Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Word About Ocean Currents – Part I

Over the past nine years we have been writing about the ocean winds and currents that drove Nephi’s ship from the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula to the Western Hemisphere and Lehi’s “Isle of Promise.” This has been done in an effort to show how Nephi’s comment relates to the location of his landing. In all that time, however, it is interesting to see how much resistance critics and uninformed theorists and some members have had to the concept of Nephi’s statement, and the significance of its meaning.
    After all, regarding what Nephi wrote in the record, he states, “I proceed according to that which I have spoken; and this I do that the more sacred things may be kept for the knowledge of my people” (1 Nephi 19:5, emphasis added). And to make sure this is understood, he added, “I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred” (1 Nephi 19:6, emphasis added). Consequently, whatever Nephi wrote was, to him, sacred. And that included the ship he built and their voyage to the Land of Promise.
    Thus, it should be self-evident that what took place in these events was not only “sacred,” but also is written “for the knowledge of the people.” Consequently, what do we know, then, about his voyage?
    One thing we know is that his ship was “driven forth before the wind” (1 Nephi 18:8).
    First of all, it should be noted that the wind across the oceans has considerable force. Take as an example, what was considered a recent wind-driven seiche (standing wave oscillating at its beginning and end) developed across Lake Erie, threatening sections of Buffalo, New York. This temporary disturbance or oscillation in the water level of the lake caused by changes in atmospheric pressure, was a natural disaster of epic proportions.  During the first three hours there was no sign of stopping the rare wind-driven “seiche” that was taking place.  The wind was so fierce and sustained, that it blew the entire body of lake water from west-to-east causing the natural sea level at the west end of Lake Erie to drop six feet and the natural sea level at the east end to rise more than seven feet!
Fast-moving derecho (line of intense, widespread and rapid windstorms characterized by damaging winds as it moves across great distances known as a squal line, bowecho, or quasi-linear convective system) creates what is known as a seiche

A seiche, which is a long-lived severe wind storm, occurring when strong winds push the surface water rapidly away from one shore toward another. These strong winds push sufficient water away from shore to drop the water level several feet and on the other shore, the water builds up even more, and often sloshes over causing flooding or inundation. This can be caused by a relatively quick line of severe thunderstorms with strong winds, or it can be more gradual, where low pressure systems cause a “standing seiche” that may last for a day or more.
    This involves a standing wave depicted as a sum of two propagating waves traveling in opposite directions. Similar in motion to a seesaw, a seiche is a standing wave in which the largest vertical oscillations are at each end of a body of water with very small oscillations at the "node," or center point, of the wave, but extremely active at the ends.
    As for the information Nephi left us, we should ask ourselves why would he write, “And it came to pass after we had all gone down into the ship, and had taken with us our provisions and things which had been commanded us, we did put forth into the sea and were driven forth before the wind towards the promised land. And after we had been driven forth before the wind for the space of many days, behold, my brethren and the sons of Ishmael and also their wives began to make themselves merry…” (1 Nephi 18:8-9, emphasis added).
    Certainly mentioning the motivation of his ship once would have been sufficient, yet even once seems unnecessary for Nephi to tell us the motive power of his vessel, since we know it was not mechanical (engines) or steam, since there is no way he could have harnessed the necessary materials and expertise to have built such a thing, even with the Lord’s tutelage in 600 BC.
    Now before those who want to tell us that God can do anything, we need to stop and realize that God has never shown man, for his usage, a capability far beyond the period of that man’s time. Of course, God can do anything, but the point is, he does not. Obviously, he showed Nephi how to work timbers as he pointed out: “we did work timbers of curious workmanship. And the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship. Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men” (1 Nephi 18:1-2, emphasis added).
Despite the fact that he did not work the timbers like shipwrights of his day, Nephi did use the common material, wood, for his ship

Obviously, then, Nephi used wood to build his ship—not aluminum nor metal, nor fiberglass. Could the Lord have shown Nephi how to use these metals and products? Of course, but he obviously did not. Instead, he showed Nephi how to work wood—a product available to him—so as to achieve a unique ship “not built after the manner of men,” and to work wood, “not after the manner of men,” but he still had Nephi use wood, which was a normal building material for boats of the era, and many centuries thereafter.
    Evidently, either Nephi or the Lord wanted future readers to know how Nephi’s ship was powered, i.e., that it had sails and was driven by wind power from aft—the wind was behind the sails pushing the vessel forward, meaning the sails were fixed and the vessel could not be tacked.
    The only reason that seems a worthwhile pronouncement of these statements is for us to know that Nephi’s ship was totally dependent upon wind and, therefore, dependent on ocean currents to reach the Land of Promise. So why was that important? Because, by informing us of that, we could then take the next step, if we choose, and determine where winds and currents would have led Lehi from the south Arabian shores toward the Land of Promise.
    After all, for Nephi to say twice that his ship was “driven forth before the wind,” serves only to reinforce this point, which in turn only stresses its importance. However, the entire issue seems lost on, and have had no impact on, these individuals who still look at flat maps and make unsound judgements about what direction Lehi took to reach the Land of Promise, that for the most part, has nothing to do with the winds and ocean currents, and therefore their conclusions are not what the scriptural record states.
    It is almost as though they believe the natural workings of the world, which the Lord organized and therefore well understood, had nothing to do with Nephi’s journey. Or, more remarkable, that they do not care what Nephi informed them, and decide to go with their own opinions rather than the meaning of a scriptural record reference.
    As an example, one critic under the initials P.T., recently wrote of this concept and we repeat it here just as he wrote it: “they landed where the lihhona pointed and they could have went in any number of currents.”
The currents off the south coast of Oman are in the Arabian Sea (also known as the Sea of Oman) and were developed from observations of ship’s drift and several maritime nations having prepared and published current charts for the use of navigators (Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute); Blue Arrows are the course Lehi took, including the use of five different ocean currents: 1) Northeast Monsoon; 2) Somali; 3) South Equatorial; 4) South Indian Ocean; and the Southern Ocean  

It should be kept in mind that there are certain currents flowing past or near, or in the vicinity of the waters south of the coast of Salalah in Oman:
1. An unnamed, narrow geostrophic current (not discovered until NASA measured the MODIS sensor in 2000, that basically flows northward, following the direction of the coast (the pressure-gradient is balanced by the Coriolis Effect). Offshore, this current flows to the southeast and even more south at times.
    By way of explanation, sea water naturally tends to move from a region of high pressure (or high sea level) to a region of low pressure (or low sea level). The force pushing the water towards the low pressure region is called the “pressure gradient,” which in a geostrophic flow, instead of water moving from high pressure to low pressure, it moves along the lines of equal pressure (isobars), because the Earth is rotating. This rotation results in a "force" being felt by the water moving from the high to the low, known as the Coriolis force, which moves at right angles to the flow (left to right in the Northern Hemisphere and right to left in the Southern hemisphere). But when the pressure gradient force is balanced, the resulting flow is known as geostrophic.
    Thus, this geostrophic current along the south coast of Oman follows the direction of the coast, from left to right, or from west to east; however, off the coast, there is a reversal and the stronger current flows from right to left, or from east to west and then south (R.I. Currie, “Circulation and upwelling off the coast of South-East Arabia, Oceanologica Acta, Vol.15, No.1, Scottish Marine Biological Association, Natural Environment Research Council, University of Edinburgh, Oban, Argyll, UK, November 1991);
2. The Southwest and Northeast Monsoon Drift Current, which flows from the northeast toward the southwest for six months in the winter; and reverses during the summer;
3. Halfway to Madagascar, is the weak Equatorial Counter Current, resulting from a piling up of water in the west through North and South Equatorial currents;
4. At Madagascar is the South Equatorial Current, which flows east to west and driven by the trade winds which blow from the east to the west;
5. Somali Current, an ocean boundary current that runs along the coast of Somalia and Oman, and equivalent to the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic; this current is heavily influenced by the monsoons, and is the only major upwelling system that occurs on a western boundary of an ocean;
6. East Africa Coastal Current, a boundary current that flows into the South Equatorial Current with an excess westward transport north of Madagascar which goes into the Mozambique Channel. At its northern end, in northern winter converges with the south‐going Somali Current to form the Equatorial Countercurrent, with an eastward transport;
The ocean currents around Madagascar, including the newly discovered Southwest Madagascar Coastal Current

7. The small Southwest Madagascar Coastal Current, not discovered until 2000 by MODIS of NASA, which feeds the fast-moving (6.5-feet per second) Agulhas Current south of Madagascar and toward the African Cape.
(See the next post, “A Word About Ocean Currents – Part II,” for more information on the ocean currents and how this leads us to know and understand how Lehi reached the Land of Promise and where that land was located)

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