Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What is Behind the Compromise of 75 to 125 Miles? Part III

Continuing with John L. Sorenson’s lengthy comments about why the narrow neck of land had to be quite wide, the last two posts covered several of his justifications. In this post, his statement of the narrow neck covering 144 miles is covered. He wrote:

7. “That would amount to 144 miles. If some mode of travel other than on foot were used, the 144 figure might be increased. Or the distance might be as little as, say, 50 miles. If the low figure applied, it would be harder for Limhi's explorers to fail to notice they were going through a narrow isthmus; if we push toward the high extreme, the "day and a half's journey" becomes more troublesome. A plausible compromise range seems to me to be 75 to 125 miles.”

As has already been shown, Sorenson has said, “If we assume foot travel -- probably the normal mode -- we can work toward an estimate of the width of the isthmus. As we have already calculated, the rate for "a Nephite," a single individual, could potentially be up to six miles an hour for as long as 24 hours within the "day and a half." Thus, Sorenson sets his own distance measurement, then applies it to an answer of how wide the narrow neck must be. Let’s take a look at this:

First, since Mormon is trying to tell us how we can understand the width of the narrow neck by applying it to how far a man in his day could travel, we can rule out some ofher mode of transportation, such as horseback, since he would not know how a man in the future would travel. So he chose the only method in his day he could be assured would exist in some future day—walking.

Second. As has already been pointed out, an average man could never travel six miles an hour for 24 hours. Actually, the accepted maximum speed of an average man walking is 3 miles per hour—if that pace could be kept up for 10 hours, it would be 30 miles, or 64 miles in a 24 hour period. But again, who could keep up that pace? People need a break when walking—the military usually gives a ten minute break in every 60 minutes, which means in a prolonged period, a soldier on a forced march actually walks 5 hours in a 6 hour period. If that pace were kept up for 24 hours, they would actually be walking only 20 hours which is 60 miles at 3 miles an hour.

On the other hand, having been in the military and involved in numerous extended marches, both in training and in “war” conditions, as many as one half drop out of a march after the first five hours. In two youth/young adult 50/20 marches (50 miles in 20 hours) I supervised lately, only two out of 60 finished one, and three out of 75 finished the other--and not an adult finished either one. The point is, to arbitrary pick a walking speed to warrant a overall distance measurement is foolhardy, and completely negates Mormon’s measurement example.

As has been pointed out in numerous posts here, walking as an average man would to cover a long distance in a day and a half, the figure usually comes out to about 26 to 30 miles, when figuring in rest time, eating time, and sleep time. Even if no rest or eating or sleeping time is figure in, at the rate of 2.5 miles an hour over an extended period of time works out to only 60 miles in a 24 hour period, which is far short of the 140 miles of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mesoamerica, and not likely a time that could be equaled by any average man.

It might also be noted that the fastest time on a force march ever recorded for a military unit in modern times was that of the Forth Regiment of the Ohio Veteran Volunteer Cavalry during the Civil War to keep the southern Rebels from burning a railroad and turnpike bridges. In the first day they covered 15 miles through dense forest, slept on the ground without meal or blankets, and picked up the pace on the next day and covered 22 miles in 5 hours (which is 4.4 miles an hour), but failed in their preventative attempt. In real time, this unit, under critical war conditions, completed a forced march of 37 miles in a day and a half over wooded flat ground with almost no rest.

Third. Sorenson says that the “distance might have been as little as 50 miles.” Moving at 2 miles per hour, a person could cover about 50 miles in a 24 hour period on a forced march without stopping, resting, eating or sleeping. While this is not what an average man would do in covering a long distance, it could be accomplished under unusual circumstances—and is the only distance Sorenson gives that just might be within the parameter Mormon gives us.

Fourth. Sorenson claims that “a plausible compromise range seems to me to be 75 to 125 miles.” That is simply no compromise. At the lower figure, the pace would have to be walking at 3.1 miles per hour for 24 straight, non-stop hours. The higher figure would be at the pace of 5.2 miles per hour for 24 straight, non-stop hours. That does not seem like a compromise in any way—nor is it plausible for any average man, Nephite or American.

So why not just use Mormon’s comment. A day and a half journey for a Nephite. How far could you walk in a day and a half over uneven terrain?

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