean; Right: By comparison, Columbus' square-rigged 64-foot, 18-foot beam (wide), 108-ton "Santa Maria" with 40-man crew, which was Columbus' largest ship
Not to lessen the severity of sailing in the Southern Ocean, it should be noted that even single manned boats make that voyage. In fact, in one person-one boat races, two are held in the Southern Ocean, 1) The Around Alone race (formerly the BOC Challenge), and 2) the non-stop Vendée Globe race. In addition, cargo ships make their regular way across the Southern Ocean—tankers, bulk cargo or container ships bound both ways round the Horn of Tierra del Fuego (South America), which is located at 57º south latitude. Lehi would have been sailing between 40º and 49º south latitude in what is called the “Roaring Forties.”
    Further south, winds can develop very quickly, rising from thirty-five to seventy knots in three hours or so, particularly dangerous seas for small boats. Yet, thirty-to-sixty-foot long, two-masted ketch, or yawls sail the Southern Ocean with single man or multiple person crews. Even two-man twenty-five-footers have made the voyage.
    In the early days of sail, square-rigged ships sailed the Southern Ocean and passed Cape Horn, a high rocky island just off the tip of Tierra del Fuego in South America, with varying degrees of difficulty. Ships would sometimes spend weeks trying to round it from east to west, against the prevailing wind, seas, and current. Bligh's Bounty struggled to round the Horn for twenty-nine days before giving up and running off to the east, eventually reaching the South Pacific by way of the Indian Ocean and through the narrow straits off southeast Asia. Bligh's crew, with cruel and unconscious hypocrisy, never forgave him either for the hardships and terrors of that month or for turning tail at the end of it. On the other hand, while sailing west to east, with the prevailing winds, was usually readily successful, in Two Years Before the Mast, Richard Henry Dana describes his ship's ordeal in the winter of 1836. Trying to round the Horn from west to east with a cargo of California hides, it took them two weeks in head winds, uncharacteristic calms, and easterly gales. They were often blocked by ice fields, though they finally made it through. On the other hand, Lehi's course would have taken him north along the Humboldt Current a hundred miles or more short of the dangers and difficulties of the Horn and the Drake Passage.
    In the days of the clippers, sharply raked stem and counter stemmed schooner or brigantine ships with square rigging, the Southern Ocean cut off weeks of travel as they brought their highly-priced cargoes of spices, silk and tea from China to New York or London ports. They ran with sails up night and day, carrying extra canvas such as skysails and moonrakers on the masts and studding sails on booms extending out from the hull or yards. They could reach a remarkable 16 knots (18.6 mph) when most ships were lucky to make 10 or 11 knots. They were built for speed and the uninterrupted Southern Ocean with its high winds and strong currents was ideal for their sailing capabilities and requirements.
    It is not that we try to push “this path across the S. Pacific so it fits their S. America theories,” but that is the path that has been used for centuries by ships looking for a shorter and faster course from the Old World to the New, from the Eastern Hemisphere to the Western Hemisphere. For someone who claims to know about ships and sea lanes, one can only wonder why this reader fails to know about this remarkable path across the southern Pacific Ocean that cut down time and distance to a mere fraction of those ships that sailed across the oceans around the equator or in the lower latitudes. One might also wonder why he would even mention Point Nemo since it has no bearing on sailing ships capabilities to sail the area.

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