Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Lehi and the Counter Current – Part II

Continued from the previous post regarding the ocean currents and who and how they exist and why it is important to understand them to know where Lehi sailed to reach the Land of Promise.
An irregularly occurring and complex series of climatic changes affecting the equatorial Pacific region and beyond every few years, characterized by the appearance of unusually warm, nutrient-poor water off northern Peru and Ecuador, typically in late December

First of all, we need to understand why the Equatorial Counter Current occasionally occurs, which can be stated the following two factors:
1. Due to trade winds the ocean water is piled up in the west through North and South Equatorial currents. Due to higher level of ocean water in the west, water flows eastward in form of counter equatorial currents.2. Some experts also argue that there exists a calm on the Equator where there are light westerly winds.
3. Possibly a modified form of south west trade winds in summer which turn right after crossing equator due to Coriolis force.
    Scholars argue that counter equatorial currents are originated due to effect of equatorial westerlies. However, this has been criticized on the grounds that equatorial westerlies are not present throughout the year, while counter equatorial currents are.
    Thus, the Equatorial Counter Current is the result of pilling up of water by the north equatorial current and south equatorial current on the western side of the oceans. This pilling up of water creates a slope from west to east and the warm surface water on western side of ocean starts moving eastward.
    The equatorial counter current is strongest in the Pacific ocean due to its huge extent in the tropical region and the over-abundance of water piling up along the east. Thus, due to higher level of ocean water in west, water flows eastward in form of counter equatorial currents
    In 1990 David Clark suggested that Lehi may have crossed the Pacific Ocean, on his voyage from the middle east to the Americas, utilizing the Equatorial Counter Current (David Clark , “Lehi and El Niño,” BYU Studies, vol.30, No3, 1990).
    This current flows eastward from Indonesia, and is sandwiched between the two major westward moving North and South Equatorial Currents. This current is normally fairly weak, but during periods when the El Niño effect is manifest, it is magnified and becomes a significant, eastbound current (an issue John L. Sorenson used it to explain Lehi's arrival on the coasts of Mesoamerica, in line with his Tehuantepec theory).
In part the counter-current owes its existence to the fact that the Intertropical convergence Zone is not located at the equator, rather several degrees latitude to the north

It should be noted that the islands of Indonesia mark the boundary between the Indian and Pacific Oceans but do not completely block the flow of seawater between the two ocean basins. Warm, low salinity waters from the Pacific are transported into the Indian Ocean's South Equatorial Current, making Indonesia waters nearly two feet higher than Ecuador.
    In addition, these waters flow east to west through the many passages between the thousands of Indonesian islands and replenish the large amounts of water removed by evaporation from the northern Indian Ocean. The summer Asian monsoon circulation transports this water vapor over India and Southeast Asia where it falls as torrential rains.
    After flowing westward across the Indian Ocean, these waters enter the South Atlantic via the Agulhas Current flowing around southern Africa. The Indonesian islands partially block the inter-ocean flow, which leads to an accumulation of warm surface waters in the western equatorial Pacific Ocean that is linked to El Niño/La Niña (DataStreme Ocean, American Meteorological Society).
    The importance of this is that any attempt in a wind-driven ship to move through these thousands of islands from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific would be against these winds and currents.
    It should also be noted that the “Pacific Equatorial Counter Current normally flows east between the equator and five degrees north, and more importantly, is very pronounced during the El Niño years. It travels at speeds of from .5 to 1.3 miles per hour. The surface above the current is commonly known as the “doldrums” as the wind above the current is non-existent, or unpredictable as it funnels water from the relatively hotter western seas, to the cooler eastern ones. It follows a very slight downhill gradient as the western sea level near Indonesia is about 18 inches higher than the eastern sea level on the shores of the new world.
    Is this relevant to Book of Mormon geography? Some scholars claim it is because they believe it provides a possible route for Lehi and his party to travel eastward across the Pacific. Thus, they suggest that the Liahona, the Lord could have guided them precisely on this route.
The “doldrums” refers to those parts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean affected by a low-pressure area around the equator where the prevailing winds are calm

The problem is the lack of wind in the doldrums is quite problematic. That is, for a ship “driven forth before the wind” to sail there, they would be becalmed much of the time—a serious matter in the middle of the ocean, especially in 600 BC.
    First of all, the El Niño is an irregularly occurring and complex series of climatic changes affecting the equatorial Pacific region and beyond every few years, characterized by the appearance of unusually warm, nutrient-poor water off northern Peru and Ecuador, typically in late December.
    The Counter-Current is an interesting case because while it results from wind-driven circulation, it transports water against the mean westward wind stress in the tropics.
    According to one theorist, “The lack of wind in the doldrums is a little problematic, but even without wind, they could have floated with the current at about 24 miles per day. And there are periodic storms in this area which would have filled their sails, even if briefly.”
    However, being without wind in a ship “driven forth before the wind” is in and of itself problematic, and runs counter to Nephi’s statement about their motive power. In addition, floating with the current at 24 miles per day would take 490 days for Lehi to have crossed the Pacific, or nearly a year and a half, or nearly six months longer than the Jaredites in their barges.
    It should also be stated that these are not normal winds, but those that produce more tropical storms and hurricanes in the eastern Pacific and a decrease in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. In fact, El Niño storms have taken thousands of lives and caused billions of dollars in damage in recent decades. Further, to have sailed through an El Niño would have required tremendous experience, something Lehi did not have, nor could the Liahona provide.

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