Thursday, October 27, 2011

Could the Ancients Have Sailed to the Americas? Part II

Continuing with the last post regarding John L. Sorenson’s article about the abilities of ancient man to sail across the oceans. The first two comments were covered in the last post.

3. “For instance, Hannes Lindemann, who made three solo voyages from West Africa to the West Indies, said that he and fellow sailors scoff at nonsailors' view of the "dangers" at sea. He felt that it takes "a damn fool to sink a boat on the high seas."

To keep the record straight, Dr. Hannes Lindemann (b.1922) made two solo transatlantic crossings, one in a sailing dugout canoe, and the other in a production model, a 17-foot Klepper, the Aerius II, sailing double folding kayak, modified to carry two masts and an outrigger. The important thing is, “He had his boat delivered to the Canary Islands, before sailing and paddling to the Caribbean.” This is the route Columbus took on the west-bound southern leg of the North Atlantic gyre, continually moving with the winds and currents. While Lindmann’s efforts are to be lauded, they show nothing of sailing in deep ocean waters against winds and currents as Sorenson has his Lehi colony doing to reach Mesoamerica from the Arabian Peninsula. Using Lindemann as a reference either shows Sorenson’s lack of knowledge, or is used to deliberately suggest something that cannot be done—sail against winds and currents in the time of Lehi and prior to the 14th century.

4. “Charles A. Borden recounts stories of all sorts of unlikely craft that have crossed the ocean.”

Borden, wrote “Sea Quest: Global Blue-Water Adventuring in Small Craft” in 1967. The exact quote is: “Many other craft, some of them remarkably small and ‘primitive,’ have been sailed in modern times across various ocean routes.” Again, the key phrase here is “sailed in modern times across various ocean routes.” This leads to two distinct understandings: 1) “Modern times” means a person knows and understands sea routes, has a vessel adapted for such a voyage, and knows tacking, and sailing close hauled [against the wind]; 2) “Various ocean routes” means that winds and currents, usually in drift voyages, are comparatively safe and extremely possible. This has nothing to do with Sorenson’s bringing the Lehi Colony across the vast Pacific against winds and currents.

In his book, Borden quoted commodore John Pflieger who pointed out in “Spray, the journal of The Slocum Society,” that a long keel is harder to tack or go about in, and that a boat similar to the one mentioned earlier foundered [filled with water and sank] on a lee shore. Regarding this account, Peter Tangvald, competent ocean sailor who circumnavigated the globe in his 32-foot cutter, Dorothea I, promptly replied, "How much more should Slocum have done to demonstrate that the boat was seaworthy? I would not hesitate to claim that if one was wrecked on a lee shore it was because her crew needed a few more hours of sailing lessons.” This suggests that a boat designed to sail into the wind, tack and maneuver close-hauled would not have been driven into a lee shore (wind blowing into shore) unless the crew were quite inexperienced.

Also quoted in Borden’s book is the comment by the experienced seaman Joshua Slocum, who said of his ship “One of the most remarkable things was her ability to run before the wind under her regular fore-and-aft rig with the helm lashed, and hold her course for hours or days on end.” Borden claimed that if his ship did not have this ability, Slocum's performance would have been a physical impossibility. Slocum added, "I didn't touch the helm, for with the current and heave of the sea the sloop found herself at the end of the run absolutely in the fairway of the channel. ... Then I trimmed her sails by the wind, took the helm, and flogged her up the couple of miles or so abreast the harbour landing, where I cast anchor at 3.30 pm, July 17, 1897, twenty-three days from Thursday Island. The distance run was twenty-seven hundred miles as the crow flies. ... During those twenty-three days I had not spent altogether more than three hours at the helm, including the time occupied in beating into Keeling harbour. I just lashed the helm and let her go."

It might be interesting to know that the path of Slocum’s voyage was from Thursday Island in the Torres Straits just north of Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, Australia, westward across the Arafura Sea and the Timor Sea to the Cocos (Keeling) island group. This voyage was with the wind and currents at such a speed through Indonesia from east to west, that he covered about 118 miles a day. These are the same winds and currents that head westward through Indonesia that Sorenson claims Lehi’s ship sailed AGAINST—from west to east INTO those remarkably strong winds and currents.

One can only wonder how that could have been accomplished. This would be like someone coasting DOWN a very steep hill in a soap box vehicle gathering speed as he went and reaching a high speed, and Sorenson saying he accomplished the same high speed coasting UP the steep hill. It defies all understanding of physics and gravity. It is the same thing as taking a ship designed to "sail before the wind" and sailing it INTO the wind. You are simply ignoring sailing capability of the ship and claiming something happened that defies the nature of the thing.

As a footnote to this, it might be added that when the Lord showed Nephi how to build his ship, He obviously would have included uniqueness in this design that has only been learned in modern times how a ship can be “driven before the wind” (called today “run before the wind) in such a manner as to require very little seamanship.

(See the next post, “Could the Ancients Have Sailed to the Americas? Part II,” for more of Sorenson’s comments compared to the reality of the times)

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