Wednesday, February 6, 2019

A Shorter and Safer Voyage

It is remarkable that for all the knowledge there is in our day that the ancients were forced to sail where the winds and current took them until into the Age of Sail (16th thru 19th centuries AD), people still make adamant claims about sailing where people did not often sail during the age of the mariners, let alone in BC times when sailing was a both fairly new, and rarely outside the protected waters of the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.
    Recently, we received some comments from a reader on the route Lehi took in Nephi’s ship, which we will endeavor to answer below:
    Comment: “This is ridiculous. Lehi’s ship sailed around the Cape of Good Hope off of South Africa where it was likely the storm was encountered, into the South Atlantic then northward to Florida which is 30° North Latitude, or a hurricane or tropical storm could have been encountered in the North Atlantic as they approached Florida. A fast moving current. silly stuff. Why would the Lord direct Lehi’s ship on the longest route around the globe through the Indian Ocean then into the large Pacific Ocean?” S.R.
    Response: It is sad that one does not bother to understand the sailing capabilities of the day which is under discussion. First of all, in 600 BC, sailing capability in both ship construction and sailing techniques were in their infancy outside the slow and heavy oar-driven warships of Hellenistic near east.
    Carthage and Rome were both the wealthy successor kingdoms in the East who built polyremes (single, double and triple rows of oars), which reached their height during the Punic Wars. Sailing on the Mediterranean was limited mostly to trade and occasional transport of people. On the Red Sea, sailing was limited to the small dhows used mostly for fishing.
An Arab fishing dhow on the Sea of Arabia, hand built today much as they were from early BC times
In 1487, upon hearing of a kingdom to the East ruled by Organe, King John sent two explorers overland to locate India and Abyssinia (Ethiopia), and ordered Bartolomeu Dias (Diaz) to sea, to find the southern extent of Africa, and, hopefully, a sea route to India. Dias sailed south along the African coast, a route that several other Portuguese mariners had extended over time as far south as what is today Gabon and even to the Republic of the Congo coast by 1485, but none had pressed further.
    When Dias attempted to go beyond this area, he was prevented by severe storms from sailing along the coasts of Angola, Nambia and South Africa. For thirteen days the ships were blown and carried further and further out to sea, forced to run southward with close-reefed sails before the gales, out of sight of land. After the winds finally calmed, the tiny fleet of three little ships turned to port, or east to find land.
The distances early Portuguese mariners had reached; Diaz’ voyage; and da Gama’s successful voyage to India

Fearful of his location and condition, not knowing where he was or how far from land he might be, he turned northward and sailed for days before seeing land, where he set in along the southern coast of today’s South Africa, at Mosell Bay, about 230 miles short of Port Elizabeth and the beginning of the turn northward along the east coast of Africa. The bay in which he landed, Dias called the Bay of St. Blaise because they arrived on the saint's feast day, February 3, 1488.
    Unwittingly, Dias and his men had been blown so far off course, and without any way to determine their location, having turned north in a desperate attempt to find land, had been taken far out to see into the Southern Ocean and blown eastward beyond land and fortunately past Africa’s cape as well as L’Agulhas. When Dias returned to Portugal in December of 1488, after being at sea for more than 16 months, Christopher Columbus was at the Portuguese court when Dias presented his report. Dias had sailed 1,400 miles of uncharted African coastline, discovered the southern coast of Africa, but with damaged ships and spent desires, turned back before encountering the eastern coast. However, the charts of his voyage would be of good service to Vasco de Gama, and most importantly, Diaz had discovered an unobstructed sea beyond Africa, proving the Indian Ocean was accessible from the Atlantic.
Vasco da Gama leaving the port of Lisbon, Portugal 1497

Secondly, the route around the southern tip of Africa moving from west to east, was not accomplished until 1497 by Vasco da Gama; however, the return trip the following year, from east to west was disastrous. It took four months just to cross from the west coast of India to the east coast of Africa. Contrary winds and currents caused great difficulty, and by the time they rounded South Africa’s Cape of Storms, nicknamed by the seamen “Cape of Bad Storms” (later called the Cape of Good Hope), their battered ships were badly in need of repair. Thirty men died on the voyage that covered 24,000 miles, and two years after leaving Portugal, da Gama returned, having burned one of his three ships on the return voyage for lack of able-bodied men to sail it.
    As history books and records of the Cape of Storms, L’Agulhas, and the Cape of Good Hope, as we have pointed out in numerous articles in this blog with enormous supportive references, it was the most dangerous strip of waters in the ancient world, and called by mariners of the day “The Graveyard of Ships,” with over 3,000 hulks resting there on the bottom of the sea.
    In addition, any storm encountered there as suggested above would have proven fatal in the days of sailing ships. In fact, few mariners wanted to travel those waters, and surviving such a voyage was so hazardous that ship owners and ship captains avoided it like the plague. In addition, the type of storm described in the scriptural record is very common between Seychelles and Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, and “many days” off the Salalah coast of Oman would place Lehi in that general area, not as far south or into the voyage as the Cape or the Atlantic.
On a flat map, the distance across the Atlantic seems much shorter than the distance around Australia

Thirdly, and as odd as it seems, very few theorists realize that the path around the Southern Ocean is a far shorter distance because the world is round, and like a ball. Consequently, the closer one comes to either pole, the shorter the circumference until it is almost zero.
The circumference of the Earth is largest at the equator, and reduces in distance as one travels toward the poles. Crossing the Pacific at the equator, where many theorist take Lehi’s travel, is much further than a distance at a higher latitude

The circumference of the Earth at the equator is 24,901 miles; at 30º is 21,600 miles; at 45º is 17,623 miles; at 60º is 12,483 miles; and at 70º is 8,502 miles; obviously the higher the degree, the shorter the distance around the globe—thus the further south one travels along a latitude, the shorter distance one has to cover. As a result, from Salalah, Oman to Miami, Florida (rounding the Cape), is 12,309 miles, but from Salalah, Oman, down to and across the Southern Ocean, to Coquimbo Bay, Chile, is 8,651 miles—a shorter distance by 3,658 miles.
    Consequently, in Lehi traveling down to the Southern Ocean, then east with the fast-moving current, three important factors were accomplished:
1. The Distance Lehi had to travel was shorter;
2. The speed of his journey in being shorter and with a faster current, would have been even quicker than any other route;
3. Avoiding the dangers of the Cape of Storms and the Graveyard of Ships, the inexperienced members of Lehi’s family would have been far safer.
    Obviously, the way the Lord took Lehi along the Southern Ocean, was both shorter and faster, and it was also far safer.


  1. I used the "Path" function in the "Ruler" tool in Google Earth and the distance from Salalah to Coquimbo along the path you describe was about 14,000 miles. And I was making it more straight than it probably was.

    If I just put a line from these two places, the line went West and was about 9,000 miles straight.

    But I still believe the path you give is the one they actually took.

  2. The problem is that any map, google earth or otherwise, is it does not compensate for the curvature of the Earth. Distances are not constant on a globe, they dwindle to the north and the south from the equator as one circles the globe horizontally (east to west). There is no measurement tool of which I am aware, for that other than the distance of circular rings (latitudes) around the globe. Or, stated differently, the distance around the earth at the equator is about 24,001 miles; at 23º (Tropic of Capricorn) about 22,850 miles; at 45º latitude, the distance is 17,622 miles; at the arctic circle (66º) it is only 9,900 miles and at the 90º south latitude, the South Pole, it is almost zero, or just a dot on a map. Obviously,a map will not show that since it is flat, and the distances in actual mileage around the smaller portions of the Earth are not provided. By the way, most mileage line charts are based on air miles, which are not affected by the curvature.

    1. Google earth must take into account the curvature of the earth. The Path function allows a user to have a series of dots that connect by lines between the dots. It tells the distance along the path. I put a dot right on the north pole and a second dot right on the equator. The distance it said was 6,222 miles. That would not be true if it was not taking into account the curvature of the earth.

      Google Earth is free. One can just use the Path option in the Ruler tool and make a series of dots from Salalah to Coquimbo in the model's path. The dots can be moved after they are placed to fine tune it. When done it will give the distance along that path, taking into account the curvature of the earth. The more dots the more exact the path can be.

  3. Don't use from the equator to a pole, because along longitudenal (north-south) lines, they are all the same. Try it from east to west or west to east, since the higher the latitude (parallel) it is, the less distance around the globe but be sure to use a latitude around the equator starting at one longitude line and ending at another, then try a higher number latitude and use the same start longitude and the same end longitude. If those numbers are not the same, then the map is compensating for the curvature of the earth. As for Shalalah to Coquimbo, keep in mind that about half of that travel is vertical i.e., north to south and then later south to north--those numbers do not change since all longitudenal lines are equal.

    1. When one opens google earth it shows the earth as a globe. I used the ruler tool to get the distance from 0 degrees S, 75 degrees W to 0 degrees S 50 degrees West (along the equator) and it gave 1,729 miles. Then I stayed at 50 and 75 degrees West and went to 30 south and it gave 1,496. And the same at 60 it gave 861. And the same at 85 degrees it gave 150 miles. I also did from Cusco, Peru to Tokyo, Japan and it gave 9,959 miles. I did a web search and a site said it was 9,951 miles. So it is clear to me that the distances it gives take into account the curvature of the earth.