Friday, July 5, 2019

The Land of Promise – Part VIII: The Great Lakes

Continued from the previous post regarding why we need to understand the writings of the early prophets regarding the geographical setting of the Land of Promise to better understand the application of the scriptural record today.
• Rian Nelson: “The lake today is at around 577 feet above sea level. There are areas such as Benton Harbor where the land is only a few feet higher than the lake. In ancient times, when the lake was higher, the harbor would have been much bigger than it is today, surrounded by peninsulas—narrow necks.”
Left: Benton Harbor along the southeast coast of Lake Michigan; Right: Benton Harbor shown with numerous inland rivers

Response: A peninsula is not a neck of land since it does not join two larger land masses; nor are narrow channels or straits found around peninsulas. Narrow necks are when a small tract of land connects two much larger land masses, hence the word “neck.”
• Rian Nelson: “It would be a good place to build an exceedingly large ship, and then launch it into the west sea.”
Response: Any place next to the sea that is protected from winds and tide would be a good place to build a ship; however, in this location, with Lake Michigan as the west sea, why launch a ship there—its movement is rather restricted, and anywhere inland from the lake could easily b reached on foot (a mode of travel far better known to the ancients).
• Rian Nelson: “The text does not say in what month of the thirty-seventh year Hagoth launched his first ship, or in what month it returned in the thirty-eighth year. At any rate, the first voyage was successful.  Either the ship sailed for six months, discovered something worth exploring, and turned around for supplies for an even longer expedition, or it spent some period of time—a winter, perhaps—at its destination before returning.”
Response: We do not know how long the first ship was gone. However, since Hagoth “built other ships while the first ship was gone (Alma 63:7), we might suggest it was much closer to a year than a couple of months.
Rian Nelson: “The ship may have dropped off passengers at various locations, such as the mining areas in northern Michigan, and then continued exploring. There was at least one permanent community in the land northward because Alma’s son Corianton went forth to deliver provisions to the people who had settled there (Alma 63:10).”
Response: Isn't it interesting that given the importance and sacredness of the record entrusted to the family that Corianton was not sent for to return to the Land Southward and take over the recording. One might even consider that Corianton went to a land far to the north disconnected to the Land of Promise.
• Rian Nelson: “One aspect of the Hagoth verses is the link that has been made between Hagoth and the Polynesian people. Although the text says the Nephites thought Hagoth’s people were drowned at sea, there are LDS traditions that Hagoth’s people went to Japan, Hawaii, and Polynesian Island.”
Response: While there is much to suggest that some of Hagoth’s ships ended up in Polynesia, it would be an impossible voyage from Lake Michigan. First of all, the Great Lakes are land locked except for the St. Lawrence River, which flows toward the North Atlantic from Lake Ontario.
The reason for locks being required to move from the Atlantic to Lake Michigan is simply because of the extensively rising elevations along the (Green Circle) St. Lawrence to Lake Ontario, and then from (White Circle) Lake Ontario to Lake Erie. An impossible climb of 569 feet for a ship in these theories regarding their North American Land of Promise”

Second, while a ship might have been able to sail from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron, since both are at 577-feet elevation, the passage through the St. Clair River or Strait to Lake Erie, through the St. Clair River (Strait), to Lake St. Clair at 574-feet, and the Detroit River, also at 574-feet. Lake Erie at 569-feet then drains into Lake Ontario which lies at 243-foot elevation, a drop of 334-feet, which can only be accomplished today via seven locks, canals and rivers, but not at all before the 19th century.
    Then once on the St. Lawrence River, passage down river past Montreal was impossible because of the extensive and dangerous Lachine Rapids, which today is skirted through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Welland canal, but again, impossible in the Nephite era. It requires seven locks to lift a ship 243-feet from the St. Lawrence River to Lake Ontario. From Lake Ontario to Lake Erie requires eight locks to lift a ship from 243-feet to 569-feet.
    The point is, such a route may seem workable on a flat map, but simply would have been impossible for any kind of ship in the Nephite era.
• Rian Nelson: “There is a northeast waterway that leads to the St. Lawrence Seaway. From there, a ship could navigate to the Sea.”
Response: Some theories sound plausible when first heard, or only written about, but when illustrated with actual maps and conditions, prove just the opposite. Take this one by Nelson who claims that inland waterways existed directly from the Atlantic to the St. Lawrence and then to the Great Lakes. Ignoring for a moment the elevation problems mentioned earlier, let’s look at this more closely.
    First, there is no possibility that in the Nephite era a ship could have sailed through inland waters from the Great Lakes area or from any other point of settlement in the New York or eastern seaboard areas. As an example, there are two main rivers flowing northward through New England, one the Hudson River, and the other the Connecticut River.
    Second, these two rivers, the only ones in the northeastern inland area of New England in the United States are the Connecticut River which flows from north to south for 406 miles through four states, and the Hudson River, which flows 315 miles through eastern New York to New York Harbor.
    For centuries prior to 1826, the Connecticut River was the longest river in New England that served as a major transportation route, with small craft and limited cargo being portaged around numerous water falls. The country’s first navigational canal at South Hadley opened in 1795, followed by the Turners Falls Canal three years later. The Windsor Locks Canal Company at Enfield Falls, built Connecticut River’s first major barrier to navigation.
Both the Hudson and the Connecticut rivers did not flow to the St. Lawrence Seaway until numerous hazards along the way were corrected

The Connecticut rises at the U.S. border with Quebec, Canada, and is extremely narrow at French King bridge. The depth varies from its deepest point at French King Bridge in Gill, Massachusetts, to very shallow further north with a series of shallow rapids between the Connecticut Lakes, with the stretch near Colebrook, New Hampshire extremely shallow and narrow. At Vilas Bridge the Great Falls (Bellows Falls) would have been impossible for a ship to pass further upriver.
    The Hudson River, which starts in the Adirondack Mountains has 84 locks along its 363-mile length in order to allow ships to travel its length, and empties into the New York Harbor. Tidal waters influence the Hudson's flow from as far north as the city of Troy. Today, the Chambly Canal, built in 1843, bypasses the rapids with the channel connecting Lake Champlain with the St. Lawrence Seaway—a 60-mile channel was dug in 1980s to connect the Hudson River making it the first main thoroughfare to New York City; however, the channel, in three sections, had wide barge channels cut, one running 35 miles and six locks, another 25 miles with five locks. 
    The enlarged barge canal provided a convenient route from the Atlantic Ocean and Hudson River to Lake Champlain with the channel dug around several dams and ending at the lake near Whitehall, New York. The canal begins about 3 miles north of the locks at the Troy Federal Dam, at the point where the Erie Canal splits from the Hudson River.
    Once again, while a theorist can look at a map and understand today’s accesses from one point to another, what is important is whether or not those accesses existed in the time frame used by the theorist. In the case of sailing north to the St. Lawrence Seaway and then to the sea, could not have been done until certain efforts were accomplished:
1. The Seaway had been dug and widened around Montreal and the Lachine Rapids bypassed;
2. Numerous channels dug between the source of the Hudson River and the Seaway, and the source of the Connecticut River and the Seaway;
3. All the Falls and Rapids that existed along these two rivers between their mouths and their source had been bypassed;
4. The rivers had been deepened, since many places along the rivers were merely inches deep; and
However, those locks were only 15 feet wide and would hardly have handled a deep sea sailing ship like the one Nephi built

5. Numerous locks were built to compensate for ships overcoming falling terrain causing rapids and falls.
(See the next post, “The Land of Promise: An Understand of the Land – Part IX,” for more on why we need to understand the writings of the early prophets regarding the geographical setting of the Land of Promise to better understand the application of the scriptural record today)

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