Friday, October 9, 2020

Where Exactly, Was Lehi's Land of Promise? – Part II

Continued from the previous post below about a brief and simple understanding regarding how Lehi reached the Land of Promise, and where exactly it was located.

• Prevailing Westerlies Across the Pacific:    Being driven before the Prevailing Westerlies in the Southern Ocean would offer a nearly straight line of travel clear across the Pacific Ocean, just north of the low pressure front which drops from 1008 to 990 milibars. This is the same direction of the current, the West Wind Drift, that flows about 1 to 1½ knots.  Located about 50º south latitude, this is a cold current and flows along south of the South Equatorial Current which is closer to the Tropic of Capricorn.  At this southern latitude in what is called the Southern Ocean, the crossing would have been shorter than traversing the Pacific Ocean further north.  Since the winds blow straight and even, in excess of twenty- five miles per hour, this route could have been accomplished without incident and in a manner to allow Nephi, after his release from being tied up during the storm, to say simply, regarding the rest of the voyage, that after we had sailed for the space of many days, we did arrive at the promised land (1 Nephi 18:23). Evidently, nothing of importance occurred on this leg of their journey.

Ocean Currents through Indonesia and the Sea Straits of Southeast Asia. Note that trying to travel eastward through Indonesia, with its 17,000 islands and opposing ocean currents would defeat such an attempt in a sailing ship “driven forth before the wind”


• Traveling Incognito: This route would have taken the Lehi Colony approximately 7,000 miles, over 2,000 miles shorter than a route through Indonesia to Central America, which would have included navigating between many islands, negotiating continual opposition of winds and ocean currents of the Indonesian Throughflow—an ocean current with importance for global climate since it provides a low-latitude pathway for warm, fresh water to move from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean (east to west), which as the upper branch of the global heat conveyor belt. Such an attempt to sail into this Indonesia Throughflow would be contrary to the statements made by Nephi in his record: We were driven forth before the wind (1 Nephi 18:8,9).  In addition, any other course between Australia and the Asian mainland would have brought attention to the Lehi Colony's direction of travel, since those islands were populated and other ships continually sailed along those routes.  After reaching the promised land, Lehi made a point of telling his family that their land was to be hid up from other peoples, at least for the time, and would remain so if they were righteous and obeyed the Lord's commandments (2 Nephi 1:8-11).  This suggests that no one knew where the Lehi Colony went, what direction they traveled, and that they were, in fact, even traveling somewhere.  This then leads us to the conclusion that the course the ship took was not one that other ships traveled, nor past or near populated areas that would have caused such maritime people to be curious about their passage—especially in a ship built like Nephi’s would have been. Certainly they would have been curious about Nephi's ship.  While we do not know what Nephi's ship looked like, it must have been different in some material and noticeable way since Nephi, himself, makes a point of telling us he did not build it after the manner of men (1 Nephi 18:2).  Thus, it seems quite likely the Lehi Colony avoided any known travel lanes, populated areas, and inhabited islands.  The only possible way this could have been done, and be driven before the wind, would be to pick up the Prevailing Westerlies as described above and follow them to the south of New Zealand in the Southern Ocean and across the Pacific.

Left: Currents of Southern South America—The northern part of the (Blue line) Southern Ocean hits the (red dotted line) continental shelf and is driven northward, up along the coast. The rest of the current passes though the Drake Passage and on around the world. Right: The Chilean coast where the Humboldt Current is driven northward


• South American Coast: Once the little party had negotiated the Pacific, the Prevailing Westerlies split, the northern portion of the route being forced upward or north because of the continental shelf. This curve to a high pressure front that reaches 1017 milibars off the southern portion of South America, and runs along this continent's west coast in what is called the Humboldt Current.  The southern portion of the Prevailing Westerlies flows to the south of the continent through the Drake Passage, across the Atlantic, south of Africa, and continues around the globe.

• Journey North: A ship with a fixed sail, driven before the wind, would have negotiated the Pacific and, if remaining along the northern half of the Prevailing Westerlies, been swept around the high pressure front and up along the South American coast.

But where would they have landed?

Interestingly enough, there is only one place along the entire west coast of South America that matches all the things Nephi describes about the land of promise—in fact, it is the only place in all of South or Central America, east coast, west coast, or inland.  But first, let's see where the winds would have taken Nephi's ship. 

• Where the Winds Drop: Traveling across the Pacific the winds of the Prevailing Westerlies are in excess of 25 miles per hour.  As they circumvent the high pressure area, they slow to 15 to 25 miles per hour, then 10 to 15 miles per hour as they start up the coast, and finally, drop to 5 to 10 miles per hour.  Since the ship was being driven before the wind, its natural place to land would be where the winds drop to a slow speed which would allow Nephi to stir his ship across the currents to land, and such landing would have had to be in calm waters.

Blue line shows the direction and speed of the Humboldt Current traveling past Coquimbo Bay on the coast of Central Chile. The Light Blue Arrow shows where Nephi could have steered out of the current and picked up the movement of the sea in toward land with the tide


Conditions of Landing: Such a landing would have had to be in some type of protected Bay, inlet, or wide-mouth river.  Such a Bay so happens to be exactly where the winds and currents slow along the coast of South America—called the Bay of Coquimbo, meaning “Place of calm waters,” or “Place of Still Waters,” with the name from the quiet bay upon which the city rests. It is one of the best sheltered harbors in the country and along the coast, where indigenous peoples used this natural harbor as a port long before the Spanish conquerors arrived. Coquimbo is located next to the area now called La Serena, meaning “the serene one,” exactly where Nephi would have had to land in order to meet the requirements he describes in his land of promise. Obviously, the name of the bay and that of the town, tells us that this area is calm, peaceful and tranquil.

• 30º South Latitude: The winds drop to below 10 miles per hour around 30º south latitude along the west coast of South America.  This is near the present-day city of La Serena, Chile.  For a narrow strip of land that runs about forty to fifty miles inland and about four or five degrees north and south, this place is a unique area, different from all of South America, and matches exactly the climate, temperature, soils, and plants of present-day Israel, the land of Lehi's birth.

Top: The calm waters of Coquimbo Bay; Bottom: The La Serena River that flows through the fertile land to the bay


• Climate of La Serena: Jerusalem has a Mediterranean Climate as does the entire Mediterranean area from Spain and Morocco to Jerusalem. Besides the Mediterranean, there are five other such climates with the same ecosystems with their characteristic and unique climatic regimes of mild wet winters and warm and dry summers. These five are: the Cape Region of South Africa; Southwestern Australia and South Australia—in the Western Hemisphere there are California and Central Chile (La Serena). For Lehi’s seeds they brought from Jerusalem to grow elsewhere, it had to be a like Mediterranean Climate.

• Seeds of Every Kind: Nephi records that when they left Jerusalem, “Lehi took his family, tents and  provisions before departing into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 2:4). Later we find that the party had “gathered together seeds of every kind, both of grain of every kind, and also of fruit of every kind” (1 Nephi 8:1).  After stopping in the Valley of Lemuel for an extended period of time, the party started out again, and gathered together for the trip “seeds of every kind that we might carry into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 16:11).  Later, after the ship was built and the party was ready to leave Bountiful, Nephi says they “gathered together everything and departed with all our loading and our seeds, and whatsoever things we had brought with us” (1 Nephi 18:6).  Finally, after reaching the promised land, Nephi tells us that the little colony planted crops.  He says that “we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 18:24, emphasis added).  Nephi then lets us know how well the seeds grew when he said, “they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance” (1 Nephi 18:24).  A little later Nephi writes that “the Lord was with us; and we did prosper exceedingly; for we did sow seed, and we did reap again in abundance” (2 Nephi 5:11).  It might also be noted, that when the Lord led the brother of Jared from Mesopotamia to the new world, he told him to “gather his flocks, both male and female, of every kind; and also of the seed of the earth of every kind” (Ether 1:41), and later says that while they were traveling, they had with them swarms of bees, and all manner of that which was upon the face of the land, seeds of every kind (Ether 2:3, emphasis added).

So where would all these seeds grow profusely, providing crops that yielded an abundance?

(See the next post, “Where Exactly, Was Lehi's Land of Promise? – Part III,” regarding these simple and brief points about the Land of Promise and how Lehi got there and where it was located)

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