Friday, October 28, 2011

Could the Ancients Have Sailed to the Americas? Part III

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 first post, and three and four in the last post.

5. “He concluded that ‘seaworthiness has little to do with size; little ships are often safest’.”

The key word here is “seaworthiness.” It is not the size of the ship we discuss in able to sail into deep ocean, but one that is seaworthy. In his book, Borden writes extensively about a ship needing to be seaworthy. The entire point of earlier writings on this subject is that the ships designed in 600 B.C. and as late as the 1300s A.D., were not seaworthy for deep ocean sailing. Obviously, the ship the Lord designed for Nephi to build would have been—but sailing in 600 B.C. required far more than the frail craft Sorenson continually points out sailed the trade routes from Arabia to China, etc.

6. “Two phenomena have changed attitudes in this regard over the past 50 years. First, many hundreds of persons have crossed the oceans in or on all sorts of craft—log rafts, rubber boats, replicas of Polynesian canoes, rowboats, and, more recently, personal watercraft and sailboards, not to mention numerous kinds of small boats.”

Let’s keep in mind that these boats that cross the oceans, regardless of size, are seaworthy for deep sea sailing. In addition, the “log rafts, canoes, and rowboats” are all drift-voyages. That is, they move only with the winds and currents, not against them. In addition, the “personal watercraft” are motor-driven craft like WaveRunners and Sea-Doos, while “sailboards” are for windsurfing—they move only with the wind.
Also, the “numerous kinds of small boats” are designed to tack, sail close to the wind and run close hauled—they are either built to do this, or modified to do so by those who sail them into deep water. This is because the phenomena that has “changed attitudes in this regard over the past 50 years” is due to the knowledge of winds and currents, sailing routes that run before the wind, tacking abilities, and ships and sails designed to run close hauled. Without these inventions and extensive knowledge, sailing into the wind would not be possible now, as it was not in the past. Even the slightest understanding of sailing into the wind was unknown in the 1200s through the 1400s when ships were being built to sail into the Atlantic on coastal voyages to Britain for tin or around Africa for trade and exploration.

7. “A second reason for the change in atmosphere, especially among scholars, has been recent recognition that ancient (or, as critics were wont to say, "primitive") sailors ages ago were already making remarkable voyages.”

Those remarkable voyages, like the Polynesians from their islands to Hawaii and back, ran with winds and currents or across winds (abeam), which are easy to navigate in small craft. Taking nothing away from these early voyages, they did not cross thousands of miles across the deep ocean, but had the northern, central and southern Line Islands (Teraina or Equatorial islands) in the central Pacific Ocean, south of Hawaii that stretch for 1460 miles into Polynesia—a voyage that is only 1600 miles in total. When Captain James Cook first saw the Polynesian double-hulled sailing canoes in the 18th century, he could not believe they could sail across the deep ocean. But given the numerous islands and atolls along the route, such voyages were successfully undertaken.

(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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